A-Z of Ancient, Holistic and Traditional Wellbeing Practices (Part 1)

There are a huge number of authentically helpful wellbeing techniques and theories that have been passed down from teacher (or guru) to student since ancient times. These practices and ideas can be overwhelming and feel mystifying at times, so I’ve put together an A-Z to help explain some of them. Over the next four weeks I’ll share a few at a time in a series. This week it’s A to G.

A is for Acupressure

Acupressure uses the points on the meridian channels which circulate the body and relate to internal organs and energy (qi) flow. My tutor of 20 years describes them as being like the orbiting of the planets.

Acupressure uses palm and finger pressure to stimulate or nourish pressure points and energy flow. As with all healing where energy is considered, the practitioner must ensure they have a deep understanding of their own qi/energy to ensure they are giving healing energy instead of negative, while protecting themselves from sick or negative qi from the patient. I started training in acupressure 20 years ago at the same time as qigong, as they work together in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system. Qigong enhances your energy flow and understanding of how it works.

I’ve been teaching many aspects of Chinese Massage for 19 years. If you’re interested in private classes get in touch.

B is for balance and breathing

Daoist and Traditional Chinese Medicine practices balances the body and mind – energy flow, the emotions, physical balance (how you stand/sit/walk), yin and yang (the complementary, opposing forces in all living things) and general health and wellbeing.

In TCM, balance is also about not overdoing (or underdoing) anything, including what we eat and drink, and how much we rest and are active. Not too much, not too little is the general rule!

Many ancient cultures naturally developed slow and steady breathing techniques as part of their medical and wellbeing practices. In the ancient Daoist text the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu wrote “The breath inhaled through the mouth is called ‘Ni Ch’i’, adverse breath. Be careful not to have the breath inhaled through the mouth.” How we breathe has a dramatic effect on our health and wellbeing. Chinese, Indian, Native American and other ancient cultures taught slow, rhythmic breathing when chanting and saying prayers.

C is for calm, choice and creating

There are a lot of C’s so more to come later

Maybe happiness is a choice. We will all have difficulties in our lives, but how you deal with life’s inevitable setbacks has a huge impact on wellbeing. Those close to me know I have many reasons why I could be unhappy. My Mum’s death in April 2019 is the 9th of 10 deaths in my family in recent years, my sons both have additional needs and making sure they’re supported can make life rather challenging. Although I feel sad, angry, frustrated etc from time to time, it passes fairly quickly, and I return to the calm contentment I’ve worked hard to achieve over the years. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Practicing qi gong, meditation and acupressure, as well as creating every day and eating nourishing food all help a great deal. I made the choice to improve my wellbeing when I realised I have to be ok so I can help other people authentically. I’m fiery by nature, so I’ve had to work hard to learn to deal with life in a more balanced way.

Create your own happiness. I’ve found it is possible and important to switch your mindset towards positivity and happiness.

C is also for connecting, compassion and clearing

Practicing ancient self healing techniques like Traditional Chinese Medicine and Daoism involves connecting with your inner strength and with the Universe and nature. Connecting with ourselves and our place in the world requires growing your compassion – for yourself and all other life.

Another benefit of TCM is that it promotes positive mindset and encourages us to clear any negative emotions, thoughts, feelings and general energy that is stuck and blocking us from being healthy, happy and more relaxed.

D is for Dan Tien and Daoism

Meaning ‘sea of qi’ or ‘energy centre’, dan tien/dan t’ian/tan tian usually refers to the lower dan tien, four fingers down from the navel.

It’s useful to think of the dan tien as a reservoir for your original energy (the energy that gives you life at conception) and a store for your inner strength.

Psychologically, the lower dan tien gives us a sense of stability and balance. Physically, it’s a source of inner power, sexual vitality and stamina.

In every qigong and meditation class I teach we focus on dan tien breathing to help us connect with our lower energy centre. When a person is connected with their dan tien, they have more vitality as well as emotional stability.

The ancient teachings of Daoism (Taoism) emphasize the benefits of working with the flow of life, or ‘The Way’. Originating in China in the 6th century BCE, Daoism is a whole system of healing, thinking and existing in a harmonious and beneficial way.

E is for energy, emotions and exercise

Everything living or natural is/has energy – from the food we eat to a huge mountain. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, energy is harnessed to strengthen and balance the body and mind.

If your energy is out of harmony you can suffer with many problems including headaches, back pain, anxiety, diarrhea, short-temper…

Practicing qi gong, meditation and acupressure keeps your energy in balance, improving your physical and emotional well-being for good.

Learning to keep our emotions balanced often takes a lot of effort and practice. Meditation and qigong practice helps to strengthen your emotional resilience. I’m a naturally fiery person, but daily practice has made a huge difference to my ability to stay level.

Qi gong exercise is often slow, smooth and rhythmic, but can also be fast and forceful. There are thousands of different qigong exercises, which have been practised and passed down from guru to student for about 3000 years. I teach several different forms… which I’ll explain more about tomorrow

F is for flexibility, fitness and fire

Qigong exercises keep your whole body fit and flexible. The flowing movements and stretches loosen up your joints to allow better circulation and energy flow.

When I first trained with my TCM tutor 20 years ago my physical (and emotional) health was in dire need of balancing and strengthening. It wasn’t long before my fitness improved hugely and by the time I became pregnant with my first son, 15 years ago, I felt fit enough to run a marathon. Now I’m 43, I still feel fit, healthy and flexible

The fire element is very important in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In your body, fire corresponds to your heart energy. Qigong and acupressure balance this energy so it isn’t too strong or overabundant in the body. When we have too much fire energy we can be more quick tempered, have headaches and tension in our shoulders and facial muscles. Fire can be harnessed in a positive way too to encourage smooth energy flow – using the heat from your palms to nourish your body. I’m a naturally fiery person, so I’m very grateful to know how to remain calm in difficult situations.

G is for gratitude, and gong

Something that noticeably grows in you when practicing ancient techniques like qi gong and meditation is your awareness of everything that’s going on around you and in you. With this increased noticing comes greater gratitude. Gratitude for the details and beauty of nature for everything you have already within you, and for the people and circumstances that contributed to where you are now.

The ‘gong’ in qigong means accumulate or gather – qi gong=accumulating vital energy.

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