For thousands of years, eastern medicine has been revered for its healing benefits. You likely know about popular practices such as acupuncture or tai chi. They can help minimize inflammation, improve flexibility, muscle strength and even enhance sleep quality. When paired with modern medicine, these practices can elevate your health. Try incorporating some of these methods into your daily life. But there are many other worthwhile practices that might be worth considering depending on your health needs.
Acupuncture and Acupressure
A primary concept in ancient Chinese medicine is balance; balance between life energy (qi or Chi) and the energy that surrounds us. These practices promote that qi flows between the external body and the internal organs through 12 established pathways, or "meridians." It's believed that disruptions (such as stress and environmental hardship) in the flow of qi can have a negative effect on your health. To help bring things back into balance, practitioners might use acupuncture and acupressure.
With acupuncture, thin needles are placed in specific areas of the skin, and are believed to connect the surface of the skin with the internal organs, thus stimulating and regulating the flow of qi. While it might not appear so, acupuncture is a painless procedure and can relieve pain while providing relaxation.
Acupressure however, relies on physical pressure — rather than needles — to stimulate the same acupuncture areas of the skin. It can alleviate tension, improve blood circulation and regulate the flow of qi. Some massage therapists are even trained in acupressure, so consider asking about credentials if booking an appointment.
Tai Chi and Qigong
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese practice intended to improve the circulation of qi throughout your body. This low-impact exercise, also sometimes known as "moving meditation" involves a series of gentle, slow, continuous movements that can be done by anyone. It’s not a strenuous workout, but tai chi can help build muscle strength, flexibility and balance and also has minor aerobic benefits.
Similarly, qigong also utilizes slow, gentle movements, though these can be practiced sitting, standing or even lying down. It involves flowing movement, meditation and deep rhythmic breathing and cultivates mindfulness and calm.
Jin Shin Jyutsu® and Reflexology
Jin Shin Jyutsu (JSJ) is an ancient Japanese healing method which is also sometimes referred to as the Art of Living. It focuses on relieving tension and bringing harmony within your body by applying light pressure to the 26 sets of "safety energy locks." These "locks" are specific areas of the body where concentrated energy resides and passes through. Tension might build up and block these areas, which is why this method is important — it can provide relaxation, boost the body's healing capacity and reduce stress. It's also used to help patients undergoing chemotherapy because it can ease nausea and lessen anxiety.
Another popular practice of Eastern medicine is reflexology. It's based on the theory that applying pressure to certain areas of the foot can positively affect your organs and internal functions. This long-standing practice has been linked to reducing pain and calming the nervous system.
Originating from India thousands of years ago, yoga is an ancient practice that can improve mental, spiritual and physical health. Oftentimes in western culture, yoga is mostly considered a form of exercise, but there are several different kinds of yoga. Some include chants, meditation, breathing exercises and mantras. Most yoga classes are Hatha yoga, a broad term that refers to the physical poses performed during a session. However, there are different types of yoga so don't hesitate to branch out. Yoga helps build strength, improves flexibility, increases balance and reduces stress.
Eastern medicine and practices have been practiced for thousands of years and have proven to be beneficial in many cases. Incorporate some of these methods into your life to elevate your health. El Camino Health offers weekly free, virtual restorative yoga classes for cancer patients and caregivers, but is great for anybody! There are also hundreds of online tutorials and routines for yoga, tai chi, meditation and other eastern practices to try.
The Chinese Health Initiative at El Camino Health also regularly offers Qigong classes.
This article first appeared in the December 2021 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.