“Everything is subject to change and therefore in motion . . . one cannot bid the winds and waves to cease, but one can learn to navigate treacherous currents by conducting ourselves in harmony with the prevailing processes of transformation – and thus weather the storms of life.” I Ching
Chinese medicine, a four thousand year old practice, is based on the belief that all of life functions as nature does; that all things are connected and dependent on each other; that things shift from moment to moment, from day to day, from year to year, and from lifetime to lifetime. In Chinese medicine, we frequently speak of seeking balance in our patients’ lives to improve their physical health and mental well-being. These entities are always connected and are referred to as the mind-body connection. As an acupuncturist, I seek to understand and balance each patient’s Qi, Yin, and Yang. Another goal is to help patients discover a smooth energy flow among the Five Elements of Nature including fire, earth, metal, water, and wood.
Qi is often defined as energy or life force. It is what makes us up, directs us, gives us feelings, and nourishes us. Animate objects are physical manifestations of Qi. Qi is movement itself and is also what causes movement in things. In Chinese Medicine, Qi flows along pathways called meridians that are located in the body. The circulation of Qi may be compared to that of nerve impulses or blood flow in western medicine. Upon evaluation, an acupuncturist may diagnose a patient with either an excess or a deficiency in their Qi. For example, if a patient has chronic fatigue syndrome, they might be diagnosed as having deficient Qi.
In Chinese Medicine we also evaluate our patients based on Yin and Yang, which are two types of Qi. Yin and Yang present a changing image of the world around us and of ourselves. Yin represents the female, cool, physical manifestation, calm, shady images of things. Yang represents the opposite form of things including the male, warm, movement, active, bright images. The moon is Yin, while the sun is Yang. Women are more Yin, while men are more Yang. Meditation is Yin, while football is Yang. The key is to find a balance between Yin and Yang and to not have extreme excesses or deficiencies in either. Physical symptoms fall into these general categories. For example, if a patient presents with a fever and strong headache, we might diagnose him with an excess of Yang. If a patient presents with night sweats and insomnia, we might diagnose her with a deficiency of Yin.
To comprehend how the theory of Chinese medicine works, it is key to understand the dynamics of nature. The Five Elements, fire, earth, metal, water, and wood, correspond to specific emotional and physical symptoms patients present. If someone experiences an emotional loss, their metal element could be weakened and they could develop a weakness in their lung system, resulting in a cough or asthma. If one element is out of balance, then frequently other elements are affected and so on. For example, if a patient is under stress at their job, their earth element would be weakened by an angry wood element and their digestive system could eventually suffer.
Acupuncture and other branches of Chinese medicine offer effective ways to help people find both physical and emotional balance in their lives and to explore their own mind-body connection. Life and energy flow are dynamic processes. As nature changes and evolves with time, so do we.
Lynne Drakos, who has provided natural health care to Summit County for more than twenty years, can be reached at A Balanced Crane Acupuncture Clinic in Breckenridge at (970) 547-9415 or visit BalancedCraneAcupuncture.com.