This will be a full 2-day workshop at Pacific Rim College in Victoria, BC. Should be great fun!
Supporting women’s health has been a key focus of Chinese Medicine for more than a thousand years, and its sophistication in terms of both diagnosis and treatment is difficult to match. In our modern times, gynecology continues to be a medical specialization in which Chinese Medicine practitioners, whether treating with acupuncture or herbs, achieve impressive and far-reaching results. Even recalcitrant chronic conditions like menstrual discomfort or infertility, for which biomedicine often offers few or no affordable, lasting, and safe treatment options, can often be addressed effectively quite simply with Chinese Medicine once the practitioner learns to view the female body through the lens of classical Chinese Medicine.
Was this historical focus on “nurturing yin” due to the recognition that you cannot have healthy men (associated with yang) without a balance of healthy women (associated with yin) in the ancient Chinese philosophy of yin-yang balance? Or because of the seemingly obvious but often forgotten fact that healthy mothers are the foundation for future generations and an essential prerequisite for healthy children? Or out of respect for the fact that “women are ten times more difficult to treat” than men? Or does the language of Chinese Medicine, whether through its emphasis on yin-yang harmony or through its understanding of Blood and Qi, somehow give us a special access to the female body that is simply more effective than other medical paradigms? I cannot tell you the exact reason why gynecology is such a powerful subfield of Chinese Medicine, but I know that it works.
In this two-day workshop, I would love to share with you my understanding of the classical Chinese medical approach to the female body. We will explore how the Chinese medical classics from the Han to the Tang dynasties approached women’s health, including the physical body, the heart/mind, and the spirit, with a short excursion into full-fledged gynecology in the first millennium CE). Over two days, we will consider the following topics:
- The difference between male and female bodies in the early classics (“Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic” Huang Di Nei Jing, “Classic of Difficulties” Nan Jing, and Zhang Zhongjing’s “Essentials from the Golden Cabinet” Jin Gui Yao Lüe);
- Related to this as a side note, the potential of a medicine based on an “androgynous” (ungendered/unsexed) human body along a yin-yang continuum of functional equivalence;
- The influence of early Chinese philosophy and cosmology (yin-yang, microcosm-macrocosm correspondence, Daoism and Confucianism) on gynecology;
- The roots of the so-called “separate prescriptions for women”: key pathologies, risks, and treatments for women, as reflected in early prescription literature;
- Potential connections between women’s health and teachings on yangsheng (“nurturing life” or life-prolonging and preventative medicine);
- Sun Simiao’s view on women’s health in the introduction to his three volumes on gynecology in the “Essential Prescriptions Worth a Thousand in Gold for Emergencies” Bei Ji Qian Jin Yao Fang (7th century);
- “Lunar attunement”: The beauty and power of menstruation as a diagnostic tool and treatment focus;
- “Seeking a child”: Fertility and pregnancy;
- “Sitting out the month”: The results of proper and improper postpartum care, also including recovery from abortion and miscarriage.
Throughout the two days, we will be translating these teachings and insights from the classics into the lived realities of our modern world. As such, we will discuss contemporary care for women both as effective treatments by health-care providers and as teachings of self-care that encourage the women in our lives (family, friends, patients, etc.) to nurture themselves. The only requirement for this course is an open mind and heart that will allow us as a group to jointly explore how to nurture not only female bodies, but ultimately the yin that must be in balance with the yang in all of us.