Chinese Medicine is rooted in the ancient philosophy of Taoism, a philosophy which suggests that a part can be understood only in its relation to the whole. Chinese Medicine uses this holistic approach — a person who is living in harmony with nature has mental, physical, and spiritual balance. And when an imbalance occurs, the complete physiological and psychological aspects of the patient are taken into consideration in the diagnosis. The treatment seeks to restore balance and harmony to the body.

In Chinese Medicine there is a systematic way of distinguishing the patterns of disharmony, understanding the relationships between all the signs and symptoms of these imbalances, and prescribing treatment that restores balance. This is a medicine of prevention and cultivation of longevity.

Because of the importance of Taoism to acupuncture, it was not surprising that “Philosophy of Chinese Medicine” was my first required course in the Masters of Traditional Chinese program. My eyes were opened to a new way of viewing health and treating disease.

The “Tao” meaning “the way” or the “path” is the concept of living a righteous way of life that is balanced, simple and in tune with nature. Lao Tzu is considered one of the founding fathers of Taoism and in his book the Tao Te Ching one can find his profound teachings on the subject of living the Tao way. The three treasures that illuminate the teachings of Lao Tzu are: living with compassion, in moderation, and with humility.

Yin and Yang

Yin and yang theory comes out of the Taoist philosophy. This is another way of viewing the world and seeing that all things are parts of a whole. Yin moves into yang, and yang moves into yin, and this is the natural flow of life. The constant transformation of yin into yang and yang into yin is the source of life, and the basis of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.

The character of yin is that of the shady side of the slope. Yin is the cold, the rest, the darkness, the moon, the inward, and the feminine. The character of yang is the sunny side of the slope. Yang is the warm, the active, the light, the sun, the vigor, and the masculine.

We are always in a state of yin moving into yang and yang moving into yin. They cannot be separated as they depend on each other for definition. Chinese Medicine seeks to balance the yin and yang.

Lao Tzu sums up this way of viewing the intertwining of these two opposites:

Being and non-being produce each other;
Difficult and easy complete each other;
Long and short contrast each other;
High and low distinguish each other;
Sound and voice harmonize each other;
Front and back follow each other.”

Nei Jing

The Nei Jing, or the “Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor,” is another classical medical text that contains the knowledge and theoretical formulations that form the basic foundation of the Chinese medical tradition. This text posits that diet, lifestyle, emotions, and environment all have impact on health and wellbeing. The Nei Jing text states:

“In treating illness, it is necessary to examine the entire context, scrutinize the symptoms, observe the emotions and attitudes.”

The Nei Jing suggests medicine should promote the cultivation of life force, or what is known as qi. The most important message in the text describes how to preserve, as well as create, more qi in our daily lives though healthy lifestyle. The text suggests that exercise, herbs, meditation, tai chi, acupuncture, acupressure, diet, and breathing exercises are the tools that promote longevity and vibrant health.

Breathing Arts

The ancient Taoist believed that “Breathing Arts” held the secret to longevity as well as the gateway to advanced knowledge and special powers. The breathing techniques are passed down for us all to practice. One breathing technique is called the Microcosmic Orbit, which helps circulate energy (qi) through energy points, or meridians.

The flow of qi begins at the navel on the Ren Meridian (front of body) and then travels down to the perineum and up the spine on the Du Meridian (back of body). From there it travels to the head, down the front through the tongue, the throat, and then down to the navel again. These two channels carry a strong energy current that can have powerful effects on regulation of the body.

Learn the Microcosmic Orbit

To begin the Microcosmic Orbit breathing practice sit upright with your feet placed firmly on the floor, hands relaxed on your lap. Once comfortable, bring your focus to your “dantien” (energy center) just below your navel, and visualize a light of energy beginning to grow at your dantien. Next, focus and make your breath smooth, even, and flowing deeply into your dantien. Now you are ready to start the circular breathing pattern.

Exhale a breath of light and qi into your “Hui Yin,” the pelvic floor or the genital and anus area, and then into your coccyx.

Next inhale and draw the breath of light and qi up into your spinal column. Use one single inhalation to bring the energy all the way up to the center of your brain.

On the next exhalation feel the flow of qi come down the center of your face like a waterfall, down through the heart center, and begin the next cycle of breathing.

Try completing ten cycles and built your practice from there.

Enjoy cultivating greater qi, energy, health, and mental clarity.