Eastern philosophy gives us a different way of looking at how our bodies work, how disease manifests itself and how the healing process works.
At the cornerstone of eastern medicine is the flow of Qi (energy), pronounced chee, throughout our body, regulating our spiritual, emotional, mental and physical balance. This is tied in with the balance of Yin, negative energy, and Yang, positive energy, as it's believed these opposing forces can influence the Qi flow.
The basic techniques within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are acupuncture, body work, energy work and herbal medicine. These techniques have been used for thousands of years to help heal diseases of the mind, body and spirit.
Self-healing is another concept promoted by this philosophy. With the backing of modern research, practices such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong and meditation have been shown to improve immunity, balance our emotions and strengthen our bodies.
In the West, Chinese medicine is used to treat a variety of conditions. It's also seen as a way to promote wellness and prevent disease.
Originating in China thousands of years ago, acupuncture involves the insertion and manipulation of very fine needles at specific points along the body to regulate the flow of Qiand restore the balance of yin and yang.
The points in the body where needles are inserted run along meridians that relate to organs, such as the spleen and liver, as well as our abdomen and spine. These are the pathways of energy circulation. When Qi is interrupted or stagnates, acupuncture is used to alter the flow and get it back on course.
This is the burning of mugwort, a small, spongy herb, for healing. Moxibustion strengthens the blood, stimulates the flow of Qi and maintains general health. It's applied when warmth is needed in a particular area. If warmth is needed at a deep point within the body a moxibustion cone may be placed on top of an acupuncture needle.
Most Chinese herbal medicines come from plants, although some practitioners may use animals, minerals and fungi. Ask your Chinese herbalist first and state your preference, if you prefer not to use animal products.
Practitioners prescribe a formula, usually individualised, based on a diagnosis that normally involves an in-depth interview of the patient, examination of the pulse and condition of the tongue and the smell of the breath. Pre-prepared formulas may also be prescribed, as there are many base formulas.
This classic Chinese massage involves the stimulation of acupoints and areas of the body with the practitioner's hands and massage tools.
Acupressure and shiatsu
Both of these massage methods involve the use of finger pressure on acupuncture points (rather than using needles). They aim to stimulate the flow and circulation of qi through the meridians.
A flame is used to heat the air in a cup, which is then quickly applied to an area of the body. As the air inside the cup cools its volume decreases to create suction on the area that stimulates circulation, returning oxygenated blood to the area. Again, the idea is that if Qi is blocked or stagnating, the cupping allows the energy to flow again.
These were originally developed as a way to cultivate Qi for personal health, improved interaction and treatment of others and self-defense. Some of these exercises have their basis in martial arts.
Believed to have originated in the 12th century, Tai Chi is a system of slow, graceful movements and breathing techniques that often involve keeping the body stable and upright while shifting weight. Because of the body mind connection and high level of concentration involved, Tai Chi offers mental as well as physical benefits, such as improved posture, balance, flexibility and strength. Sessions require intense focus and quiet. It can be practised alone or in a class.
There are two main types of Qi Gong practice: internal and external. Internal Qi Gong is a self-directed technique that uses sound, movement and meditation to help maintain good health and disease prevention. You do not have to have a Master instructor present.
External Qi Gong, on the other hand, is performed by a Master using their hands on a patient with the aim of projecting qi for the purpose of healing.