Anmo, Chinese Health and Massage
The Sages of ancient China did not use medicines to treat illness. The Nei Ching or Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine - a medical text with it's origins in the Xia dynasty of 2600 BC which is still in use today - states that you should not wait until you are thirsty to start digging a well. This is the same as the Western proverb that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or in other words: 'stop it before it starts'. This is because it is far more effective to deal with a problem in the early stages, once a disease gains momentum then the process of degeneration is more difficult to reverse.
Western medicine on the other hand is squarely based on medicines and treatment in the form of drugs and surgery. Although individual doctors may mean well, and genuinely want to help people, they have become part of a culture which has become more and more entwined with the drive to profit from prescribing drugs and using ever more complex and costly medical equipment. It is because this system is based upon making more and more profit for the companies involved there is a disincentive for health and this makes preventing illness a low priority. Although this approach makes shareholders of pharmaceutical companies happy it does very little to improve the overall health of patients and is very inefficient and costly in the long term for society as a whole.
This means that the only practical alternative is for people as individuals to take responsibility for their own health and to put into place measures and practices which will provide the body and mind with the tools it needs to head off illness long before it can take hold and intervention is needed from medical professionals.
Anyone can acquire the skills
The primary tool of greatest importance with this approach is developing your sensitivity so that you become aware of the natural processes at work inside you to monitor your own health as well as learning to see the state of energy in someone else. Although it may seem alien or foreign at first, this kind of sensitivity to the Natural energy or Chi in your body is not a metaphor or concept, it is a real and tangible thing which you can learn to become aware of for yourself. Western doctors can patch people up and treat the symptoms of illness but this approach does little to address the real causes of illness which are often within the control of the individual. Developing this level of awareness yourself can yield real benefits both for you and the people around you, improve your health, and increase your levels of vitality which will increase both the quality and quantity of your life.
Taoist philosophy emphasizes knowledge and education, so rather than relying on doctors and medicines we can learn to recognize the roots of illness and treat the problem ourselves even before it has begun to manifest as obvious symptoms. This means learning to diagnose imbalances on three levels: mental, physical and spiritual. The types of treatment we are looking at are also preventative and are designed to support the natural defences of the body and to provide long term immunity from disease. These include dietary recommendations, breathing exercises, energy meridian massage, contact thermogenesis and herbs.
The TCAA course consists of some practical work with partners under the supervision of a teacher to practice and learn the basic massage techniques. We will also be using online resources to discuss the basic concepts of Chinese medicine as outlined below. The course is essential for anyone who is interested in taking their T'ai Chi onto another level, but is also suitable for anyone who is looking at alternative ways to aid the body's defences and ability to regenerate itself and recover from diseases as well as building a stronger immune system.
Even Western anatomy and physiology is fundamentally different to the theory of Chinese Medicine because the Chinese view of the internal organs was not developed from dissection of dead bodies. The Chinese theory of internal organs or 'Zhang Fu' was developed from research and studies conducted by Taoists from early times, for example the Nei Ching or Yellow Emperor's classic originated in the Xia dynasty of 5000 years ago. It is based upon the flow of energy around the body which interconnects the organs according to a series of functions which is unique to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Each organ is not just an anatomical unit but also includes an energy meridian or channel and is linked to other functions in the body including emotions.
Over this five day course you will spend each day learning one of the ten basic massage techniques which are designed to stimulate or sedate the flow of life-force or 'Chi' around the body.
We will also be looking at diagnosis methods based on the system 'the five methods of examination':
Asking, looking, touch, listening, olfactory.
This is a traditional method based around the five elements and the five senses, and involves a variety of ways to observe the illness and get better feedback before proceeding further. This includes observation of posture, sound of the voice, asking questions about life history and the pathology of the disease, pulse taking, tongue diagnosis and various other methods from the Nei Ching or Yellow Emperor's book of Internal Medicine. Pulse taking for example involves feeling pulses which give feedback about the levels and qualities of energy in the twelve major organ meridians.
We will be looking at some typical examples of ways to support the body and mind when it is confronted by a variety of common diseases based on the following principles:
Diet: Chang Ming or the Taoist Long Life diet is a time tested approach to nutrition which has been researched by Taoist Masters since before recorded history. The diet is highly effective in boosting the store of 'Chi' or life-force within the body and is based around the Taoist principles of understanding how the human body reacts with Nature. Modern foods are designed to satisfy the desire for self gratification but are often lacking in the basic constituents needed for the body to provide enough energy to guarantee sound health. This means changing the approach more towards eating natural foods which are unprocessed and avoiding any chemical additives and colourings etc. as well as cutting down on red meat and dairy products.
Herbal therapy: Herbs are a large part of Chinese Medicine and thousands of herbs have been catalogued over the centuries, each herb can have varying yin or yang effects. We have mainly applied these principles to common western herbs because even though Chinese Herbs are now more widely available we follow the Taoist principle of using locally grown substances to support health.
Meridian massage: Located throughout the body are special pathways (jingluo) through which the life-force flows including not only the organ meridians but eight special meridians which act as storage vessels similar to the streams, rivers and reservoirs which irrigate the landscape. Energy meridians are the vital mediators which connect the internal organs together and support the functions of each organ by distributing the vital substances throughout the entire body in the same way the sap flows through a tree pulling nutrients from the roots up through the trunk so that they reach even to the tip of each branch. Think of it like this, the farmers crops may flourish in the fields but without a good network of roads and distribution centres there would be no guarantee that the right foods would get to the consumers when they are most needed. The supply of vitality has to be adequate in quantity and quality but also has to be smooth and consistent without interruption for good health to be constantly maintained. The energy meridian massage can be used to stimulate or sedate the flow of energy depending on the elemental imbalance and is also a good way to open up the channels to free blockages and improve the flow of Chi.
- Breathing exercises: Deep breathing is essential for stimulating the production of Chi in the lower abdomen but there are also many specific exercises which can not only help with the process of Chi cultivation but help with a variety of specific diseases. Tao Yin or breathing exercises can increase the lung capacity by up to forty percent which improves the uptake of energy from the air providing a boost to the vitality of the entire body and mind.
Contact thermogenesis: Throughout our lives the body is constantly regenerating itself repairing damaged tissues and replacing almost every single part of the body right down to the bones. Even the internal organs themselves require a constant supply of heat to keep them at the optimum operating temperature as well as a constant supply of vital substances and moisture to provide a perfect environment for them to work in. Moxa or Ginger Compress uses a local application of heat to stimulate the energy, the supply of vital substances, and aid the regeneration of body tissues. It can be targeted on a particular organ or energy meridian point which needs revitalizing or can be applied to the site of an injury depending upon the circumstances. It is very good for removing stagnation in the system and helps to focus the repair process for example with bruising or scar tissue.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Locating the meridians
Chinese Medicine is far more than an academic study, the understanding of it's principles can lead us to take immediate and effective action to deal with the causes and effects of many diseases, and even offset the effects of aging such as Alzheimer's and a variety of other degenerative conditions like Arthritis. Chinese Medicine books which are still used by practitioners today such as the Nei Ching or Yellow Emperor's Classic have their origins in the Xia dynasty more than five thousand years ago. The core texts of Taoist philosophy such as the I Ching or book of changes also mention the process of transformation of energy in the body. Each person's store of vitality flows between the internal organs and around every part of the body through a network of energy meridians known as the jingluo. It is through sensitivity to the flow and obstruction of energy around this network that Chinese medicine practitioners are able to diagnose and correct the onset of disease. The flow of energy can be stimulated or sedated using special massage techniques which balance the energy in the network in exactly the same way a farmer stores rainwater in a reservoir then opens the sluice gates to irrigate the crops in the dry season. We will be learning practical exercises to help us with locating the eight extra meridians as well as the ten organ meridians in the body and their associated important energy centres and points related to acupressure.
Understanding the five elements theory
To begin with we will be having a look at how the five elements are related to the way energy is balanced between the internal organs as well as relating this to emotional as well as physical factors of disease. Early Taoist philosophers noted that the major internal organs of the body and their associated meridians could be classified in terms of five elements. Unlike the western notion of elements based on the Greek idea of fundamental constituents of nature, the Wu Hsing or five elements represent stages in a cyclical process similar to the changes of the seasons. Each organ meridian can be considered a component which adds a particular quality to the chi and is responsible for certain functions including regenerating specific areas of the body. For example the kidneys are related to the water element and the emotion of fear. The relative strength of this elemental energy in the body governs such areas as growth, reproduction and maturity, mental faculties like memory and clarity of mind, and is also responsible for bone formation. Each element is inter-related to the other elements and the level of activity of each organ also affects the energy levels in the others. This relationship can be represented graphically by placing the elements in a circle known as the Shen cycle where each element supports and nourishes the next in line, there is also a corresponding cycle which shows how the elements control each other known as the K'o cycle.
Understanding the eight principles of disease classification
Eight principles is a major form of disease classification used in modern Chinese medicine to differentiate syndromes according to Yin or Yang factors. Yin type diseases tend to be indicated by cold and reduced levels of activity, Yang diseases are indicated by symptoms like heat, fevers and increased levels of activity.
The Zang Fu theory
The Zang Fu theory in Chinese Medicine helps us to understand the nature and process of diseases by looking in more depth at the actual functions of the internal organs and how impairments in these functions produce specific symptoms.
We are working from two text books written by Chee Soo, if you are interested in attending the course or just exploring the subject further then you can obtain copies by clicking on the images below: