Exercise and Acupuncture Steve Coster

I was a running junkie!

The Yin & Yang of Running

When it comes to health, exercise is a lot like food.  What I mean is, we know greens are good for us but if that was all we ate, then they would soon become bad for us.  And I think that is true of exercise.  In the acupuncture clinic I see a lot of sports injuries caused not necessarily by the type of exercise (unless you consider darts to be exercise), but the amount.  I’m talking about running.  If you are into running then you know how addictive it can be.  You start off just jogging around the block, and before you know it you are signing up for your first ultra!  But maybe that was just me…..

Unlike activities like martial arts or dancing which take an element of skill, running is much more accessible.  It is literally just putting one foot in front of the over,  or controlled falling over.  You don’t need to spend loads of money on equipment and clothing.  You don’t even have to join a club. A good quality pair of running shoes is probably the only thing that will set you back a bit.  And no one needs to show you how to run, we’ve been doing it for a long time!

running Steve Coster acupuncture

There is nothing new about running of course. 

There is evidence that ancient man used to run for long periods in order to track and wear out prey, known as persistence hunting.  The idea being that animals cannot regulate their body heat by sweating as man can, so they eventually cannot flee any further and so succumb to the hunters.  In fact it is a method still used by bushmen in the Kalahari desert and Rarámuri people in Mexico.  It has also been hypothesised that the gluteus maximus muscle evolved to enable man to run.  So it’s not just for sitting on.

What is new, however, is running for fun.  It was Jim Fixx who started the craze of jogging in the 1970’s.  Unfortunately he died of a heart attack at the age of 52 while out jogging.  Despite this irony, there is no doubt that jogging is better than sitting around smoking and eating crisps.  Most probably Mr. Fixx would have died at 47 if he hadn’t started jogging. 

So when does running become not so good for you?

Basically, doing too much exercise is as bad as doing none.  I used to run a lot.  At the height of my training I was running 75 miles a week.  I thought nothing about getting up at 5am on a Sunday and running for 5 hours.  I loved running, but looking back I can see I was mostly chasing the fix.  Like any addiction, the pleasurable part is satisfying the cravings, not the actual thing itself.  

Steve Coster acupuncture running injury

A used hinge does not rust.

There is no doubt that exercise is good for us, and there is much evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, to support this.  But little is mentioned about the negative aspects of exercise; not only over-doing it, but the emotions associated with it too – fear, shame and guilt.  If you’ve been following my blogs, you’ll know what these emotions can do to your Qi.  Shame and guilt tangles Qi up and stops it from moving, and Fear descends Qi.  Joy (or more accurately lack of Joy) needs something out of the ordinary to move it – like running 26.2 miles.  And finally, Anger, which can be the result of Qi not moving (which we call Qi stagnation).  We all know that runner who is unbearable to be around if for whatever reason they can’t get out for their run.  It might even be you.

anger Steve Coster acupuncture

Exercise is important in Chinese Medicine.  It keeps the qi moving which is good for body and Mind.  It also prevents the accumulation of Dampness.  Think of a wet tea towel that has just been screwed up and left in a corner.  After a while it becomes a bit stinky; it needs to be hung out to let the air circulate.  Your body is the same –  the cells need oxygenating.  

It is important to keep moving, whatever age you are.   But balance is key: Chinese Medical theory makes it clear that any type of extreme is not a good thing.  The ancient Taoist masters state that people should not only avoid overindulging, but also over exertion, which they say exhausts the sinews and bones.  

When running goes bad

Which brings us to the tale of Pheidippides, who you probably would have only heard of for two reasons, 1. If you are into ancient Greek literature, or 2. If you have ever run a marathon.  Pheidippides was a professional runner (or a courier on foot) who in 490 BC ran 280 miles over a period of 2 days (the actual mileage and period differs depending on what you read, but we can safely say he ran a long way in a short time) and then an additional 40km from Marathon to Athens to announce the news of the Greek victory over Persia.  Unsurprisingly, after delivering his message he dropped dead.  The marathon is of course named after this incredible feat.

running Steve Coster acupuncture

While there is evidence that jogging (that is, running between 1 and 2.5 hours a week at a slow or average pace) can increase your lifespan by 6.2 years for men and 5.6 for women, the reverse is true for more running.  Studies suggest that by doing more doesn’t mean more benefit, in fact it can mean the reverse.  Excessive exercise can cause damage to the heart and coronary arteries, increasing the risk of heart problems and risk of stroke.  Although a slow resting heart beat (as low as 40 bpm in some athletes) is considered to be a sign of good health, this may not be the case once they stop engaging in high levels of exercise.  Other studies have also shown that endurance athletes have weak immune systems and are more prone to colds and asthma.  Over-exercising in young women can also cause amenorrhoea (periods stopping) and other menstrual disorders, as well as reduced bone density.

Exercise addiction  

For some people exercise can become more and more important in their routine, to a point where it disrupts their work and personal relationships.  They feel frustrated and depressed when they can’t get their ‘fix’.  As I stated above, this is related to Qi and Blood stagnation.  The more hooked we become, the more we need to move our Qi and Blood and so feel invigorated.  

The free flow of energy can be blocked by emotions and stress, which is why running can feel so good for our mental health.  But although you feel good for a short time after exercising, it doesn’t deal with whatever is causing your Qi to be blocked.  So it is a vicious circle of depletion.  And it’s tough physically on those who have to run 30 or 40 miles a week to get their qi moving.  

Running can become an addiction.  Just the same as having to use caffeine, alcohol or drugs to get moving, running is the same.  Although I’ve focused on running, the same applies equally to any endurance sport.  But whatever your fix is, it’s deceptive.  These things provide an initial high, but then an immediate slump.  So at risk of repeating myself, it’s all about balance, just as Yin and Yang informs us that one extreme will only ever lead to its opposite extreme.  Somewhere in the middle is needed.

Next week – What is considered ‘good’ exercise? 

If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.

Mother Steve Coster acupuncture southend

Big up to all the Mums!

As it was Mother’s Day last weekend, this week’s blog is all about the concept of Mother in Chinese Medicine. We are hugely connected to our mothers and profoundly influenced by them, whether we like it or not! Even if you don’t, or didn’t, get along, we will certainly still feel a connection to them. So let me this week take a look at the idea of Mother from a Chinese Medicine perspective.

Mother as connector to the world

It is impossible to come into this world without a mother (at the moment anyway). Even if a baby is conceived via In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), there has to still be an egg and it still has to develop in a womb. If by some miracle of science a child could develop outside of the womb, there would still be no escaping a mother/child connection.

It is our mother who helps us to connect to the world and we gradually learn to have our own identity. In the best situation our mother feeds, supports and loves us unconditionally. She comforts us by holding and caressing us. By taking in nourishment from our mother we gain stability.

Inheriting the best of our parents

In Chinese Medicine it is said we inherit from both our parents what is called pre-heaven essence (so not only their annoying habits). This literally means that we have the essence of our parents within us. The Chinese therefore put huge importance on the health of parents, particularly at the time of conception. For instance, if the parents are unhealthy or quite old when a child is conceived, and therefore pass on weak Qi, the future health of that child could be affected. And not only their childhood, but quite possibly into adulthood. This applies equally to the influence of drink or drugs (recreational or medicinal).

Parents Steve Coster southend acupuncture

The unborn child’s future health can also be influenced while it is in the womb. These days, of course, it is common knowledge that drink and drugs or an unhealthy lifestyle affect the fetus in general. But in Chinese Medicine it is also believed that the mother’s emotional state has a big impact on the fetus, such as a shock.

Losing the ability to Mother oneself

In my day-to-day clinic I see a lot of conditions and illnesses that haven’t appeared over night, but rather have developed over years and years. Those little bowel niggles that you ignored for decades gradually become colitis. Or that stiff shoulder that once went on it’s own gradually becomes a frozen shoulder. That tension headache that painkillers can no longer touch.

But what I see mostly in many of my clients is the inability to connect with their ‘inner mother’. That is, they have all the time in the world to look after others, but never enough to look after themselves. The root to not being able to mother oneself is complicated of course. It is a minefield of guilt, shame and emotional pain. As you know from my blogs, any prolonged emotion will eventually have a negative effect on the physical. People who do not or will not allow themselves to be mothered, either by themselves or by others, generally present with common symptoms (in my clinic anyway): weight gain, digestive and bowel problems, exhaustion and depression.   We mother ourselves with TV, food, sugar, alcohol, drugs, consumerism, anything in fact that releases dopamine, the pleasure chemical that the brain releases reward certain behaviour.

self medication acupuncture southend Steve Coster

It is our mothers who provide us with support and security when we are young.

Over time we learn to care for others, and ourselves so it seems obvious that separating a child from its mother will have a negative effect. Short periods of stress are usually harmless, such as divorce, but studies have shown that “toxic stress” (caused by long periods of separation and trauma) can cause developmental problems of a child’s brain and behavioural issues. This can lead to a possible disruption of a child’s ability to regulate their emotions and cope with future stress.

The Mother/Child Generating Cycle

This same cycle can be seen in the Sheng Cycle (or the Generating Cycle) in Chinese Medicine, particularly the five elements system. We call this the mother/child relationship. In this cycle the child is dependent on the mother, but also vice versa, the mother is dependent on the child. So, if the ‘child’ element is deficient, then it may be because it is not receiving enough qi from its ‘mother’.   And on the other hand, if a ‘child’ element becomes too full it can adversely affect the ‘mother’ element.

This how it works.

Water generates Wood – Wood generate Fire – Fire generates Earth – Earth generates Metal -Metal generates Water

Water allows the trees to grow (Wood); the trees can then be burned producing Fire; the wood becomes ash which becomes Earth; the Earth hardens and we mine minerals and Metal; and over time the minerals become mountains from which flows the Water, and so on….

As an example, let us say that a person is being neglected by their inner-mother. They are avoiding exercise, eating the wrong foods and as a consequence putting on weight and generally feeling miserable. All symptoms typically related to the Earth element. It could be said that the Earth element (the child) is not being nourished by the Fire element (the mother), so as an Acupuncturist it would make sense for me to treat the mother element, the Fire. Using the analogy in the box above, creating more ash from the fire will reinforce the earth.

What can you do to nourish your own inner-mother?

You should treat yourself just as you would want your mother to treat you. Be kind to yourself. Eat well and get plenty of rest. Treat yourself to something nice on a daily basis, but free of guilt. Exercise for fun, not because it is expected of you. Remember that the philosophy of Chinese Medicine is one of balance, moderation and free flow of energy. Be like a young healthy tree – feel the wind between your branches, bending and swaying in the wind without breaking.

Please do contact me if you have any questions about Acupuncture and hayfever.  Or you can find out more about any of the topics in my blogs here, about me, or my treatments  

Steve

Liver as Warrior Steve Coster Acupuncture

Spring is here: Awaken your inner Warrior!

I think now the Spring Equinox has passed we can safely say Spring is here.  Get your shorts ready but don’t put them on yet.  And remember to protect yourself against the Wind, it’s still pretty chilly out there!

The Liver’s Role:  East & West

So this week I want to talk a little more about the Liver, its role in fighting infection and autoimmune disease.

The Liver has one main similarity in both Chinese and Western medicine, it stores blood.  However, in Chinese Medicine (CM) it is also responsible for ensuring the smooth flowing of Qi, which influences every other part of the body as well as our emotions (see my anger blog). In CM storing of the blood has three functions:

  1. It regulates blood volume 
  2. It regulates menstruation 
  3. It moistens the eyes and sinews

In Western Medicine (WM) the liver‘s job of storing the blood is more accurately filtering the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. In this way the liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. As it does so, the liver secretes bile that ends up back in the intestines.  It also controls and makes the proteins, fats, cholesterol and clotting agents.

So whichever way you look at it, the Liver is pretty important.

The Warrior within us all

There is another similarity between the East and West concepts of the Liver that I would like to focus on, and that is it’s role in the body’s ability to fight infection.  

In Chinese Medicine the Liver is said to be the General, the minister responsible for defending the nation’s borders.  To help explain this, let me first tell you a little about how the ancient Chinese viewed the body.  The Chinese saw the body as a reflection of the world around them and our organs represented the ministers required to manage an empire.   The channels and bodily processes are the empire in action – agriculture and grain storage, irrigation and waste management, and an army.   In this system the Heart represents the role of Emperor, the sovereign of all organs.  It is responsible for intelligence, wisdom, and spiritual transformation. The Liver, however, is the General, smart and courageous, and responsible for defending the borders of the Empire and making plans to do so.  In other words, fighting infection.

Protecting the boundaries

In Western Medicine the liver is the primary organ for breaking histamine down, that’s why  antihistamines are used to help treat the symptoms of liver failure.  In this way it is the Liver that is responsible for mobilising the troops against foreign invaders, such as bugs and parasites.  And if you have ever had hay fever, you know that histamines can make you feel very irritable.

This role of the Liver fighting off infectious agents that attack the body suggests the image of a warrior, whose job it is to defend the boundaries of the empire.  Without an adequate plan, the immune system would be ineffective, unable to resist potential invaders.  This is quite commonly the explanation when a person suffers from recurrent infections.  

Autoimmune disease

On the other hand, when the primary symptom is allergies (or hay fever as mentioned above), the immune system is essentially attacking the wrong enemy, generating antibodies against pollens, which are harmless.  Then it is as if the Liver is an overly zealous military leader, going to war too vigorously with no leniency.  In the case of autoimmune disease, the immune system can be seen to be a hyper-vigilant warrior who actually turns against his own side, creating an inflammatory reaction within the body’s tissues. 

What can you do? 

Well, as you would have gathered from my blogs so far, good health is a balancing act.  When it comes to the Liver, it’s important of course what goes through it:  too much alcohol, fatty food and medicines will all have a detrimental effect on the Liver over time….or not, of course, because we are all different.  We all feel and express anger in different ways.  Some of us exercise, others do not.

balancing act Steve Coster acupuncture Photo by Leio McLaren (@leiomclaren) on Unsplash

Chinese philosophy advocates a balanced life, but a life that is lived.  Eat well (and drink), but in moderation.  Exercise is important, but you don’t need to run a marathon.  In Qi Gong there are various exercises and posture that are practiced to cleanse and nourish the Liver.  And an Acupuncture session every now and then will ensure your Liver Qi flows smoothly.

Please do contact me if you have any questions about Acupuncture or any of the issues discussed above.  Or you can find out more about any of the topics in my blogs here, about me, or my treatments  

Steve

Anger blog Steve Coster Acupuncture

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!

Over the weekend the strong winds of storm Gareth toppled a relatively young tree in my garden.  But youth didn’t do it any good; on closer inspection the trunk was rotten, so one big gust and it was a goner.  Unfortunately I was too late to help the tree, but I have been able to help many people in the Acupuncture clinic presenting with anger related issues.

The Wood, the Wind and Chinese Medicine

In Chinese Medicine the Wind is the climatic condition associated with the Spring.  It whips everything up and clears away the stagnation from the Winter months, making way for the fresh and new.  

Similarly, Wood is the element of Spring.  So remember what I touched on last week?  A healthy wood needs to be supple and flexible, able to bend and yield to the Wind.  Just like the tree in my garden, if we lack flexibility we are more likely to snap under pressure.  That is what anger can do; it can make us rigid and irrational and unable to see clearly.  

Anger is not a bad emotion

Anger can be a powerful, positive force, but only if it is expressed appropriately and in the right direction.  It can be insidious and all consuming, and often it is so prevalent we don’t even realise we are angry!  The pressures of modern living certainly give us all plenty of reason to be angry.  But prolonged anger, just like all unfettered emotions, will eventually have a negative effect on our health.  In Chinese Medicine it is the Liver that is particularly associated with Anger, but given time it won’t be long before all the body’s organs are affected.

The Dalai Lama explains it very well:

I think that anger and hatred actually cause more harm to us than to the person responsible for our problem.  Imagine that your neighbour hates you and is always creating problems for you.  If you lose your temper and develop hatred toward him, your digestion is harmed, your sound sleep goes, and you have to start to use tranquillisers and sleeping pills.  You then have to increase the dosages of these, which harms your body.  Your mood is affected; as a result, your old friends hesitate to visit you.  You gradually get more white hair and winkles, and you may eventually develop more serious health problems.  Then your neighbour is really happy.  

So what can help with Anger?

Anger will affect the free-flow of Qi in the body.  It will first affect the Mind:  before you know it you are getting angry in the car, angry queuing up in the supermarket, or yelling at the TV!  And then, over time it will start to affect the body: if the free flow of Qi is impaired then the result can be stiff neck, headache or migraine, insomnia, constipation, or any number of autoimmune diseases.  

Anger needs to be expressed, but as you know from my earlier post ‘Is Spring finally here?‘, not all expressions of anger are appropriate.   So what is an appropriate expression of anger?  Well sport and exercise can be good outlets, but simply hitting a punch bag or pounding the pavement will only take you so far.  It may feel good at the time but it won’t deal with the cause.

Qi Gong and Tai Chi to direct the flow of Qi

The Dalai Lama  goes on to say that all the things that stirred up your anger can go away with a peaceful mind.  Well, Mind in Chinese Medicine is just another expression of Qi, so directing the Mind through meditation (which includes Qi Gong and Tai Chi) can help the Qi flow more smoothly.  Martial Arts such as Wing Chun can also help.  But when dealing with the long term effects of anger, such as migraine, you may need the help of Acupuncture and Tui na.  

Please do contact me if you have any questions about Acupuncture or any of the issues discussed above.  Or you can find out more about any of the topics in my blogs here, about me, or my treatments  

Steve

Treating PCOS with Steve Coster Acupuncture Southend

Acupuncture can help when the Doctors can’t

Tried every option?

Sometimes it can feel like you have tried everything to get back to full health.   You have gone down all the usual routes – seen the GP, seen the specialist, taken the drugs.  But at the end of the day it can feel like the Doctors have washed their hands of you.   Acupuncture can be a real help when you think there is nowhere left to turn.

So when I received this fantastic testimonial, it made me think of all the people out there who are thinking there is nothing more that can be done!

Because of the holistic nature of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, there isn’t a one-treatment-fits-all method.  Everyone is treated as an individual and therefore each individual has a treatment tailor-made for them.  Two people may be suffering with PCOS, for instance, but the road that lead them there will be very different.

So, thank you to Emily for this testimonial:

“I was diagnosed with PCOS back in 2017 and since doctors said there was nothing I could do about it I turned to acupuncture to see if I could get my body back into balance naturally. I tried two acupuncturists before I moved to Southend and then found Steve. In my first session Steve confidently said he’d get me a period back within three months. As I hadn’t had a period for nine months I thought that sounded ambitious… Low and behold, in just three weeks I had a natural period! I couldn’t recommend Steve highly enough. Sessions with him are always relaxing and informative, he knows how to make you feel at ease and give you hope that the body does know how to heal. Thank you!”

Please do contact me if you have any questions about Acupuncture or PCOS.  Or you can find out more about any of the topics in my blogs here, about me, or my treatments  

Steve

Is Spring finally here?

Shouldn’t it still be Winter?!

I’m tempted to say Spring is here, but technically it’s still Winter.  However, there is no denying that Spring-like things are happening.  The daffodils are flowering and yesterday the highest temperature in the UK was recorded at 20 degrees Celsius. 

Research in fact shows that Spring is arriving earlier every year.  It was on average 11 days earlier in the middle of the last decade than it was in the 70s.  And as flowers and foliage emerges earlier, so does the wildlife that feeds on it, which could be a problem.  The Guardian explains it better than I can https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/jan/23/spring-early-plant-animal-behaviour

Steve Coster Acupuncture in the Spring

Don’t be too hasty

It may not seem like it sometimes, but we are all part of nature.  Humans, animals and plants alike, we all follow the timetable of the seasons. But just like everything else we can also be tricked into acting as if Spring is here.  Yesterday I saw a man walking his dog in his shorts and a t-shirt at 9am when it was still freezing!  He literally cannot wait for the summer to arrive.

Spring and the Wood Element

Wood is the element associated with the Spring in Chinese Medicine theory.  It is a time of new birth, rebirth, flexibility and expansion.  Wind is the climate associated with this time of year and Anger is the emotion.  In nature we can see a healthy Wood element in how the trees yield and spring back on a windy day.  If they cannot yield then they simply snap or they are uprooted.

The Wind and Anger

Human beings are the same.  If we can’t yield to pressure we will eventually snap.  In America they call this going postal, named after the first workplace shootings at a post office https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Going_postal The perpetrator of this horrendous crime suppressed his anger and frustration to the point where it emerged like an exploding pressure cooker!  So, it’s important to have ways to express our emotions.  This might be exercise, or art, or just being able to talk to someone.  Simply bottling up emotions can have devastating consequences to your health, and possibly everyone else.

Wind carries disease into the body according to Chinese Medicine, particularly when our Qi is low.  To our modern minds, however, we know it is germs that carry disease.  But the ancient Masters believed it was ghosts and spirits that invaded the body when it was weak, bringing with them disease.  Obviously they didn’t have the benefit of microscopes and scientific techniques that we have today, so most of their knowledge was based on observation.   It was after all less than 200 years ago that it was believed cholera was spread by ‘bad air’, until John Snow (not JS of Channel 4 news or GoT :)) was able to show it was in fact to do with contaminated water.  

Acupuncture can help!

So this is my point…. it may feel warm but it’s still pretty cold, so dress appropriately.  Our Qi is probably still low from the Winter months so beware of a Wind Invasion.  Wear a scarf!

And of course, come for some Acupuncture for all your aches and pains and Wind invasions.

Steve Coster Acupuncture Southend in the Spring

Chinese Acupuncture

Please do contact me if you have any questions about Acupuncture.  Or you can find out more about any of the topics in my blogs here, about me, or my treatments  

 

Pain management with Steve Coster Acupuncture

A week in the Acupuncture Clinic

There is never a dull day in the Acupuncture clinic and every day is varied.

Just this week I have helped people with many things, from knee pain to IVF support.

  • back pain (from sprains to a prolapsed disc)
  • Hot Flushes (menopausal but also Chemo-induced)
  • Headaches and migraines
  • IVF support (supporting egg transfer and preparing for IVF in general)
  • Digestive problems
  • Water Retention 
  • Male fertility issues 
  • Cancer treatment support
  • And Morning Sickness!
Knee pain Steve Coster Acupuncture

Electroacupuncture for knee pain

Back pain Steve Coster Acupuncture

Cupping for back pain

Pain management Steve Coster Acupuncture

Acupuncture for Shoulder pain

 

 

Some cases are common place, such as lower back ache.  Other cases are more specialised and challenging, for instance chemo-induced hot flushes.  

But what we actually feel is often just the tip of the iceberg.

 

Pain is not the Cause, but the Symptom

What all the conditions I have seen this week have in common is that they are the symptoms of an underlying cause.  They are not the root itself.  Think of a tree, or an iceberg.  The part that we can see is only a small part of what is actually going on.

No matter how simple a case may seem, the root can be (more often than not) complicated.  We are not machines that if you change a spark plug everything will be fine again.  We are complicated organisms that are affected by what we eat, how we sleep, what we are thinking, where we live, who we talk to….and on and on.  So that is where the real skill of being a practitioner lies; being able to sort through everything and root out the actual cause of a disease or condition.

Do you trust your mechanic?

There is a real danger of treating ourselves as we would our cars.  Something goes wrong so we take it to the mechanic.  At the end of the day he calls you to go and pick it up.  And one day, it costs just a bit too much, so you sell it or scrap it.  There is a whole industry that encourages us to treat our bodies in this way, as if they are misbehaving machines.  We are given a pill for this symptom and a pill for that, and then another pill for the side effects of the first pill!  The pain may be dulled, but now you can’t think straight and your hands are numb!

Qi follows Mind

People often ask me how acupuncture works.  I explain about the concept of Qi , our vital energy, and how if this energy is impaired then illness will result.  But what the acupuncture needles really do is kickstart the Mind and Body into what it should have been doing all along – healing itself.  

In Chinese Medicine we say that Qi goes where the Mind goes.  That’s why practises such as Mindfulness and Meditation are so important for our health and wellbeing.  They teach us to focus our Minds and really feel what we are feeling.  No one can feel what you are feeling but you.

Please do contact me if you have any questions about Acupuncture.  Or you can find out more about any of the topics in my blogs here, about me, or my treatments  

 

Qi Gong exercises by the sea

Qi Gong …10 things you didn’t know

If you are looking for an exercise regime that addresses mind, body and soul, then Qi Gong is ideal! I run a weekly class in Southend, just give me a call if you would like to know more.

What is Qi Gong?

Qi Gong literally translates as ‘Breath Work’ or ‘Cultivating Breath’. It concentrates on posture (whether moving or stationary), breathing techniques and mental focus. Qi Gong can be soft, like Tai Chi, or it can be more vigorous, like kung fu, so it is suitable for all levels of fitness and can be practiced by all age groups.

What is the History?

The documented history of qigong goes back approximately 2,500 years. However Chinese archaeologists and historians have found references to qigong-like techniques at least five thousand years old.

How does it help?

Frequent practice harmonizes and strengthens the body, and has a healing effect on the functioning of all the internal organs and bodily systems.

It increases the flow of blood and energy, which helps to fully nourish all parts of the body. Initially many movements focus on gently opening and stretching the joints and muscles of the body, releasing tension that could have been there for years.

As the energy relating to the internal organs flows around the extremities of the body (hands and feet), stretching the arms and legs in specific movements also improves the health of the internal organs.

Qi Gong is not just postures and movement, but also includes self-massage, breathing techniques and meditation. It can also be performed standing, seated or supine.

There is no need for special equipment or a large workout space.

Anyone can practice Qi Gong. There are techniques suitable for every age and physical condition.

People who exercise a lot and whose bodies are externally strong are not necessarily healthier or happier than the average person. In order to have true good health you must have a healthy body, a healthy mind, and also smooth and balanced Qi circulation. Qi Gong addresses mind and body!

 

How important to your health is the place you live?

I was chatting to a client the other day who happened to mention how only the poor people lived on the shady side of Sugarloaf mountain in Cape Town, while only the rich could afford to live on the sunny side.

Ignoring the sociopolitical reasons for why this might be, and how true it is (!)…anyway, it got me thinking: Chinese Medicine tells us that where we live has an affect on our health, so surely always being in the shade can’t be healthy. And I suppose being in the shade is equally true on an emotional level too. And what does it say about a person who prefers to live on the shady side of the street?

Yin and Yang

To understand this, we need to look at Yin and Yang theory. Put simply, we need both to survive. The sunny side of the mountain is Yang, while the shady side is Yin, and as the sun moves across the sky throughout the day, the degrees of Yin and Yang on each side of the mountain increase and decrease. And this is the same in every aspect of nature, including what goes on inside of us. But if this balance is disturbed, then problems will ensue. On a global scale we see global warming and the consequences of climate change, and in the human body we see illness.

We need sunshine to flourish. However, too much and we dry out, and too little and we become Vitamin D deficient. In Chinese Medicine another result of this imbalance could be Dampness. In fact, low mood and weight gain, both signs of Vitamin D deficiency, are also symptoms of Dampness.

​The Acupuncturist said I’m Damp!

If you’ve had Acupuncture before, you might have heard this! Like the Yang of sunshine, we need the Yin of moisture. But too much and we can become Damp.
Dampness is basically the impairment of fluid metabolism in the body as a result of an internal imbalance. This could be caused by overthinking or overeating (which puts pressure on the bodily processes), or working/living in an overly damp environment. And once you have Damp it can affect every part of the body. It is sticky and heavy, it infuses downwards and it causes repeated attacks.
It is like sugar; a little is ok, perhaps even good for you, but the more you have, the more you crave it, and it does more and more damage, but you just can’t stop eating it!

Cold and Damp

Cold often goes hand in hand with Dampness. Cold causes stiffness and pain. So we need the heat (either from the Sun, but most probably in the UK, artificial heat) to keep the cold and the damp out. This is of course not a new idea. It is a primal need. The Yang must stay in balance with the Yin.

How can Acupuncture help?

Acupuncture, like other therapies, can be very powerful. But sometimes it can be frustratingly slow to take affect. Why is this? Well, the following case study shows how just a little bit of understanding of where the client lives can greatly increase the potency of the treatment.

It reminds me of a client who came to see me for acupuncture when I was working in London. I will call her Jane, although this is not her real name. Jane complained of a low mood and weight gain, as well as lower back pain. Observing her, she always wore black and dark clothes, and she looked tired. She had moved to London from overseas because of her husband’s work, and now found herself feeling bored and homesick. Jane tried to eat properly and exercise, but found herself unable to exercise because of her low energy and back pain, and as a consequence her diet suffered too.

She was in a vicious circle, and this is the nature of Dampness – it pulls you down and clouds the Mind, classic symptoms of Dampness….like mental quicksand. We began an acupuncture programme, but frustratingly every time she showed progress, she would slump back into her mire. But one day she just happened to mention that she was living in a basement flat that had constant damp issues filtering up from the earth. The landlord was doing very little to help and a dehumidifier was sucking the moisture from the air 24 hours a day. So this, I believe, coupled with the fact that she was lonely, bored and homesick, was the cause of much of her distress.

Illness, like life, however, is not simple; Jane couldn’t just up sticks and return to her home country. However, the acupuncture helped with Jane’s back pain and helped clear her Mind enabling her to think more clearly. But I felt the root of her problem was being somewhere she didn’t want to be, and to top it all that place was damp!

I encouraged her to get the damp problem at home sorted out as soon as possible. And slowly, over just a few weeks, her symptoms began to improve. Her back pain was no longer an issue; she was feeling more motivated and she was losing weight. Until finally, wearing a bright summer dress, Jane felt like she had moved on and was her old self again.

If you would like to know more about how Chinese Medicine could help you, please do contact me

Steve

How many sessions is enough?

I am often asked how many sessions one might need.

As a general rule, I would say 4 treatments for every year you have had the condition. But this is often difficult to assess because sometimes we are often not aware something is wrong until we feel pain or something isn’t right. For instance, atherosclerosis (thickening of the arteries), heart disease, or even diabetes, aren’t apparent until something is drastically wrong. Equally, Transient Ischemic Attacks (a.k.a. TIA, or mini-stroke) can quite often occur in one’s sleep, so we might not realize the extent of the damage until there is a major stroke! But the clues are always there, perhaps years before the fateful day! For example, shortness of breath on exertion, lethargy, palpitations, disturbed sleep, frequent urination, can all be signs of something unpleasant building up over many years.

Nothing happens in isolation

In Chinese Medicine we look for signs and symptoms of disease before it becomes as serious as a heart attack or a stroke. That’s why I ask questions about your bowel movements and sleep patterns. I need to find out where your energies may be stagnating or depleted and put together an appropriate treatment: What channels do I work on? What muscle groups or joints are affected? What organs are under strain and in need of nourishment?

Sticking with atherosclerosis as an example, as the arteries harden, we don’t hear them crystallizing and straining, or even feel it, but you may be feeling lethargic or breathless on exertion – these are the signs and symptoms of things to come…perhaps… but they are years in the making. That pain in the back, for instance, could have taken years to develop, so it’s probably not going to go away over night. Or someone who has been depressed for 20 years may need some time to feel on an even keel again.

So how many sessions might one need?

A good place to start is to commit to 10 sessions. You might not need this many, but it enables us to assess how you are doing and if you are improving. Of course, you might feel better after just a few sessions, but it depends on the individual.

How often should treatments be?

More often than not sessions are weekly, but sometimes more frequent treatment is needed. For example, if after a session you are pain free for a few days before the pain returns, this could be an indicator that treatment should be every few days to start with.

Unfortunately, as humans we have remarkably short memories when it comes to pain! It is very easy for work and life in general to once again take precedence over our health – and ironically it is something within this puzzle of life that is causing the imbalance/pain/illness. This might be related to posture, our emotions (anger/frustration/resentment), diet, and increasingly these days, endurance sports. Or simply too much work and not enough rest. Many times I have treated a client for lower back pain who then informs me they are going to the gym straight after the session!

Chinese Medicine can sometimes have dramatic affects in just one session, but more often than not, it is quite subtle and can take a little time and patience. The acupuncturist Jane Lyttleton offers a great analogy, of how a round table falls ill and develops sharp corners. The table sees a specialist in sharp corners, who says, ‘No problem, we’ll have you round again!’. The operation was performed the next day, and the surgeon cut the corners off with a saw. It was a painful procedure but was over and done with rapidly and efficiently. Unfortunately, he cut a little too close on the fourth corner and the table lost part of one of its legs. The table, however, no longer had sharp corners. But what if the table had gone to see the Chinese doctor instead? After enquiring how this might have come about and thoroughly feeling the table’s corners, top and legs, he would pull out a small file, apply it to one corner and begin to file. He would file and file. And even though it might be tedious and require a lot of patience on the part of both the table and the doctor, and it might take up to one year before the table would be truly its old round self again, eventually it would be beautifully smooth and strong and perfectly round again.

If you would like to know if Acupuncture or Tui Na could help you, please do get in touch.

​Steve