Natural Skin Care Newsletter - June 2006

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Natural Skin Care Newsletter: June 2006 Issue

Natural Skin Care Products by Wildcrafted Herbal Products

Natural skin care products by Wildcrafted Herbal Products Natural skin care products by Wildcrafted Herbal Products

Introduction

Welcome to the June 2006 issue of the Natural Skin Care Newsletter. This month's Newsletter includes a range of informative articles that will hopefully interest all of you.

Index of the June Issue of the Natural Skin Care Newsletter:

(You can click on the topics below which will take you to the article of choice on this page, or simply scroll down and read each one)

Articles:

Feature Article: Circulatory Problems Associated with Winter
(by Danny & Susan Siegenthaler)

Buy Straight From Manufacturers and Save
(Danny Siegenthaler)

Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine (Part 3): Tai qi, Qi gong & Tui na
(by Various)

June 2006 Issue of the Natural Skin Care Newsletter

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Join our Natural Skin Care Newsletter - It's fun, free, informative and the only place where we advertise our special offers!!!

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Join our Natural Skin Care Newsletter - It's fun, free, informative and the only place where we advertise our special offers!!!

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Join our Natural Skin Care Newsletter - It's fun, free, informative and the only place where we advertise our special offers!!!

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Circulatory Problems Associated with Winter

Now that Winter is upon us (in Australia) we start to experience cool or even cold temperatures. This does affect some people more than others, however, folks who are affected by the cold temperatures are often also suffering from less than optimal circulation. This can lead to decreased nutrients and oxygen getting to the superficial layers of your skin.

The result is that you may experience cold extremities, dryer skin and increased wrinkles and lines on your skin. Nobody wants that.

Herbs to the rescue

During Winter, to stimulate your circulation and tone your skin, there are a number of things you can do that will be of great benefit. Here is a list of some useful herbs (click on the name of the herb, some have a link to find out more):

You can buy these herbs in dried form and most are readily available from your health food store and come in tea form. Peppermint, Ginger and a dash of lemon juice make a great, warming tea that's nice to drink and depending on how much ginger you've put into your tea - it's very warming.

Another way you can use these herbs is in the form of essential oils. Now BE CAREFUL, these little beauties can be a bit surprising. Use one or two drops of an essential oil in a bath to warm you up.

This is how. First, run your bath, before you add your essential oils, make sure YOU ARE IN the tub before you add any essential oils. DO NOT ADD THE ESSENTIAL OILS BEFORE YOU GET INTO THE BATH. I've done it and certain parts of my anatomy haven't felt the same since... The essential oils will float on the surface and if you sit down into the bath, guess where they go to work, yep, that's right. Your behind, etc. However, once you are sitting in the bath, you can add 2 or 3 drops, no more, of one of the oils.

It is probably safer If you make an oil blend. Use almond oil as a base in a 50 ml bottle then add 2 drops of Ginger, 2 drops of Basil, 1 drop of Wintergreen and 2 drops of Lemon oil. This is a very warming, stimulating blend of essential oils. Shake the bottle well before adding about 5-7 drops of the mixture into the bath water after you have sat down in the tub.

You can also make a similar mix to use as a rub on cold aching extremities or even on your back, neck or where ever. Just make sure you avoid sensitive areas on your body such as your eyes and nether regions. It's best to stick to arms, back, shoulders, legs avoiding the throat area, face, etc.

Almond oil is light and nourishing, so dry skin will benefit greatly. Ginger and the other herbs are very warming. Peppermint is very interesting in that it has both warming and cooling properties. When you need warmth, it warms, when an area on your body is hot, it cools that area. That is way you can use it if you have painful, hot joints for example in Arthritic joints, or aching stiff joints that respond to warmth.

Pepper we all know from cooking. It is very hot and spicy. It has a strong warming effect. It does not taste great on its own, so a tea is not the way to go with this herb, however, adding it to your food in slightly increased amounts to normal with a little chilly will warm you up very quickly and promote peripheral blood circulation. This is why you start to perspire when eating hot chilly containing food.

Basil is a wonderful herb. It is warming, stimulating, smells fantastic and, well, it's just great. Again you can use it in your food or you can use it in the mix of your bath oil-blend.

Keeping your skin hydrated and toned

While taking a bath to warm you up and adding some warming essential oils to help the process, make sure you use your moisturiser after your bath to look the moisture in your skin. The bath will to some degree draw fluids from your skin, so you need to replace them with your moisturiser. The 'Rejuvenating Night Crème' is particularly useful after a bath, but even the general all-over body 'Geranium and Aloe Moisturiser' is a great alternative.

 

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Buy Directly from Manufacturers and Save

Recently we received an email from a visitor to our web site. This visitor wanted to know how we could possibly sell our products so cheaply when we claim to use pure, natural ingredients and hand-make our products?

I didn't think much of her comments to start with, feeling somewhat irritated and hurt actually, but it got me thinking and wondering just how much products, similar to ours, are being sold for. Well, I started to look around and ask a few questions and quickly found out that we are selling products at about half the price of products that are comparable in quality, but are not hand-made.

I started thinking again, I know it is dangerous, but hey, sometimes you have to take a risk. Well, I began looking at how we deliver our products to our customers and compared that to some other brands. It turned out, that their distribution chain is long, to say the least.

Most of them use both state and national distributors, they also use wholesalers - Wildcrafted sells straight to you, our customers, so there are no middle men which would add considerable extra costs to the products. Then I looked at the organisations - most do quite a bit of very expensive advertising, we do not. You save money again.

Knowing a little bit about how much it costs to make our products, bottle and label them, it's relatively easy to work out how much a company's products would cost to make - then I started to get a migraine from all the thinking, because products that contain high quality, natural ingredients in proportions that are known to have beneficial effects, would be much more expensive. Most however, are about the same price as ours, some slightly more, others a little less.

It was time to try and find a brand that is actually as good or better than ours.
My search revealed very few brands, in fact there was only one, that actually had similar quality products and guess what, they cost almost twice as much as ours, are not hand made and often sit in warehouses for months, because they are imported from overseas. This reduces the quality and effectiveness of the ingredients, unless of course you use preservatives..

We do not have to use preservatives, because we make our products at about the same time as our customers order it, so they are fresh and effective when it arrives at the customer's door.

After all that thinking, and drinking some Chamomile tea for my headache, I started to feel quite exited, because I now confirmed that our products are among the very best natural skin care products on the market and are available to our customers at approximately half the price of a similar quality brand.

Maybe you can find other manufacturers that supply directly to customers and save even more.

 

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Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine (Part 3): Tai Qi, Qi Gong and Tuina


Qi Gong and Tai Qi (Tai Chi) share a common philosophical background. Qi Gong movements are like Tai Qi, slow and graceful, rhythmical and balanced. Exercises are short with repetitious movements. Qi Gong stretching, breathing, and meditative posture exercises help to stimulate and balance your internal energy (Qi). Qi is responsible for the healthy functioning of the body. Daily practice of Qi Gong is rewarding, resulting in a healthy mind, body and spirit.

 

What is Tai Qi?

Tai Qi is an integral part of TCM, providing a means to balance the mind, body and spirit. Tai Qi is a martial art and involves slow, precise movements combined with breathing to strengthen the body, focus the mind and body's Qi. It is used as a form of exercise in China and has gained increased popularity as a form of exercise in the west.

Tai Qi is however much more than mere exercise. Many practitioners of Chinese medicine use Tai Qi to help them focus and direct the Qi which they use when practicing acupuncture. In addition, Tai Qi can also be use as a form of self defence. It is a martal art and many consider it to be superior to Karrate.

Tai Qi can also be used as a meditative form of exercise not unlike Yoga. The slow, precise movements combined with specific breathing techniques make this practice ideal for meditation.

Overview

Historically, Tai Chi Ch'üan has been regarded as a martial art, and its traditional practitioners still teach it as one. Even so, it has developed a worldwide following among many thousands of people with little or no interest in martial training for its aforementioned benefits to health and health maintenance. Some call it a form of moving meditation, and Tai Chi theory and practice evolved in agreement with many of the principles of traditional Chinese medicine. Besides general health benefits and stress management attributed to beginning and intermediate level Tai Chi training, many therapeutic interventions along the lines of traditional Chinese medicine are taught to advanced Tai Chi students.

Tai Chi Ch'üan as physical training is characterized by its requirement for the use of leverage through the joints based on coordination in relaxation rather than muscular tension in order to neutralize or initiate physical attacks. The slow, repetitive work involved in that process is said to gently increase and open the internal circulation (breath, body heat, blood, lymph, peristalsis, etc.). Over time, proponents say, this enhancement becomes a lasting effect, a direct reversal of the constricting physical effects of stress on the human body. This reversal allows much more of the students' native energy to be available to them, which they may then apply more effectively to the rest of their lives; families, careers, spiritual or creative pursuits, hobbies, etc.

The study of Tai Chi Ch'üan involves three primary subjects:

  • Health - an unhealthy or otherwise uncomfortable person will find it difficult to meditate to a state of calmness or to use Tai Chi as a martial art. Tai Chi's health training therefore concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind.
  • Meditation - the focus meditation and subsequent calmness cultivated by the meditative aspect of Tai Chi is seen as necessary to maintain optimum health (in the sense of effectively maintaining stress relief or homeostasis) and in order to use it as a soft style martial art.
  • Martial art - the ability to competently use Tai Chi as a martial art is said to be proof that the health and meditation aspects are working according to the dictates of the theory of Tai Chi Ch'üan.

In its traditional form (many modern variations exist which ignore at least one of the above requirements) every aspect of its training has to conform with all three of the aforementioned categories.

The Mandarin term "Tai Chi Ch'üan" translates as "Supreme Ultimate Boxing" or "Boundless Fist". Tai Chi training involves learning solo routines, known as forms, and two person routines, known as pushing hands, as well as acupressure-related manipulations taught by traditional schools. Tai Chi Ch'üan is seen by many of its schools as a variety of Taoism, and it does seemingly incorporate many Taoist principles into its practice (see below). It is an art form said to date back many centuries (although not reliably documented under that name before 1850), with precursor disciplines dating back thousands of years. The explanation given by the traditional Tai Chi family schools for why so many of their previous generations have dedicated their lives to the study and preservation of the art is that the discipline it seems to give its students to dramatically improve the effects of stress in their lives, with a few years of hard work, should hold a useful purpose for people living in a stressful world. They say that once the Tai Chi principles have been understood and internalized into the bodily framework the practitioner will have an immediately accessible "toolkit" thereby to improve and then maintain their health, to provide a meditative focus, and that can work as an effective and subtle martial art for self-defense.

Teachers say the study of Tai Chi Ch'üan is, more than anything else, about challenging one's ability to change oneself appropriately in response to outside forces. These principles are taught using the examples of physics as experienced by two (or more) bodies in combat. In order to be able to protect oneself or someone else by using change, it is necessary to understand what the consequences are of changing appropriately, changing inappropriately and not changing at all in response to an attack. Students, by this theory, will appreciate the full benefits of the entire art in the fastest way through physical training of the martial art aspect.

Wu Chien-ch'üan, co-founder of the Wu family style, described the name Tai Chi Ch'üan this way at the beginning of the 20th century:

"Various people have offered different explanations for the name Tai Chi Ch'uan. Some have said: 'In terms of self-cultivation, one must train from a state of movement towards a state of stillness. Tai Chi comes about through the balance of yin and yang. In terms of the art of attack and defense then, in the context of the changes of full and empty, one is constantly internally latent, not outwardly expressive, as if the yin and yang of Tai Chi have not yet divided apart.'
Others say: 'Every movement of Tai Chi Ch'uan is based on circles, just like the shape of a Tai Chi symbol. Therefore, it is called Tai Chi Ch'uan.' Both explanations are quite reasonable, especially the second, which is more complete."

 

Training and techniques

The Tai Chi Symbol or Tai Chi T'u (Taijitu)

As the name Tai Chi Ch'üan is held to be derived from the Tai Chi symbol, the taijitu or Tai chi t'u ), commonly known in the West as the "yin-yang" diagram, Tai Chi Ch'üan techniques are said therefore to physically and energetically balance yin (receptive) and yang (active) principles: "From ultimate softness comes ultimate hardness."

The core training involves two primary features: the first being the solo form or ch'üan, a slow sequence of movements which emphasize a straight spine, relaxed breathing and a natural range of motion; the second being different styles of pushing hands or t'ui shou for training "stickiness" and sensitivity in the reflexes through various motions from the forms in concert with a training partner in order to learn leverage, timing, coordination and positioning when interacting with another. Pushing hands is seen as necessary not only for training the self-defense skills of a soft style such as Tai Chi by demonstrating the forms' movement principles experientially, but also it is said to improve upon the level of conditioning provided by practice of the solo forms by increasing the workload on students while they practice those movement principles.

The solo form should take the students through a complete, natural, range of motion over their centre of gravity. Accurate, repeated practise of the solo routine is said to retrain posture, encourage circulation throughout the students' bodies, maintain flexibility through their joints and further familiarize students with the martial application sequences implied by the forms. The major traditional styles of Tai Chi have forms which differ somewhat cosmetically, but there are also many obvious similarities which point to their common origin. The solo forms, empty-hand and weapon, are catalogues of movements that are practised individually in pushing hands and martial application scenarios to prepare students for self-defence training. In most traditional schools different variations of the solo forms can be practiced; fast/slow, small circle/large circle, square/round (which are different expressions of leverage through the joints), low sitting/high sitting (the degree to which weight-bearing knees are kept bent throughout the form), for example.

In a fight, if one uses hardness to resist violent force then both sides are certain to be injured, at least to some degree. Such injury, according to Tai Chi theory, is a natural consequence of meeting brute force with brute force. The collision of two like forces, yang with yang, is known as "double-weighted" in Tai Chi terminology. Instead, students are taught not to fight or resist an incoming force, but to meet it in softness and "stick" to it, following its motion while remaining in physical contact until the incoming force of attack exhausts itself or can be safely redirected, the result of meeting yang with yin. Done correctly, achieving this yin/yang or yang/yin balance in combat (and, by extension, other areas of one's life) is known as being "single-weighted" and is a primary goal of Tai Chi Ch'üan training. Lao Tzu provided the archetype for this in the Tao Te Ching when he wrote, "The soft and the pliable will defeat the hard and strong. "This soft "neutralization" of an attack can be accomplished very quickly in an actual fight by an adept practitioner. A Tai Chi student has to be well conditioned by many years of disciplined training; stable, sensitive and elastic mentally and physically in order to realize this ability, however.

Other training exercises include:

  • Weapons training and fencing applications employing the straight sword known as the jian or chien or gim, a heavier curved sabre, sometimes called a broadsword or tao, which is actually considered a big knife), folding fan, staff, 7 foot (2 m) spear and 13 foot (4 m) lance (both called qi). More exotic weapons still used by some traditional styles are the large Da Dao or Ta Tao sabre, halberd, cane.
  • Two-person tournament sparring (as part of push hands competitions and/or san shou;
  • Breathing exercises; nei kung or, more commonly, qigong or ch'i kung to develop qi or chi or "breath energy" in coordination with physical movement and post standing or combinations of the two. These were formerly taught only to disciples as a separate, complementary training system. In the last 50 years they have become more well known to the general public.

Tai Chi's martial aspect relies on sensitivity to the opponent's movements and centre of gravity dictating appropriate responses. Effectively affecting or "capturing" the opponent's centre of gravity immediately upon contact is trained as the primary goal of the martial Tai Chi student, and from there all other technique can follow with seeming effortlessness. The alert calmness required to achieve the necessary sensitivity is acquired over thousands of hours of first yin (slow, repetitive, meditative, low impact) and then later adding yang (realistic, active, fast, high impact) martial training; forms, pushing hands and sparring.

Tai Chi Ch'üan trains in three basic ranges, close, medium and long, and then everything in between. Pushes and open hand strikes are more common than punches, and kicks are usually to the legs and lower torso, never higher than the hip in most styles. The fingers, fists, palms, sides of the hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, shoulders, back, hips, knees and feet are commonly used to strike, with strikes to the eyes, throat, heart, groin and other acupressure points trained by advanced students. There is an extensive repertoire of joint traps, locks and breaks (chin na), particularly applied to lock up or break an opponent's elbows, wrists, fingers, ankles, back or neck.

Most Tai Chi teachers expect their students to thoroughly learn defensive or neutralizing skills first, and a student will have to demonstrate proficiency with them before offensive skills will be extensively trained. There is also an emphasis in the traditional schools on kind-heartedness. One is expected to show mercy to one's opponents, as instanced by a poem preserved in some of the Tai Chi families said to be derived from the Shaolin temple:

"I would rather maim than kill
Hurt than maim
Intimidate than hurt
Avoid than intimidate."

Styles and history

There are five major styles of Tai Chi Ch'üan, each named after the Chinese family that teaches (or taught) it:

  • Ch'en style
  • Yang style
  • Wu or Wu/Hao style of Wu Yu-hsiang
  • Wu style of Wu Ch'uan-yü and Wu Chien-ch'uan
  • Sun style

The order of seniority is as listed above. The order of popularity is Yang, Wu, Ch'en, Sun, and Wu/Hao. The first five major family styles share much underlying theory, but differ in their approaches to training.

In the modern world there are now dozens of new styles, hybrid styles and offshoots of the main styles, but the five family schools are the groups recognised by the international community aWu Tang Shans being orthodox. For example, there are several groups teaching what they call Wu Tang style Tai Chi Ch'üan?). The best known modern style going by the name Wu Tang has gained some publicity internationally, especially in the UK and Europe, but was originally taught by a senior student of the Wu style.

The designation Wu Tang Ch'üan is also used to broadly distinguish internal or nei chia martial arts (said to be a specialty of the monasteries at ) from what are known as the external or wei chia styles Pa Kua Changased on Shaolinquan kung fu, although that distinction is sometimes disputed by individual schools. In this broad sense, among many Tai Chi schools all styles of Tai Chi (as well as related arts such as and Hsing-i Ch'üan) are therefore considered to be "Wu Tang style" martial arts. The schools that designate themselves "Wu Tang style" relative to the family styles mentioned above mostly claim to teach an "original style" they say was formulated by a Taoist monk called Zhang Sanfeng and taught by him in the Taoist monasteries at Wu Tang Shan. Some consider that what is practised under that name today may be a modern back-formation based on stories and popular veneration of Zhang Sanfeng (see below) as well as the martial fame of the Wu Tang monastery (there are many other martial art styles historically associated with Wu Tang besides Tai Chi).

When tracing Tai Chi Ch'üan's formative influences to Taoist and Buddhist monasteries, one has little more to go on than legendary tales from a modern historical perspective, but Tai Chi Ch'üan's practical connection to and dependence upon the theories of Sung dynasty Neo-Confucianism (a conscious synthesis of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian traditions, esp. the teachings of Mencius) is readily apparent to its practitioners.

The philosophical and political landscape of that time in Chinese history is fairly well documented, even if the origin of the art later to become known as Tai Chi Ch'üan in it is not. Tai Chi Ch'üan's theories and practice are therefore believed by some schools to have been formulated by the Taoist monk Zhang Sanfeng in the 12th century, a time frame fitting well with when the principles of the Neo-Confucian school were making themselves felt in Chinese intellectual life. Therefore the didactic story is told that Zhang Sanfeng as a young man studied Tao Yin breathing exercises from his Taoist teachers and martial arts at the Buddhist Shaolin monastery, eventually combining the martial forms and breathing exercises to formulate the soft or internal principles we associate with Tai Chi Ch'üan and related martial arts. Its subsequent fame attributed to his teaching, Wu Tang monastery was known thereafter as an important martial center for many centuries, its many styles of internal kung fu preserved and refined at various Taoist temples.

 

Modern Tai Chi

Yang style in Shanghai

Tai Chi has become very popular in the last twenty years or so, as the baby boomers age and Tai Chi's reputation for ameliorating the effects of aging becomes more well-known. Hospitals, clinics, community and senior centers are all hosting Tai Chi classes in communities around the world. As a result of this popularity, there has been some divergence between those who say they practice Tai Chi primarily for fighting, those who practice it for its aesthetic appeal (as in the shortened, modern, theatrical "Taijiquan" forms of wushu, see below), and those who are more interested in its benefits to physical and mental health. The wushu aspect is primarily for show; the forms taught for those purposes are designed to earn points in competition and are mostly unconcerned with either health maintenance or martial ability. More traditional stylists still see the two aspects of health and martial arts as equally necessary pieces of the puzzle, the yin and yang of Tai Chi Ch'üan. The Tai Chi "family" schools therefore still present their teachings in a martial art context even though the majority of their students nowadays profess that they are primarily interested in training for the claimed health benefits.

Along with Yoga, it is one of the fastest growing fitness and health maintenance activities, in terms of numbers of students enrolling in classes. Since there is no universal certification process and most Westerners haven't seen very much Tai Chi and don't know what to look for, practically anyone can learn or even make up a few moves and call themselves a teacher. This is especially prevalent in the New Age community. Relatively few of these teachers even know that there are martial applications to the Tai Chi forms. Those who do know that it is a martial art usually don't teach martially themselves. If they do teach self-defense, it is often a mixture of motions which the teachers think look like Tai Chi Ch'üan with some other system. This is especially evident in schools located outside of China. While this phenomenon may have made some external aspects of Tai Chi available for a wider audience, the traditional Tai Chi family schools see the martial focus as a fundamental part of their training, both for health and self-defense purposes. They claim that while the students may not need to practice martial applications themselves to derive a benefit from Tai Chi training, they assert that Tai Chi teachers at least should know the martial applications to ensure that the movements they teach are done correctly and safely by their students. Also, working on the ability to protect oneself from physical attack (one of the most stressful things that can happen to a person) certainly falls under the category of complete "health maintenance." For these reasons they claim that a school not teaching those aspects somewhere in their syllabus cannot be said to be actually teaching the art itself, and will be much less likely to be able to reproduce the full health benefits that made Tai Chi's reputation in the first place.

 

Modern forms

In order to standardize Tai Chi Ch'üan for wushu tournament judging, and because many of the family Tai Chi Ch'üan teachers had either moved out of China or had been forced to stop teaching after the Communist regime was established in 1949, the government sponsored Chinese Sports Committee brought together four of their wushu teachers to truncate the Yang family hand form to 24 postures in 1956. They wanted to some how retain the look of Tai Chi Ch'üan but make an easy to remember routine that was less difficult to teach and much less difficult to learn than longer (generally 88 to 108 posture) classical solo hand forms.

In 1976, they developed a slightly longer form also for the purposes of demonstration that still didn't involve the complete memory, balance and coordination requirements of the traditional forms. This was a combination form, the Combined 48 Forms that were created by three wushu coaches headed by Professor Men Hui Feng. The combined forms were created based on simplifying and combining some features of the classical forms from four of the original styles; Ch'en, Yang, Wu, and Sun. Even though shorter modern forms don't have the conditioning benefits of the classical forms, the idea was to take what they felt were distinctive cosmetic features of these styles and to express them in a shorter time for purposes of competition.

As Tai Chi again became popular on the Mainland, competitive forms were developed to be completed within a 6 minute time limit. In the late 1980s, the Chinese Sports Committee standardized many different competition forms. It had developed sets said to represent the four major styles as well as combined forms. These five sets of forms were created by different teams, and later approved by a committee of wushu coaches in China. All sets of forms thus created were named after their style, e.g., the Ch'en Style National Competition Form is the 56 Forms, and so on. The combined forms are The 42 Form or simply the Competition Form, as it is known in China. In the 11th Asian Games of 1990, wushu was included as an item for competition for the first time with the 42 Form being chosen to represent Tai Chi. The International Wushu Federation (IWUF) has applied for wushu to be part of the Olympic games. If accepted, it is likely that Tai Chi and wushu will be represented as demonstration events in 2008.

Representatives of the original Tai Chi families do not teach the forms developed by the Chinese Sports Committee. Tai Chi Ch'üan has historically been seen by them as a martial art, not a sport, with competitions mostly entered as a hobby or to promote one's school publicly, but with little bearing on measuring actual accomplishment in the art. Their criticisms of modern forms include that the modern, "government" routines have no standardized, internally consistent training requirements. Also, that people studying competition forms rarely train pushing hands or other power generation trainings vital to learning the martial applications of Tai Chi Ch'üan and thereby lack the quality control traditional teachers maintain is essential for achieving the full benefits from both the health and the martial aspect of traditional Tai Chi training.

 

Health benefits

Researchers have found that long-term Tai Chi practice had favorable effects on the promotion of balance control, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness and reduced the risk of falls in elders. The studies also reported reduced pain, stress and anxiety in healthy subjects. Other studies have indicated improved cardiovascular and respiratory function in healthy subjects as well as those who had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery. Patients also benefited from Tai Chi who suffered from heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attacks, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Tai Chi has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of young Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) sufferers. Tai Chi's gentle, low impact, movements surprisingly burn more calories than surfing and nearly as many as downhill skiing. Tai Chi also boosts aspects of the immune system's function very significantly, and has been shown to reduce the incidence of anxiety, depression, and overall mood disturbance. (See research citations listed below.)

A pilot study has found evidence that Tai Chi and Qigong help reduce the severity of diabetes. [1]

 

Citations to medical research

  • Wolf SL, Sattin RW, Kutner M. Intense Tai Chi exercise training and fall occurrences in older, transitionally frail adults: a randomized, controlled trial. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2003 Dec; 51(12): 1693-701. PMID 14687346
  • Wang C, Collet JP, Lau J. The effect of Tai Chi on health outcomes in patients with chronic conditions: a systematic review. Arch Intern Med. 2004 Mar 8;164(5):493-501. PMID 15006825
  • Search a listing of articles relating to the FICSIT trials and Tai Chi [2]
  • Hernandez-Reif, M., Field, T.M., & Thimas, E. (2001). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: benefits from Tai Chi. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 5(2):120-3, 2001 Apr, 5(23 ref), 120-123
  • Calorie Burning Chart [3]
  • Tai Chi boosts T-Cell counts in immune system [4]
  • Tai Chi, depression, anxiety, and mood disturbance (American Psychological Association) Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 1989 Vol 33 (2) 197-206
  • A comprehensive listing of Tai Chi medical research links [5]
  • References to medical publications [6]
  • Tai Chi a promising remedy for diabetes, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 20 December, 2005 - Pilot study of Qigong and tai chi in diabetes sufferers.

 

What is Qi Gong?

Qi (pronounced chee) is the Chinese character for air, breath, life force, or life-essence.

Gong is the character for effort, work, and labour.

Thus Qi Gong, sometimes spelled Qi Kung, essentially translates into `the work of strengthening one's life energy".

People often mistake Tai Qi and Qi Gong as one and the same thing, however Tai Qi is a Martial Art. The form, Pushing hands, the weapons forms etc, all relate to this aspect of the art. There are many types of Qi Gong , Daoist, Buddhist, Medical and Martial to name but a few of the major styles.

Qi Gong is a series of breathing and physical exercises that people of all ages and physical conditions can easily perform. Qi Gong requires no special equipment, time, or place. It requires as much or as little time as you can dedicate daily, spent in a concentrated state of mind, performing a set of simple - yet powerful - mind/body/spirit exercises (static, moving and meditative) to bring the person together as a whole.

The goals of Qi Gong exercise are to promote self-healing, maintain good health, and to build internal strength, fitness, and balance. By learning and practicing a set of concentrative techniques, controlled breathing techniques, and specific slow movements or postures, Qi Gong practitioners can circulate, control, and cultivate the Qi that flows through the energy meridians within the body. This Qi then nourishes and strengthens the body and when property cultivated and stored, may be used in healing others. People who practice Qi Gong feel calmer, more energized. They also look remarkably "well".

When the body is relaxed, Qi starts to grow in the Tan tien (Dan Tien), then moves to the legs and the feet. When the legs are strong, the back will also become strong. More practice builds up the Qi in the tan tien, more Qi makes you stronger. However developing the Qi can take a little time. When the body movements are correct, the body is relaxed and the Qi can develop.

One of the goals of practicing qi gong is to make our qi circulate strongly through the meridians in our bodies. This helps us resist or overcome imbalances or blockages and their resulting disharmonies. That is also the goal of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Qi gong therefore 'fits' into the regimen of Chinese medicine. The qi gong art thus plays a fully active role to prevent disease or permit recovery.

Chinese herbology, acupuncture, and qi gong are three parts of a single entity, as closely related as water, steam, and ice. They can be and often are used separately, and may be used together. With dietetics and massage they are considered to be the indispensable components of traditional Chinese health care. While acupuncture, herbal medicine and medical qi gong typically focus on curing sickness, normal qi gong focuses on maintaining good health.

Terminology

Jing

The character for jing carries the meaning of sperm or essences; Jing is considered the source of life, that forms the foundation for growth, reproduction, and development. Jing is responsible for bone growth in children, teeth, hair, normal mental development and sexual maturity. After puberty, jing engenders reproductive function and fertility. Deterioration of jing can be accelerated by prolonged illness or overwork, injury, abuse, stress, exhaustion, excessive sex, and poor nutrition. Evidences of jing waning are thinning and graying hair, decreasing moisture throughout the body, loss of sensory and mental acuity, and weakening of the bones, teeth, and connective tissue. Chinese believed that everyone is born with a finite amount of Jing. As we go through life, we lose or consume our Jing little by little. Once we lose Jing, it cannot be replaced. It is gone for ever. But Jing can be preserved if we live in moderation. The rate of deterioration can be slowed down by qigong practices, and techniques such as acupuncture, and herbs for enhancing the life force.

Qi

Qi is your life force, your energy. It is vital for without Qi you would be dead for there would be no life in you. Most people gather Qi without even knowing it; they gather it from the foods they eat and by sleeping. Others have discovered how to gather more Qi through meditation, martial arts like Tai Qi, Qi Gong, and through deep rhythmic breathing from the stomach. If one has a vast amount of Qi he will live longer than others who have not gathered extra Qi. Daoists believed through meditation and Qi training one could become immortal. There are even legends of venerable Tai Qi masters being able to fly because of this amazing energy.

Shen

Shen is not an automatic given to all who live and breathe like jing and qi are. It is aQieved in the higher levels of taiji and qigong practice and through a lifestyle that is integral to these practices. Shen is spirit and it is everywhere. It comes to us when we reach a higher level in our practices after much time and perseverance; it goes elsewhere when we neglect our practices. The character for shen contains the idea of a bird. A bird is free to fly away. It is free to go when conditions aren't favourable and may choose to remain when they are. We all have the capability through cultivation to have the kind of roost that the shen will be attracted to.

Diagnostically, in Chinese medicine the signs for the quality of the shen are observed in the eyes primarily and to a lesser extent skin and hair. When the shen is happy, we radiate and our eyes sparkle and mirror our souls. In serious mental illness, there is almost always shen disturbance. The sign for this is revealed by how the person looks out into the world, the gaze, how it connects (or doesn't) with the eyes of others.

Yi

Yi is intention. Your will. You use Yi everyday to talk to eat as well as to use Qi. If one has a weak Yi, Jing and Qi will be weak for they cannot use Yi to direct the transformation process of Jing into Qi, Qi into Shen.

In summery

The production of Jing depends on the action of qi while the production of qi is expressive of shen hence the need to exercise qi and transform it into shen. Movement is Jing (liquid energy) supported by Qi (essential energy) led by Yi (intent energy) created by Shen (spirit energy). Qigong is in essence an exercise of jing, qi, yi and shen, which form the material basis for Qigong exercise and are the basic things sought after in Qigong practice. Jing, qi and shen are the very objects to be achieved in Qigong practice, the aim of which is to gather jing, nourish qi strengthen yi and preserve shen all contributing to good health.

 

Tui Na

Tui Na is an Oriental Bodywork Therapy, Tui meaning “push” and Na meaning “grasp”.

Practiced in China for more than 4000 years Tuina is the deeply penetrating and vigorous massage therapy provided within the Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) system.

The techniques of Tui Na and details of its uses in treating a range of health problems were already documented in a vast treatise – The Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Internal Medicine, written about 2500 years ago. After such a lengthy period of development, modern Tui Na is the most tried and tested hands-on therapy in the world and is the basis upon which Shiatsu and Swedish massage are founded.

Tui Na has a variety of different systems that emphasize particular aspects of these therapeutic principles i.e foot massage (reflexology), head massage, pediatric Tui Na, acupressure, physiotherapy and osteopathy.

Tui Na uses the traditional Chinese medical theory of the flow of Qi through the meridians as its basic therapeutic orientation. Through the application of massage and manipulation techniques Tui Na seeks to establish a more harmonious flow of Qi through the system of channels and collaterals, allowing the body to naturally heal itself. The Chinese believe that health and vitality depend on Qi balance in the body. Tui Na is one of the best ways of achieving this and it uses an array of techniques to do it. A Casual observer watching a session sees what appears to be a thorough workout for the soft tissues and joints, but the practitioner aims to do more than this. Attention is focused on meridians and selected acupuncture points. They are massaged in different ways to remove all blockages to the flow of Qi.

Tui Na treats chronic pain, especially that caused by muscle-skeletal conditions and injuries. Neck, shoulder and back pain and immobility, sciatica and ‘tennis elbow’ all respond very well. It is, however, impossible to treat a specific condition with Tui Na without improving the overall Qi status of the body. This means that headaches, migraines, IBS, constipation, PMS and a whole range of emotional problems can also be treated.

In China, Tui Na is used for things that, in the West, would be treated by osteopaths, chiropractors and physiotherapists or with drugs.

Advanced Tui Na practitioners may also use Chinese herbs to facilitate quicker healing. External herbal poultices, compresses, liniments, and salves are also used to enhance the other therapeutic methods.

Are there contra-indications?

Yes. As with all forms of therapy, there are certain conditions that would contra-indicate Tui Na but very few would contra-indicate it completely. Very deep, soft tissue massage and vigorous joint manipulations would be inappropriate for some one with osteoporosis so would direct massage on skin affected by eczema or infection, to mention just two examples. Even in these cases, however, it might be possible to do very effective Tui Na using distinct parts of the meridians and selected distant Qi-points.

Sessions last from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Depending on the specific problems of the client, they usually return for additional treatments. The client usually feels relaxed but energized by the treatment.

In a typical session, the client, wearing loose clothing and no shoes, lies on a table. The practitioner examines the specific problems of the client and begins to apply a specific treatment protocol. The major focus of application is upon specific pain sites, acupressure points, energy meridians, and muscles and joints.

- - -

 

We hope you enjoyed these articles and invite you to send us suggestions of topics you would like to see us cover in the coming months. Your suggestions are always welcome and we endeavour to cover the topics you would like to know more about - so don't be shy, drop us a line or two!

In good health

Danny & Susan Siegenthaler

 

© Copyright: Wildcrafted Herbal Products, 2006

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