Strengthening body, mind, soul and spirit for a meaningful life”

Yangsheng can be for many people an unknown term but the fact is that is a very old word full of meaning. Yangsheng dates back to ancient times; it can be traced back to to Zhuangzi, Yangzhu and the early Taoists, as far as the fourth century B.C. Thinkers and philosophers like Confucious, Mencius and Xun Zi spoke about the importance of self-cultivation to preserve vitality and intelligence.

Already centuries ago “Huangdi Neijing” -one of the oldest Chinese medical cannons- collected many of the ideas about Yangseng, which represents one of its main themes. It strengthens in one’s vital energy (Qi) with breathing techniques, which were developed during the “Spring and Autumn’” and “Warring states” periods (VI-II A.C).

Later on, but still between IV and I century B.C, it was said that spirit enlightenment can be achieved through the harmony of three elements: vital energy, soul and soul’s highest state (“Guanzi”).

Traditional Chinese Medicine development in the II century A.D enlarged Yangsheng’s concept with new techniques and health disciplines.

But, what do we understand by Yangsheng?

To find out how Yangsheng could be defined has been one of the bases within the framework of our European project Erasmus+ “Learning methods in TCM and Yangseng: Towards Excellence in Adult Education”.

As a result of our research and in the light of Yangsheng thought, health literacy learning outcomes would be defined as “knowledge, awareness and skills aimed at understanding health issues, empowering self-protection and enhancing personal self-development towards a meaningful and self-sufficient existence, benefiting oneself and the people around in an emphatic, eco-friendly and sustainable modality”.

The term “Yangsheng” comes from two words: “Yang” which meaning is “cultivating/nourishing/nurturing” and “Sheng” that is to say “life”.

Based on that, Yangsheng, one of the most important concepts in MTC, looks for promoting health by nurturing and enriching life; it seeks to achieve a state of well-being, living in harmony with universal laws and rhythms of nature. Still a step further, Yangsheng is a practice for health prevention as well.

According to the above definition, Yangsheng, a doctrine strongly related to different forms of Taoist thought, covers all practices aimed to strengthen body, mind, soul and spirit. Those include, for instance, Meditation, Qigong, Mindfulness, Tui Na, Breathing Techniques, Dietary habits…, called to be in constant adaptation to times, circumstances, personal growing process and own environment.

Since long time ago Yangsheng has advocated the actual definition of health by the WHO: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being“.

The preventive medicine has a very long history in China, it is said that up to Han Dynasty, doctors were paid as long as their patient remained healthy. Even if this assumption might belong more to legend than to history, it reflects what crucial role prevention has in Chinese medical thought.

But Yangsheng is not intended ‘merely‘ to have a long healthy life; it explicitly aims at making it meaningful. Nourishing life includes preserving health but markedly also means nourishing the reasons why you want to keep alive.

It is imperative to understand the energy flow and how one’s own body works for keeping a long and healthy life. Yangsheng is the tool for this target: embodying a life style for everybody at any time.

Improving our own lives will irretrievably improve the health of the society we are living in.

Where there’s stillness and meditation there’s no room either for worries or for uneasiness” (St. Francis of Assisi).