Traditional Chinese Medicine Course
Written by: James Brown (Bristol, England)
Participants: SCIC TCM & Tai Chi Student
For the past three months I've been studying Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing, through SCIC. It's been an amazing experience and one that I've thoroughly enjoyed.
The course started with a basic introduction to TCM theory and philosophy, much of which comes from texts written in the Yellow Emperor's time. The Chinese believe that a relationship exists between nature and human life, and this relationship must be harmonious in order for health and a good life to flourish. Mind and body should be kept in balance, as should action and inaction, yin and yang and so on. Each person should work on conserving their chi (life energy) in order to live healthily and well.
As well as covering basic TCM philosophy I also had an introduction to diet and herbs (goji berries, for example, now considered a "superfood" in the West, are a basic dietary recommendation in TCM). The course also taught me about the specific nerve meridians in the human body and where they are located - these meridians are commonly found in acupuncture, as well as Tuina massage, and carry chi around the body. A good Chinese doctor can promote health in a patient by manipulating these meridians (by needles or by touch).
Class on Meridians
Doctor Wang with James
General Introduction of TCM
During workshops towards the start of the course I also experienced 'cupping', where round cups made of glass are latched onto the body in order to draw out toxins, and had my energy 'adjusted' by Dr Chen, which involved nothing more than standing in front of him while he held his hand towards the base of my spine. As I couldn't see him it was impossible for me to guess what he was doing, but as I stood there a tremendous feeling of peace and contentment came over me. The feeling lasted for the rest of that day and well into the next.
After the introductory workshops were finished I focussed on Tuina ('push-pull') massage. Tuina is normally used in Chinese hospitals for external problems like damage to the joints or spine, although it can also be used for internal problems such as digestive disorders or sleeplessness (a friend of mine accompanying me to the hospital, having not slept properly for two years, feel asleep during a Tuina head massage administered by Dr Wang). It works by treating the soft tissues and nerves around a damaged area, and while being firm and occasionally painful during the treatment, it provides excellent results.
Having studied Tuina for the last two months I now have a basic understanding of theory and practical techniques to use on several areas of the body, including the neck, back and knees. Each class was taught at the hospital attached to Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, and was on a one-to-one basis (with a great deal of assistance from my friend Chen Lei, who interpreted between Dr Wang and myself).
Each class lasted around two hours and was divided between Tuina theory and explanations of problems associated with each body part, and then practical techniques used on the body. After first running through the theory with Dr Wang I then practiced the techniques on whomever was available (normally Chen, although on occasion I also practiced on other foreigners studying with SCIC).
Having almost completed my course I feel I've had an excellent introduction to both TCM and Tuina, and this will definitely be something I will pick up again in the future. I am very grateful to Dr Chen and Dr Wang, both of whom are exceedingly friendly, kind and knowledgeable (and I am particularly grateful to Dr Wang for his patient instruction). I am also very grateful to SCIC Beijing especially Mr.Chen Lei for providing me with this wonderful experience.