Time keeps on slipping slipping slipping into the future

So sang Steve Miller and we all know how true it is. We look forward to peak events and can’t wait for them to happen – whether that’s our next meal, holiday, party, sexual encounter, sleep, or for me just now, England’s matches at the World Cup – then suddenly they’re gone, almost as though they never happened. Not only does time keep slipping past like this but we often feel that we’ve not been fully awake through the passing hours and days, and we suddenly discover that another week, month, year of our limited allotment has slipped away, almost
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Stress is killing us but we can help ourselves

A shocking report has just revealed that three quarters of Britons have felt so stressed in the past year that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. Even more shockingly, one in three have felt suicidal and one in six have self-harmed. Women (81%) were more affected than men (67%) and young adults were overall the most severely affected. Apart from the direct misery of stress, it can also lead to serious health problems if it’s prolonged – including digestive disease (such as IBS, stomach ulcers), heart disease, insomnia, headaches, depression, weakened immunity, diabetes, infertility, loss of libido and erectile
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Why do we keep the upper back wide in qigong?

I can’t remember where I first heard about the importance of keeping the upper back wide, with the shoulder blades sliding away from each other, in the practice of qigong and the internal martial arts. Like many things, I practised what I was told, and it was only slowly that I began to understand why. A Chinese medicine teacher I once had remarked that the human body has a major design fault: it is both vertical and alive. Being alive, it has yang energy (whose nature is to rise) and being vertical that yang energy can easily rise excessively. Physically
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Preparing for Pregnancy – nutrition and lifestyle of both parents affects child health

It seems a matter of common sense that a mother’s diet and lifestyle during pregnancy will affect the future health of her child. It was certainly an idea embedded in most traditional cultures with all kinds of advice (not always welcome) given on how a woman should behave. For example the 14th century Chinese doctor Zhu Danxi said, “While the child is in the uterus, it shares the same body with its mother. For that reason, the mother should take particular prudence and care about her food and drink as well as her daily life activities.” It’s surprising, then, to
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High fat, low fat, vegetable fat, animal fat?

High fat, low fat, vegetable fat, animal fat … one of the most controversial subjects in nutrition today is which kind – and quantity – of fats to eat. There’s a bit of history behind this. In 1977 Senator George McGovern and his Senate Committee published Dietary Goals for the United States in response to a rise in chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. It recommended “less fat, less cholesterol, less refined and processed sugars, and more complex carbohydrates and fiber.” Immediately powerful lobbies swung into action with the result that the dangers of sugar were demoted, the value
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Tai chi helps with fibromyalgia

There’s a large and growing body of research showing the benefits of tai chi and/or qigong. In most cases it simply backs up the experience of the many practitioners who find it benefits them, improving both general health and specific problems. So we might ask why we should get excited about research at all. Well one of several reasons, and perhaps the most important, is that in Britain at least, research is the main thing that decides whether something is adopted or promoted by the National Health Service. So a new study published in the British Medical Journal showing that
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Appetite and sense of taste

‘When eating, stop when you are seven tenths full’. Chinese saying   One of the constant teachings in the Chinese diet and health tradition is to eat less and it’s clear that for most of us this seems to be true. Over several decades, research has been carried out on a wide variety of lab animals (and some humans) and pretty much without exception it’s been found that reducing overall calorie intake (while maintaining a healthy nutrient balance) results in fewer chronic diseases, better cognitive functioning and longer life. It is important to remember, though, that people who are underweight
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Exercise – what is it good for?

“If people exercise their bodies, the hundred ills cannot arise.” Sun Simiao, 7th century CE   A significant (and very long!) report by the US Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee has just been published. It accumulates all the available evidence on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of exercise. If you’re really keen, you can read the whole thing here, but below is my much shorter precis of the main findings. An even shorter snapshot is that exercise benefits every aspect of human health and quality of life, that any amount of physical activity is better than none, and that the
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Qigong and tai chi research

I must confess I have a weakness for research. Despite its many pitfalls, over time it can help clarify which health practices are helpful and which appear not to have any objective evidence to back them up. It embodies the ideals of science and philosophy – both of which are committed to accurate observation and a willingness to adapt our beliefs in the light of such evidence. This is more and more valuable in a world where people make all kinds of unfounded claims, not least in the field of complementary medicine, diet and lifestyle. Research is also useful in
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Natural movement

Welcome to the first of an occasional qigong blog. I welcome any feedback and discussion. I’ve been thinking and reading about movement quite a bit recently and one thing that keeps cropping up is the idea of natural movement. In the Chinese internal arts (qigong and martial practices such as tai chi, bagua and xingyi) this has many resonances. In these traditions, it is common to practise ‘simple’ core movements over and over again (usually slowly, mindfully and relaxedly and with focused awareness), to create better biomechanical alignments, greater fluidity and power, and whole body integration. These core movements are
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