Category Archives: mind and body


The earliest that acupuncture can be traced back in human history was approximately 5,000 years ago. In the Ne Jing Su Wen, otherwise known as the Yellow Emperor Classic, it is clearly stated in this ancient text that acupuncture was at that time already considered very old, surely making it one of the great mysteries of the ancient world.

So what do we know about it? Firstly the places on the body that acupuncture needles are traditionally applied have a slightly hollow feeling due to the reduced skin surface tension directly on top of these acupuncture points (tsub’s). These same points also exhibit greater electrical conductivity than the surrounding skin- this is scientifically verifiable and detectable with instruments such as Kirlian cameras and skin galvanometers.

The Yellow Emperor’s  physician Chi Po when asked, explained that acupuncture came from a time when people lived more than a hundred years, lived in accordance with nature and could see acupuncture points with the naked eye. So how did these electrically anomalous skin spots become a therapy? just why would a bunch of early humans go jabbing themselves with sharp things to see what would happen and eventually discover it was good for them?

It is a question we may never know the answer to but  develop it did, into the most frequently used therapy in the world today. It is even recommended by the WHO (World Health Organisation) for dozens of applications and not just as pain relief; bronchitis, constipation, indigestion and nausea are other WHO endorsed uses of acupuncture. Even IVF clinics are now recommending acupuncture as an adjunct therapy for female infertility.

All this from an industry without lots of money to research and advertise, even in it’s native country China, acupuncture was almost completely eradicated in the mid 1950’s by chairman Mao. Mao was then forced to bring it back because nothing worked as well and as cheaply, perhaps the only thing he ever backed down from. I discovered it like a lot of Westerners do- when other things didn’t work.

Most acupuncture points are said to be joined by 14 invisible lines (meridians) that are not so easy to scientifically validate as tsubo’s are. It has been speculated that the meridians are really major veins and arteries which is interesting because students are taught NOT to needle over large blood vessels.

Whatever the case acupuncture has survived and is still quite effectively used today and not just for the physical, acupuncture can help relax people too and calm them down. Doctor Leon Hammer a psychiatrist, uses it with his psychiatric patients and wrote a fascinating book about it called “Dragon Rises Red Bird Flies” Hammer even states in his book that he finds acupuncture quite compatible with psycho therapy.

Many chiropractors and osteopaths use acupuncture too and kinesiology is based on it also and many doctors of medicine use it too. Acupuncture was in a large part first taken to the rest of the world by Jesuit missionaries in China who were so impressed with what they saw they wanted to tell everyone else about it.

If you are a bit scared of needles you can always try shiatsu or acupressure which work the same way but without the needles.


It is hard to find a more common place and popular physical activity as walking. Walking is an aerobic (cardio) exercise, the faster you walk the more rapidly your heart rate increases and the rhythm of walking sustains it.The steeper the walk the more strengthening the effect on your legs, walking is then a cardio and strength exercise (but not stretching this must be done separately).

If you cannot go outside to walk you can do it indoors on a treadmill or step machine. Walking is easier with a straight upright posture, focussing on your breathing as you walk can help  you stand straighter and walk faster.Walking up hills can give you a good cardio and strength workout but walking down hills is much harder on your feet, knees and even your back because of the gravity factor.

An effective walking exercise strategy is to walk faster and harder up hills but take it slow and easy walking down hill to get your breath back. Please try to avoid walking fast or running down hill not only because of how landing jolts your joints and your spine but also because you are less likely to twist an ankle on uneven ground.

When you walk your digestive organs gently rub up against one another, walking can actually assist your digestion because your internal organs massage each other while you are in motion. Walking for many is an active meditation, away from your worries, in the fresh air, looking at and smelling lovely gardens along the way listening to the birds. Experiment a bit with your walking speed to find the best rhythm for yourself.

Walking is often good thinking time and will help you think more positively and creatively because of the endorphins and serotinen released during a good walk.

If you have a dog take him with you, if you feel safer walking with a dog but don’t own one borrow your neighbour’s dog. Community notices in local newspaper classifieds often advertise walking groups if you don’t want to go alone.

Bushwalking has even greater benefits because it helps your balance and sure footedness as well as your cardio fitness. You can distribute leaflets to earn some money as you go or just to inform your neighbours about community events.

Some of the best memories I have of my father was all the bush walks he used to take me and my brothers on, it is a great thing to share with your kids and grand kids. We used to go catching frogs and lizards and when we told our friends they wanted to come too. Bushwalking is like a nature excursion for kids and is a great way to keep them active and away from video screens, it has been statistically proven that kids who are not overweight as teenagers are less likely to become obese as adults.

Tai Chi (Tai Qi)

The roots of tai chi go back thousands of years and it comes in different forms. Like yoga it is just as much a spiritual practice as it is an exercise for many. You don’t need to “believe in it ” for tai chi to work, it’s spiritual benefit comes from the calm enegised feeling it leaves you with when you start to get the hang of it. Tai chi is  an active meditation as well as neuro motor exercise with real physical benefits.

I have been asked by many clients over the years what tai chi actually does when I have recommended it to them. This is a fair question because it doesn’t look like cardio where people are puffing and panting. Tai chi doesn’t look like strength exercise either, where someone is clearly exerting him or herself. Tai chi  stretches limbs but not nearly with as much emphasis as you find in yoga. Tai chi is actually a mixture of all these things, this is what neuro motor exercise is.

I believe that tai chi is not nearly practised as much by non- Asians as it is by Asians because unless it is explained to you that it helps your balance, agility, posture and proprioception you may not realize what the potential benefits actually are. If you practice tai chi regularly it can improve all these things.

Tai chi is harder than it looks, I was surprised how much it made my thighs work (and strengthen) when I first started because you never stand with your legs locked straight in tai chi. All of that slow controlled movement can really improve your balance and coordination by changing the way you move. The wide stances used in tai chi can help elderly people in particular a great deal because it makes you much more sure footed.

Tai chi is closely related to chi gong (qi gong), tai chi’s lesser known cousin. They both encourage strong and stable posture and movement through slowing down the simplest actions. It looks graceful because tai chi and chi gong combines balance with flowing movements.

The older you get the more your slowing reflexes, stiffening muscles and weakening legs need tai chi and chi gong. When you start to find jogging, pumping iron and ball sports too hard to keep doing it is time for you to try something like tai chi, chi gong or yoga.

If you can only make it to class once a week practice at home, there is no reason why you cant, two square metres is all you need and you will find good instruction online to help you. Finding the right teacher is more important than finding the right style, if you do not feel comfortable with your teacher find another one.

If you feel like doing it more than once a day do so, the more often you do it the better you get and the quicker you will benefit from it. Running around the block can help you play sport better but neuro motor exercise (also called functional fitness) is what will help you stay safely living independently as you age.


Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) afflicts approximately 1 in every 100 people, it is 3 times more prevalent in women than it is in men and usually has an onset of symptoms between 40 and 50 years of age though sufferers as young as 15 have been recorded. RA is usually diagnosable through blood tests and like other forms of arthritic disease will not manifest exactly the same in all people who have it.

RA mainly affects the small joints in the body, in our hands, feet and neck but can  affect the larger joints too. RA causes painful swelling in the lining  (synovium) of the joints, often (but not always) producing painful nodules under the skin that can vary in size from a few millimeters to a few centimetres over the bony protruberances of the joints.

RA is an auto immune disease with no definate and definable cause but medical science has establiushed that sufferers tend to have relatives who also suffer from RA. RA is three times more common in smokers, it may be triggered by an immune response to another illness and recent studies suggest that vitamin D deficiency may cause people to be more susceptible to it.

Physical activity is greatly curtailed by a flare up of symptoms which tend to be more intense first thing in the morning for an hour or more. Many sufferers find hot weather particularly distressing and find cooler climates more agreeable. RA increases the risk of cardio vascular disease, anaemia and lung fibrosis.

Part of the difficulty of treating RA is that the drugs used to controll it’s symptoms often have undesirable and confusing side effects. Prednisone for instance can lessen the severity of RA symptoms but prolonged use can cause osteoporosis which can in itself be a consequence of lowered physical activity because exercise is difficult and painful.

In recent times fish oil and krill oil containing omega 3 fatty acids have been found effective in lessening RA symptoms. I have met several people over the years who have claimed that alkaline diets have been helpful in treating their own RA, a therapy that most medical authorities do not recommend whether because they do not think it works or that most people do not have the necessary discipline to strictly follow it.

Gentle massage and joint mobilisation can be helpful in treating the symptoms of RA but. An increasing number of RA sufferers find medical marajuana helpful in making their lives more comfortable which is clearly not a legal option in most countries, for a health practitioner to even suggest it’s use in such places may be a crime in itself.

Meditation can help RA sufferers cope with their disease, it costs nothing and will not make the symptoms worse if it doesn’t work for you.

In more severe cases joint replacement surgery is used when disablement and pain becomes intolerable.


The mere mention of the word makes the eyes of many people glaze over, “it’s boring”, “I don’t have the time for it”, “my knees won’t let me sit in that position” and “I tried it once but I got nothing out of it” are all common gripes about meditation.

For many of us the word conjures up images of people seated in uncomfortable looking positions for hours at a time who might belong to obscure religious sects. Some kinds of meditation can be found in such settings but the fact is that many of us meditate without even realising it. So what is meditation and can it be scientifically defined and verified?

The human brain is an electro-chemical organ and an electroencephalagram (EEG) can measure the electrical activity inside the brain. Beta waves are the waves I am using right now, fully awake and focused on the rational task of writing this blog. In our normal waking and thinking state Beta waves predominate. When we meditate our thoughts turn inward and we disengage with the outside world and other types of brain waves become more active.

When we meditate our breathing and heart rate (pulse) slows, blood pressure falls and the parasympathetic nervous system predominates (the sympathetic is more active when we are not meditating). The brain waves that are most active when we meditate are called Alpha, Gamma, Theta and Delta waves, these waves are also more active when sleep. We experience these waves when we are being creative, are lost in the reverance of nature, reverently enjoy art and music, when we unconsciously run on “auto-pilot” and doing yoga. Swimming and surfing are active forms of meditation too.

Meditation and hypnosis have things in common, they both require a deepened state of relaxation both mental and physical for them to take place. There are different methods of inducing this state, a common one is to deliberately slow your breathing by focusing on it and then relax your muscles one part of your body at a time. You can use props like incense, soothing music and dimming the light, some claim that sitting or lying in a pyramid frame is useful too.

Going to bed of a night time is an easy place to start meditating, lie flat on your back, slow your breathing and fully focus your attention on it and then limb by limb go floppy. If you fall asleep in the process it does not matter because it is bed time anyway, if it worked you will awaken very refreshed and happy. You will usually have good quality sleep if you fall asleep this way.

Meditation calms us down but makes us more alert too, so if you are worried that it will somehow make you “lose your edge” don’t be because it won’t. Finding the time to meditate is like finding the time to exercise, you have to create space in your life for it, you do it BEFORE you do other things not after.