Temporary blog with Chinese Medicine and qigong information for the time of the coronavirus pandemic

Friday, June 26, 2020

Jia you! - Concluding Remarks


We started the Jiayou group as a qigong and TCM initiative to give people methods to protect their health, and cope with the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, Kerry and I will conclude the project as we turn our attention to the other work we hope to do this year.  As we wrap it up, I would like to leave you with a few comments concerning the principles of qigong and TCM, and why we chose the methods we taught.

The basic principle is: Fuzheng quxie 扶正祛邪. Support the healthy, upright qi in order to prevent invasion from, or expel, pathogenic qi. This is the key point of the qigong exercises we have introduced (the Healing Sounds sounds, the Yuanminggong and other basic traditional methods, as well as the various massages). That's why I said right from the start: every qigong exercise that you feel comfortable enough with to practice it regularly is the right one for you.  Regular practice (even a little, every or most days) is important - it is a repetitive impulse for the qi to bring about the necessary changes to life processes that create and stabilize the balance of health.

I would like to emphasize once again: Qigong and TCM do not fight disease. They regulate, in other words, they order the qi. This ordering brings any state of imbalance back into balance - it reduces an imbalanced state of excess, it strengthens a state of exhaustion of the qi (and blood), it lowers what is too high, raises what is too low, cools what is too hot, warms what is too cold, moistens what is too drying, and dries what is too humid. All this is a kind of regulation, and every good qigong exercise does just that - it promotes and supports regulation. Balanced health is mirrored in this regulating flow of qi.

In health, an organism with regulated qi copes with diseases by itself. That would be the ideal situation, but self-regulation is often blocked for various reasons that stress our bodies and minds. Intervention through qigong and TCM methods that provide a regular healthy qi impulse is needed. All of the methods and advice we published in the Jiayou Project will restore the ability to self-regulate and self-heal.

Health and healing are based on self-regulation, which in turn is based on strong Zheng-Qi, the orderly behavior of a strong, well-functioning Qi. In the past few months we have tried to illuminate, explain and translate this simple sentence from various approaches:

Moving qigong exercises. These are primarily there to move the Qi so that the Qi develops harmoniously and balanced. The better the balance of the Qi, the better the regulation and the more stable the health

-   Quiet breathing and relaxation. The Qi must be able to regenerate itself through sleep, rest and breaks, and also through letting go of tension. Pathogenic Qi can overwhelm Zheng-Qi when you are weakened by fatigue, exhaustion and stress. Taking the time to quieten the breath and relax the mind and body counteracts this and helps to regenerate the exhausted qi.

-   Self massage. The massages that we have shown focus primarily on the lung meridian and / or help relieve qi states of heat and moisture that make you more susceptible to the virus, and help the defensive qi of the immune system circulate.

-   TCM dietary and food medicine advice. These are important because you can specifically counteract the qi properties of the virus. The virus is a moist and warm pathogen, it belongs to the “heat pestilence” category and attacks the lungs and spleen. This is why,  if your own qi tends to be damp and overly warm, it is so important to counteract these tendencies.

-  Theoretical explanations. You can practice Qigong without theory, no question. However, the theoretical understanding of the practice helps a lot. You can take it slow. If you read through our different explanations of qigong and TCM theory every now and then, you will gradually begin to understand better what it means to think in terms of qi and to put your own understanding of qi into practice. Even more important, it will enhance your experience and confidence in what you feel from your practice.

I hope you found the content we posted helpful, and continue to explore it. I will keep the blog up for a long time. The pandemic is not over yet, and the reality is that we will probably have to live with this virus, and other established and new pathogens for a long time, so we want to keep the content accessible. 

We'll see how our work goes in autumn. Hopefully, qigong lessons and seminars can take place "analogously" as normal. However, if necessary we will go online with qigong again, perhaps with live practice lessons (this time I was not able to do so due to technical problems).

The YouTube channel remains, and I plan to continue to publish videos there. Perhaps not so regularly, but occasionally.

Kerry and I would like to express our sincere thanks to all who have supported us and our initiative. We wish everyone healthy and - despite everything - a comfortable, nice summer!

Árpád



As Árpád and I come to the end of our initial “Jiayou!” Project to support our qigong community of students, TCM practitioners, nurses, doctors, friends, and family during these first months of the Covid-19 pandemic, I would like to say a few words to help consolidate and clarify what this initiative has, and will continue to provide all of us. 

Whether you followed all the way through, read and tried all the methods, advice, recipes, poems, philosophy, TCM explanations, art, and music is not the point (although, hopefully you did dip your toes into the “well of qi” at the heart of our project!). Our, and your intentions have more effect on the qi and a better quality of life than you might think. Where you direct your gaze can define the scope of your life; it can be either limited and partitioned or expansive and integrated, become tighter and feel more burdensome or become untangled, looser and feel lighter. It takes no explanation to get the gist of what might be a more nourishing, more comfortable, more natural and inclusive gaze. That is the reality of health, of directing the gaze first inward, in order to realign and open the flow of qi in the body, and then engaging outwardly with all of life in a more harmonious, easy way.

None of us could ever really know what the next seconds of life brings, let alone the next years. The pandemic has brought this into focus, grabbed our attention in ways that none of the other man-made warnings of social, political, and climatic upheavals of the last decades have done. During the initial protective phase of isolation, of staying at home, and of caring for others while protecting ourselves by literally keeping our breath, its moisture and its potential as a carrier of life and death to ourselves, masking the gateways and thoroughfares of mouth and nose, we had no choice but to become still. As the curtains of containment lowered, our almost constant gaze outward to what was our “normal” lives of working, socializing, shopping, travelling, etc, naturally took a turn. 

The transition of this abrupt change of focus was an important part of the Jiayou Project - using qigong as a way to regulate the body, breath and mind, to look inward, past the arising confusion of uncertainties and fears, to feel connected with what is essential. In terms of Chinese medicine, this is how you protect your health from the ravages of “normal” life, live to your potential, and age with grace.

The pandemic means our vulnerabilities are exposed, and we all have to balance that with trying to move forward, to be able to work, provide a living and enter into community life with the energy and creativity needed to adapt. In a broader sense, this is what everything we have put together for the Jiayou group is in aid of; it is a support to nourish life, what the Chinese call Yangsheng. Having the intention to nourish life is the beginning, and it directs the qi in a positive way. Giving body to those intentions is the physical practice of qigong, and will keep your health regulated, no matter what the next seconds, months or years bring us!

Best wishes to you all. We will certainly pick up the thread of our intentions and teach more in the future.

Kerry

Monday, June 22, 2020

Lü Dou Tang 绿豆汤 - Cooling Mung Bean Soup


In the hot time of the year, Lü Dou Tang is a sweet and light soup made with green mung beans that is popular all over China. It helps you to cool down from summer heat, and has a high nutritional value.

Mung beans were first noted in one of the Ming dynasty classics of the TCM Materia Medica, Ben Cao Gang Mu 本草纲目, by the famous doctor, Li Shizhen 李时珍. Mung beans are cooling, relieve heat stroke and thirst, clear toxins and internal heat, promote urination and relieve edema, calm the Shen 神 (spirit and mind), reinforce Original Yuan Qi 元氣, harmonize the organs and nourish the skin.


Ingredients.

100g mung beans, washed 

1 liter water

1 teaspoon rock sugar (or white granulated sugar)



Preparation.

Bring 1 liter water to boil. Add washed mung beans and sugar, turn off heat, cover and let the beans soak in the hot water for 20 minutes. 

Turn the heat on and bring to boil once more, turn off heat and leave the soup to cool.

You can, of course, eat the soup warm. Normally it is left to cool to room temperature. 

Keep the remaining soup in the refrigerator for up to three days, and eat it cool or at room temperature. For those who prefer it warm, simply reheat it for a few minutes over a low heat.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Taiyi Yuanming Gong 太乙元明功 - The Original Brightness practice


Here is a new practice video of a traditional Daoist exercise, Taiyi Yuanming Gong 太乙元明功 (literally translated as The Original Brightness practice).


This is a method that is very easy to learn; it is simple in ts movements, yet complex in its benefits. In the beginning there may be a few small details you are not so clear about, but don’t worry - even if you practice it sloppily, it will have a very positive effect on your health.

When practicing qigong, accuracy is mostly counterproductive. If you over-concentrate and try to be precise in copying the form, it inhibits the kind of deep relaxation needed to enter into that quiet state that leads to balanced qi. 


The essence of qigong practice is an expression of the workings of Yin and Yang: dongzhong qiu jing 动 中 求 静 - Seeking quietness within movement. 


The Yang arises from within the Yin, and the inner movement of the qi arises from physical relaxation and mental stillness. This will lead to an even deeper inner calm and a more lively circulation of qi that rejuvenates your health. That is the essential point of all qigong practice.

It is best to perform six repetitions of the Taiyi Yuanming Gong (that will take about 10 minutes - but doing it more or less times is also ok). You can try practicing it alone or, for example, after the Liu Zi Jue method or the tapping method, and it is better to do it twice per day when possible.



Friday, June 12, 2020

Ba Bao Cha 八宝茶 - Eight Treasures Tea


This recipe is based on a 13th century tradition of the Hui people in the Northwestern part of China, who would serve a special drink with eight ingredients composed of tea, fruits, flowers and sugar to guests and older relatives in order to nourish and revive them. It became famous throughout China during the Qing dynasty when the Empress Dowager Ci Xi ordered her physicians to make her a formula of tea that would keep her body youthful and her mind clear and calm.

There are many adaptations of this royal tea, and I have written one specific to our pandemic times that is safe for all ages and conditions.

The combination and amounts of the ingredients in this tea have the TCM actions of calming the spirit and mind (shen 神), promoting circulation of blood and qi, nourishing and protecting the lung qi, clearing wind heat pathogens from the lungs, nourishing and harmonizing the liver and spleen qi, and quelling fire from heat exhaustion and stress in order to brighten the eyes.

While Ba Bao Cha is not a medical prescription, it is very supportive to the practice of “yangsheng” (literally “nourish life”), for those who wish to improve and protect their health through qigong, self-massage, breathing, healthy eating and a moderate lifestyle. Enjoy!


Ingredients.

2g chopped almonds (blanched, or without skin)

2 slices of pear

2g ju hua (Chrysanthemi Flos, chrysanthemum flower tea, Chrysanthementee)

2g gou qi zi (Lycii Fructus, goji berries, Gojibeere)

1 hong zao (Jujubae Fructus, Chinese red date, Chinesische rote Datteln)

2g mei gui hua (Rosae rugosae Flos, rosebud tea, Rosenknospe)

½ g chen pi (Citrii reticulatae Pericarpium, dried Mandarin tangerine peel, getrocknete Mandarinenschale)

1-2g white granulated/rock sugar (Kristallzucker/Kandiszucker)


Pre-preparation.

Soak the Chinese red dates (hong zao), and dried tangerine peel (chen pi) in a small bowl of cold water for about half an hour.


Preparation.

Place all eight ingredients in a teapot, pour freshly boiled water over it (about half a liter) and let steep for 10 minutes. You can leave the ingredients in the pot, and refresh the tea one more time.


Note: Organic goji berries and rosebuds can usually be bought in stores that sell organic food or specialty tea shops, and hong zao and chen pi from reputable TCM herbal medicine suppliers or better Asian grocery stores.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

养生蘑菇汤 Yangsheng Mogu Tang - Mushroom Soup to Nourish Life


Mushrooms, of all sorts, are an important ingredient in “yangsheng“ recipes to nourish life. One of the most commonly known in the west is the shiitake mushroom, because of the rich flavor it adds to soups, stews and stirfry dishes. However, it also has very powerful medicinal properties for the qi and, in modern times, is recognized for its anti-cancer properties.

This recipe uses a combination of whatever fresh mushrooms you can find, but is best to include shiitake. If fresh shiitake mushrooms are not available, I would suggest using one or two of the dried black shiitake mushrooms.

The special combination of pork, tofu, green onion, white pepper, goji berries and Chinese red dates is not only delicious, but has the medicinal action of tonifying the qi, blood and yin essence, clearing phlegm heat, strengthening the kidney qi, harmonizing the liver qi and motivating the lung qi.

It is, of course, possible to make this recipe without the pork, for those who are vegetarians. This will change the qi action of the recipe, mainly in that it is less nourishing for the blood, and does not harmonize the liver qi. However, this is still a very potent food medicine recipe to nourish life, with all the positive effects for the qi and essence!

The amounts are for two portions, as a whole meal.



Ingredients.


For the tofu-pork meatballs:


130g lean minced pork

130g tofu

2 spring onions, green part only, finely chopped

½ teaspoon salt 

½ teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon soy sauce

¼ teaspoon sugar



For the soup:


1-2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 liter boiling water

½ teaspoon salt 

8g goji berries

4 Chinese red dates

250g of mixed fresh mushrooms, sliced or chopped 


*eg. 50g shiitake mushrooms, 50g white or brown button mushrooms, 50g Japanese enoki mushrooms, 50g oyster mushrooms, 50g Japanese matsutake mushrooms - the japanese mushrooms are commonly found in good organic shops or asian shops, but you could easily substitute any kind of mushroom you like...porcini, portobello, or whatever your store carries. If you cannot find fresh shiitake, try to get the dried variety, and soak about 2 or three of them for at least ten minutes before using.



Preparation.


Place the minced pork in a bowl. Crumble up the tofu with your hands and thoroughly mix with the pork, squeezing and pressing the pork and tofu to blend it. Add the chopped green parts of the spring onion and the rest of the seasonings (salt, white pepper soy sauce, sugar). Using your hand, with the fingers separated like a claw, stir the mixture in one direction only until it is sticky (this creates a special texture so that the meatball mixture stays together while cooking, and the texture is light and fluffy).

Press the mixture into a flat sphere in your mixing bowl, and then divide the sphere in half. Next, divide each half into three equal portions. Grabbing one portion of the meatball mixture in your hand, lightly press and roll it in the palm of your hand to form a ball. Repeat to make 6 meatballs.

Heat the oil in a wok or large saucepan, gently add the meatballs to the pan and on a medium heat, brown the meatballs, gently turning them until the surface of the meatball is sealed and slightly brown. This only takes 2 or 3 minutes...the meatballs do not have to be fully cooked. This step ensures the meatballs will not fall apart as you cook the soup.

Add the boiling water to the pan, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Also add the Chinese red dates. Cover and cook on medium heat for 10 / 15 minutes.

Uncover pan, and skim away any excess oil that has risen to the surface before adding the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms, and continue to cook, uncovered, until the mushrooms are done (around 5 / 10 minutes). In the end, add the goji berries.
Immediately serve and enjoy!

Monday, June 8, 2020

Open the Flow of Qi in the Body


Here is a short video showing how to open the flow of qi in the body. It is easy to follow along to it - first comes a special tapping massage, and then a technique to guide the flow of qi along the pathways throughout the body. 

The better the flow of qi, the better your health. Enjoy!





Friday, June 5, 2020

Qigong Basics - Regulate the Breath


The key to integrating the body and mind, to achieving a deep state of conscious relaxation, and to opening a greater flow of qi throughout the body is the regulation of breathing. 

With most qigong methods, the emphasis is on “natural breathing”. This does not mean you ignore your breathing; rather, it means that you do not inhibit, force, use special techniques or guide the breath in any way. In qigong, a natural breath mimics the way a baby breathes when sleeping. When breathing in, the body is relaxed and the belly rises as the air flows down; when breathing out, the body remains relaxed and the belly sinks in. Through the course of our lives, from the time we first learn to walk, our breathing begins to change - it becomes more shallow, pushing up and filling the chest, or can even be restricted to merely the upper chest. Everyday activities, like working on the computer, talking on the phone, concentrating on a project, working out, cleaning house - all of these, (and more), can cause us to hold our breath, have an irregular breathing rhythm, hold our neck or shoulders tight, hold our abdomen tight, and breathe shallowly, etc.  

When practicing qigong, if there is any type of tension in the body or straining effort, the breathing changes; with any mental tension or emotional reaction, the breathing changes. Habitual sighing and yawning are the body’s mechanism to regulate emotions, body and breath - it is common, and a good sign, when your body regulates itself in this way when you begin your practice. 

When practicing the Healing Sounds qigong method, the breath is so quiet, smooth and fine that you don’t hear it.  All the while, when breathing in, out and in again through the nose, and then breathing out through the mouth while imagining the respective sound, the breathing has to be natural, uninhibited and not forced or strained in any way. As this method really focuses on breathing with the movements, you need to find your own, comfortable rhythm and let that be the guide to how slow you practice the movements. Over time, as you become more familiar with the practice, you will develop in your qigong and the rhythm will become very slow as you are able to have this long, fine, completely freely flowing quiet breath. At this point the integration of body, mind and breath has reached a very high potential.

When first learning the Healing Sounds (or any qigong method), you keep the 3 Principles in mind, first regulating the body, the breath and the mind as a preparation, and then throughout your practice.  This means that when you complete one set of movements, you regulate before proceeding to the next. For example, if you feel any tension or strain while practicing, you simply pause at the completion of one part, and wait until your breathing is completely natural before continuing the practice. This helps to let go of any residual tension in the body and allows the mind to become quiet and settle, bringing you into a deeper and more potential qigong state.

The key point of the 3 Principles is that relaxation has to be everywhere -before you start your practice, and throughout the practice.  You can start with any of the regulations - of the body, the mind, or of the breath - and you will find that the other two will occur simultaneously. It is not possible to relax the body fully without also calming and quietening the mind, or allowing the breath to come and go naturally. 

With no special effort, the body, breath and mind work together in a deep state of relaxation, (also known as the “qigong state”), creating a pattern of healthy self-integration that carries you through each day. The body feels more comfortable, the mind remains clear and focused, the breathing becomes easier and more enlivening. Over time, this pattern becomes the stable norm of a healthy equilibrium that can support and protect your bodily functions, and inspire and motivate your creativity throughout life.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Six Healing Sounds in Sequence


Here I've made a short video that shows all of the Six Healing Sounds exercises in sequence so that you can easily follow along. 

I hope you enjoy it!




Jia you! - Concluding Remarks

We started the Jiayou group as a qigong and TCM initiative to give people methods to protect their health, and cope with the reality of t...