Lifestyle Tips from TCM
Posted on Aug 2, 2013 7:53 AM EDT
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the lines between lifestyle, environment, and the medicine itself seem to blur. With a reach that extends well beyond acupuncture and herbs, there is much to learn from traditional Chinese culture about preventing disease and fostering wellness. This blog features a few practical, simple TCM tips that you can begin to weave into your daily life to get and stay healthy.
Brighten Up Your Diet
According to Bob Flaws in The Tao of Healthy Eating: Dietary Wisdom According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, “unless one’s diet is well adjusted, no amount of herbs, acupuncture, or other medicines and treatments can achieve a complete and lasting cure.” Diet plays a role in creating vital energy and is a means by which to balance the yin and yang properties in the body. Unlike many fad diets in Western medicine, TCM doesn’t offer a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, an individual’s diet is based on a combination of factors, including that person’s constitution, the current season, and health status. Different foods recommended for each constitution help to keep the body in balance.
While TCM theory can seem a bit complex when it comes to eating, there are a few general guidelines that you can easily apply as soon as your next meal. Color is an important aspect of the TCM since each of the 5 vital organs is represented by a color. The traditional theory holds that foods of the similar colors nourish the corresponding organ system. (For example, red correlates with the heart, so red foods like strawberries, tomatoes, or red wine are thought to benefit this energetic organ system.) To support each system, meals should include natural foods of a variety of colors, which often are associated with the presence of certain nutrients. Additionally, it’s not just what you eat that matters, but how you prepare it. Warm food is easier to digest, whereas too much raw food in the diet can deplete qi and cause imbalance.
Quick Feng Shui Fix
In TCM, health is linked closely to the environment, so your living conditions can make a difference in how you maintain your health. While you can’t always control where you live and the weather there, you can do things to enhance the flow of qi in your living space just like in your body. Feng shui, or the art arranging things in a harmonious way, is based on the concepts used in TCM like the flow of qi and balance of yin and yang energies. Enhancing the flow of qi in your home or workspace can be as easy as doing a little organizing. De-cluttering the space can also de clutter your meridians. To introduce more energy into an area, try incorporating a plant. It adds a burst of color, improves the air, and serves as a source of qi.
Take a Breath
As a major culprit behind heart disease, hypertension, migraines, and IBS–to name just a few–chronic stress is an issue that TCM addresses through mindful exercises. Qigong and tai chi both are parts of TCM that bring awareness to breath and movement to cultivate and move qi. Roger Jahnke’s The Healer Within describes techniques of gentle movement, self-massage, breathing, and meditation that one can use throughout the day. Such simple, self-care practices encourage the immune response, improve metabolism, and decrease stress–ultimately warding off disease. Included in Jahnke’s web publication “Breathing Practices,” you can find short breathing exercises that easily fit into your schedule. This sample included is designed to utilize more of the lungs’ capacity to produce mental and physical benefits.
To get started, try 2-3 repetitions. As you improve, you can slowly increase the repetitions and try the exercise multiple times throughout day.
If what you really need is a boost of energy to power through your day, a little qigong may do the trick.
This quick video demonstrates some easy qigong movements to give you a sample of the ancient practice that can be both invigorating and calming.
Western medicine teaches of the importance of adequate sleep, which in Chinese medicine is seen as necessary for replenishing qi and balancing energy. At night, yin energy dominates and governs sleep. Sleep in turn allows the body to replenish yang energy. TCM also designates an optimal time for sleep, since the movement of qi through the body during a day is mapped out in two-hour segments. According to this model, you should aim to get to bed between 9 and 11p.m., when the body is shifting into a period of yin energy dominating and yang energy being stored. Teas are often used to promote sleep if insomnia is an issue. These TCM tea recipes address the different underlying issues of sleeplessness.
You don’t necessarily have to make big changes to see an impact in your health. TCM offers ways to support your body so that it is capable of continuously healing itself. Try some of these simple lifestyle adjustments to cultivate the healing power of qi.
Recommended Reading for Nutrition and Weight Loss
This book is teaching Oriental nutrition for weight loss but in general also. I often times recommend it to anyone interested in Oriental nutrition and Qigong
Paul Pitchford’s book is comprehensive and excellent.
Great TCM nutrition books to get you started.
Recommended Reading for the Internal Arts
I recommend these books on the Pillars of Health of the internal arts like Tai Chi and Qigong.