By Andy Glover
Since ancient times, the Chinese have paid careful attention to and formally studied the functions of the human body. The Taoists in particular, researched and accumulated information in their efforts to find the secrets to health and longevity. After thousands of years of experimentation, a continual process of trial and error, the Chinese came to regard two specific activities as crucial and optimum to achieve good health, exercise and breathing. Chinese thinking holds that the whole body: bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments as well as the internal organs are in need of daily and systematic exercise. Additionally, the Chinese believe that breathing techniques play an important part in maintaining one’s health. For centuries, the Chinese researched and developed an elaborate theory of medicine that includes techniques such as acupuncture and herbal treatments. These procedures are now gaining recognition and popularity in the West.
By the same token, the Western world has developed its own style of medicine based on scientific research. By acquainting oneself with both the Chinese and Western approaches to health, one can gain a true understanding of the human body and its functions.
Why People Age
Physically, aging involves the slowing down of bodily functions from a highly vigorous to an increasingly less active state. All living organisms go through this birth-maturity-aging process. Signs of ageing such as rough and increasingly less flexible skin, graying and loss of hair, loss of visual acuity and nearsightedness, brittle bones and diminished tissue elasticity typically emerge sometime after thirty years of age.
The human body is composed of a large variety of cells, each containing a nucleus (home of DNA) and the surrounding cytoplasm. In accordance with natural metabolism, cell nuclei which no longer function normally result in the cell’s death. These dead cells, beginning to accumulate in the body, place an added demand on the body’s immune system. Do to this waste of “body energy”, the life span is shortened. From the time a child is born, this metabolism and energy dissipation process will continue until the last breath is expelled. Any increase in the rate of energy dissipation, say, by physical overexertion, causes the body’s functions to loose balance and thereby speed up the ageing process.
In addition to fundamental cellular function, the endocrine glands play a very important role in the ageing process. For example, the pituitary gland produces salivary hormones under normal conditions. A saliva deficiency can also be responsible for further ageing.
The human body has five vial systems; the endocrine glandular, the nervous, the digestive, the respiratory, and circulatory. Because of the interactive nature of these five systems and inadequate functioning of one affects the others and results further ageing. To our knowledge, the most plausible reason behind ageing is arteriosclerosis which is blocking of normal blood flow through the arteries. Since blood carries all of the nutrients required by the cell, the human body degenerates as the blood vessels harden reducing the normal flow of blood.
Why People Get Sick
The bodies’ cells are constantly working, slowly losing their effectiveness. Their resistance to bacterial attacks declines and sometimes collapses completely. Improper functioning of some part of an organ or system, though from a bacterial infection, usually disturbs the bodies’ delicate balance. Sickness in isolated areas of the body is usually inconsequential; however, sickness which results in the entire body feeling weak and ill can be dangerous. In this modern, industrialized world, people are constantly under different forms of stress; financial, work, traffic, career goals, anxiety, etc. Psychologists have begun to realize that most illnesses are at least partly contributed to emotional anxiety and nervous stress.
When body cells are attacked by alien bacteria, antibodies are automatically produced to kill the bacteria. However, when under emotional stress, the adrenal glands secrete large amounts of adrenalin, which in turn, interferes with the body’s immune system. Cells are unable to destroy the rampant bacteria and the person gets sick. A person constantly living under stress can easily develop those diseases responsible for heart attacks, arteriosclerosis, ulcers, hypertension, cancer, mental illness, etc. In this era of high technology, emotional stress has been the major underlying reason behind most illness. The ability to relax becomes increasingly indispensable.
Taoism in China
Taoism’s representation of Chinese philosophy with regards to health and long life supercedes its typical role as a major branch of traditional Chinese Philosophy. The Taoists emphasized idealism and pragmatism that are manifested in theories and practices which, while refined and involved, are fundamentally simple and easy to follow. The most basic principle of Taoism surrounds the abstract composition of Yin and Yang, the two form the Tao (the Way), which Taoists regard as the origin of the universe. It is also held that as long as these two components remain balanced, all living organisms in the universe will continue to evolve in accordance with natural laws. Taoists thereby become intimate with the Tao and implement the Tao to achieve individual maturity.
Of primary importance is the ability to live in a modern confining society, while not being confined by it. The Taoists philosophy is neither in-the world or out-of-the-world, the highest achievement goes beyond life and earth for the individual to reach a state of unity with the universe. Overcoming one’s feeling insures that negative emotions and excitement cease to be bothersome. The concepts of “naturalism” and “freedom” are also advocated. Naturalism meaning that one should follow the natural way to live a longer life. Freedom meaning that one should be free from outside interference, remaining calm and clear. This is why Taoists aren’t usually overly busy, preferring to compromise to violence, they behave humble, not over ambitiously or greedily. This is why Taoists can often be found wandering about, simply enjoying life. Breathing exercises are implemented as a specific practice for maintaining good health and long life. Other techniques are based on these principles:
- The state of one’s mind as a major obstacle to a truly healthy life is recognized. Most people in modern society suffer from some degree of metal-illness, which in turn, shortens their life span.
- Healthiness is based on softness. One’s body and mind should be soft and resilient, able to duplicate the softness of a baby.
- Good health is also grounded in “emptiness”. Upon the emptying of one’s mind, all outsider phenomena cease to be a bother. Almost paradoxically, one concurrently develops a strong awareness of one’s environment.
- The process of gain and loss is expounded upon. The mutual exclusivity of failures and successes as exemplified in the real world and the fact that nothing is absolute are realized. If you lose, don’t complain, if you succeed, behave humbly.
What is Chi?
Cloaked beneath rampant misconceptions, “Chi” remains a mystery to most. Generally applied, “Chi” is the main force behind the growth of everything in the universe. More specifically, “Chi” is the energy and vigor inside the human body. To promote good health and a longer life, Taoists work towards “building up” the chi.
There are two kinds of chi; prenatal chi and postnatal chi. The prenatal chi concerns the fetus in the womb. The fetus neither eat or breath, all nourishment is received its mother through the umbilical cord. At this time, the prenatal chi circulates through the fetus via the endocrine glandular system. Most organs in the fetus are not yet functional. Because the prenatal chi cannot normally be sensed, it is also referred to as “chi of no feeling”. Upon emerging from the womb, the baby uses its’ nose to breath postnatal chi in to it’s’ body to supply all of the organs. The prenatal chi concentrates around the kidney area as the baby matures and is thus called the “Kidney Chi”. As long as life is sustained, the postnatal chi will keep circulating inside the body. Since the postnatal chi can be felt by the nose and lungs, it is referred to as “chi with feeling”.
The Effects of Chi on the Human Body
An adequate supply and circulation of chi is the single most important factor concerning good health. Learning how to build up the chi is essential to achieve exceptional health. Cells are the smallest unit of the human body. Cells are usually neutral, but can carry a charge when stimulated. This state, in turn, increases a cells active potential. This potential can be transferred through the nervous system. Chi can thought of as the electrical potential throughout the nervous system.