Healing and Wellness Is All a Matter of Energy

A man performing qi gong on the beach

Thousands of years ago in China, when ancestral energetic medicine was practiced, the family physician was paid only when the family was in good health. The moment someone became ill the physician's pay was suspended until that person was well again. This practice illustrates the importance of preventive health care for the Chinese, a priority they still hold today. The goal of all energy medicines, Chinese medicine in particular, is the promotion and restoration of balance in the body's vital energy or chi which has a direct and positive effect on the skin and emotions.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

In China, the view toward health still is grounded in the same principles of energetic traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), an ancient system of holistic and preventive care with roots that date as far back as 2000 years before the modern era. While Western medicine tends to deal with the symptoms of the disorder or disease, TCM aims to achieve a healthy internal balance. Illness is viewed as a disruption in the natural order of things and treatments address the root cause of the illness while restoring the body's natural balance.

Europeans are well aware of the benefits of TCM—their social security and health benefits often pay for treatments by licensed acupuncturists. TCM and Far East concepts of internal energy now are beginning to be established in the United States as reflected in the widespread popularity of Ayurvedic treatments, therapeutic exercise such as tai chi, herbal medicines and yoga. This phenomenon, combined with the spa industry's continued exploration of alternative therapies for health and skincare creates new possibilities for TCM to flourish in esthetics.

Tao and Beyond

TCM has its roots in the metaphysical beliefs of what became Taoism well before the celebrated Tao Te Ching was written some six centuries before Christ. Taoism is symbolized by the well-known yin and yang figures and the belief that people function as a miniature ecosystem within a larger cosmic ecosystem. Taoists believed that man could sustain himself and live harmoniously when in accord with the energetic laws of nature and they saw a strong parallel between the cycles of nature such as the seasons and the life of man.

Energy Medicine

The belief in an external and internal life force that dictates all things is not exclusive to Asia. Hippocrates, the great Greek philosopher and father of Western medicine, instructed physicians to find the blocking influences both within a patient and between them and the cosmos in order to restore health and life. Nature is the source of healing, he believed and not the physician.

History of TCM

As TCM evolved it came to include acupuncture, reflexology, herbal prescriptions, dietary principles, massage and tai chi. Traders, missionaries and diplomats who visited Asia in the 17th and 18th centuries returned home with reports of these classical practices. During the 19th century wave of immigration in the United States and Europe, Chinese immigrants brought these traditions to their new countries and Westerners began to take note of their positive results. France and Great Britain, particularly, quickly became well-versed in TCM principles as a result of their colonial excursions during this period. Yet it was not until the early 1970s, after Pres. Richard Nixon opened diplomatic and cultural relations with Communist China, that the U.S. medical community became thoroughly exposed to TCM.

External and Internal Energy

The goal of all energy medicines, TCM in particular, is the promotion and restoration of balance in the body's vital energy or chi. According to TCM, illnesses and disorders are caused when there is too little, too much or stagnant chi in the body. Complementary yet opposing yin and yang forces regulate this delicate balance. Yin corresponds to principal such as femininity, cold and softness, while yang offers the opposite—masculinity, heat and firmness.

Each yin and yang energy contains the seed of the other therefore changes such as those in the body and in nature are seen as the result of one energy growing while the other contracts to make room for its partner and vice versa. When either the yin or the yang becomes disrupted and overbears its energetic partner, the balance is destroyed and trouble arises. The dynamic interaction of these two forces is reflected in the cycles of the seasons, the human lifecycle and other natural phenomena.

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