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The Yin and Yang of Wellness

The vast majority of news about men’s health focuses on generally one or two things: performance at the gym and/or performance in the bedroom. Performance at work is another evaluation pressure faced by both men and women. With all this concentration on performance, the self-inflicted imbalances of society are becoming all too apparent.

The costs of engaging in the tsunami of today’s fast-paced society, the myth of increased productivity by multitasking and the maniac pace we delude ourselves into thinking necessary is at the heart of our compromised health. We end up paying for this overdrawn account in the later decades of life.

Although this knowledge is common, people don’t seem to heed the warning signs to slow down; instead, they endure pain and discomfort in an attempt to go down kicking and screaming (which all too often turns out to be the case). Most people would never think of operating 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), and yang, the white (active and moving). Often thought of as opposites, these are actually two aspects of one process—polarities that do not exist independently. Alternation of these two dynamics animates the cycles taking place in every aspect of life. Each half always contains a balance of the other, depicted by the dots. As with everything in life, balance is the key. There is nothing like a strenuous, muscle-building, heart-pumping workout (yang activities), but it needs to be balanced afterward by exercises that engender and promote the yin aspects of nourishing and rebuilding. It requires a lot more 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 comfortable. Stand with your feet shoulder’s width apart with your knees relaxed and slightly bent, allow your shoulders to relax with arms hanging at your sides, palms facing inward and thumbs pointing forward. The tailbone should draw down toward the earth releasing the lower back. The final step is to imagine the head being suspended by a string from above, keeping the eyes level with the horizon as the breath is drawn deep into the stomach, as if you are filling a balloon.

The 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, the smooth, unimpaired flow 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 qigong and taijiquan and other ancient health practices have continued for 5,000 years. Remember, a fad doesn’t last for 5,000 years!

Mark R. Reinhart is the founder and creator of The Path of Three Pure Rivers, dedicated to the rebalancing and harmonization of the self through education and self-empowerment. He holds a master’s degree in medical qigong and has extensive and ongoing training in qigong, taijiquan and all facets of classical and traditional Chinese arts. For more information about Traditional Chinese qigong and taijiquan training in Drums, call 570-359-3059 or visit ThreePureRivers.com.

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