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TRUE BRAIN FITNESSPreventing Brain Aging through Body Movement
By AIHAN KUHN
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Dr. Aihan Kuhn
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMind, Body, Brain, Healing
What Matters in Our Lives?
For many years, I have been focused on treating disease. I was trained this way. All doctors, Eastern and Western, are trained to treat disease. I always thought that was what medicine was about. Over the past fifteen years, I have shifted from treating only disease, to treating the whole person. This happened partially because I was not happy with the healthcare system here in the United States, particularly because I was not satisfied with doctors who would spend only five to ten minutes with me and then simply give me a prescription without truly understanding what was going on with my health. I expected that doctors would explain to me why I had this problem, how I would be helped, and what I could do to prevent it from recurring. I then started attending conferences, workshops, lectures, and furthering my reading to understand more about the body. Learning on my own, I started to integrate everything had learned, from Eastern to Western, and to use all this information to help my patients. I found that I grew spiritually, intellectually, and practically in my healing ability as all these viewpoints came together. When my patients were seemingly miraculously improved, I was convinced that my strategy and approaches were right.
For the past five years, I have started to focus on some of my own issues, particularly my brain health, in order to get the most benefit and enjoyment in my own life. I need my brain for living, for conducting business, for creating new methods to achieve health and fitness, for teaching, for healing, for helping others, and for fighting my own aging process. It may sound like I'm doing this all for myself, but actually I am merely the subject of my own experimental research. I am doing all this both to heal myself and to find out if my right-brain dominance can really change. After years of practice in tai chi and qigong, other exercises I've created, as well as other methods I've learned, I now realize that my abilities have changed in many ways: I had fear before, but not anymore; I had anger before, and now it's all gone; I had high expectations for myself, as well as for my family; now I only do the work I love and let others be whoever they want to be. I used to be very stubborn, but now I can let things go much more easily. I used to be skeptical, but now I am open to everything. I tended to fight to try to win if I thought I was right about something, but now I'd rather enjoy the peace; it really doesn't matter who is right and who is not (there is no absolute right and wrong anyway). I used to think I knew everything, but now I know I am still learning every day, and I have so much more to learn. All these experiences and benefits are evidence that our minds, bodies, brains, and the ways we heal are interrelated, and all are important.
Many things can cause stress and cause us to age prematurely. Stress is such a hazard to life, health, healing, and learning; it affects our brains and memories too. Stress can come from work, from home, from physical ailments, from diet, from negative thoughts, from politics, from financial burden, from lack of support, from dealing with unprofessional and irresponsible people, from worrying about retirement, from relationships, from fear, from driving and traffic, from children, parents, and spouse, from the news, from bills and taxes, from the environment, from so many things. This causes tension in our bodies and affects energy flow, which then affects our health from head to toe, including everything from poor productivity to memory loss, depression, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Other ailments caused by stress include headaches, insomnia, anxiety, back pain, chest pain, hypertension, poor immune system, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, substance abuse, anger, social withdrawal, and much more.
No matter how many institutes and facilities focus on stress reduction, the amount of stress is no less than before. People who teach stress reduction are no less stressed than the rest. High technology neither relieves our stress, nor reduces the tension in our bodies, but it can make us lazy in a way. We get too much information, too much stimulation, too much negativity that troubles our minds. Our minds are too busy, It's no wonder many people forget things. We become distracted and don't pay attention to our feelings, our bodies, or our health. We become disconnected and don't know how to protect ourselves or our health. We cannot overcome our emotions; we don't know the right foods to eat or how much food we are supposed to put into our stomach; we don't know how to breathe or how to relax; we become depleted. If something is not right in our bodies, we call a doctor ASAP. If the doctors are too busy with the quantity of patients, the quality in the healthcare they provide is doubtless diminished. Perhaps you have heard this saying: If you want to stay healthy, stay away from doctors. This is why.
We are not aware of our own energy. But we do notice other people's energy, others' mistakes, others' failures or successes, others' problems, others' activities, others' lifestyles, and so on. Here is my point, if we don't start paying attention to ourselves, we'll never be able to understand ourselves. We won't be able to solve problems. We won't be able to move forward and we cannot advance ourselves. We cannot heal ourselves if we don't understand ourselves. I remember when I pointed out a mistake someone made in my office, the response was "not me". I would be happy to hear "It wasn't me, but I should pay attention to avoid this in the future". We use a keyboard more often than talking to a live person. We think we don't need to talk to a live person, because our voices can just go through a wire to anyone, anywhere in the world. Many of us are expert at chatting through the computer. When there is a chance of meeting a real person or people, we don't know how to socialize anymore, or we are intimidated to meet people, or we are fearful. Let's face it—we are stuck. Soon we won't know how to calculate any more; we won't need to use our brains much anymore. The bad part is that when dementia hits us, there will be no return.
But there is good news. There has been a great deal of interest in studying the brain as our methods of measurement and our knowledge has increased in recent years. In 1993, journalist Bill Moyers did a program on public television called Healing and the Mind. It had a good influence on Americans. Joan Borysenko's Minding the Body, Mending the Mind also influenced a large number of Americans. There are many other holistic thinking physicians who have become widely popular, including the doctors Christiane Northrup, Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, Wayne W. Dyer, and Dr. Oz. Still, Americans continue to have multiple health problems. Something else needs to be addressed.
There is no doubt that the mind can affect the body and can even heal the body. In my practice, I teach people how to build a strong mind and then use their mind to help with the healing of their body's illness. But interestingly, I have to teach how to use the body to heal the mind as well. In my experience, this technique has proven itself to work much better than the former in some cases. Sometimes the mind cannot heal the body—this can be found in people who are really stuck and cannot change their mindset at all. Sometimes the mind just won't bend or go in the right direction. We have to find another way. And that is to use the body to heal the mind.
The Body Can Heal the Mind
After many years of working with patients, treating patients, teaching patients, and observing patients, I developed my own theory: Body-Brain-Mind-Healing. My idea is to use physical exercises and movement to stimulate the brain and get the brain chemicals activated. By balancing the left and right sides of the brain, upper and lower brain, cross brain, frontal and back brain, through body movements and bringing new information to the brain, we help brain cells communicate with each other. Once the brain is activated and balanced, it guides the mind in the right direction, directing the physical body toward positive behaviors and positive activities. Then the healing begins.
What happens in the complicated human body involves a wholeness that results from many chain reactions. The mind is not the only player. To instigate a chain reaction, something needs to initiate the mind; to get it on the right track, something needs to make the mind work better. The mind can be stuck somewhere in the past, or unable to find a reason for things that happened. Stress can make the mind confused, misled, vulnerable, and debilitated. This is not because our minds are bad or weak, nor because we are stupid. It is because the chemicals in our brains are not balanced; the emotion centers in our brains are not balanced, and so our minds are unbalanced. Fortunately no matter how stuck our minds may be, our bodies can still move. You see everyone walking, getting about, doing things, but you cannot see their underlying health problems. If you can walk and do things, even housework or driving, you can certainly move your body enough to enjoy the variety of exercises proposed here. If you move your body in an energetic way every day, you can change your life and your health.
A patient once asked me, "Why are we here on this planet? What is the purpose of our lives?" If these questions sound a little depressing, try to understand there are things that make us think this way. There were times, when people struggled to survive starvation. Now, some still struggle, not for survival, but to be healthy and to deal effectively with stress. Human beings are born with intelligence, but not with information. Some times too much information can mess up our intelligence. But right information can bring more intelligence. So I told her, "We were born to listen to ourselves: we eat when we are hungry, we sleep when we are tired, we cry when we are uncomfortable, we scream when we are in danger. We lose these basic skills as we grow up, but if we learn to be aware of what is going on with our energy, our body, our mind, our brain, then the next step is to respond, and to restore the balance of our energy, mind, and brain." I almost wanted to reply this way: God made us and God wants us live well.
I have been quite successful in being able to incorporate tai chi, qigong, and other types of body movements into my patient care. Combining and integrating these treatment modalities into a whole package, along with teaching and guiding patients, has brought my healthcare practice to a much higher level. The results: healing, learning, and personal development have changed many Americans' lives. I believe people need this kind integration in our health care system, and it would save a lot of money and make more sense. What really matters in our lives? It's not a big house, not millions dollars in the bank, not the perfect job, not fame. It is your mind, your body, your brain, and your wellbeing. Because when you have these, you have everything. Let's see how much benefit we can get from these ancient Chinese exercises.
Begin Your Journey
In my daily observation of people and after practicing natural healthcare for over twenty-one years, I have noticed one thing that many people cannot overcome, and that is fear. Fear can make you unable to see things in a global or multidimensional way. It prohibits you from moving forward. It prohibits you from seeing the possibilities and discovering your potential. If you open your mind to possibilities, and you are willing to try everything you can, you will find yourself in a different place. From reading books, magazines, and the Internet, you get vast information. But you don't know which information is right. Until you try it yourself, you can't really feel the experience. It may be a bad experience, a good experience, or a so-so experience; maybe it's just a different experience. No matter what experience you have, you learn a lot more than you think.
Healing is the same way; I have had many people tell me that they had a bad experience with their doctor or other medical practitioners. (Though I am sure these medical professionals did the best they can). However, because of their experiences, these people learned how to find answers for themselves, how to take care themselves, and how to search to find their healing paths—what works, what doesn't work. Some people tell me they cannot change the way they live and the way they eat, because this is the way they were brought up. They don't seem to understand that changing is how we develop, how we move forward. Changing expands our knowledge, and allows us to improve. After teaching tai chi and qigong for so many years, I have seen how students changed, including those who said that they could not. This shows that these ancient exercises and physical movements can really change people.
All you need to do is to open your mind to everything, to all that is, and you will open to new possibilities, new opportunities, and a new way of life.
Chapter TwoUnderstanding Tai Chi and Qi Gong
Even though this book is about combating brain aging, I continue talking about Tai Chi and Qi Gong. This is because there are so many benefits for our brain inherent in these exercises.
Tai chi chuan is an ancient Chinese martial arts exercise that has been practiced for centuries. It is known to be a special physical exercise for improving physical health, spiritual health, emotional health, mental health, disease prevention, healing, anti-aging, and self-defense. It is a well-rounded and well-balanced form of exercise. The slow, circular movements require mental concentration and breath control and allow you to move your internal energy, or life force, with your intention. The Chinese word for this life force is qi (chi). Moving qi empowers your body and calms your mind; we call this meditation in motion. It has been proven for centuries that tai chi practice offers great health benefits, including improvement in circulation, metabolism, flexibility, posture, mental concentration, immune function, daily energy level, digestion and absorption, emotional balance, self-awareness, relationships, harmony in your life, and more. From decades of observation and study, it has been shown that tai chi has great benefits to our brains. Tai chi is not just for seniors; it is an exercise for all ages, all races, all religions, all men and women. It is a gift from the Chinese culture, and we can all benefit from it, cherish it, and use it to nourish our energy.
Tai chi helps prevent brain aging. This is why people who practice tai chi over their lifetimes have good overall health. They are multitalented, clear minded, and logical in their thinking and reasoning. They are more creative, have more awareness, and have better skills in dealing with life's challenges.
Qigong (chi gung, Qi Gong, qi gong) is also an ancient Chinese exercise and shares many benefits with tai chi. However, qigong is an easier form of internal energy exercise for health, wellbeing, anti aging, and healing. Qigong is easier to learn and easier to practice than tai chi. The beauty of qigong is that you get results sooner. But both of these exercises are part of anti brain aging practice. For more information about qigong, see my previous book, Natural Healing with Qigong, available online and from any bookstore.
What Is Tai Chi?
Tai in Chinese means "bigger than big." Chi is not actually the correct word. The correct word should be Ji. Ji means extreme. The correct combination for tai chi in Chinese is tai ji chuan. Chuan is "boxing" or "fist," Altogether, it means grand force boxing, and tai chi certainly has its martial aspect. In the United States, most people just say tai chi and skip the chuan. It is easier to say, and most of us use it for health anyway, not for fighting.
Tai chi is an art, a beautiful art of motion. Performing tai chi is like dancing in the clouds. That is why it intrigues people from all over the world. Lovely to watch, it has entertainment value as it is presented internally and externally. This is why you get pleasure from your self as well as from others doing it. I call this kind of pleasure a natural tranquilizer. Unlike other tranquilizers, tai chi is no depressant. Even when things cause people to be depressed, they can quickly use tai chi to activate and redirect the energy, eliminating the depressed mood.
Excerpted from TRUE BRAIN FITNESS by AIHAN KUHN Copyright © 2010 by Dr. Aihan Kuhn. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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