We often don’t think too much about our health until there’s a problem. When we have a bad back, or a skin breakout, or we start to see lines and wrinkles, that’s the point that we start to look for a solution.
But there’s a growing understanding of the importance of preventative medicine. Those small daily habits you do to maintain your health can make a huge difference.
It’s a philosophy that sits at the heart of traditional Chinese medicine. Instead of waiting for small, niggling issues to turn into larger health problems, Chinese medicine encourages us to focus on our health every day.
This holistic approach to medicine and wellness fits perfectly with my own beliefs. While my original background is in yoga, which is an Indian tradition, I’ve incorporated aspects of traditional Chinese medicine into The Danielle Collins Face Yoga Method as well. Gua Sha and acupressure points are two that you will hear me talk about regularly.
I’m excited to dive deeper into the role of traditional Chinese medicine in preventing poor health and keeping us feeling fulfilled. So, I was thrilled to welcome Katie Brindle back onto the Face Yoga Expert Podcast recently to discuss preventative health.
If you’ve been following me for a while, Katie will be a familiar face. She’s an expert in traditional Chinese medicine and the founder of the Hayo’u Method. She’s been a guest on my podcast before and we’ve recently launched our Facial Gua Sha Teacher Training Course together, along with Hayo’u’s head therapist, Katie Blake.
If you’d like to catch up with the full podcast episode, you can find it here.
In this post, I want to look at the principles of Chinese medicine and how it can prevent health issues through a focus on regular self-care.
Make Health Non-Negotiable
Something I talk about often here is making time to focus on healthy habits. We all have busy lives, so waiting until you get to the end of your to-do list before you spend time on yourself means you’ll never get there.
I know this is true for me. My inbox is never empty. So, I can’t put off my wellness practices until it is. I need to make them a priority.
Making our health a daily focus is a core principle of traditional Chinese medicine. Katie likens it to brushing your teeth. Before we understood good dental hygiene, people used to lose their teeth. But now we all brush our teeth twice a day and keep them for life.
The habit is so ingrained in us that we wouldn’t think about skipping it. Other preventative health practices need to hold the same importance in our daily routines.
I have three daily wellness practices that are non-negotiable. I talk about them in more detail here. But, in brief, they are:
- Walking or some other kind of movement outside in nature
- Face Yoga, including Gua Sha
Sometimes it might just be a few minutes of each one, sometimes I’ll have longer. But I do all three of these every day, no matter what. Without that focus on my health in my day, I wouldn’t be able to do all the things I do.
Your non-negotiable self-care rituals will look different from mine. Katie, for example, says hers are qi gong, gua sha, and face yoga. Whatever they are for you, make a promise to yourself that you will do them every day.
Our modern world always praises productivity and busyness. There’s a lot of pressure to be constantly achieving. But we should find inspiration in those who are able to prioritise rest and self-care.
In Chinese medicine, there’s the concept of yin and yang energy. The yang energy is the energy of action, movement, and heat. This is the energy that modern life focuses on.
But when we have too much yang energy, our systems overheat, causing health issues. We need to balance the effects by inviting more yin energy – the energy of rest and coolness.
This doesn’t have to be an overwhelming time commitment. The last thing you want is to make it yet another item to tick off your to-do list. I always recommend starting slow. Aim to do one minute of each of your wellness practices a day and build from there.
Involve the Body, Mind, and Spirit
We tend to focus on physical causes for poor health. But our mind, emotions, and spirit influence our wellness too.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the focus is on the qi – the lifeforce, or energy. It is a similar concept to prana in yoga. When your qi is balanced and flowing freely, you will feel healthy and well.
But when your qi becomes blocked or stagnant, it causes health issues. And blockages in the flow of qi can come from being too stressed or rushed, from holding onto emotion, and from a general sense of dis-ease in our lives.
Addressing sources of dissatisfaction in our lives can help to restore the good flow of qi and give our physical health a boost too.
Perhaps you feel stuck in a career that no longer serves you. This can leave you feeling drained and tired, with blocked, stagnant energy. But when you find work that aligns with your soul purpose, you feel energised and inspired.
It is important to listen to your intuition and not neglect the role of the spirit in your health. Our passion for teaching others and passing on our knowledge is what inspires us both.
So, we know the importance of finding work that aligns with our purpose in life.
Three Principles of Chinese Medicine
I asked Katie for her suggestions for how to incorporate traditional Chinese medicine into our daily lives. She talked about the three principles that we should focus on every day and gave some practical suggestions for how we can practice them.
1. Free Flow of Qi and Blood
We’ve already looked at the importance of energy, qi, in Chinese medicine. Our health depends on this energy being able to move freely around our bodies.
This is a concept that fits with what we talk about with face yoga. Many of my techniques aim to boost the circulation to your face and release any stagnant energy.
One simple way to encourage the free flow of qi is to give yourself a good shake. It is an easy and free way to increase the circulation and get stagnant energy moving again. You only need to do it for 30 seconds or so.
I’ve started doing this when I notice myself feeling tired or sluggish. It is a great way to boost your energy and reconnect with your body.
2. Purge and Nourish
When it is working effectively, the body has many mechanisms to get rid of toxins and waste. Our lymphatic drainage systems are an excellent example. The pores of our skin also help to purge toxins. And even tears are a way of letting go of emotions.
Unfortunately, our busy, stressed lives mean we are often too rushed to properly express and process our emotions. And being constantly in a hurry means we may not take the time to nourish ourselves either.
Gua sha is a wonderful technique for both purging and nourishing. It increases our blood circulation, which does both things simultaneously.
Ideally, use the proper tools, which have the added benefit of being made of healing crystals. But if you don’t yet have them to hand, you can substitute the lid of a jar to do body gua sha. Wash it first, obviously.
Use any oil you have to hand. Even cooking oil will do if you have nothing else available. Then use the jar lid to do some gua sha on your chest.
Just one minute of gua sha can have noticeable benefits to your wellbeing, especially the quality of your sleep.
3. Strengthen the Five Key Organs
Finally, Chinese medicine focuses on strengthening our five key organs, which are the heart, lungs, kidneys, spleen, and liver.
Of the five, the heart is known as the commander organ, because it links to the others. To strengthen your heart, Katie recommends laughter.
It sounds simple but is something that many people struggle with. Many find they end up crying instead, which is also beneficial in releasing held emotions.
If you find it too strange to simply will yourself to laugh at nothing, there are other options you can try. Perhaps put on a funny tv show or download a laughter app to your phone. Ask your family to help you – if you have kids, they might enjoy the challenge of making you laugh. Or attach it to something you already do, such as laughing in the shower.
As a closing thought, it often seems that the health habits we most need are the ones that we resist the hardest.
For example, I know that I struggle especially with blockages in my throat chakra. If I’m feeling ill or rundown, I always feel it in my throat first.
When Katie mentioned laughter therapy, I felt an automatic resistance to the idea. It is the same resistance I feel when it comes to using chants in yoga. But I can see how incorporating laughter into my yoga practice might help to unblock my throat chakra. So, I’m going to challenge myself to embrace laughter as therapy!
Perhaps there’s something that is coming up for you that you feel the same resistance to. If there is, I encourage you to take the challenge to embrace it alongside me.
Start with an achievable goal. Just one minute a day. And build from there.
If you’d like to dive deeper into Chinese medicine and Gua Sha, Katie and I would love to welcome you on our accredited Facial Gua Sha Teacher Training Course.
Led by Katie Blake, an expert in Gua Sha, it is a distance-learning, self-paced course that is suitable for those who want to add Gua Sha to their existing offerings as well as for total beginners.
We suggest that you take between 12 and 20 hours to study. Once you complete the course assessment, you’ll be added to our directory of Facial Gua Sha Teachers and will receive a certificate marking your new qualification. The course is accredited by the IPHM.