Behind the Scenes of: ‘The Yellow Monkey Emperor’s Classic of Chinese Medicine’ with Spencer Hill

In this blog post, Spencer Hill recalls the process of drawing the cartoons for The Yellow Monkey Emperor’s Classic of Chinese Medicine and how he met and came to work with Damo Mitchell.

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Breathing is the rhythm of life: breathing into Autumn

The following article is adapted from the book Qigong Through the Seasons by Ronald H. Davis.

The practice of Qigong Through the Seasons is designed to harmonize the health of your internal organs with the seasonal energetic changes of nature.
Autumn is the time to give special attention to the Lungs. Breathing is the most important thing you do from moment to moment and yet most of us are unaware of how we breathe and have lost our innate connection to the breath cycle. We, therefore, often fail to completely benefit from the power of correct breathing.

The Source of Qi
Breathing stands out as our quintessential rhythmic interaction with the world; lungs function as a permeable interface between each of us and everything else. The lungs are yin organs that receive air from the outside world, extract its healthy components and send them downward to the lower dan tian, the primary energy center of the abdomen, to be combined with the nutrients of food. That fusion of air’s vitality and food’s energy produces our greatest quantity of qi. In ancient times, the word ‘qi’ primarily had the meaning of ‘vital breath’ emphasizing that our indispensable energy comes from breathing.

Astonishingly, the lungs eliminate seventy percent of the body’s waste products. This makes exhalation a hugely significant detoxifying activity. We must completely exhale so that the respiratory system can flush out toxins and debris; only then can we receive a full complement of fresh air on the next inhalation. Stress, fear, anger, and doubt are the main emotional states that interfere with a healthy exhalation. Many people subconsciously don’t let go of the breath—they feel like they must hold on to that last bit of air, otherwise they may expire. The ability to completely let go of the breath often relates to issues of trust and relaxation.

The correct practice of qigong creates mental tranquility and thus will profoundly enhance healthy breathing by relaxing the lungs and allowing them to freely function. The following exercise, White Healing Mist, is the most important qigong exercise to do during the autumn season. It uses mental intention, body movement, and regulated breathing to purify and strengthen the lungs.

White Healing Mist Exercise
This graceful neigong (internal qigong) exercise fills the lungs with fresh qi while cleansing them of turbid qi. The intent of the mind uses detailed imagery of pure and impure qi. The movement of the hands leads the qi into and out of each lung. The ‘white healing mist’ can be any personal image that conveys a sense of purity, freshness, tranquility and healing. The ‘toxins’ can be not only respiratory debris but also cloudy, unhealthy thoughts. As the interface between internal and external worlds, the lungs command our self-defense system. When doing this practice, you may want to identify those healthy and unhealthy aspects of your life. Then you can nurture the good with the white mist, and purge the bad along with the toxins. Do this exercise slowly with focused concentration on one lung at a time. The unilateral emphasis is unusual since most qigong exercises are done for both lungs simultaneously, but that special concentration on one lung at a time increases the concentration of qi, which makes this a very powerful healing exercise. You can do this for the common chest cold and for all serious diseases of the lungs.
Begin with feet close together, hands crossed and touching the chest over the lungs. The right hand is over the left lung and the left hand is over the right lung.

Take a slow, relaxed breath and think of your lungs there under your hands. Make a mental connection between your hands and your lungs.

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Step to the side with the left foot.

Inhale, shift weight to the left leg so that the left lung is lined up over the left knee. At the same time, open the arms and slowly, swing the hands forward and then laterally out until the arms are extended to the side with fingers up and the palms facing away from the body. Left knee is bent, right knee is straight.

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Think of inhaling a white healing mist into the left lung only.

Exhale, step back to center with the left foot, straighten knees, the hands return to the chest, cross them so that the right hand is touching over the left lung. The left hand touches over the right lung.

Think of exhaling grey smoky toxins from the left lung only. Although both hands are touching your chest, your focused intention goes to the left lung only.

Repeat for the right lung by stepping to the right, etc. Do 8 repetitions, alternating left and right.

The complete set of Autumn Qigong exercises, along with suggested foods and herbs for seasonal health, are fully described and illustrated in chapter 8 of Qigong Through The Seasons.

Ronald H. Davis is an acupuncturist and chiropractor. He has been practicing Qigong since 1986 and is the founder of The Health Movement, a group of classes and educational materials designed to improve a person’s wellbeing through the use of traditional and complementary healthcare methods. Ronald offers classes in Qigong, Taiji and spinal healthcare and lives in Bozeman, Montana, USA.

 

Summer energy urges us to get moving

Summer begins in early May according to the lunisolar calendar. Both the lunar phases and the solar year are combined in this traditional calendar used in many Asian cultures. Seasons are determined by the amount of sunlight striking a particular region of the earth. The months of May, June and July have the greatest amount of solar radiation in the northern hemisphere with the summer solstice being the midpoint of the season. Therefore, to get maximum benefit, we should begin our summer qigong practice in early May 2015.

Excerpt from Qigong Through The Seasons by Ronald H. Davis:

“Summer energy urges us to get moving. We want to be outside more often, we wear fewer clothes, and are in closer contact with nature. We like to spend time in joyful physical recreation and gatherings with friends. Summer stimulates creativity, which we may express with building projects, designing gardens, making music, art objects, and party decorations—anything that gives us warm pleasurable connections to people and outdoors adventures. During this season of splendor and shining fire, the energy of nature grows outward with color, warmth, and radiance. Now our Spirit comes alive with expansive awareness; it wants to make intimate contact with all the elements of heaven and Earth.

During the Fire Phase we feel that our Heart Qi, which was fueled by the Rising Yang Qi of spring, has come into full bloom with expressions of joy, compassion and a mysterious yearning for divine contact. The exuberance of fire, when controlled and cultivated, can be refined and directed toward the ultimate purpose of being human: spiritual awakening. However—if not properly harnessed—the great blazing of summer’s Supreme Yang Qi can scorch our Heart and mind. Summer Qigong practice will show you how to feed the Heart Network without getting burned.”

Qigong Through The Seasons presents a complete program of qigong exercises, specific meditations, foods, and tonic herbs that will keep you naturally healthy during the exciting summer season. Based on the author’s thirty years of clinical practice, personal training, and public teaching, this fully illustrated book will show you how to harmonize with the ever-changing energy of the natural world.

Developing internal energy for enhancing your healing practice

Solos_Developing-Inte_978-1-84819-183-9_colourjpg-webIt is a common theory in all the Chinese internal styles that the qi of the dantian must reach the tips of the fingers, although, how this is accomplished may differ majorly among different arts. The purpose is to make the strikes felt deep within the opponent’s body without damaging your hands. The training of such a skill, besides the internal cultivation practices, usually involves some form of punching or hitting to strengthen the ligaments of the hands, and also to make the hits (and touch) soft, powerful and precise, able to reach deep inside.

Crossing over to healing, such a skill is also very important, because in your tuina you need to protect the health of your hands from harm, and in acupuncture also ensure that you have the correct kind of energy that reaches deep inside the patient’s body to activate the points and channels.

The best tuina manuals usually offer some Neigong exercises designed to cultivate the right skill. Most of them include rigorous meditation while the hands work on a sand bag or a variety of other equipment. However, even such important skills become quite rare these days, because it may take some time to acquire them.

 

But let’s see some old exercises:

Exercise example 1: A traditional old Beijing Tuina method for teaching the hand method for the character for grasping (拿) was as follows:

“A small bucket of water was immersed inside a bigger bucket of water. The handle of the smaller bucket was attached through a leather cord to the outstretched hand of the practitioner, palm facing down. During this exercise the student had to sink the Qi to the Dantian, and then by using the round force (浑圆劲) of the whole body pull the bucket out of the water and then insert it back into the bigger bucket, without any spillage. After achieving the comfort force and the ability to assume a balanced and energy conserving posture, they would have to start meditating upon the character for grasping (拿) for the hands and rise and sink (沉-浮) for the body. Most of this exercise is happening first mentally and then physically. Movement should be soft and focused.”

Exercise example 2: This is an exercise used for the method of hitting (打) the back of the patient by using a split bamboo stick. For this skill, if the amount and type of force is not correct, it can result to damaging the muscles, skin and ligaments of the patient. An old Beijing exercise for this was as follows:

“The doctor assumes the Hun Yuan position, holding a split bamboo stick, or a Taiji long ruler, or just merely visualizing holding one. The Qi sinks to the Dan Tian, and the doctor relaxes every part of his body, until achieving a feeling of being suspended up from strings attached to the body, much like a puppet. The doctor should visualize being inside a Great Balloon that has its center in the Dantian. The outer walls of this “Great Balloon” have many hooks and barbed wire, which prevents it from moving towards any direction. The doctor however, should try to mentally move it by using his intention (意) but not any physical force, while working out all the related energetic contradictory forces (矛盾力) within his body frame. While moving the sphere with the power of the Dantian, the stick always follows the movement of the whole body, but never leads or dictates the direction. At the point (点) where the movement of the whole body stops and changes direction, the doctor should be meditating on developing the correct snapping force that is needed in hitting the back of the patient with the split bamboo stick. Most of this exercise is happening mentally, rather than physically. Movement should be soft and slight.”

 

In a similar way, internal cultivation for acupuncture needling should have a specific healing purpose, direct effect and an exact training methodology, based on appropriate understanding and application of Chinese energetic theories and correct body mechanics. This training should be primarily and directly applied towards treatment, exclusively in the clinic, as an unambiguous and solid therapeutic skill, where rational theory can be coupled with reasonable and consistent benefits, for both the healer and the patient.

In my latest book, Developing Internal Energy for Effective Acupuncture Practice I have included a complete training regime for assisting the energy aware practitioners to enhance their needling skills and transform their medicine into an extraordinary experience. With time and effort, perhaps one can discover the fine subtleties of the system at the energetic level.

Disclaimer: This article provides only simplified instruction for the above exercises, and purely for the sake of theoretical discussion. You should not attempt any of these without professional guidance from a certified teacher. The author of this article and the owner of this blog are not responsible for any harm that may be inflicted through the erroneous application of the information provided in this article.

~~~

Ioannis Solos studied Traditional Chinese Medicine at Middlesex University and the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. He enjoys researching, teaching, practicing and critically interpreting the ancient philosophy and culture of China, internal martial arts, health preservation practices, classic medical texts and lesser-known Chinese esoteric traditions.

5 thoughts from Nora Franglen

Franglen_On-Being-a-Five_978-1-84819-236-2_colourjpg-webIn this extract from On Being a Five Element Acupuncturist, master acupuncturist Nora Franglen shares her thoughts on how much she hates “the placebo effect”, allowing the elements to surprise us, how to deal with “Aggressive Energy”, bringing acupuncture back to China, and a remarkable difference between two elements.

Read the extract…

The book is based on her widely-read blog about the wholeness of life as a Five Element practitioner. Nora Franglen’s breadth of interest shows how the curiosity and life experiences of the individual lie at the heart of what makes a true acupuncturist, over and beyond the necessary knowledge and expertise in the technicalities of practice. From her penchant for coffee shops to reflections on challenges she has experienced in the clinic, Nora illustrates how the Five Elements influence, illuminate and, ultimately, enrich all aspects of her life, and vice versa.

How to develop Chinese massage techniques

9780956293008This extract from Chinese Massage Manual by Sarah Pritchard shows how to practice some of the key techniques of Tui na. Beginners should try out the movements on a rice bag before attempting to use them on patients. The author took 3 months to learn the first technique and a further 6 months of daily practice before she was competent to use it on the human body!

Read the extract…

Sarah Pritchard was one of the first Westerners to practice Tui na in the UK. She trained in both the UK and in Nanjing, China, and has been working as a professional Tui na practitioner and acupuncturist since 1994. She is the Tui na course co-ordinator and senior lecturer at the City College of Acupuncture, and the founder and director of Blackheath Complementary Health Centre, London. She is the chair and a founder member of the UK Register of Tui na Chinese Massage.

Spring is the Wood Phase



The following has been adapted from Qigong Through The Seasons – How to Stay Healthy all Year Long with Qigong, Meditation, Diet and Herbs by Dr. Ronald H. Davis, published by Singing Dragon, 2015.

Spring is the Wood Phase


This is a heady, invigorating, sometimes disturbing season with wild fluctuations of energy surging throughout nature as birth, arousal, and movement. The momentum created by spring Qi gives structure and impetus to the world: young trees thrusting skyward, icy rivers flooding valleys, babies everywhere screeching with the joy of life. In humans, Qi rises like a slow tide coming up from its winter storage in the lower abdomen and moving into the chest where it stimulates the Liver with fresh vitality. As an infusion of energy, the rising Qi carries benefits as well as the potential for problems. The practice of Spring Qigong centers on using qigong exercises, foods, herbs, and meditation to nourish the Liver. This amazing visceral structure has more functions that any other single organ. During the process of filtering and detoxifying the blood, producing hundreds of enzymes and hormones, and regulating the volume of circulating blood, the liver tends to become congested. In order to do these many tasks it must be decongested so that it becomes supple, enlivened and fully functional.

In the spring, the Rising Yang Qi emerges from the lower dan tian (lower abdomen) and begins a season-long ascent to the upper and outer regions of the body. As it passes into the Middle Dan Tian (chest), it encounters the Liver. If this blood-rich organ retains stagnant blood and metabolic waste, which typically happens after winter’s inactivity, it will obstruct the Qi flow and result in a condition called Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood. According to Chinese medicine, the Liver controls the smooth and harmonious flow of both Qi and blood. Any obstruction to this flow will cause a serious functional disruption in the circulation of vital energy and vascular components. Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood, an all too common disorder, has physical symptoms of muscle pain, menstrual cramps, trembling movements, poor balance, headaches, neck pain, numbness in hands and feet, vision problems, digestive ailments, and more. The mental and emotional symptoms can run the spectrum from frustration and irritability to anger and rage.

Anger, stagnation, and kindness


When the normal emotion of anger becomes prolonged, repressed, or inappropriate, it often results in Stagnant Liver Qi. This disorder affects women and men, but because each gender exists as fundamentally either yin or yang, Qi stagnation usually results in different problems for each sex.

Men have innate yang energy; women have innate yin. Yang energy tends to expand outward; it’s active and dispersive. Yin energy embraces receptivity, containment, and concentration. The gender predisposition to problems of Stagnant Liver Qi hinges on men being more yang/fire, and women more yin/ blood. Stagnant Liver Qi, if not corrected, becomes virulent and flares up as Liver Fire in men and as Stagnant Liver Blood in women:

  • Anger > Stagnant Liver Qi + Men > “Liver Fire Rising” = muscle spasm, ulcers, hypertension, heart disease.
  • Anger > Stagnant Liver Qi + Women > “Stagnant Liver Blood” = menstrual disorders, varicose veins, insomnia, anxiety.

While disturbing and potentially dangerous, Stagnant Liver Qi can be effectively treated. Acupuncture and herbal remedies can release obstructions to the flow of Qi and prevent stagnation. Qigong can remedy the condition by gathering fresh Qi and properly circulating it through the body’s energy pathways and storage centers. Meditation will definitely enhance Qi flow, clear the mind of distractions, and nurture the virtue of kindness. Having a self-care practice of qigong and meditation is one of the best ways for you to nurture the great Yang Qi of Spring and benefit from this infusion of vital energy.

Entering Quiescence

One of the greatest benefits of Qigong is the internal relaxation of the body. The Qi can only circulate with maximum benefit when the organs, the surrounding muscles, the web of connective tissue, and the intrinsic vessels and nerves are calmly relaxed. This state of physiological quietness is unique to Qigong. It is a kind of alert peacefulness that melds the body and mind together into a complete whole. Dr. Jiao Guorui, a well respected contemporary Qigong practitioner in China, calls this state “entering quiescence.” He describes it in his book Qigong Essentials for Health Promotion, China Today Press, 1990:

Entering quiescence is a major requirement of qigong exercise. But how to achieve this is a common problem for beginners. First of all we must understand the quiescent state correctly. This state exists relatively as compared to the dynamic state. Life is movement and the quiescent state is actually stillness in movement. It is not motionless. Therefore, qigong exercise is essentially quiescent motions. When we enter the quiescent state we are entering a special state of movement. *

 What then is quiescence? It is a special state of inward quietude. In this state the brain eliminates interferences from both inside and outside the body, providing favorable conditions for the central nervous system to carry out the active, natural regulation of body functions and mental abilities. Some people, after entering quiescence during qigong, feel like a frozen river that is melting during the springtime…their whole body is completely relaxed and comfortable.
*Dr. Jiao is referring to the movement of Qi in the body.

 The state of being “completely relaxed” is especially important for the liver. Inner Nourishing, Nei Yang Gong, is an excellent internal qigong practice for relaxing the liver. According to Ken Cohen, well respected qigong master and scholar, Inner Nourishing was a secret Daoist healing method of the Ming dynasty that was transmitted by qigong masters to only one select student. In 1947 Dr. Liu Guizhen began to teach this powerful qigong exercise to the public for the greater good of society.

How to practice Inner Nourishing

This exercise may be done sitting or lying down. Most practitioners find that this outwardly simple practice instills a wonderful sense of well being. Rest and be comfortable but alert. When you inhale, think of bringing the qi up the back, over the head and to the mouth. While inhaling gently place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind the front teeth and silently say, “I am calm.” Then start to exhale and bring the qi down the front of your body to the lower dan tian. While exhaling let the tongue rest gently on the floor of your mouth and silently say, “and relaxed.” The tongue movement is like a pump that moves the Qi through the Governing and Conception vessels. Do this for about five minutes. Then stop the tongue movement and put your attention on the phrase “I am calm and relaxed” synchronized with your breathing, for a few more minutes. Then drop the phrase and just relax as you enter quiescence. Be there as long as you wish.

~~~

Ronald Davis, DC. LAc. Dipl Acu (NCCAOM) has dedicated thirty years to helping people discover their optimal state of well being based on physical integrity, mental clarity and nutritional support. As a chiropractor, he understands the critical interrelationship of physical form, physiological function and visceral health. As an acupuncturist, he knows that optimal well being depends on the essential flow of vital energy and blood throughout the body/mind. The integration of this knowledge with his extensive practice in medical qigong, meditation, and Chinese medicine has led to the development of a series of classes called “Qigong Through The Seasons” which is a comprehensive program of qigong, meditation and dietary guidelines that allows one to be healthy all year long.  Dr. Davis is the creator of the popular CD, Guided Meditations For Summer, and is the author of Qigong Through the Seasons available from Singing Dragon, February 2015. He may be reached through www.thehealthmovement.com.

 

 

Have all of Chinese Medicine in your pocket – interview with Richard Bertschinger

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100 Richard Bertschinger is a practising acupuncturist, teacher of the healing arts, and translator of ancient Chinese texts. He studied for ten years with the Taoist sage and Master, Gia-fu Feng. He talks to Singing Dragon about his groundbreaking translation work, ‘the oldest book in the world’, and having all of Chinese medicine in your pocket.

Thanks for agreeing to talk to us, Richard, about your five books.  I wondered if you could tell our readers something briefly about each and how they came about?

Well these books are really a summation of my Taoist studies over the last thirty years.  The titles are worth repeating:  The Secret of Everlasting Life, Yijing: Shamanic Oracle of China, Everyday Qigong Practice, The Great Intent and Essential Texts in Chinese Medicine.  I was fortunate to meet a Chinese-American Giafu Feng in the ‘seventies who introduced me to the Chinese world of the Tao – really it was from Giafu that I got the inspiration for this work.  He was brought up in Shanghai during tumultuous 1920’s in China.  In his last few days (he died in 1986) he spoke to me about alchemy – in fact it was his overwhelming concern that I should work on making the idea of alchemical practice available to the West.  And I knew nothing about it!  So I dived into what was in translation at that time.  There was actually very little.  The oldest work, written in the 2nd century AD was this text – which I have presented asBertschinger_Secret-of-Everl_978-1-84819-048-1_colourjpg-web The Secret of Everlasting Life. It is primarily a Qigong manual, in fact the very first to be written, anywhere in the world!  So I cut my teeth on this and its Chinese commentaries.  All my work is based upon my reading of the Chinese commentaries – and on how they were explained to me by Giafu.  In this I think I was blessed, in having the ‘key’, as it were – his oral instruction – to unlock this extremely intricate puzzle.

What do you mean, then, by this ‘intricate puzzle’?

Actually this puzzle is just the Chinese Mind!  I feel strongly that the Chinese ideas and skills, knowledge and techniques (including acupuncture) should be taken within their own context – you cannot just import techniques and not understand the background teaching and philosophy.  It really will not work.

You are referring to acupuncture perhaps?  Where more ‘medical’ acupuncturists, such as doctors and nurses use acupuncture without a full apprenticeship?

Bertschinger_Great-Intent-Ac_978-1-84819-132-7_colourjpg-webNot really, I think that acupuncture can survive any usage.  It is resilient enough!  But certainly without the dedication of a three year training you are not going to be using its full potential. And you are not giving patients the best either! Anyway, this leads on to The Great Intent, which is actually a re-working of The Golden Needle, a book published earlier in 1991.  Singing Dragon was quite keen to reprint this, so I expanded and rewrote the introduction.  This is a first translation of many of the odes, song and poems which have, for centuries, been used in teaching acupuncture theory and technique.  Again I was keen to get all these ideas out to medical practitioners, who wanted to begin exploring some of the greater subtleties of needling – as well as brush up their theoretical knowledge.  I know these poems have proved an inspiration to many.

Now tell us a little about Yijing: Shamanic Oracle of China.  I understand the Yijing has been referred to as ‘the oldest book in the world’.  How can you justify such a statement!

Bertschinger_Yijing-Shamanic_978-1-84819-083-2_colourjpg-webBecause the Yijing has its origins, and no one would deny this, in the oracle bones, the scapula of oxen, tortoise shells and the like, which have been unearthed recently in China.  These prove that an oracle much like the Yijing (or ‘Book of Change’) was in use some 3000 years ago, in Bronze Age China.  The Yijing is all about communicating with the unseen and unsaid.  It is an oracle, yes, but also has a philosophy around it of Yin and Yang, the flux within the universe, light and dark, day and night, winter and summer, and the life and death of all living things.  It is thus at the threshold of putting an understanding of these things into words – it uses images to communicate ideas, on the borderline of thought, as it were.  And this was all happening 3000 years ago, before there were any books!  So unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls or Egyptian Scriptures, the Yijing was trying to be useful – not trying to hand down a received wisdom, or deal of concepts.  It was about meaning.  About the meaning of life, about greatness – about what it is to be human!  Like so much of Chinese philosophy, it told us how to live.

Bertschinger_Everyday-Qigong_978-1-84819-117-4_colourjpg-webWell, that is quite a topic.  The last two books you mentioned about are Everyday Qigong Practice

That one ‘does what it says on the tin’.  It is a simple introduction to Qigong exercises, with brilliant diagrams by Harriet Lewars – you can pick it up, and seconds later be practicing qigong, and circulating the Qi.

And the last, Essential Texts in Chinese Medicine: The Single Idea in the Mind of the Yellow Emperor?

Bertschinger_Essential-Texts_978-1-84819-162-4_colourjpg-webThis is my latest book. It is a digest of the medical writings contained in the Huangdi Neijing, or Yellow Emperor’s Book of Medicine, the great compendium of medical studies produced during the Han, and which has provided the backbone of all traditional medicine in the East for the last two-thousand years.  I was fortunate, again, to pick up a copy of a condensed version of this book in 1981 at Stillpoint, Colorado, where I was studying with Giafu Feng – and he started me off with some tape recordings, he would get up 4 am, make a large pot of Earl Grey tea, which we  would share and off he would go, extemporising a translation ‘on the hoof’ as it were of this book.  Page One, Chapter One.  It took him perhaps three months to finish, and I had to leave before it was done, but the next spring I remember him arriving at Heathrow airport with a large carrier bag in his hand, ‘here you are Richard the Book of Medicine, finished!’  There was no way I could turn down a commission such as this!  So I have been working at producing a readable version of this text.  Firstly I translated the Chinese commentaries, most from the Ming and Qing, then I collated them with his version.  Then I also interleaved my own acupunc­ture studies and notes from Jack Worsley’s teachings and finally, after many years work, I have a version which I think is just about ready to go to press.  It grew in the making, but from quite early on I saw that there was one thread running through the whole – this is obvious to anyone who begins to read the book.  This one thread I rather grandly name ‘the single idea’ – really it describes the workings of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements.  Once you can get a handle of what they are talking about and how they work, you really do have Chinese medicine ‘in your pocket’, as it were.

Winter Water Element Activities for Children

Welcome back to the monthly series of stimulating Five Element activities that can support development of children in all ages!   If this is your first time reading our blog, you can go back to our first entry in May to view the WOOD Element activities.  All of the blogs can be downloaded in a pdf format by clicking on the link at the end of this article so that you can enjoy making your own notebook of Five Element exercises for each month and season of the year. 

winter waterBrrrr… Winter winds and frosty mornings bring the natural contraction of our muscles and bodies to conserve our energy and find a warm cozy place to warm our hands and feet.  Winter represents the Element of Water, the source of our life energy and keeper of our reservoirs.  All around us nature shows us that earth has her natural cycle of decline and rest in the winter season, with the hibernation of the animals and foliage in snowy lands, and the decline of growth and fruits in the tropical regions.  Winter shows us the two sides of the life force through its pure, silencing, stillness that takes us deep into our unconscious minds and souls, to the raging power of a glacier or iceberg cutting through the earth and leaving its imprint for all of life to spring forth from.

The Water Element provides the same instincts to our bodies, minds, and spirit as it gives expression to our need and capacity for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. This inward movement is what cultivates the resources of our energy and reserves for all growth and development in our lives.    In children, the Water Element is most obvious when they express a whiny, cranky hour where we know they need a nap, or quiet time to allow their bodies to integrate a busy or exciting day.  Some children will just quietly disappear to a resting spot or activity on their own, while others might show bursts of energy until they drop suddenly into a sleep.  And then there are those children that seem to have an endless, steadfast flow of energy, with no peaks or valleys, just a consistent capacity to move from one activity to another…

Respecting and sensing the natural rhythm of our children’s life force and need for rest is important, as it builds the foundation of one’s ability to relax and rest in life.  The following exercises are examples of some winter/Water Element activities that can be enjoyed with a family, group, or one on one with a child.

Calm Water

Supplies:  a lot of newspaper and a little bell (or jingle bells found at Christmas time)

If working with a group or family, everyone but one person lays down on their stomach, while the person/child left standing covers everyone with newspaper sheets from head to toe.  The individuals lying down have to remain perfectly still, not moving the paper or making a sound. The person left standing silently walks around trying to surprise the quiet still ones with a sound or stomp, giving lots of room for those lying down to listen sharply and be very still for the approaching noise maker!    After this fun and anticipating game, the person left standing rings the bell and everyone jumps up shaking the paper sheets off their bodies.  The person with the bell chooses the next person to be the bell keeper and the game can begin again.

Getting Taller

Divide everyone in the group into pairs, and have one partner face the back of the other partner.   The person facing the back of their partner asks them, what kind of rain they want to fall on their back; a soft spring rain, powerful summer thunder storm, or gentle snow falling down. The rain maker then makes a soft, loose fist, or flexible fingertips, and taps down the back on the right and left side of the spine, all the way down to the feet (the Bladder Meridian in the Water Element).  It is important to always start from the top and tap down toward the feet, like the rain or snow falling down the body. Repeat 2 times, and always start from the top again.  When done raining, “dry” the back with flat hands down the back from shoulders to feet, and then change roles.

This is also fun, if a group stands in a line and everyone behind the other in the line tries to do this at the same time, then reverse the direction of the line.

Click this link to download this article.

For more information about the Five Elements and the way they can support child development, read Children at Their Best: Understanding and Using the Five Elements to Develop Children’s Full Potential for Parents, Teachers, and Therapists released in 2014 with Singing Dragon.

Five myths about Chinese medicine most patients believe

by Angela Hicks

Hicks_Principles-of-C_978-1-84819-130-3_colourjpg-webWhen you hear the words ‘Chinese medicine’ what comes to your mind?  I bet you think of acupuncture!  Most people do.  But in fact there are five therapies included in Chinese medicine.

The five strands of Chinese medicine are:

  • Acupuncture
  • Chinese herbs
  • Tuina (massage)
  • Qigong (exercises)
  • Dietary therapy

In my book Principles of Chinese Medicine I explain how each of these treatments are used, and I give lots of examples – so if you are thinking of seeing a Chinese medicine practitioner you will know exactly what to expect. All of these therapies have been tried and tested over thousands of years – and the research base from China and the West is extensive too – proving to us how well they work.

The truth about acupuncture needles

Acupuncture is the most well-known Chinese medicine treatment (which is why you probably thought of it first!) and perhaps the most frequently practiced in the West. Acupuncture is enjoyed by millions of people throughout the world and the benefits are huge. Sadly some people miss out on its benefits because they are afraid that needles will be painful.  So what is the truth about needles?

The good news is that needles create a dull sensation rather than pain.   In my book some patients give descriptions such as a ‘tingling feeling’, a ‘dull ache’ or a ‘pulling sensation’. Unlike when you see a dentist, which many people dread, patients are likely to enjoy visiting their acupuncturist.  They find treatment improves their well-being as well as curing their illnesses.

On top of this, a practitioner will use only a few very fine needles (and by the way, those awful photos of people with hundreds of needles in them are sensational and not realistic).  And finally, of course, all practitioners use impeccable standards of hygiene and all needles are disposable and used only once.

So if you want treatment and were put off by the thought of needles – maybe think again!

The truth about Chinese herbal medicine

There are still rumours that Chinese herbalists use animal products in their prescriptions, and also products that come from endangered species. Not true! In the West the use of animal products is not only prohibited but practitioners don’t even want to use them. The Register for Chinese Herbal Medicine, one of the largest Chinese herbal medicine professional bodies, says on its website, ‘we strongly condemn the illegal trade in endangered species and have a strict policy prohibiting the use of any type of endangered species by any of our members’.

Chinese herbs effectively treat many conditions and are used extensively in most Chinese hospitals.  Why are they used so much? Because they have been keeping Chinese people healthy for thousands of years. So maybe they could help you too – and you won’t be harming any animals in the process, only helping yourself.

Some dietary therapy truthsherbs

The final therapy in Chinese medicine is dietary therapy.  This is an age-old system of dietary advice that has been handed down through generations.  Dietary therapy is consistent, logical and tried and tested. In China many people are conscious of what constitutes a healthy diet. In contrast, in the West advice is constantly changing – the latest food ‘fad’ tells us to eat more meat, or more carbohydrates, or that fat is bad for you – or maybe good for you.  We are inundated with conflicting information. We are confused and no wonder. There is a myth that Chinese dietary therapy is just another fad.  No it isn’t. Chinese dietary therapy gives us a way of eating that is simple, nourishing and can keep us healthy for life.

The truth about Chinese massage treatments

When we think of massage we often think of relaxation. Patients who have Chinese massage say it is very relaxing in fact they may leave treatment as if floating on cloud nine! There is, however, a myth that this is all it can do. But there is much more to it than this. Tuina massage (pronounced twee nar) is also a very effective system of treatment. It not only deals with joint problems which you might expect, it can also help many other conditions including digestive complaints, lung illnesses, gynecological problems and much more.

In my book you will read the story of a patient cured of a stomach problem she had had for over 20 years that no one else could help! So if you come to have some tuina don’t rule out a miracle from that as well!

The truth about qigong practiceqi_gong_outside_web607

Qigong (pronounced ‘chee gong’) is an umbrella term that covers a vast array of Chinese exercises including tai chi.  They are not the usual exercises you might do. These exercises are gentler and are performed more slowly than exercises performed in a gym.  And you’ll have different results from practicing them than from going to the gym. The most common myth is that qigong is so gentle that it is less effective than vigorous exercise.  Somehow we feel we must do something and maybe push a bit to know exercise benefits us.  When you do qigong you might not even feel you are doing much. These exercises have, however, been shown to have a profound effect on people’s health. For example, here are results from studies into the psychological and physiological effects of qigong and tai chi covering a total of 6410 participants from 13 countries: Effects included improved bone strength, better lung and heart fitness including lower blood pressure, improved overall physical functioning, prevention of falls and improved balance. They also create better immunity, an improved general quality of life and a positive change in psychological factors such as general well-being, anxiety and depression.

So who says you have to work hard to get results? There’s another saying – doing less is doing more – and in the case of qigong it’s very true.

 

Now that you know a little more about Chinese medicine you might have a dilemma.  Which one do I choose? I’m afraid you’ll have to make the choice yourself!  If you want more information, my book Principles of Chinese Medicine might help you decide.