Whether it’s our morning Gua Sha ritual, our weekly acupuncture sessions, or our nightly breathing sessions before bed, we all seem to be unknowingly incorporating Chinese medicine into our lives. Classical Chinese Medicine Practitioner and bestselling author Katie Brindle tells you everything you need to know about this ancient healing system.
Chinese medicine is making a comeback. While it has often been overlooked, particularly in the Western world, there’s so much from it we can take and benefit from. In a world that constantly induces stress and anxiety, we are often guilty of not taking care of our physical and mental wellbeing. This can lead to exhaustion and burnout as well as daily aches and pains, not to mention the damage to our mental health.
While many of us have attempted to take better care of ourselves, it’s often via short-time exercise goals, strict diets, or a quick, intense but ultimately failing life shake-up. We set ourselves up for failure by taking on too much and struggling to keep up with our challenging health-related missions. Ever set yourself a New Year’s resolution? Did you manage to do it past a single month? No? Then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
But what if there was a permanent, stress-free way to manage our health and take care of ourselves every day? A way that incorporates ancient methods and wisdom that has been used by millions of people for centuries while also suiting our modern living? Katie Brindle argues that that’s where Chinese medicine, and the system of Yang Sheng, come in.
Chinese Medicine: Bridging the Gap Between Ancient Wisdom and Modern Living with Katie Brindle
It’s nothing new – Chinese medicine has been used for centuries to prevent health issues, improve movement, reduce pain, increase peace… the list goes on. When it comes to health, China is centuries ahead of the rest. Their methods existed before ancient records began so it’s difficult to determine exactly how old it is. What we do know, however, is that it’s lasted for a reason; sometimes, the ancient ways are the best.
Simply put, Chinese medicine is all about addressing your spirit, emotions, and physical body. It’s all part of the network that makes you, you. Only by looking after each part can we expect to be healthy, happy and whole. And neglecting one can have a knock-on effect, causing symptoms in other areas of the body and mind.
In Chinese medicine, it’s believed that five key organs – the heart, lungs, spleen, liver and kidneys – harness the power of balance and health within the body. Chinese medicine offers powerful yet simple techniques that can clear stress, reduce inflammation and increase immunity.
And the best part? These techniques can effortlessly, and often pleasurably, fit into our everyday lives.
Taoism – A Philosophy and Science of Life
Chinese medicine has its foundations in Taoism, a philosophy and science of life. ‘Tao’ – meaning path or principle – is all about living in a state of harmony and balance with nature and the ever-changing energy within it. By understanding this energy, we can begin to flow with (rather than against) the energy of the universe, leading us to be our best, healthiest and happiest selves.
This energy is known as qi (pronounced ‘chi’), and you’ve likely heard of it before. Qi is the energy force that resides within both us and the rest of the universe. The movement of qi through our bodies can be redirected towards (or away from) our five key organs, resulting in balance and restoration.
We are all born with a certain amount of qi, which is used throughout our lives. Depending on our choices and actions, we can grow and strengthen this qi or weaken and damage it (qi stagnation). Chinese medicine focuses on the latter, teaching us techniques that can be incorporated easily into our everyday lives to help keep the flow of qi moving smoothly.
Yang Sheng – The Art of Self-Healing
Yang Sheng (which translates as ‘nurture life’) is the ancient Chinese practice of self-healing. Yang Sheng is a holistic approach to health involving body, soul and spirit. It’s an arm of Chinese medicine that is, sadly, often overlooked. It’s all about preventing issues before they arise. It’s about being mindful about ourselves – learning to listen to our bodies, nurture our qi, adhere to the laws of nature and prioritise our self-care.
Today, we live in a world that is always on the go. Our breaks have to be scheduled into our lives in the form of holidays or the odd day off. We barely have time to breathe, let alone nurture and care for our wellbeing. Most of us put self-care at the bottom of our priority lists, a privilege or treat to look forward to at the end of a long and busy week.
If we don’t make time for our wellbeing, our health will soon force us to take time out to fix or undo the damage. Whether it’s burning out physically or mentally, feeling pain, struggling to sleep, gaining weight – nearly all of us have experienced the side effects of overlooking our self-care.
Self-care isn’t a luxury – it’s vital for our physical and mental well-being. Yang Sheng is precisely that; it’s a system made to help us take care of ourselves and prevent issues from happening in the first place.
There are lots of things we can do to incorporate Yang Sheng into our lives – and you may have even tried one or two without realising it!
Gua Sha is an excellent example. It’s become a popular beauty ritual in the skincare industry, with everyone from actress Jennifer Aniston to supermodel Miranda Kerr using it. It’s a simple facial massage that not only feels great but also helps boost circulation and stimulates the immune system when done correctly.
The health and fitness community has only just discovered this technique but it’s been a critical element to Chinese medicine for years. Mindful, deep breathing has a wealth of health benefits – and it can be done anywhere, at any time.
For those looking for a deeper practice, Qigong is another effective self-care practice. Like yoga, Qigong combines slow movements with breathing exercises to help our qi flow, slow our heart rates, tone our muscles and support the immune system.
More than ever, we need an integrated, simple yet profound approach to mastering our health physically, emotionally and energetically. This is what Chinese Medicine can offer.
Follow Katie Brindle on Instagram at @katie_brindle.