In American medicine, wellness is often seen as compartmentalized. There are specialists for different parts of the body and others for mental health. Throughout Asia, various traditional medicines such as TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), and Ayurveda (a medicine of Indian origin that is considered the world’s oldest healthcare system), see wellness as holistic. This means that these traditional medicines see mind, body, and emotions as interconnected. As a result, wellbeing is achieved when all three components are in balance. Stress can often lead to imbalance. Both TCM and Ayurveda emphasize preventative medicine through regular practices, some of which are outline below.
In America, we recognize that blood flows through the body and that information is communicated through the nervous system. In TCM and Ayurveda, an additional element is considered a part of the system—an energy that, like blood cells, flows through the body. In TCM, this energy is called qi (or chi), and in Ayurveda, the Sanskrit word is prana. Both words mean life force. Below is an introduction to these concepts and the various practices that help balance and increase life force.
Qi (or chi)
Qi (pronounced chee) means life force or energy flow in Chinese and is present everywhere—inside the human body as well as in the environment. Qi flowing smoothly results in good health, while the opposite can lead to disease. Because of this, TCM emphasizes the importance of maintaining qi flow and therefore health by practicing diet, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle, and taking medications derived from the natural world.
Qigong is an ancient Chinese wellness practice that means “cultivating energy.” It integrates physical postures, breathing techniques, and focused intention. Qigong helps maintain good health, heal, reduce stress, and increase vitality. This practice focuses on reestablishing the body,mind,soul connection and has even been scientifically proven to decrease hypertension and the risk of falling.
Tai Chi is a graceful form of exercise that involves slow flowing movements accompanied by deep breathing. It is practiced to circulate and balance qi (chi). Tai Chi is similar to meditation in motion and promotes health maintenance (largely stress reduction) as well as martial arts (mainly self-defense). The form of Tai Chi taught at the Crow Collection is called Wu Style and focuses on keeping the participant closer to his or her center of gravity.
*Master teacher Eng Khoo teaches Tai Chi at the Crow Collection Saturdays at 9:00am.
Prana means life force in Sanskrit and is responsible for the body’s life, heat, and maintenance. The amount of prana in our bodies is directly related to health. When prana diminishes we become sick, stressed, and depressed, and when prana is at its fullest we are in our best health. Intentional and focused breathing, increases prana and therefore health.
Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice. There are many schools, and they can range from philosophical to more physical. Many forms of yoga involve sequences of poses accompanied by intentional breathing. Practicing yoga increases strength, flexibility, balance, and prana while decreasing stress.
Pranayama and Meditation
Pranayama exercises focus on the breath to increase prana. Though the Crow Collection does not offer specific pranayama sessions, we do offer meditation classes which work toward similar ends. There are many styles of meditation, but the practice in general includes taking time to breathe intentionally. Meditation calms the mind, increases prana, and can be directed to develop a certain state of mind such as compassion.
Wellness and You
Qigong, Tai Chi, Yoga, Pranayama, and Meditation all affect body and mind, working holistically to balance and increase life force. Each of these practices also decreases stress. A recent study concluded that regularly engaging in stress-reducing practices such as mindful meditation actually change our DNA, making us less prone to severe illness. Find more information about that study here.
For the full list of wellness classes offered at the Crow Collection, click here.