Nutrition Philosophy of Qigong

Health Qigong is an embodiment of the excellent health-preserving culture of China, which has a history of thousands of years. As a health-preserving exercise, Health Qigong is based on traditional theories such as the Man-Nature Unity Theory, the Yin-Yang Theory, the Theory of Five Elements, and the Channel Theory. Its unique motion modes and rich theoretical content have determined the unique nutrition mode of Health Qigong.

1. Nutrition philosophy of Man-nature Unity

Man-Nature Unity is both a basic concept in the Chinese philosophy and an important theoretical basis for the Health Qigong Theory. “Nature” refers to all objective things in general, including the nature and human society and the rules of their variation. As a component part of the natural, man is inevitably subject to the influence of the changes of nature. This is why people say “one who wants to preserve health must carefully respect the nature”. A “nourishing Yang in spring and Yin in autumn and winter” health-preserving theory was first proposed in Huangdi’s Internal Classics.

And the concept of Man-Nature Unity has been fully embodied in the traditional food culture of our country. Internal Classics has clearly pointed out that proper dietary control is the key to longevity. For example Internal Classics: Suwen holds that flavors in compliance with the season rules are the guarantee for health, such as acid flavor in spring, bitter flavor in summer, spicy flavor in autumn, and salty flavor in winter. In addition, it is also believed in theories of traditional Chinese medicine that the dietary structures and dietary behaviors of the human kind must in concordance with the four seasons and the weather; otherwise they will have adverse effects on human health. Suwen: Antediluvian Primitive Theories points out that: “wise ancient people abode by the rules of Yin and Yang, followed the correct approaches, properly controlled their diets, led a regular life, and seldom overstrained themselves. Therefore they were able to preserve both the body and the spirit and live to the natural span of their lives.””

2. Nutrition philosophy of Yin-Yang Theory

Yin-Yang Theory states the unity of Yin-Yang opposites. It is a world outlook and methodology used to learn all things in the universe. In the field of Health Qigong, Yin-Yang Theory is used to account for the tissue structure, physiological functions, and pathological changes of the human body. And it is used to direct various kinds of training with an emphasis on the principle that “Yin and Yang must be clearly differentiated in the regulation of Qi flowing in channels”.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed that all diseases of the human body, no matter how complicated, can be divided into Yin and Yang categories. The Yin and Yang natures of food need to be paid attention to in the nutritional mode of Health Qigong. Generally speaking, cold and cool foods are Yin-natured and provide heat-clearing, fire-purging, blood-cooling, and poison-neutralizing effects. Warm and hot foods are Yang-natured and provide cold-dissipating, channel-warming, vein-dredging, and Yang-boosting effects. The warm or hot nature is opposite to the cool or cold nature. All foods (e.g. ginger, fistular onion stalk, parsley) applicable to symptoms such as anemofrigid cold, fever, cold-aversion, running nose, and headache, foods (e.g dry ginger, black tea) applicable to symptoms such as stomachache, vomiting, and hot-drink preference, and foods (e.g. capsicum chilli and liquor) applicable to cold limbs, cold intolerance, and rheumatic joint pain are warm-natured or hot-natured foods. All foods used for hot-natured body constitution and symptoms are cool-natured or cold-natured foods.

For example when we practice Routine 1 “Swinging the Head and Lowering the Body to Relieve Stress” of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin, we can stimulate the Du Channel by crouching on both feet and swinging the coccygeal end and stimulate Dazhui Acupoint by swinging the head and thus to dredge the channels, reduce the heat, and remove excessive heart fire. If the practicer has great internal heat, we can add more Yin-natured foods to the diet such as duck meat, spinach, and bitter gourd, which will often boost the body-building effect.

3. Nutrition philosophy of the Theory of Five Elements

The five elements herein referred to are Wood, Fire, Metal, Water, and Earth. The Theory of Five Elements is a theory that explains the interrelations between things with the boosting and restraining relations between the five elements. In Health Qigong, the complicated things and phenomena exhibited in the life activities of man are categorized by means of analysis, classification, and deduction according to the characteristics of the five elements.

And the inter-promoting, inter-complementing, inter-restricting, and inter-checking relations between the liver, heart, spleen, lung, and kidney systems during the body-building and health-preserving process are explained and explored according to the inter-promoting, inter-complementing, inter-restricting, and inter-checking rules of the five elements. In traditional dietary health preservation, foods are divided into acid, bitter, sweet, spicy, and salty types that correspond to the five elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. The Book of History: Hongfan states that: “Salty food is used for mild laxation, bitter food is used for fire reduction, acid food is used for correction, spicy food is used for transformation, and sweet food is used for sowing and reaping.” This explains the one-on-one matchup between the five elements and the five flavors. Internal Classics also states that: “spicy flavor provides dispersing effect, acid flavor provides astringing effect, sweet flavor provides relaxing effect, bitter flavor provides solidifying effect, and salty flavor provides softening effect”.”

For example, the “XU” in Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue can release foul Qi from the liver and regulate the liver. Sufficient blood in the liver will benefit heart Yang and sufficient heart Yang will warm the spleen and remove damp. However the spleen prefers dryness. Excessively strong Yin blood in the liver will be actually adverse to the spleen Yang. Therefore we could eat some food that disperses the depressed liver energy and regulates the flow of Qi while practicing, such as celery, crowndaisy chrysanthemum, tomato, turnip, orange, pomelo, tangerine, citron, and finger citron to regulate the liver, and hyacinth beans, sorghum rice, pearl barley, buckwheat, chestnuts, lotus seeds, gordon euryale seeds, Chinese yam, jujube, carrot, cabbage, pumpkin, tangerines, and oranges to invigorate the spleen.

4. Nutrition philosophy of the Channel Theory

Channels include trunk channels and branch channels. They are passages that carry blood and Qi of the entire body, link internal organs, limbs, and joints, and connect the upper, lower, interior, and exterior parts of the body. The Channel Theory is the theoretical basis for both traditional Chinese medicine and Health Qigong.

It is believed in Health Qigong Theory that the Qi, blood, and body fluid of the human body cannot nourish the viscera and tissues until they are transported by the channel system to all parts of the body. Therefore we can dredge channels and regulate the viscera by properly stretching and turning limbs from time to time. Many exercises of Health Qigong are performed under the guidance of the Channel Theory.

For example, “Holding One Arm Aloft to Regulate the Functions of the Spleen and Stomach” of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin stimulates the related channels in the abdomen and sternocostal parts and Shu Acupoint in the back through the alternating up-down stretching motions of the left and right upper limbs. And eating some warm-natured or hot-natured food such as beef, mutton, onion, leek, ginger, or jujube during the practice will warm the body, excite the physiological functions, increase the vigor, and dredge the channels.

To sum up, perfect combination of the features of Health Qigong exercises with nutriology will boost the body-building effects of Health Qigong and further promote the development of Health Qigong. (Ding Yu)

Reference: Nutrition Philosophy of Health Qigong

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