Every year on the last Saturday of April, tens of thousands of people in more than 70 countries come together, to practice tai chi and qigong and to provide a healing vision for our world. World Tai Chi & Qigong Day is Saturday, April 27 at 10am, in every time zone, creating a wave of healing qi (energy) around the world. Please see the location update below. Check out the Facebook page for World Tai Chi & Qigong Day in Central Texas to find out about the official Austin gathering.
AOMA and Sheng Zhen Austin are co-sponsoring a free Qi “Tasting” in the afternoon from 2-5pm. Find out more details here. This event is suitable for all ages and abilities. Participants may come and go or stay from the entire program. Here’s the schedule of events.
2:00pm Welcome and Opening
2:15pm Practice movements from Heaven Nature Gong
2:45 pm Learn the form Awakening the Soul Gong
3:15 pm Practice movements from Return to Spring
3:45 pm Practice movements from Sheng Zhen Healing Gong
4:15 Master Li Junfeng will discuss Sheng Zhen philosophy
What is Qigong?
Qigong is an ancient Chinese health care system practiced for health maintenance, healing and increasing vitality. It is practiced through an integration of physical postures, breathing techniques, and focused intention.
The word Qigong (chi kung or chi gung) is made up of two Chinese words. Qi (pronounced chee) is usually translated to mean the life force or vital-energy that flows through all things in the universe. The second word, Gong (pronounced gung) means work or cultivation. Together, Qigong means life energy cultivation.
Widely practiced in Asia, qigong has recently become popular in the West as an approach to overall health and well-being. Practicing qigong induces a relaxation response that can positively impact your body’s natural healing ability and increase your sense of balance in our stressful society.
Visit the National Qigong Association website for more resources about qigong.
What is Tai Chi?
T'ai chi ch'uan or Taijiquan, often shortened to t'ai chi, taiji or tai chi in English usage, is an internal Chinese martial art originally practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. Today, it is primarily practiced to maintain good health, both physical and mental. Tai Chi has been recommended as an adjunct therapy for chronic pain, arthritis, insomnia, asthma, high blood pressure, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and many psychosomatic illnesses.
Here are some recognized benefits of practicing tai chi and qigong:
reduces stress responses, lowering the incidence of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and general mood disturbance
minimizes the effects of chronic conditions such as allergies and asthma T'ai Chi improves breathing capacity
regular practice can lower high blood pressure
improves balance and coordination TWICE as effectively as other balance training
improves postural control, while stretching, toning and relaxing the body in a cumulative way that no other exercise can achieve
AOMA offers informal classes in taiji and qigong in south Austin. You can search for classes worldwide on the World Tai Chi Day website.
Elaina Stover received a $2,000 scholarship from Trudy McAlister Foundation for her acupuncture program studies at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, one of the leading graduate schools of acupuncture and Chinese medicine in the nation.
Elaina grew up in Tallmadge, Ohio where she developed her passion for anatomical and health sciences. She discovered in high school her passion for looking deep inside the structures of the body and obtained a Bachelors of Science in Neuroscience at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York.
After her graduation she took an internship in Africa doing research on sustainable rural health care. She comments, “I found it difficult to stay behind the scenes researching in the field, I realized I wanted to be able to touch and help people more directly.”
Upon returning to the United States Elaina attended yoga teacher training in New York and worked with instructor Francois Raoult MA, RIYT, and learned the technique of using the tongue as a diagnostic tool for better understanding of the body. She learned that tongue diagnosis is an aspect of Chinese medicine, leading her to Austin to study at AOMA.
The Trudy McAlister Foundation awards students who are currently enrolled in an ACAOM accredited acupuncture school. Students must also complete an essay to be considered for this scholarship. Elaina wrote about the role of Traditional Chinese Medicine in health care today. She writes, “Participation is how we take ownership of our profession, shape policy and affect decision making, as well as share our profession and knowledge with the public and health professionals.” Elaina plans on graduating in 2014 and desires to work in an integrative setting with nurses, massage therapist, and naturopaths.
Tara Lattimore is an acupuncture student in AOMA’s MAcOM program and hopes to graduate in 2014. For Tara, choosing to become an acupuncturist was an easy and natural path to take. She says, “My family would get weekly reflexology and acupressure treatments in Indonesia and while we used to be nutritionally challenged and eat dinner in front of the TV, we got into mindful eating after my Dad read Michael Pollen’s Omnivore’s Dilemma.”
She recalls an influential memory of the ninth grade on a school trip to Sumatra when another student had a massive panic attack and nausea. The class was far from a western hospital so the student was taken to a local healer for an herbal decoction and acupressure. Growing up with healers in Indonesia has provided Tara with a unique perspective on medicine. This experience eventually led Tara to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), where she is able to recognize that “people are diverse, complicated creatures and deserve the time and respect to be treated as such.” Tara appreciates TCM’s acknowledgement that all diseases are different and affect people differently.
In her time at AOMA she has made many contributions to the student body. She launched The Needler, a student produced magazine that publishes articles about Chinese medicine and campus life at AOMA. At first it was a modest project that took much time and effort to get off the ground, but Tara feels the magazine helps build community at AOMA by giving people an outlet to communicate with one another. Tara reflects, “It is certainly a seed that needs to be tended and I hope it will continue to grow long after I’m gone.”
Tara has also been giving her time to AOMA Student Association and volunteered at the 2013 Southwest Symposium. This year’s Symposium was a transformational experience for Tara because she shifted her focus from the polarization of Chinese medicine versus Western medicine to the integration of both medicines in her future practice.
One challenge to working on extracurricular projects Tara faces as a busy graduate student is finding time outside of class. Realizing that this is also a problem for many of her peers, Tara reflects saying, “All I can do is offer my support for collaboration should they want to get involved in whatever craziness I am working on and do the same for them should they want to spice up student life at AOMA.”
When Tara is not busy with school she spends time relaxing with her husband, Brian, her 50 pound standard poodle, Homer, and her feisty feline, Goose Cat. She enjoys cooking and going to the farmer’s market and is currently growing her first garden. Tara is a painter and her subjects include moxa and bodies with acupuncture needles. With her husband’s encouragement she has started a blog at tealatt.tumblr.com. Here she says, “I can hopefully express my creativity on a more regular basis and since there are so many artists at AOMA, I foresee a riveting community art show in our near future!” She is currently on the China Study Tour with twenty AOMA students and has been updating her blog with amusing stories.
The following letter was submitted to the Daily Texan twice via email regarding a written response to Robert Starr's article that appeared on February 27, 2013. Unfortunately, the Daily Texan editorial staff has not acknowledged this written response. We have chosen to publish an open letter with regards to the article.
March 5, 2013
Dear Daily Texan Editor,
I am a licensed acupuncturist and President of the AOMA Alumni Association and wish to prepare comments to be published in the Daily Texan. I want to respond in writing to an article authored by Robert Starr, dated 27 Feb 2013 and titled, "When it comes to effective treatments, acupuncturists miss the point."
This article is misleading and does not reflect the body of evidence that validates acupuncture as an effective and safe medical practice for treatment of a wide variety of disease. Both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and World Health Organization (WHO) support ongoing research into the efficacy of acupuncture.
A 2012 NIH funded study titled “Acupuncture for chronic pain: individual patient data meta-analysis” published in Archives of Internal Medicine supports the conclusion that acupuncture is an effective treatment for chronic pain. Included in the analysis were 29 randomized controlled acupuncture studies surveying 17,992 individuals. The 2012 study also indicates real acupuncture differs significantly from sham acupuncture in terms of outcome and therapeutic effect.
A document published in 2003 by the WHO titled “Acupuncture: review and analysis of reports on controlled clinical trials” acknowledges the challenges in designing blinded and placebo controlled acupuncture studies, as Mr. Starr indicates. However, there is a critical detail missing from Mr. Starr’s analysis: acupuncture is not a pill nor is it a pharmaceutical agent. Acupuncture is the surgical insertion of sterile, stainless steel needles at specific points on the body. There are currently doctoral programs that incorporate scientific research and examine the value of acupuncture in contemporary culture.
Acupuncture is a medical intervention and invasive procedure that has real effects on the body. Given such responsibility, acupuncturists receive 4 years of education at the graduate level and are licensed under the Texas Medical Board.
Gregory A. Carey, Licensed Acupuncturist
MAcOM, Dipl. OM. (NCCAOM)
President, AOMA Alumni Association
Here is the link to the original story in the Daily Texan.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Otorhinolaryngology is a clinical science that studies the disease of the ear, nose and throat under the guidance of TCM theories in combination with the clinical syndrome differentiation of modern TCM.
Viscera are the material basis of the physiological functions of the human body, and meridians and collaterals are the channels where qi and blood of the human body circulate, and through which the general organs communicate with limbs. Normal function of the ear, nose and throat depends on the coordinative activities of viscera, meridians and collaterals, while the pathological changes of the ear, nose and throat result from the dysfunctions of one or more regions of viscera, meridians and collaterals as well. Therefore, the analysis of the clinical manifestations of disease of the ENT should be connected with viscera, meridians and collaterals, and should not individually consider the local pathological changes of the ENT. This also embodies the concept of TCM holism.
How TCM treats ENT
Acupuncture and herbs treat disorders of the internal organs, channels, and collaterals rather than focus on symptoms and signs. Generally speaking, from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, the ear is connected to the "kidney", which physiologically stores "essence". When the kidney essence reaches the ears, the patient has normal hearing. Sufficient essence ensures the generation of brain marrow which is closely related to the human balance function. If brain marrow is deficient, vertigo and tinnitus occur. Besides the kidney, other internal organs like liver and gallbladder, lung, heart, spleen are also related to ear disorders. TCM treatment often leads to fewer side effects compared to conventional medicine.
Case Study: Mr. Cedar
Mr. Cedar came to our clinic with an itchy nose, persistent sneezing, nasal obstruction, and clear nasal discharge. He had been experiencing allergic rhinitis symptoms for more than a year, and noted they get worse when he’s tired. We treat this patient once every week with body acupuncture (LI 20, LI 4, LU 9, Yingtang) and ear acupuncture (internal nose, lung, endocrine and kidney) and prescribed him Chinese herbal medicine (Jade-screen powder in combination with Decoction for reinforcing middle energizer and replenishing Qi). One month later Mr. Cedar is getting much better after this treatment.
Chinese Herbs for ENT
Chinese herbal medicine is very individualized for each patient and scenario. So, depending on the syndrome differentiation and current symptoms, the herbs prescribed will be unique. In general, most aromatic flavor and light texture herbs will be useful.
The herbal patent medicine “Jade Screen” (yu ping feng san), is known to strengthen the immune system when taken regularly. Cang Er Zi (xanthium) is often added to this formula when nasal passage obstruction with thick nasal discharge is present.
Diet and Exercise
Every patient is different, so it is important to consult a licensed acupuncturist. In general, cut down on dairy products and sweets, since traditional Chinese medical theory believes these suppress the spleen to retain more damp, which will worsen the allergy symptoms.
Exercises like taiji, qigong, and meditation can help the ENT diseases by increasing the immune system and supporting the defensive qi in our body. TCM believes “if the body’s healthy, qi is sufficient, no evils will make disturbance”.
Shengyan ‘Grace’ Tan, PhD, MD (China), OMD (China) is an Oriental medical doctor of Otorhinolaryngology. After completing her PhD, Dr. Tan worked for four years as an acupuncturist, herbalist, and clinical supervisor in the ENT and Ophthalmology Department of the teaching hospital of Chengdu University. She is the first PhD-trained TCM practitioner specializing in ophthalmology to teach in the United States.
How Stress Affects the Body
Our bodies are hardwired to handle stress, but over time too much stress takes a toll on the body. When we feel threatened the sympathetic nervous system is activated causing the heart rate to increase, the pupils to dilate, and blood to be directed towards the extremities. Digestion can temporarily shut down. This is also known as the "fight or flight" response and is why when we are stressed, we may feel agitated or want to run away from our problems. Cortisol, sometimes called “the stress hormone”, is also released, causing increases in both blood pressure and inflammation while suppressing the immune system. If our bodies continue to experience high amounts of cortisol, symptoms can evolve into anxiety, depression, fatigue, digestive issues and tension headaches.
Stress is defined as an organism's total response to environmental demands or pressures. In a medical or biological context stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stresses can be external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure).
Chinese Medicine for Stress Relief
In Chinese medical theory, strong emotions like stress interrupt the body’s energy from flowing smoothly. When these strong emotions are present for long periods of time they create a blockage in the body’s “road” system creating an energetic “traffic jam.” Acupuncture increases the circulation of blood and oxygenates the tissues throughout the body while cycling out cortisol and releasing natural pain-killers called endorphins. Other benefits of acupuncture include decreasing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and relaxing the muscles to help the body feel less stressed.
The traditional Chinese medicine approach is to focus on restoring the balance of energy in the body, such as soothing the liver Qi, tonifying the liver blood and spleen Qi, clearing the heat in the heart and liver, etc. A combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are generally applied and combined to treat stress; diet therapy and exercise is suggested as well.
Case Studies from AOMA professor, Dr. Yongxin Fan
Dr. Yongxin Fan has over 20 years of clinical experience in treating muscular-skeletal disorders, pain, digestive disorders, and psycho-emotional disorders including stress.
“One patient had intense stress from her job and was having insomnia. I treated her with acupuncture and the herbal formula wen dan tang. After the first treatment she was sleeping much better and after two weeks the stress was much reduced.
A patient with more severe stress symptoms (anxiety, panic attack, insomnia, and heart palpitations) recovered in 3 weeks after receiving acupuncture and taking the herbal formulas gui pi tang & huang lain e jiao tang.
Sometimes the symptoms are less severe but still can be debilitating. I had a patient who complained that ever since childhood she cried very easily, making her uncomfortable. I gave her acupuncture and Chinese herbs (xiao yao wan & gan mai da zao tang), and after 2 months she is much better.”
Chinese Herbs for Stress
The most commonly prescribed Chinese herbal formulas for stress are xiao yao wan (also known as “Free and Easy Wanderer”), gan mai da zao tang, chai hu shu gan san, yi guan jian, yue ju wan, and gui pi tang. To find out the right herbs for you, make an appointment with a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist. The practitioner will take a full medical history and do pulse and tongue diagnosis to determine the best acupuncture plan and herbal prescription.
Exercise and Diet for Stress
Exercise should be a part of everyone’s stress management plan, as it helps the body produce more endorphins, also known as the “runner’s high”. Many types of physical activity can stimulate this response and each person must find the right type of exercise for him or herself. For some, walking is enough, but others will want to get more of a workout to get their blood pumping and break a sweat.
Taiji, qigong, and meditation are forms of mind-body exercise and have been shown to help induce the “relaxation response.” The relaxation response makes the heart beat slower, muscles relax, breathing become slower, and blood pressure decrease.
As far as dietary therapy, most vegetables and fruits that are rich in color can help the body deal with stress. For example, in Chinese nutrition, blueberries, purple cabbage, beets, tomatoes, and eggplant are believed to be stress reducing. A diet high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins B & E is recommended, as these nutrients are easily depleted by stress.
Fruits and vegetables such as apricots, asparagus, avocados, bananas, and broccoli, brown rice, dried fruit, figs, salmon, green leafy vegetables, and most rich colored fruits are high in vitamin B. Even if you eat a healthy diet, vitamin B complex is a good supplement to consider if you suffer for chronic stress.
In my previous blog post “Energy Medicine: Medical Qigong and Reiki” I talked about the basics of Reiki and medical qigong and my experiences studying both and experimenting with energy medicine for more than 20 years. I wanted to share some more insights for students and practitioners of medical qigong and Reiki, so, here you go in no particular order.
Reiki says once you are attuned you never lose the ability to flow Reiki to someone or something else even if you don’t use what you learned for 40 years. But like anything, the more you use it the more powerful the flow and the more effective you are in directing it. Use your energetic healing chops as frequently as you can. Even when I am in my kitchen I try to still my mind and let Qi/Reiki flow through me and into the food I am preparing. Everything is Reiki, everything is Qi. When I approach life like this everything becomes healing and I get stronger and stronger in my ability to let if flow through me. All things become healing practice.
Combining what I’ve learned:
Acupuncture + Reiki + Medical Qigong
Dr. Qianzhi Wu said very quietly and quickly in Foundations of Chinese Medicine class one day that you don’t need the acupuncture needles – they are just a convenience. Anything you can do with an acupuncture needle can be accomplished just as well with energy. It was one four second moment in a single lecture, but I’ve never forgotten it. It might be the one of the most profound moments of my education. I think of every treatment I give as a Reiki/Medical Qigong treatment. Acupuncture needles are just very convenient antennae which focus and transmit Universal Qi. It has made a huge difference in how I treat patients.
The importance of teachers
You can read out of a book and learn a thing or two, but being in the presence of great teachers has benefits you can’t get from a printed page. The energetic exchange between teacher and student is vital and has proven impossible to document. It does something to your Qi just to be in their presence. If you’re interested in learning from my two main teachers, Barbara Biro teaches classes in Austin, Texas and Master Li literally teaches around the world, including in Austin.
Just as it is vital to be in the presence of a teacher, being in the presence of a healer can have benefits that are hard to explain. As a healer, being completely present for clients/patients creates a much stronger healing experience than a session in which the practitioner is distracted. It takes discipline and practice to learn to quiet the mind and keep it from wandering to either the past or the present. Patients don’t often get this gift from their practitioners. The last stat I read said that on average patients get about three minutes of face time with their health care practitioners. Most of this time is spent with the doctor poring over or making notes in a chart. In energetic medicine, as well as in acupuncture, we spend much more time with the patient. If our minds are still, our hearts are filled with gratitude for the Qi, which we bring to the session and to life, and we are led by our own intuition and training, then our patient has all of our attention and all of our skills focused on them. This dynamic alone gives them a gift of Qi that they may not get anywhere else in their lives.
Just as our own energies are changed and cleansed when we come into the presence of amazing teachers, our clients’ energies are changed and cleansed by coming into our presence when we are in this state of mind. Toward this end, at the end of any healing session I recommend changing your table linens and doing a brief cleansing of your space (I use a tuning fork, some people use a singing bowl, etc.).
Integrate healing information, but let your intuition guide you during a healing session of any kind. Being present and connecting to the Universe (Medical Qigong terminology) or being led by Spirit (Reiki terminology) opens the healer to all of the resources that are available within the stream of Universal Love/Qi/Ki. AOMA trains us well in our healing arts. When you have been practicing a while these become second nature (as opposed to that struggle to recall what you experience during a test!). If you allow your intuition to guide you then the built-in skills and wisdom flow naturally and seamlessly to the benefit of the clients.
We are not healers, we are conduits. I read about a practitioner who would bow to his clients at the end of every session and say, “I release you to your life.” Our job is not to heal anyone, but to present the gift of healing Qi to clients. Detachment from results of our efforts is vital. We cannot take responsibility for another person’s path – our own is responsibility enough! Hoping for a good outcome is kind of like having a hook in someone – we want them to feel better so that we feel better about ourselves as practitioners. There are other motivations of course, but none of them are whole or healthy. Attaching to the results of your efforts is similar to planting a seed and then continually digging it up to see how it’s going. It is counter productive to everyone involved. Let them go. The Universe will care for them better than we could anyway.
About the author:
As the owner of Calhoun Acupuncture & Wellness in Austin, TX, Catherine Calhoun maintains an active clinical practice treating patients with conditions such as pain, allergies & respiratory infections, and substance addiction, as well as chronic disorders like arthritis, diabetes, neurological disorders, endocrine disorders, and cardio/circulatory disorders. A certified Usui Reiki practitioner and trainer, she also specializes in relaxation and meditation therapies such as reiki, medical qigong, and guided meditation. Ms. Calhoun is committed to implementing affordable healthcare options using oriental medicine and manages an on-site corporate wellness practice in addition to her private clinical practice. She is the owner and creator of CatsTCMNotes.com and has instructed at AOMA since 2012.