Haim Behar is a registered Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine practitioner with over twenty years of experience in the field. Haim was drawn to Chinese Medicine early in life through his studies in Tai Chi Chuan and Qi Gong Health exercises. The practices and studies of the physical and health arts of China share so much in common and Haim eventually took an interest in the role of Chinese medical theory and practice in the Martial/physical arts. This led him to pursue a degree in Acupuncture from the Toronto Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which he completed in 1993. As a dedicated practitioner he is constantly attempting to grow in his work through advanced studies and maintaining a healthy balanced lifestyle.
Haim and his family moved to Cobourg in 2007 from the west coast and have felt at home here since.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a literate history spanning more than five thousand years. It is a sophisticated traditional system of medicine that continues to prove its efficacy to the present day. TCM is highly respected and widely practiced around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes TCM, and it is regulated in many provinces and states in North America, including Ontario. Most major hospitals in China practice TCM in combination with Western bio-medicine.
Traditional Chinese Medicine can effectively treat a myriad of health concerns, of both chronic and acute natures, and generally with no negative side effects. TCM’s hallmark, however, is its ability to detect imbalance early and to prevent serious illness, thereby maintaining a relative, dynamic state of health in the entire biological system. It is just this quality of TCM that makes it ideal for people wishing to gain and sustain their health.
There are many modalities within the Traditional Chinese Medicine system and rather sophisticated theory behind the use of these tools. The notes below basically summarize a few central concepts and modalities in TCM that will come together to form a framework to discuss the merits of TCM and delve into greater detail for those wish to.
Basic Theory Of Traditional Chinese Medicine
The main principle of TCM is that the system has a vast network of channels or meridians that connect all parts to one another. Indeed ‘all parts’ refers to the whole of our beings - bones, muscles, sinews, vessels, organs, mind/spirit, cells, etc… These channels/meridians form an all encompassing web that allows vital substances to circulate throughout the system to perform the many functions that allow us to exist. TCM is often referred to as a (w)holistic system of medicine and it is the concept of channels/meridians which best exemplifies this.
Even more fundamental to TCM theory are the actual substances that give existence and function to our beings. The most important of these, and most specific to Chinese thought is Qi (pronounced ‘chee’). Qi can be defined as the vital force or energy that animates all of the functions of any living organism. The concept of Qi is central to TCM theory. Although invisible, Qi can be felt/sensed and when the state of the Qi is balanced, and its flow unhindered, the system will function in a relative state of health. Qi is such an important concept that it is often spoken of in more specific terms. For example, as it pertains to various organs or other anatomical structures (Kidney Qi- the vital energy that pertains to the Kidney) or as it relates to various systemic functions (Protective Qi- the immune system).
There is far more to TCM theory than the concept of meridians and Qi, but these central themes will suffice for the scope of these notes.
The modalities (or so-called Eight Limbs or Pillars) of TCM comprise the various tools and methods that the TCM physician uses to bring about systemic balance and thereby heal illness.
Acupuncture: the subcutaneous insertion of very fine stainless steel needles into pre-determined points on the body surface. Acupuncture can be a very valuable treatment method. Regular acupuncture treatment can strengthen the immune system and insure the free flow of Qi. It is relatively non-invasive and so will not interfere with other treatment protocols.
Herbal Medicine: ingestion or topical application of various natural medicinals, often in a formulated combination. Chinese herbal medicine should not to be mistaken for western herbology- these are two different systems of herbology, albeit with some overlap in certain areas. Chinese herbal medicine is extremely sophisticated and can address a wide scope of internal ailments and symptomology. Traditional Chinese herbal therapy is well known and sought after for its remarkable ability to deal with various pathogenic influences as well as to strengthen the various systems in the body.
Dietary Therapy: additions and/or deletions of certain foods in accordance with their effects on the system. In Chinese medicine herbs are considered a more potent extension of food; therefore it is often said that if a physician cannot achieve the desired clinical effects through proper management of the patient’s diet then she/he should next resort to herbal medicine. Every system of medicine recognizes the importance of proper diet and eating habits. In TCM this sub-field is given major importance since the amount and quality of Qi is derived through diet.
Exercise Therapy: various therapeutic exercises prescribed in accordance with specific patient needs. Often these exercises are modified from Qi Gong systems or Tai Chi, but may also include various other types of physical activity.
Massage: therapeutic massage techniques (often referred to by the Chinese name Tui Na or An Mo). Similar to Acupuncture in its ability to balance the body’s Qi, help eliminate toxins and strengthen the immune system. Self-massage techniques may be taught to the patient as well.
Meditation/Relaxation: consciously achieving a deep state of relaxation through deep breathing and various visualizations. This is extremely important for people living with HIV. Through regular practice of relaxation techniques the immune system is strengthened and the effects on the system of the constant accumulation of ambient stress is lessened.
Life style Considerations
Intentionally arranging one’s personal habits to facilitate positive changes in health. This may mean anything from improving sleep habits to maintaining ideal environmental surroundings to investigating personal outlooks on life. This sub-field considers how and why we do things the way we do in an attempt to illuminate our lifestyles from a TCM theoretical point of view. This is useful from the perspective of maximizing health, minimizing harm and living a harmonious life.
Bedroom Chamber Arts/ Sexual pacing: practicing various tantric sexual techniques and moderating ones sexual energy expenditure to encourage a balanced state of health and vigour.
The modalities that should perhaps be given more weight than they are among the eight pillars of treatment are the so-called three free therapies because these can be done independently for the most part and should ideally become part of a self-care regimen. It is through these daily therapies that the individual can maintain their health and well being and often create such abundance of Righteous Qi and Wei Qi (immune system) that all systems are well fortified and safeguarded from imbalances and pathogenic influences.
Diet is key, for it is from food intake that most of our Qi comes. With diet it is not only good quality (clean, well prepared) food, but the entire mind set around nourishing ourselves with food that needs careful consideration. A TCM doctor often prescribes a diet specific to the patients needs and conditions adding and omitting foods as well as taking note of when and how often meals should be taken.
Life style considerations are many for most people, but of main importance here are mental attitudes. It is of paramount importance that a positive attitude be maintained. Negative attitudes easily sap one’s energy and it is vitally important that the Qi stays strong and freely flowing. Counseling and good support are often valuable in maintaining positive outlooks on life.
Exercise is integral to well being for everyone. The smooth unimpeded flow of Qi in the system contributes to the strength of the Qi and to the system’s ability to manufacture more Qi. When the body moves, Qi and Blood course through the entire system and blockages are removed, insuring that the Qi flows freely. Daily, gentle exercises such as Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Yoga, swimming, stretching, etc… should be supplemented with periodic (say 2-3 times weekly) aerobic exercise that raises the heart rate to twice its resting rate. This regimen should be slowly worked up to with the guidance or consultation of a qualified health professional. Always exercise gently and with respect to personal limitations.
Perhaps the most important of the free therapies is that of deep relaxation. The parameters of deep relaxation should include: consistent, daily practice of no less than twenty minutes; somatic as well as mental relaxation - it is best to lie supine with eyes closed; and concentration on the lower half of the body. The benefits of this type of practice are: more red and white blood cells manufactured, improved circulation of both blood and Qi, normalization of blood pressure, improved appetite, more restful sleep, improved elimination, increased energy levels, and more balanced emotional moods.
The free therapies are available to anyone at anytime. With minimal guidance these therapies can be implemented to increase health and vitality and to prevent imbalances that will lead to more severe illness. It may be important initially to seek the professional guidance of a TCM practitioner to set up a safe and effective approach to these therapies, but essentially these therapies may be independently maintained by the individual with only periodic council.
Traditional Chinese Medicine therapies are relatively non-invasive and therefore may be used adjunctively to compliment any health program, but again it is always wise to check with all of your health care providers prior to undergoing any concurrent therapies.