Introduction to Lifestyle Changes (diet and exercise) from an Eastern Perspective
Eastern Medicine provides us with a variety of lifestyle techniques to maintain and strengthen our health, vitality and overall well-being. The main techniques of dietary modification, meditation, tai chi and qi gong are drawn from the same theories and principles as the medical practices of acupuncture and herbal medicine and have the same power to heal disease and transform our way of life. The information below covers these basic techniques in brief and has links to other articles on our site and related books for further research.
What is meant by lifestyle change?
Our site uses the term lifestyle change to discuss the many techniques, theories and practices which help people build their own health and heal disease. Many practitioners of eastern medicine will make recommendations to their patients involving diet, behavioral change and exercise techniques. Eastern philosophy and medicine has a deep pool from which we can draw practical advice to help us build and maintain health.
What are some of the techniques?
While meditation is often related to various religious disciplines, in essence it is a scientific technique for relaxing our mind and bodies. Regular practice of meditation has been shown to physically change the brain and brain chemistry. For the most part these changes are related to our ability to deal with and handle our emotions and "stress." Beyond relaxation, meditation allows one to make changes in their habits and interactions that can help us avoid the things, ideas, and actions which lead to poor health and a poor state of mind. The relaxation and increased ability to focus provides one with the strength to make the changes they need in their life. A general introduction can be found here.
- Dietary Therapy:
Chinese Medicine Theory, along with many other philosphies, offer ideas for dietary change that are outside of calories and vitamins and minerals. The theories look at the qualities of food - temperature, flavors, etc. and relate those to specific types of people and specific conditions. As a general example, hot people (headaches, angry, etc.) are helped by choosing more cooling foods and avoiding those which contribute to heat. For a more detailed presentation of TCM dietary therapy, please read my TCM Nutrition Theory and Applications in Dietary Therapy article.
- Qi Gong:
Energy is Qi and the practice of moving this energy is Gong. Qi Gong is essentially exercise but it is drawn from eastern philosophy and accordingly has a different focus than western forms of exercise. Qigong generally focuses on breathing techniques and slower movements to facilitate relaxation and the movement of energy through the body. The relaxation allows the blood and energy to flow more freely in the body. The improvements in circulation lead to better health and greater immunity from disease. Two examples of Qi Gong are our Da Peng Gong and Tai Chi Dao Yin routines.
- Tai Chi:
Tai Chi is form of martial art and operates on the same base principles as Qi Gong. It is a structured form of exercise with a clear lineage of teachers and a strong body of research to support its effects. Historically, and in recent years, Tai Chi has been shown to facilitate a number of positive health changes related to immunity, blood pressure, physical stability, protection from osteoporosis, etc. Tai Chi is an enjoyable and increasingly popular form of exercise.
What resources are available?
There are many resources which discuss lifestyle techniques at varying levels. Our research section includes a comprehensive list of the main texts and websites related to nutrition, qi gong, tai chi, and other techniques. The following introductory books are suitable for people interested in learning more about some of the practices mentioned above: