What is nourishment of life 养生 (YangSheng)?

The tradition of YangSheng is made up of two Chinese characters: yang 养 (to nurture or nourish) and sheng 生 (life or vitality). Itn is therefore commonly translated as the art of nourishing life and has a history dating back at least two and a half thousand years.

The aim of yangsheng is not just physical health. It aspires to harmony, the seamless integration of mind and body, physical and mental balance, serenity, detachment from excessive emotions, health and fitness into old age, wisdom and ultimately and egoless identification with the Dao (everything that is).

There are broadly three main ways to cultivate health and longevity:

  • The first is avoiding behaviour that causes harm, for example drinking to excess, smoking, allowing damaging emotions to wreak havoc on our physical and mental health, eating poor quality food and being physically inactive. 
  • The second is behaving in ways which actively promote health and wellbeing. These include trying to tame our more harmful emotions and cultivate positive ones, eating well, taking appropriate exercise, sleeping sufficiently and regularly, and spending more time in nature and with friends and family. 
  • The third goes little beyond this. Within the Chinese and other Asian traditions there are activities which are thought to more deliberately "nourish life", for example meditating, breathing slowly and deeply into the "cinnabar field" (also known as DanTian 丹田), in the lower abdomen area, practicing qigong and the internal arts (e.g taiji, neigong, yoga) and reducing the quantity of food eaten (as a side effect from energy practices which increase metabolic sufficiency and hence, reduce the amount of food needed). 

The following practices make up the Chinese nourishment of life tradition:

1. Cultivating mind and emotions

2. Regulating diet by paying attention to how, when and what we eat.

3. Cultivating the body by balancing the right kind of rest with the right kind of activity and exercise

4. Sleeping well and sufficiently

5. Having a healthy and rewarding sex life

6. Enjoying nature, music, dance and art. Also expressing oneself creatively.

7. Paying special attention to lifestyle during pregnancy and especially after childbirth.

8. Caring for children wisely

9. Managing the agin process as well as possible.

The text above is an excerpt from a book about the YangSheng tradition & practices titles "Live well, live long: Teaching from the Chinese Nourishment of Life Tradition" by Peter Deadman. For those interested in this subject, this book gives a practical and well rounded overview with plenty of practical advice.

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