Chinese medicine and Ayurveda are two of the oldest healing systems in use today. Each is a complete art, in and of itself, and has profoundly contributed to the health and well-being of millions of people around the world. Drawing on their shared roots and spiritual principles, Bridgette Shea, L.Ac., MACOM, shows how these two practices integrate seamlessly, with the two traditions? individual strengths harmonizing to form a practical basis for prevention, wellness, detoxification, and treatment.
The author explains the foundational principles of both Chinese medicine and Ayurveda in detail, providing the reader with a working understanding of both disciplines. She examines shared concepts such as qi and prana, meridians and nadis, and energy centers and chakras. She explores the strengths of each practice, such as the clinical efficiency of diagnosis and the use of acupuncture for pain relief, improving fertility, and stress reduction in Chinese medicine and the dietary, detoxification, and spiritual guidance of Ayurveda, including the detox branch of Ayurveda known as pancbalearma. Moving beyond theory into practical application, she explores the elements, known as the five phases and the pcnchamahabhutas, and how they affect our well-being. She provides tools for self-assessment, including a primer on tongue diagnosis and a mental, emotional, and physical constitutional questionnaire. Offering treatment and prevention strategies that draw from both disciplines, she encourages the reader to implement an integrated practice of these two systems in daily life or clinical practice. She details breathing exercises, dietary regimens, herbal recommendations, and guides for detoxification, including safe and gentle home cleanses, all rooted in the holistic synergy between Ayurveda and Chinese medicine.
Sharing case studies that highlight the interconnectedness of these approaches, Shea pro- vides a comprehensive guide for self-healing of body, mind, and spirit and a practitioner’s resource to cross-reference complex questions with respect to both healing traditions.
Bridgette Shea, L.Ac., MACOM, is an acupuncturist, Chinese medicine practitioner, and Ayurveda educator whose private practice is an integration of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. She writes and teaches workshops on Ayurveda, energy medicine, and healthy breathing. She lives with her family in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Finding the Calm Within
In the Handbook of Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, these ancient medicinal systems come from roots steeped in a time-tested study of nature-something to which we, as a culture, have lost our connection.
These traditional systems of medicine evolved over thousands of years of studying the most subtle aspects of nature-Mother Nature and human nature. These studies concluded that the most profound aspects of the human body and the most powerful aspects of nature were not the most obvious, they were the most subtle. It was in the most subtle aspects of nature that researchers found the true operating system behind the human body and life itself.
For example, modern science tells us that the genes of the human micro biome, which we cannot see with the naked eye, outnumber the genes in the human genome by about one hundred to one, and 90 percent of the cells of the human body, while silently governing all of the body’s physiological functions, are actually microbial. These ancient sciences understood that gentle manipulation or therapeutic corrections at the most refined and subtle aspects of the body would deliver the most powerful healing and, ultimately, transformational change. While healing and optimal health was always a major theme in both systems of medicine, it was never the goal. The goal was to first restore balance to the body, so that the mind could gain the awareness needed to make deep mental, emotional, and spiritual transformational change. Healing was a means to a greater end. They were seeking truth; the same, nonchanging, reliable truth they witnessed in nature, season after season, year after year, and generation after generation.
While nature provided a safe and reliable canvas for life, life itself took advantage of nature’s predictable cycles by evolving on every level from the most subtle to the most blatant. The human body was also evolving, and the potential was unlimited. Much of human evolution was linked to a growing level of awareness that allowed humans to potentially shed what Ayurveda termed the cause of disease? and the obstacles to full human potential. In Ayurveda, the cause of disease was referred to as pagya pard, which translates as the mistake of the intellect. This is where the mind starts thinking of itself as separate, better than, and disconnected from the field of intelligence or consciousness from which we came.
This same field of intelligence that the ancients experienced in nature, they also experienced in the human body, coming to the conclusion that, at the most subtle level, they were experiencing the same field everywhere. Connecting to and becoming aware of this field of intelligence or consciousness was the key to nature’s sustainability, the healing of the human body, and the evolution of human potential.
Removing the mistake of the intellect would first require a heightening in the state of awareness and then the ability to employ transformational actions or therapies such as dietary modifications, lifestyle changes and herbal and energetic support at the most effective level. More specifically, becoming conscious would elicit awareness of the subtle circadian cycles that underwrite both the human body and nature itself. Science suggests that we must live in harmony with these circadian rhythms for optimal health, and many experts believe that the field called ?circadian medicine? will revolutionize medicine as we know it. Both Chinese medicine and Ayurveda are based on a lifestyle that is in balance with daily, monthly, and seasonal light/dark circadian cycles. These are prerequisites for spiritual evolution.
In ancient times, as in modern times, people were distracted by Finding the Calm Within their senses, looking outside themselves for ways to be more content, less hungry, and safe from the illusion of wealth and material gain. Chinese medicine and Ayurveda were developed to reconnect their respective cultures to something more real. It was clear that the fascination with sensory stimulation was the source of pragya parad and the onset of disease (mental, physical, and emotional). Vedic science, Chinese medicine, kung fu, tai chi, and many other eastern martial art forms were based on living in truth. The word Veda means ?truth,? and ayus means "life," so the most accurate definition of Ayurveda is a system of medicine designed to reveal the ?truth of your life.?
From the perspective of healing, both Chinese medicine and Ayurveda believe in supporting the body’s ability to heal itself rather than doing the healing for the body, as we see done in Western medicine and many forms of natural medicine today. Restoring and heightening the body’s self-awareness enables the body to clearly recognize health problems as problems and, in a spontaneous and effortless manner, heal itself.
Humans maximize their potential by adhering to a law of nature called the ?coexistence of opposites,in which a deep awareness of silence is coexistent with dynamic activity of the body and mind. In nature the coexistence of opposites demonstrates some of its most powerful forms-think atoms and solar systems with silent centers and things spinning around them. In a hurricane, the bigger the eye of the hurricane, the more powerful the winds, suggesting that the source of the hurricanes power comes from the calm, silent center. The winds of the storm and the calm must coexist in order for the hurricane to reach its full strength. Likewise, humans must establish an awareness of peace and calm in the midst of their busy, stressful lives in order to reach their full human potential.
What do we find more interesting, wondrous, and magical than the inner workings of ourselves? What we are, who we are, why we are here, and what our purpose is in this life. How incredible nature is! If we have a cut, it heals, if we have an emotionally turbulent time, we go deeper into the why of our being and higher into the truth of a grander whole, and we emerge stronger, more pieced together. Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, two of the oldest healing systems of the world, offer us tangible, and oftentimes transcendent, "bigger-picture" insights into who we are as individuals, as living beings, in relationship to ourselves, to others, to the environment, the world, and existence in general. And both continue to make an ever-increasing contribution to the health and well-being of people around the world.
Chinese medicine has become increasingly popular because of the widespread positive results arising from its bodywork modality, acupuncture. These include alleviating pain, providing emotional comfort, increasing fertility, reducing stress, and addressing a long list of other issues for millions of people worldwide. Acupuncture is now recognized in the United States by many insurance companies, and many people have access to it, whether it’s at a methadone treatment facility, a fertility clinic, on a military base, on-site at a disaster, on a cruise ship, in a doctor’s office, or with an acupuncturist in private practice. The interest in how it works is growing, even in those who offers a blend of the two systems, while staying true to the roots of each discipline. It also includes dietary guidance, food lists, and a constitutional self-analysis questionnaire, which will guide you in utilizing the key concepts in the medicines to enhance mental, emotional, and physical balance. It is also a seamless introduction for the practitioner wishing to cross over into using a complementary field for understanding life and medicine in a different yet familiar and useful way.
Why is it important to blend Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, and why have I chosen these two fields to highlight? The story of how I came to combine them in my own practice offers some significant insights with wide applicability.
I became formally interested in ancient healing modalities in 1992 while visiting the original Asclepius (a healing temple sacred to Asclepius, the god of medicine) in Old Epidaurus, Greece. Having been a vivid dreamer my whole life, I had a natural fascination with the ancients? development of transformational dream healing clinics. While there, I was introduced to stelae (stone slabs) that depicted priestesses hovering their hands over patients, and a few years later I found myself practicing and teaching Reiki, qigong, yoga, and other energetic healing arts modalities. While I was receiving zero balancing energy work,* I was given the ?audible vision? of the word astanga, which means ?eight- limbed? and is used to identify certain schools of yoga instruction. It is also used more specifically to refer to the foundational Yoga philosophy compiled by the ancient sage Patanjali. This led me to study Patanjali’s Yoga and later to go to India to pursue a deep study of asana (posture) and pranayama (breath control), mudra (ritual gesture), Sanatana Dharma (eternal truth),* Sanskrit, and a little Ayurveda. While I was in India, through the same energy work modality of zero balancing, I received similar guidance to become an acupuncturist.
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