‘Yangsheng’ is a Chinese phrase made up of the characters ‘Yang’ (meaning to support, raise, nourish or keep), together with ‘Sheng’ (meaning giving birth, life or being alive). Together then, ‘Yangsheng’ means ‘to nourish or care for life’.
Practising Yangsheng means to be mindful or conscious of various aspects of one’s life in order to not just live longer, but to live longer in a better state of good health.
‘Live well, live long: teachings from the Chinese nourishment of life tradition’ is an excellent guide to this. There are many aspects to Yangsheng (the book has nineteen chapters – the final one, naturally enough, being on the topic of death). There are, for example, chapters on ‘Alcohol’, ‘Tea’ and ‘Exercise’. There are two chapters on diet – one on ‘how to eat’ and the other on ‘what to eat’. Chapters are in a logical order, with the chapter on ‘Care of children’ following on from the chapter on ‘Pregnancy and childbirth’, which itself follows on from the chapter on ‘Affairs of the bedroom’.
Although Yangsheng can be applied to all aspects of one’s life, there are four key aspects, which are said to be like the four legs of a chair – in that all must be strong. These four are:
– Mind and emotions.
This idea that these four things are all important, suggests that we should aim to address all of these aspects of our lives – particularly any of the four that we feel we have issues with. Yangsheng also suggests a ‘middle way’ – that having an excellent exercise regime will give us limited benefits if we have a poor diet, and being in good mental and emotional health will be less beneficial if we don’t sleep well and so on. There’s also a middle way, in that we should exercise not too much and not too little, eat enough but not too much, sleep enough but not too much and so on.
Therapy can help to make life more balanced – helping with setting goals, identifying and eliminating obstacles and developing healthier habits and ways of living.