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Living According to the Winter Season with Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The ancient Chinese created a system of medicine thousands of years ago that is still used to this day. It has evolved over time and is still used effectively to treat modern diseases. Chinese medicine is only a part of a greater concept the ancient Chinese used to live their everyday lives. It is a branch that springs from a larger tree that encompasses all aspects of life. This is why the doctor of Chinese medicine does not only deal with the body or physical aspects of one’s health, they are teachers educating patients on how to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle, because this is how we attain health, and the Chinese knew it. It is deeply entrenched in their medicine.

Chinese medicine teaches to live in harmony with the seasons, and according to Chinese medicine theory, there are five seasons – winter, spring, summer, late summer, and fall. Each season has many associations which help us to change our habits as the seasons change so that we may create more balance between our bodies and the external environment.

When Chinese medicine was being developed thousands of years ago, people were living in a state of complete harmony with nature. They rose with the sun, ate what grew in each season and were acutely aware of their natural environment as it had a direct effect on every aspect of their lives. The lives of the people had a flow that changed depending on the time of year. Things like what foods were eaten were dependent on what happened to be growing at that particular time and what was available. When to get up, how to dress and what kinds of activities were engaged in were dependent on the important connection that people had to their environment. Because these simple steps were taken people were able to stay healthy throughout the year and had the tools to keep their immune systems and their organs strong so that they could ward off disease.

This fancy chart was made by Chinese Medicine Living

Winter in Chinese Medicine

Winter represents the most Yin aspect in Chinese medicine. Yin is the dark, cold, slow, inward energy. This is compared to the Yang of summer whose energy represents light, hot, quick, expansive qualities. The summer weather is warm, the days are longer and people are out being active. In TCM we believe that the diet and activities in winter should be adapted to enriching yin and subduing yang.

Winter, in TCM, is associated with the Kidneys which hold our body’s most basic and fundamental energy. It is believed that by harmonizing oneself with the seasons you can stay healthier and prevent disease, so winter is a good time to strengthen the kidneys. Rest is important for revitalizing the kidneys, which is why some animals hibernate in winter. It is also a good time to look inward, reflecting on ourselves with meditation, writing, or other inward practices such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong. These practices help us to connect to our inner selves and help to support kidney energy. They are very helpful to relax the mind, calm our emotions and raise the spirit.

The sense organ associated with the kidneys is the ears, and our ability to hear clearly is related to kidney health. The quiet and stillness of winter allows us to hear more of the world than the buzzing activities of summer. This forces us to slow down, rest and relax.

The body part associated with the kidneys are the bones, so it is important to pay close attention to the bones in the winter months making sure to tonify and heal any problems in this area. This is also why winter is a time when Chinese medicine prescribes bone broths as nutritional therapy, as they are warming, nourishing and especially good for the bones. Bone broths are also powerful Jing tonics, as Jing is produced by the bones. Jing is depleted by activities such as extreme and prolonged stress, lack of sufficient sleep, working long hours, and excessive behaviours like too much drinking and drugs. Winter is the best time to supplement the body’s Jing supply and bone broths are just what the doctor ordered.

Activities in Winter

Activities should represent the season with a turn inwards, with more self-reflection, quiet time writing, meditating, reading and other soul-nourishing activities. Winter is a time to slow down and feed ourselves both physically and spiritually. Internal martial arts and meditative practices are particularly helpful at this time of year. One should go to bed earlier and sleep later to receive the full healing effects that sleep has to offer.

Many people love winter. They feel energized with the coming cold and love to be out snowboarding, skiing and going for walks in the snow. For others, winter causes them to retract, stay inside and can cause some to feel sad or even depressed because of the lack of light and reduced physical activity. The good news is that winter can be enjoyed by everyone if we live, eat and exercise according to the season and pay attention to our bodies preferences.

Winter Foods

Winter Foods in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

There are many foods that are beneficial for us to eat during the winter season. These foods are the ones that naturally grow in this season – squashes, potatoes, root vegetables, winter greens, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, apples, and pears. In winter, our bodies need warming foods like soups made with hearty vegetables, and rich stocks cooked with animal bones are best. Foods that specifically nourish and warm the kidneys are; black beans, kidney beans, broths cooked with bones, lamb, chicken, walnuts, chestnuts, black sesame seeds and dark leafy greens. A small amount of unrefined sea salt is also helpful as the taste associated with the kidneys organ is salty, but remember, moderation in all things is important.

Cooking should be for longer periods using low heat and less water. This infuses foods with heat that helps to keep the body warm in the cold winter months. Hearty soups, whole grains, and roasted nuts are good on cold days and offer nourishment to feed the body and tonify the kidneys in cold winter months.

The principle of harmony between what we eat and the season is based on hundreds of years of practical experience. Chinese nutritional therapy is an important component of Chinese medicine and truly believes that you are what you eat. The food that we consume has a profound effect on the body, affecting our health and wellbeing. Foods become part of the body after being consumed (internal) and the weather and environment have an effect on us externally. Chinese dietary philosophy suggests that you embrace native foods along with eating locally grown, organic and chemical free foods that grow in season. According to TCM the thing about the modern diet which is the most unhealthy is that we are able to eat foods all year round that may be grown unnaturally with the use of pesticides rather than ones grown naturally for only part of the year. This is the way nature intended us to eat. Eating natural foods that grow in the present season is what our bodies are designed for and prefer. This is one of the main ways that Chinese Medicine guides us on how to remain healthy all year long.

Winter Foods in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

This lovely image from TCM007

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Winter in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

Science Finally Proves Meridians Exist

 

Reblogged from uplift connect.com

For centuries the ancient wisdom keepers and healers in several traditions had a keen understanding of the energetic body. The healing traditions from China, India, Japan and Tibet, as well as other countries all spoke of energy channels, meridians or nadis along which the vital energy flowed.

Life was considered to be a bio-electrical and vibrational energy phenomenon and so health revolved around balancing energy through various means. Life existed because of life force and energy running through and animating the body, ensuring we can move, breathe, digest food, think and even feel.

Healing traditions all spoke of energy channels, meridians or Nadis.Healing traditions all spoke of energy channels, sen, meridians or nadis.

ENERGY CHANNELS

This vital life force or chi, is composed of two kinds of forces, yin and yang, and flows along a sophisticated network of energy pathways, or highways, circuiting the body. Over 2000 years ago ancient cultures knew of the existence of these energy channels. They were called ‘sen’ in Thailand, ‘nadis’ in India, ‘meridians’, ‘channels’ or ‘vessels’ in China and Japan, and ‘channels’ in Tibet. In India, where many eastern healing arts developed, there were said to be 72 000 nadis or energy pathways. Disease is believed to be a blockage in the energy flow of these channels. A range of healing traditions, including acupuncture, acupressure, massage and yoga, are founded on the principle of the existence of energy channels or pathways, known as meridians, or nadis, running around the body in an expansive network.

While it may seem a little airy fairy to some to consider the energy body while we have flesh and bone, at source we are an energy field, embedded into another energy field. Our bodies are electromagnetic in nature and science has measured these frequencies with advanced machines, like EKG’s and MRI scanning, for many years. Numerous studies demonstrate these energy pathways and points conduct electricity even when needles aren’t used. And the massage technique of Shiatsu have been found to stimulate the same energetic effects. Similarly, Qigong,Tai Chi and the postures of yoga, have been found to increase electrical conductance at acupoints, yet science never believed in the existence of meridians until now.

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH

Recently scientists at Seoul National University confirmed the existence of meridians, which they refer to as the “primo-vascular system.” They say that this system is a crucial part of the cardiovascular system.

Previously, North Korean scientist Kim Bong-Han proposed that he had found meridians in the early 1960’s.  Dr Kim Bong-Han showed over 50 years ago that new tubular structures exist inside and outside of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels, as well as on the surface of internal organs and under the dermis. He believed they were the traditional meridian lines. The meridians were called Bonghan ducts or channels, after his research, but now the existence of this system in various organs has been corroborated by further research.

The current Korean researchers now believe the primo-vascular system is in fact the physical component of the Acupuncture Meridian System. And it has also been suggested that this system is involved in channelling the flow of energy and information relayed by biophotons (electromagnetic waves of light) and DNA.

DNAimageThere may be a link between the meridians and energy and information relayed by DNA.

The Korean scientists studying oriental medicine with biophysical methods injected a special staining dye which coloured the meridians. By injecting the dye onto acupuncture points, they were able to see thin lines. These did not show up at non-acupuncture point sites where there are no meridians. The researchers discovered that the meridian lines are not confined to the skin, but are in fact a concrete duct system through which liquid flows, and that this liquid aggregates to form stem cells.

Previously, scientists used a combination of imaging techniques and CT scans to observe concentrated points of microvascular structures that clearly correspond to the map of acupuncture points created by Chinese energy practitioners in ancient times. In a studypublished in the Journal of Electron Spectroscopy and Related Phenomena, researchers used contrast CT imaging with radiation on both non-acupuncture points and acupuncture points. The CT scans revealed clear distinctions between the non-acupuncture point and acupuncture point anatomical structures.

Scientists injected a special staining dye which coloured the meridiansScientists injected a special staining dye which coloured the meridians.

THE MERIDIAN SYSTEM

There are 12 primary paired meridians and two single mid meridians, six yang and six yin. The yang meridians run down the body and the yin meridians flow up the body. Each meridian is also related to an element. Each meridian is most active at a certain time of the day or night and each meridian is influenced by an element or season.

The nature of meridians, in their elemental structure, and as vessels for the life force, show the intricacy and profound connection of our body at a cellular level, to the universe. We are intimately connected by the elements, energetic structure and flow of energy, to all life, at a cellular, physical level. Our earth is also said to have energetic pathways or ley lines, akin to meridians.

The map of acupuncture points was created by Chinese healing practitioners nearly 2000 years agoThe map was created by Chinese healing practitioners nearly 2000 years ago.

HOW ARE MERIDIANS RELATED TO HEALTH?

Our bodies need balance. A balanced flow or energy, not too much or too little, is conducive to good health. This is the same in the way we live our lives. Balance is paramount. Just enough food, water and a healthy balanced lifestyle. As the Buddha said: “middle way” or moderation in all things.

We can see this harmony and balance in life, as the balance between the energies of yin and yang – or more simplistically, masculine and feminine – the two opposing and catalyzing energies of the universe.

In our bodies we need balance, so a balanced flow or energy, not too much or too little.In our bodies we need balance, not too much or too little.

Our health is vibrant if there is harmony and balance between these two forces in the body. If the balance is disturbed, and the flow of one of these forces becomes greater than the other then illness arises. These forces or energies flow through very definite channels in the body, or meridians, and these are the body’s healing energy pathways.

In traditional Indian medicine, the meridians are expanded upon.There are nadis found within the physical body and these nadis make up the nervous system, the circulatory system, the digestive system, the respiratory system, the lymphatic systems, etc. Any blockages in these nadis can result in physical health conditions. Nadis can also be found in the subtle body where they carry thoughts, feelings, and nerve impulses. When these nadis are blocked, we lose our ability to feel, and connect deeply with others, the environment and ourselves. In the same way that veins and arteries are important for the body to function, nadis weave through our physical nerves and the matrix of consciousness that circuits the mind and self, supporting our physical expression from the otherworldly dimensions of existence.

YinYangChi is made up of two kinds of forces, yin and yang.

When the flow of energy is blocked, it causes low energy and illness. Practices like yoga and meditation work on these subtle energy channels, supporting the flow of energy through the body. According to some ancient indian texts there are 350 000 nadis or energy pathways in the body. In traditional Indian medicine and spiritual science, the energies of the physical body, the subtle body and the causal body are said to flow through the nadis. Within this framework, the nadis are said to connect at special points of intensity called nadichakras.

The three most important nadis are those running along the spine: ida, pingala and sushumna. The Sushumna is the central channel of energy in the human body and it runs from the base of the spine to the crown of the head and carries kundalini energy, which is the primal evolutionary force. Kundalini is awakened through yoga and meditation and is said to lie dormant at the base of the spine. Activation of the kundalini leads to higher consciousness states. The aim of yoga is to broaden the sushumna and to unite the pathways. Purifying all three nadis leads to overall health, and wellness of body and mind, as well as spiritual growth. Various Pranayama techniques aid in helping to keep these nadi channels open.

The three most important nadis are those running along the spine: ida, pingala and sushunma.The three most important nadis are those running along the spine: ida, pingala and sushunma.

If you are sensitive to energy and have had energy treatments, such as acupuncture, you may have felt streams of energy or a flow of cold or heat, for example, up the legs or arms. This is a freeing up of energy in the meridians and the flow of energy that is released when a blockage is removed.

There are many wonderful healing modalities based on the meridian system that support radiant health. By enhancing the flow of energy through the body, balance and health is achieved and we come in touch with our true selves. Acupuncture is a therapeutic modality used in China as early as the late stone age. It was used to treat all ailments affecting people. Acupuncture did not enter modern Western consciousness until the 1970’s when China ended a period of isolation and resumed foreign political and cultural contacts.

The range of applications for acupuncture and acupressure has grown slowly in the West, possibly because of the belief that it has no scientific basis.  Perhaps now with the scientific proof of meridians, acupuncture will become more widespread for all ailments, along with other great healing modalities based on the energetics of the body, supporting more people to have vibrant health and wellbeing.

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