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November 2017

The Body and Nature

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Chinese Medicine is, ultimately, an approach to best health through balanced living.   There are many approaches to balance that a person can take, such as being mindful of what we eat, doing some kind of exercise such as yoga or qi gong, receiving acupuncture or other bodywork, cultivating a sense of gratitude for the many gifts we have…the list goes on.   As the months go by, we will be writing about these and many more topics on our webpage and newsletter.

One idea that seemed timely to write about today is the idea of how the body interacts with nature.  Not only do we try to maintain good internal balance with a good diet and a positive attitude, etc., but we also are constantly interacting with the natural world.  This is well-pictured in this image below, which shows the tremendous interactivity between the internal body and the external world.  The picture is so wonderful because it shows just how intimate and interconnected this system views the body and nature.

There is balance also within nature, which is reflected in a kind of “natural qi” of the season.  We are leaving the time of Autumn dryness, reflected in the crumpling and descent of leaves, and we are entering the period of winter wind and cold, reflected in the lowering temperatures, the windy days and snow and ice that are soon to come.  These are natural seasonal changes.  Our bodies are of course vulnerable to these changes and we should take steps to bolster them.

Normally, it is our channel or meridian system that processes these environmental changes.  However, if we are weakened through illness or bad habits, we are more susceptible to “catching a cold”.  In the traditional views, this “pathogenic qi” can sneak past the body defenses of the channel system, literally riding the winds that blow at our back, and cause us to have symptoms such as sneezing, body heaviness, fatigue, headaches, and the like.  We get sick.  There are entire herbal treatises about just this process, such as the Shang Han Lun (On Cold Damage), which is the source of so many of the most famous Chinese herbal formulas that we use in our clinic today.

There are certain protective measures to take now, especially during windy cold days.  Cover your neck with a warm scarf, wear a warm jacket or coat to protect your back, and do wear warm shoes or boots.  By covering our back and neck, we are protecting the first line of channel defense, the Tai Yang, or “Greater Yang” system.  By covering our feet, we protect the vulnerable Kidney Yang Qi, which is responsible for so much of our health and reserves.

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