|Just because I’m happy doesn’t mean I should be sitting
Not long ago, I started a series on The Five Taxations–five activities that wear out your system when done in excess. Here is our progress so far:
Our next Taxation is “excessive sitting, which injures flesh.”
Sitting has become the new no-no in our culture. Type “dangers of sitting” in a search engine, and watch the articles pop up. Sitting for long periods is linked with increased likelihood of disability, heart disease, poor posture, and muscle pain and weakness, and, if you are exercising by sitting on a bicycle, sitting is linked to impotence. Chinese medicine doesn’t think much of over-sitting, either.
In Chinese medicine, “flesh” is considered to be the stuff that covers your bones that is meaty. While some in Chinese medicine equate flesh and muscle, others see them as separate. Either way, flesh is primarily governed by the Earth element, which consists of the Spleen and Stomach and the body functions they manage–the breaking down of food, the sense of self and ability to think, remember, and focus appropriately, management of “dampness,” affecting everything from achy pains to edema or bloat, and the creation of energy and phlegm. An injury to the flesh will also compromise these functions by stressing the Earth energy. Sitting injures the flesh by impeding the free flow of blood and qi, both by the pressure of sitting on the meridians and by the lack of movement caused by being still.
The obvious way to avoid excessive sitting is by moving around. Get up from your desk at least every couple of hours (every half hour is better) and walk–to the restroom, breakroom, around the parking lot, to deliver an item to a co-worker–whatever you can do. Standing and treadmill desks are all the rage now, making it possible to work at a computer without sitting at all.
We Chinese medicine practitioners would add the caveat that anything done in less than moderation will have a down side. In fact, the final two taxations are excessive standing and excessive walking. So perhaps in addition to giving yourself the option to work at a computer while standing, consider taking time away from the computer completely. And time away from work. And time away from walking. Take some of your sitting outside, where you can connect to the ground and watch the birds, or clouds, or tiny little ants doing their thing. And then go for walk in fresh air.
Coming soon! Our next taxation: “Excessive standing, which injures bones”
Articles mentioned in this blog:
Not long ago, I started a series on The Five Taxations–five activities that wear out your system when done in excess. Here they are again:
Today’s post is on excessive lying down. I rarely complain about people lying down, because I strongly advocate napping and think most people get too little sleep. But I know people who lie down even when they’re not sleeping–to watch TV, read, or just hang out.
Chinese medicine is a system that emphasizes balance. Our bodies are made for some movement, some rest, some intake of food, some spending of our energy.There are actually dangers to oversleeping, especially since a need to oversleep means you are not getting good quality sleep when you are awake. If you spend all your time lying down, you are not moving. The right level of movement contributes to creating qi in the body, acting like a generator. No movement, and your qi is diminished. You instead build stagnation–the qi you have and your blood become stuck more easily, leading to pain, digestive problems, and emotional distress. Our body fluids move better when we have regular movement–especially lymph fluid, which plays a part in circulation and immune system health.
If you are not prone to movement (pun entirely intended), whether from medical necessity or disinclination to exercise, preventing this taxation is still possible. Move whatever you have to move–feet, arms, head, neck–eyes, even just your rate of breathing if everything else is paralyzed. Don’t move too fast, or for too long at first–qi needs a chance to well up like a spring. Overdoing it early on will exhaust you and make it harder to continue.
Enjoy moving–dance, stretch like a cat. Move slowly and really feel your muscles changing shape. Move quickly and enjoy the slight thrill of an increased heart beat. Move until you are slightly tired, and enjoy better sleep.
You will see some level of improvement–your breathing will be smoother, and if you do not have permanent injuries, you will be able to move farther and easier over time.
Enjoy your body’s ability to move. Don’t allow your body to stagnate from a lack of movement!
Recently, I wrote an article on The Five Taxations. They are five ways we can over-(or under-) exert ourselves and have consequences on specific areas of our health. Today I want to cover the first in my Five Taxations series. The Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine (Huang Di Nei Jing) states: “to observe over a long time harms the blood.”
Almost everything we do in our modern day involves “observing over a long time.” Many of us spend hours at computers, dealing with lighted screens, flashing ads, and that ever-moving cursor. Our modern age, with its televisions, smart phones, artificial lighting, and fast pace give us unique challenges to our vision. I often remind patients that 150 years ago, the only reasons someone would have their eyes darting rapidly from side-to-side would involve danger–someone or something was after you, or you were after it. Today, our eyes constantly track rapidly back and forth–whether we’re watching for traffic while driving or reading an ebook. All that use strains your eyes.
But it does more. In Chinese medicine, eyes relate to the health and function of the Liver. Wearing them out stresses this organ system. Your “Liver energy” also manages your body’s response to stress, it’s ability to do things smoothly and on time (whether that’s getting sleepy at the right time or digesting food without incident), and has a lot to do with pain. The Liver governs the movement of qi. Qi getting stuck causes pain. (See this article for an explanation of stuck qi, and how to fix it) The Liver and Gallbladder meridians, which work together, affect the head, eyes, inside and outside of the legs, and influence the workings of every other system. Keeping them happy is a big deal. Here are a few ways to help your vision, and your Liver and Gall systems working well.
- Give your eyes a regular break. If you read or work out on the computer a lot, take regular breaks–at least every 90 minutes. Whenever possible, find a quiet place and close your eyes. Gently rub around your eyebrows and under your eyes. Give yourself time when you don’t have to “observe frequently.” Allow your eyes to unfocus and take a few moments off in a quiet place a few times a day.
- Get enough rest. Lack of sleep is so common as to be endemic in modern society. Now we know what Chinese medicine has known all along–sleep is absolutely necessary to process stress. One of your Liver-Gall Bladder’s jobs is to file away the stress of the day while you dream–and it is at its most active between 11pm and 3am. Many creative people use these hours because they have a burst of energy. But they sacrifice their “unconscious sorting” time when they do so. Get the rest you need, and especially get your rest during these hours–you’ll find you have more creativity during the day if you allow it to build and do its job at night.
- Eat Liver-and-Eye healthy foods. Foods with a slightly sour taste, like berries, vinegar, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, citrus foods and green vegetables, are good for “soothing Liver.” Not surprisingly, a lot of foods currently considered good for eye health are in these categories. Goji berries and chrysanthemum tea (made from the flowers of the
Chrysanthemum morifolium or Chrysanthemum indicum plants) are used in Chinese herbal remedies to strengthen Liver blood and especially to strengthen the eyes. Most Asian markets will have instant beverages called “Chrysanthemum Tea,” which may be heavily sweetened but can be used to help your Liver qi. You can also buy an unsweetened version online (see bottom of page for an affiliate link).
- Deal with stress. Stress, especially emotional stress, is one of the major obstacles to Liver and Gall Bladder meridian functioning. Dealing with stress as it occurs will allow this organ system to keep up with its job of making thing happen at the right time in your system, and will allow it to properly nourish your eyes.
Our modern world is especially hard on Liver energy, and especially hard on eyes. Take steps to prevent wearing out the windows to your soul. You’ll be more creative, less stressed, and better able to build the life you want.
Huang Di Nei Jing quote taken from Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen: An Annotated Translation of Huang Di’s Inner Classic – Basic Questions: 2 volumes
|Photo from stock.xchng
One of the reasons I love Chinese medicine is its attention to moderation, or what I call Goldilocks Medicine: nothing should be too much or too little, everything should be “just right.” One example of this philosophy is the idea of the Five Taxations.
The Five Taxations have nothing to do with the IRS. Rather, they include various ways you can be out of balance by your activities. Too much activity, whether mental or physical, will wear your mind and body out in specific ways. Too little activity, or too much staying still in one position, will harm you as well.
Like food, where the more variety you have of wholesome, natural food, the better your health, your activity level should include time for vigorous movement, deep thinking, rest, and gentle work. If you spend all your time on one activity, whether it’s watching TV or doing yoga, your systems will become unbalanced.
Here they are:
- Excessive use of the eyes, which damages blood.
- Excessive lying down, which damages qi;
- Excessive sitting, which injures flesh;
- Excessive standing, which injures bones;
- Excessive walking, which injures sinews.
I’ll be covering one of these taxations with a blog entry for a few weeks. If you have any questions about a specific taxation, please feel free to comment or contact me.