by Roger Jahnke, O.M.D.
Author of The
Healer Within: The Four Essential Self-Care Methods for Creating
A powerful and much needed revolution
is taking place in many areas of our lives. The human race
is facing the difficult consequences of neglecting the laws
of nature. There is no more timely gesture that any person
can make than to immediately and vigilantly take responsibility
for the part of the world that lies within their own command.
Being mindful of balance in our home environments
regarding water, pollution, recycling, fuel resources is necessary
and of great value. At least as important is minding the balance
Taking responsibility for generating and
maintaining peak health is a key element in our necessary
quest to achieve sustainable life on earth.
There is a self-healing impulse which
is part of every person's body, mind and spirit. In most cultures
the traditional healing system is based on enhancing and supporting
this inborn healing energy.
For some reason knowledge of how to enhance
our automatic healing impulse has been lost in the United
States and the Western world until very recently. For several
hundred years we have believed that the disease comes from
outside and attacks the individual who is a helpless victim.
Many disorders including heart disease,
diabetes, stroke and cancer have been found to be largely
preventable. We are now realizing that even though the disease
may come from the outside, as in a virus, the internal healing
mechanism of the immune system is the most important healer.
The best and most profound medicine is
already in us. We must learn and then apply methods to turn
the medicine on and activate its ability to heal us.
Self-health responsibility, more than
any other possible option, is the solution to our healing.
Evidence for the truth of this fact is coming at us from everywhere.
Research has shown that diet, exercise and stress management
are powerful tools for maintaining health.
However, in the Western world we have
little tradition that is well tried in support of self-health
actions. Diets change every day. Aerobics sold a great deal
of equipment but was found to be detrimental to many people.
Now low impact aerobics is the latest approach.
The Qigong of China and the Pranayama
of India are systems of self-applied health enhancement which
are easy to learn and simple to apply. Self-care is one of
the most important features of the Asian traditional systems
These ancient philosophical and medical
theories encourage, and, in fact, demand action and responsibility
on the part of the person who is seeking to maintain or enhance
The self-application of health enhancement
methods is particularly remarkable because of the broad array
of real health benefits that are triggered. These practices
modify and accelerate the body's own self-regulating physiological
and bioenergetic mechanisms.
They have a very practical application
for healing diseases as well as supporting health maintenance,
endurance and longevity. In addition, the very same practices,
refined, deepened, and perfected, link to a whole realm of
more metaphysical practices focused toward spiritual growth.
In the modern Western world, the prevailing
medical system is tragically lacking in strategies that a
person or patient can implement themselves to support their
own healing process.
Aside from being patient and compliant
to the physician's orders there has generally been little
that the patient could do. The self-applied health enhancement
methods (SAHEM), that spring from the Asian traditions, are
tried and true techniques refined over thousands of years
that are ready to be used now.
A rapidly expanding health care revolution
in the areas of patient responsibility and patient action
is necessary immediately to meet the urgent need for solutions
to the crisis in medical costs and the crisis in quality of
These health enhancement practices lend
themselves completely and readily to the critical need for
patient applied self-care which complements any clinical strategy
whether it be as conservative as acupuncture or as radical
In their most complete and comprehensive
form the ancient traditions of self-applied health enhancement
and personal development include:
- breath practice
- gentle movement
- reflex stimulation
- (self-applied massage, stroking, thumping,
- emotional resolution
- attitudinal harmony
- sounding or chanting
The preliminary level of self-applied
health practice, however, requires only:
- Breath Practice
- Gentle Movement
- Self-Applied Massage
These are easy to learn, easy to apply,
require no special knowledge or training and can be practiced
by all people (sick or well) daily with very little impact
on time or energy.
In fact, they actually give the individual,
both time and energy-time, because there is less fatigue and
forgetfulness, and energy, because the function of the organs
and glands is enhanced and regenerated.
Every minute spent applying these methods
is returned to the practitioner in a need for less sleep.
Every unit of energy spent brings forth an internal ability
to generate an even greater amount of energy.
Concentration, focus, intention, meditation,
visualization, affirmation, emotional resolution, attitudinal
harmony and toning are more advanced aspects of the practice
of self-applied health enhancement. These self-applied tools
generally serve to support the practitioner in moving beyond
the first layer of the quest for greater health and comfort.
Beyond the preliminary practices one might
still be seeking improved health, but, in addition, areas
such as self-esteem, personal empowerment and spiritual growth
may also be enhanced. Such advanced methods are very common
in the daily practice of the men and women in the monastic
aspect of many spiritual traditions.
The preliminary methods of Qigong can
be learned and practiced as individual techniques. However,
integrated into a singular practice they become even more
This integration of breathing practice,
relaxation techniques, gentle movement and self massage, saves
on time which is so precious to most people in Western culture.
Traditions of this type of practice from both China and India
have integrated the four preliminary methods for thousands
of years into systems that are highly refined.
The preliminary methods are profound in
effect and yet extremely simple to learn and apply. Especially
in the Chinese arts of Tai Chi and Qigong, the methods are
merged into a singular practice which is sometimes called
moving meditation or meditation in motion.
In China, literally millions of people
practice these methods daily. Children in schools, industrial
workers in factories, elders in the parks and patients in
hospitals all apply the preliminary methods faithfully on
a daily basis.
Each of the following "how to" sections
are offered to give the reader the preliminary methods of
self-care in the simplest of terms. Most reference to Asian
traditions, while wonderful and fascinating, have been removed
as these practices are completely universal in their application.
There are several guidelines which will
help to make these new aspects of your life most effective
while keeping your interest and not taking up too much of
- Do some of these practices every day.
Put them at the core of your life. Consider them as central
in your day as you do rest, bathing and tooth care.
- Keep it simple and fun. Start with
less and allow more to come as it is appropriate. If this
practice becomes a stressful issue in your life, it is more
of a problem than it is a solution.
- Make up your own system. Change the
order. Be the inventor of your practice. All of this was
made up by someone and you are the best person to make it
up for you.
- Seek guidance and support but avoid
highly regimented systems whose masters and teachers infer
that their way is the "only" or "right" way.
- Don't leave the comfort zone. Increase
the intensity of your practice only when it feels easy to
do so. Build and regenerate yourself slowly. Go too far
and you will have created a reason for stopping the practice.
The magnitude of the crisis in modern
medicine demands immediate and broadly pervasive consumer
action to enhance health and curb medical spending. These
simple methods practiced by us all, vigilantly and on a daily
basis, can precipitate an absolutely remarkable revolution
in the history of human health care and medical evolution
It is a bit unusual to us in the western
world to consider the importance of breathing techniques.
After all, we are always breathing, aren't we? It seems a
little silly to put extra attention to something we do naturally.
Notice your own breathing. Isn't each breath actually very
Does your posture or position encourage
or restrict your ability to take full breaths? If you note
carefully you will probably realize that you are utilizing
one quarter or less, of your lung capacity.
The presence of special breathing practices
in the ancient cultures has always been a mystery to people
in the Western world. There are numerous beneficial physiological
mechanisms that are triggered when we turn our attention to
the breath and then increase it's volume.
When volume, rate and attention level
are all altered, dramatic physiological, and even emotional,
changes can occur. As it turns out, unknown to science until
very recently, the action of the lungs, diaphragm and thorax
are a primary pump for the lymph fluid, a lymph heart.
This mechanism may be more important to
the lymph heart than body movements. In addition, the breath
is the source for oxygen which is the key element in the body's
ability to produce energy.
And the act of relaxed, full breathing
moves the function of the autonomic nervous system towards
balance or homeostasis. (Please see the section on physiology
in "The Most Profound Medicine" for a complete revelation
of the mechanisms initiated by Qigong).
From the traditions of the ancients we
know that breathing practices are important. Why would they
continue to employ techniques that were ineffective? Empirical
science, the scientific method of all original cultures, is
based on trial and error.
That which has value is kept and employed.
That which is found to have little or no value is dropped.
In the empirical approach, that which is kept, is "tried and
true". Empirically breath practice is "tried and true".
We also know that these practices are
important through clinical experience. Patients who have learned
and used breath practice as a part of their daily personal
system of self-applied health enhancement respond more quickly
to treatment, no matter what type of physician they are seeing.
Individuals who are well are able to remain
more well, adapt to greater stress and have greater endurance
when they keep breath practice in their daily self-care ritual.
Inspiration is the rush that one feels when over taken by
spiritual energy, it is the force that impels one forward
into life, and it is the divine influence that brings forth
creativity and vitality.
Inspiration is, also, "to breath in ".
The breath is a link to the most profound medicine that we
carry within us. Within this nearly unconscious gesture, a
breath, that we enact 1,261,440,000 (1 and 1/4 billion) times
in our life span there is a simple yet profound healing capability.
Because we are generally addicted to complexity
and busyness, reaching a state of authentic relaxation is
a challenge. Many of us are locked into worry, hurry, overwork
and compulsive behaviors and the mind is very difficult to
The beauty of these progressive relaxation
processes is their simplicity and their ability to allow the
mind to have an easy focus. When the attention wanders off
of the process one need only return to the breath and the
sequence of awareness points.
In contrast to meditation which, in many
traditions, attempts to empty the mind with accompanying images,
any one, including young children, harried executives or older
individuals whose habits are more deeply set.
There are a number of advanced relaxation
and meditation methods which include concentration, focus,
intention and visualization that are used to regulate the
body function , move the Qi or energy to specific areas of
the body and even project the energy outside the body.
These methods accelerate the individual's
health and personal development practice to a greater level
of power and refinement. Two such methods, "the circulation
of the light in the microcosmic orbit to refine the energy
body" and the "marrow washing practice" will be revealed in
the advanced practice section .
Clearly, breath practice and relaxation
practice enhance one another. You are in charge of how to
bring these together. Remember to invent your own practice
and have it be run, even inspiring.
In China, breath, relaxation and movement
are merged together to create Qigong in its many different
forms including Tai Chi. Commit yourself to mastering these
They are, at their least, incredible healing
tools that you can use right away for no cost to help you
to rehabilitate your health and literally regenerate temporarily
deficient and exhausted tissues, glands and organs. At their
greatest, they are the seed skills for enhanced mental and
physical capability and they are the foundation tools for
Full Chest and Abdominal Breathing
This method is simply a deepening of the
breath. Take slow, deep, rhythmic breaths through the nose.
When the diaphragm drops down, the abdomen is expanded allowing
the air to rush into the vacuum created in the lungs.
Then the chest cavity is expanded, allowing
the lungs to fill completely. This is followed by a slow,
even exhalation which empties the lungs completely.
This simple breath practice done slowly
and fully, with intention, concentration and relaxation activates
all of the primary benefits of therapeutic breath practice.
In Qigong and Pranayama the breath is retained for additional
Health maintenance: 6 to 10 repetitions,
2 to 3 sessions per day.
Health enhancement: 6 to 10 repetitions,
4 to 6 sessions per day.
Disease intervention: Start slowly and
build up to 15 to 20 repetitions, in 10 to 15 sessions per
day. Getting started: 2 to 3 repetitions, once or twice per
Remember to keep it easy and fun.
Using your thumb
on your right nostril and your pinky and third finger (the
finger right next to your pinky finger), hold your right nostril
closed and inhale up your left nostril. Pause, and while your
lungs are full of air, switch your fingers so that your left
nostril is closed. Then exhale out your right nostril. Then
inhale up your right nostril, pause, and again while your
lungs are full of air, switch your fingers so that your right
nostril is closed. Exhale. Repeat this process about 12 times.
This breath is often done in preparation for deep relaxation
You will notice
that usually one or the other of the nostrils is more open.
If you breath on a small hand mirror, the patch of mist from
one nostril will be larger than from the other.
The ancient practitioners
of Yoga in India were aware of the significance of this and
employed this knowledge to enhance health and consciousness.
Western science did not notice this phenomena until the 1800's.
It has been found
recently, through the application of current neuroscience,
that the practice of alternate nostril breathing helps to
balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
Health maintenance: 10 to 12 repetitions,
2 to 3 sessions per day.
Health enhancement: 10 to 12 repetitions,
4 to 6 sessions per day.
Disease intervention: Start slowly and
build up to 15 to 20 repetitions, 8 to 10 sessions per day
or up to even 100 repetitions in a single session.
Getting started: 10 to 12 repetitions,
once or twice per day. Notice that this method is very quieting.
Our first act when we emerge from the
womb is to inspire. Our last act is to dis-inspire or expire.
These breaths, first in and finally out, are like parentheses
that encompass our corporal life. It is no surprise that the
breath would be so remarkably linked to the power of healing.
This is another extremely simple method
that initiates the relaxation response. Begin by taking slow
deep breaths. Repeat these messages to yourself.
"My hands and arms are heavy and warm"
"My feet and legs are heavy and warm"
"My abdomen is warm and comfortable" (5
"My breathing is deep and even" (10 times).
"My heartbeat is calm and regular" (10
times). "My forehead is cool" (5 times).
"When I open my eyes, I will remain relaxed
and refreshed" (3 times).
Health maintenance: 2 to 3 sessions per
Health enhancement: 6 to 10 sessions per
Disease intervention: Start slowly and
build up to 10 to 15 sessions per day. Until you are well
you have time to do this.
Getting started: 2 to 3 sessions per day.