Yang Sheng : The Practices of Nurturing Life in Chinese Medicine
A Chinese Medicine Perspective on
How to Cope with Self Isolation + Covid-19
During the past few weeks, the world has united in uncertainty, fear + hope. We have put aside our wants + desires to make way for our needs + safety. This ultimately has resulted in many of us being stripped of our different hats + sub personalities, our routines + structures. What have we been left with? The basics; the preservation of our health and of those who are closest to us.
Whether we are working less or working more, what is important has become clear and everything else fallen by the wayside. While the basic elements of good physical + mental health have always been important, currently our everyday choices are magnified + illuminated by the space and time (usually filled by social activities + work schedules) we have been gifted/has been imposed upon us. Naturally the perspective on this will continue to change daily, if not hourly!
It’s a constant juggling act of gratitude + grief. Grateful for all that we have; with less distractions, we’re able to focus more on the ‘little’ things, which are actually huge and fundamental to our health and safety. But there is loss; loss of the things which give us a sense of connection, feeling, purpose. Sacrifices have been greater for some than others, those who are suddenly unemployed + those who have become busier; the incredible key workers who have forfeited their days off, their retirement + their safety. Their feelings of gratitude + grief may circle different notions, but we are all experiencing it. We are not alone now (and we never were).
Whatever you’re feeling is OK. We can never feel the full warmth and meaning of gratitude, when we’ve never experienced frustration or sadness about what we've never/no longer have. In the same way that there can never be flowers without rain, we need our darker emotions to truly experience the brighter ones. They are just as valid and important.
In these times and most, it is difficult not to scrutinise ourselves. Ordinarily, there is an awful amount of pressure surrounding us about what it means to be healthy. Now, there seems to be a new pressure along with this new, temporary way of life; there’s an expectation that we must finish all of the projects, drink all of the water, loose all of the weight. Use our time healthily + wisely. Seize the day! It’s easy to compare ourselves to others, and feel inadequate if we see/hear of others doing X + Y, and we’ve only done Z. We all do it, but why do we unrealistically compare ourselves to others?
One thing that made me fall in love with Chinese Medicine, is the idea that everyone is an individual(!) There is rarely an acupuncture point prescription perfectly suited to two separate patients, even if their symptoms are exactly the same. This is because symptoms make up only a tiny part of a being, they are like the flowers growing in a garden. The same flowers can grow in different gardens with different soil, nutrients + in contrasting environments. With Chinese Medicine diagnosis, it is always the whole garden, the roots, the environment which is considered. Not just the flowers.
Therefore, healthier lifestyles + food choices, exercise and acupuncture treatments are different for each person. Nothing is strictly good or bad, it all depends on the individual and the seasons of nature + life. Ultimately, it always comes back to balance; anything in excess has an impact.
These series of blogs are in no way meant to shine a light on our imperfections or to tell you what you ‘should’ be doing, but rather to give you some insight and a nudge to trust yourself. No one knows what your body + mind needs more than you. The concept of Yang Sheng is essentially the simplest + greatest form of self care, tailored to you. During times of stress, like we currently find ourselves in, self care is essential, and having less distractions is thankfully highlighting this. But self love + care is always essential, no matter what is going on around us, or how we feel.
‘A drop of prevention is worth a bucket load of cure.’
- Chinese Proverb
By sharing the practices of Yang Sheng, my hope is to help you discover + connect with what is ‘right’ for you and and how these practices can form + nourish your own, unique life, in both grief stricken and grateful times. In social distancing times + always.
What is Yang Sheng?
The concept of Yang Sheng is an ancient Chinese philosophical practice which aims to harmonise both the mind and the body, by prioritising both in balance and with equal importance.
Yang Sheng is the art of nourishing life and emotional + physical health. It is the core of Chinese Medicine and preventative health care.
Yang = to nurture or nourish
Sheng = life or vitality
The practices of Yang Sheng aim to protect the Three Treasures
1) Shen - Spirit (our soul, inner being + emotions)
2) Qi - Vitality (our liveliness, energy + strength)
3) Jing - Essence (our foundation, constitution + nature)
We cannot increase these treasures as such, but rather nurture and help what we have work for us for the longest + best way possible.
The state of these Three Treasures essentially make up our emotional + physical condition. By practicing Yang Sheng, we nurture our Three Treasures + we nurture our life.
The practices of Yang Sheng:
Regulating diet + being mindful of not only what we eat but how + when
Nurturing the mind and emotions
Balancing the body with rest, activity + exercise
Good sleeping habits
Fulfilled sex life
Connection with nature
Engagement with creativity, by expressing or admiring
Respecting + managing the ageing process
Obvious, right? It makes sense and is simple, in theory - we know these are important, but why for must of us is it such a challenge to honour each of these practices with equal significance?
We are constantly surrounded by and have information thrusted upon us about what the ‘right’ lifestyle is for the healthiest existence. Videos, photos + filters of what healthy should look like. Although the principles of Yang Sheng outline the elements which make up our physical + mental health, the ‘right’ way that these are actually practiced will be different for everyone. It is never one size fits all, how can it be? It is unsustainable to apply someone else’s ‘right’ way of life, + ignore ourselves. When we listen to our own intuition, our own bodies and nurture a life tailored to our unique blueprint, that is when we are able to flourish.
When you strip everything back, at the core is always Yin + Yang. There is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but a degree of both in everything. It’s all relative to the person, the situation, the amount + intensity and the seasons.
That means it is also unsustainable to expect ourselves to be living ‘our best lives’ everyday.
It (should) go without saying and without judgement that some days we are more Yin (slow, deep, negative) than other days. I believe it is learning to be accepting of that which is the biggest key to our health and happiness. I say it so much, but thats the crux of it all - balance. Its Yin + Yang, day + night. Life doesn’t exist without the continuous flux between the two. Its impossible for us to be at our ‘best’ everyday. We are simply doing the best that we can, each day.
Staying positive doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time. It means that even on hard days, you know that there are better ones coming.
Over the next few weeks, a series of blogs will cover each of the practices of Yang Sheng in more detail. The first in the series - Food is (Chinese) Medicine: What, How & When
Live Well Live Long