At last a book on yang sheng!
If you don’t know, yang sheng (literally ‘nourishing life’) is a very important thread throughout Chinese medicine, but sadly not often talked about. It encompasses all the arts, practices and techniques of self-cultivation. Things you can do improve your health and well-being on all levels.
It’s what I’ve based my whole practice on, and it’s informed the way I live my life on a day-to-day basis. This blog is really a yang sheng blog.
So it’s great to see a book on the subject, at last.
Subtitled ‘Teachings from the Chinese Nourishment of Life Tradition and Modern Research’ and written by Peter Deadman, a well established name in Chinese medicine (the co-author of ‘A Manual Of Acupuncture’, the acupuncturists ‘bible’ and editor of the excellent Journal Of Chinese Medicine) – I had high expectations!
A Wide-Ranging View Of Health Practices
At just over 400 pages, this is a thorough and well detailed discussion of the subject, but written for a lay audience. It’s written in a light conversational style, and is easy to read.
After an introduction to the subject and a discussion of how and why we get ill, Deadman dedicates each chapter to one of the main ‘strands’ of yang sheng practice, covering diet, alcohol, tea, exercise (including qi gong) sleep, ‘affairs of the bedroom’, following nature, and music. There are also chapters for nourishing life during pregnancy, old age and for children.
As I’d expect from Peter Deadman, this is a very well researched book. There are quotes from the classic Chinese texst dotted throughout, along with some more contemporary ones, and he backs up many of the ideas with summaries of recent research.
It’s worth noting that this is a book of strategy rather than of tactics – what I mean by that is that it’s a high-level overview rather than a ‘how-to’.
For instance, the qi gong chapter lays out the principles of practice (integration of body, mind and breath; internal and external, hard and soft; free flow; the role of fascia; rootedness and balance; breathing) as well as a summary of the evidence base and a word on spiritual aspects of practice. But there are no specific exercises that you can follow along with.
That’s not a problem for me, it’s not the purpose of the book. There are plenty of other ‘how to’ books around. Instead, this is a book to tie together lots of different strands, so that you can see where the pieces fit together, and maybe serve as a jumping off point into an area that you want to delve into more deeply.
My only criticism is that you can feel a bit of finger wagging from time to time, but I suppose that’s inevitable in a book that aims to describe the ideal way of living life, which let’s face it, we all fall short of! But this is a minor criticism.
Finding ‘Gaps’ In Your Life (And Practice)
I’ve long taught that it’s more important to have a rounded, balanced self-cultivation practice than stick doggedly to one thing whilst neglecting other areas. This might sound obvious, but I meet a lot of people who get caught up in a certain practice but are effectively blind to the gaping holes in other areas of their life. To give an exaggerated example – 3 hours of t’ai chi per day won’t do you any good if you’re living on burgers and chocolate.
Better to do small amounts over a wide area – gently making the small changes across your whole life that will have cumulative big effects (this is the ‘small hinges swing big doors’ approach that I teach in my Conscious Cultivation program)
This book gives the top-level view that helps you to see where you might have gaps.
In summary, an excellent book on the subject which will serve as an introduction to those new to this area, and also a very detailed reference book for those who already have some yang sheng knowledge or experience – recommended.
You can find the ‘Live Well, Live Long’ on Amazon, here: