The Yin and Yang of Wellness
May 30, 2013 10:59AM
● By By Mark R. Reinhart
Most news about men’s health discusses one of two things: performance at the gym and performance in the bedroom. Performance at work is another measure of evaluation faced by men and women. With all this concentration on performance, perhaps the balance should be considered.
Weigh the costs of engaging in the tsunami of today's fast-paced society. The idea of increasing productivity by multitasking is an insane delusion that manifests itself as poor health. The pace of modern life takes an enormous toll on the body, and people pay in the later decades of life for years of expending the body’s resources.
Although this knowledge is common, it appears that people do not heed the warning signs to slow down; instead, they endure pain and discomfort in an attempt to go down kicking and screaming. Most people would never think of driving and maintaining their cars the way they do their bodies.
In the Chinese tradition, the underlying principle at the heart of all forms of cyclical movements, including life itself, is the alternation of yin, the dark (quiet and still) fish, and yang, the white (active and moving) fish. (See figure 1.) Often thought of as opposites, these are actually two aspects of one process. The alternation of these two dynamics is what animates the cycles that take place in every aspect of life. Each half always contains a balance of the other, which is represented by the opposing dots within each fish.
As with everything in life, balance is the key. There is nothing like a strenuous, muscle-building, heart-pumping workout, which engages the yang aspect, but it needs to be balanced afterward by exercises that engender the yin aspect, nourishing and rebuilding. This should be more purposeful and dedicated than a cool-down period lasting only as long as it takes to stop breathing heavily.
One of the best self-assessment tests people can use to determine their ability to relax is to try to stand perfectly still in a relaxed state for as long as is possible. This is accomplished by standing with feet shoulder’s width apart, knees relaxed or slightly bent, shoulders relaxed and arms hanging at the sides, with palms facing inward and thumbs facing forward. The tailbone should draw down toward the earth to release the lower back. The final step is to imagine the head is being pulled up by a string and connecting with heaven, while keeping the eyes level with the horizon as the breath is drawn deep into the stomach, as if to fill a balloon.
Results from the exercise vary, but usually people will take two or three breaths and then start twitching or feeling itches, pain or burning sensations in various parts of their body until ultimately, they feel compelled to move.
The arts of qigong and taijiquan seek to harmonize and balance the body, mind and spirit, reconnecting the person with their bodies via breath, posture and body awareness. Addressing the physical aspect (jing), these practices teach individuals to focus on aspects of proper posture, biomechanics, the efficient utilization of the musculature and the release of excess physical tension.
Once physical tension has been released, the qi, or life force, can flow smoothly and unimpeded throughout the body. From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine, this state of qi is the key to good health. Balancing the energies of the body also helps to regulate the emotions and starts one on the path to understanding the dynamics and implications of stress.
As practitioners begin to enjoy the numerous health benefits of the smooth flow of qi in the body, their view of the world changes, and they begin to release excess mental tension and address the spiritual aspect (shen) of their lives.
While health fads come and go, the traditional arts of taijiquan and qigong have continued for 5,000 years.
Mark R. Reinhart is the founder and creator of The Path of Three Pure Rivers (San Qing He Dao) dedicated to the rebalancing and harmonization of the self and offering treatment for addictive disorders. He holds a master’s degree in medical qigong and has extensively studied qigong, taijiquan and all facets of classical and Traditional Chinese Medicine. For more information, call 570-455-2221 or visit ThreePureRivers.com. For more information about qigong, visit nqa.org.