Winter is coming… and Fall is the perfect time to engage in preventative health and wellness!
Here’s how you can use Chinese Medicine to prepare yourself for the turn of the seasons and enjoy a healthy and vital autumn and winter.
We all know that staying healthy during the change of seasons can be challenging. We know to wash our hands to protect ourselves from germs picked up from the subway, or our kids starting school, but what else can you do? You might not know that you can also protect yourself with daily practice of Qi Gong.
In Chinese medicine, our defense from pathogens (or germs, or viruses) is imaged as a kind of epic battle, in which we defend against external pathogenic influences using our Protective Qi, or Wei Qi. Of the six kinds of external pathogens, arguably the most dangerous to us is Cold. And we are quite susceptible to it as the seasons turn from summer to winter. The autumn is a time to protect and build our internal fire, or Yang energy, to help fuel the fight against pernicious Cold. The study of Cold attack is ancient, and complicated, but many illnesses can be traced to an invasion of this “pathogen.” This is why many natural medicines recommend eating warm, cooked foods, and warn against going out into the cold with wet clothes (after sweating through a vigorous gym workout or yoga class), and encourage wearing appropriate layers for the seasons. Just as your grandmother knew, poor protection against cold and wet can mean getting sick. But while she might admonish you to put on your coat, or an extra scarf, these Qi Gong practices can help you generate an energetic protection to fight off the colds and flus from the inside out.
Dao Yin, or guiding the Qi, is one of the main categories of Qi Gong (traditional health cultivating exercises). It is a practice that uses the pathways and acupoints of the body’s energetic systems to strengthen the immune system and ward off injury from attack. This very simple Dao Yin exercise, when done every day, can act to strengthen your Wei Qi. My students like to refer to this as the “Chinese Flu Shot”.
You’ll need to know a few basic principles of Chinese physiology in order to do this exercise:
1. The body is comprised of Yin and Yang aspects. Tender areas such as the belly, inside of the arms and legs are considered Yin. Strong muscular areas such as the back and outside of the limbs are Yang.
2. The arm-yin meridians flow from the torso along the inside of the arms to the fingers. The arm-yang meridians flow from the fingers along the outside of the arms to the head. The leg-yang meridians flow from the head down the torso and along the outer edge or back of the legs to the toes. The leg-yin meridians flow from the toes along the inner edge of the legs to the torso. In this way, the Qi makes a complete circuit of the body.
Next, you’ll need to know two basic hand techniques from Tui Na (a system of medicinal massage).
1. Patting: use a cupped palm to “pack” in energy along the Yin meridian pathways. The image we commonly use to teach this technique is like patting sand into a sand castle.
2. Slapping: use a flattened surface of the hand to strike the Yang surfaces forcefully, like getting rid of air bubbles underneath the surface of saran wrap.
Then, following the pattern of Yang to Yin and Yin to Yang on the body, apply Patting and Slapping to give yourself a vigorous Dao Yin massage. If you can’t remember the pathways of the meridians, just remember to use Patting on the tender spots, and Slapping on the more muscled areas. Do three circuits of the body, head to toe, and finish with Patting at the Dan Tian (the area of the abdomen below the umbilicus). Then, stand still for a few moments with both hands cupping the Dan Tian, to store the energy in your body. Most people will feel invigorated and peaceful at the same time, with a sensation of tingling or activation all along the body’s surface. This is your Wei Qi being strengthened and activated.
This simple exercise is best done in the morning, and also makes a great warm up prior to exercise.
Come by to learn this easy routine as we move into the crisp beauty of the autumn season. We will be offering a free Dao Yin class at Evolve this Fall to help you strengthen and store your qi reserves so you can benefit from and enjoy the rich and deep aspects of Winter stillness. And remember, don’t forget your scarf and hat!