There's no health or beauty in the anti-aging game
Our culture seeks beauty by battling age. Chinese medicine knows a much better way...
by SANDRA LANSHIN CHIU, LAc
I recently heard about a beauty trend that has been around for a little while called preventative botox. Apparently, it is directed at twenty-somethings and encourages use of botox to prevent wrinkles before they begin. So....basically, worry about something before it actually exists.
To me, this sounds more like anxiety than beauty. And in all honesty, much of the conventional beauty world feels like that for me. Which is ironic, and kind of antithesis to what generates that magnetic force type of beauty in reality. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for a different message and I'm going to give you one.
ENTER CHINESE MEDICINE...
I'm a Chinese medicine practitioner, so I work with a very different set of principles when it comes to healing the body, and skin. These principles follow the laws of Nature and hold a truth that I believe will help our culture today navigate our way out of the unnecessary burdens we hold onto and struggle with - like the pressure to fight aging; Anti-Aging - a bajillion dollar industry.
Have you ever noticed that many of these popular anti-aging beauty "solutions" work against your body's normal functioning? For instance, botox effectively paralyzes your muscle function, thereby "relaxing" it to stop wrinkle formation. But, what does paralyzing muscle do to the circulatory strength and the energetic integrity of tissue? Do we even know?
The Chinese medicine way of working with skin and body is always about supporting and elevating their healthy function. What's so great about things like facial gua sha and acupuncture is that they relax muscle too (and very effectively) - but by bringing more blood and energy flow (aka life force) to areas of concern. Tense tissue needs to be released and then nourished, not paralyzed. Circulation should be invigorated not deadened. This is the way of Chinese beauty and health, we pump your health to plump your beauty.
Chinese medicine is rooted in Taoist traditions which is more obsessed with cultivating health and longevity through all stages of life, as opposed to battling age for the appearance of youth. The goal is fullness and abundance of energetic life forces in the body, because that's what keeps you strong and able, supple and juicy. It's what gives you that exquisite sense of being fully alive - which is far more an attractive force than the surface appearance of beauty.
Beauty is not age dependent, nor something you have to buy. Beauty is more self-care dependent, and rooted in how well you cultivate what you were born with: vitality. The better you take care of your body's needs (sleep, good nutrition, movement, etc) and hold space for your emotional needs (time for pleasure and relaxation, quiet moments to process life), the fuller your vitality and the better energy forces flow through you.
TIME FOR A REFRAME
The story of "aging" in our culture is the story of inevitable decrepitude: sagging skin, loss of collagen, weight gain, bad backs and stiff joints. But these things in my opinion are more about what happens when we let tension and strain accumulate over the years, without intervening with good self-care.
Accumulated tension is like baked on caked on grease in a neglected oven. Over the years, it hardens and stiffens our tissues if we don't provide sufficient movement, right nutrition and emotional ease. It's what "ages" us. When I needle into stiff tissues, it kind of feels like needling into beef jerky - the tissue feels dry, hard. As I "chisel" away at the tension, the tissue releases and I can feel the fluids return - which immediately plumps the skin with the rosy glow of aliveness. It looks younger, but it's more that the tissue has returned to a normal state of circulation and suppleness.
Look, you can be 30 and feel 80, or be 80 and feel eternal. This is why I don't buy into our culture's story of aging (inevitable decreptitude), and why I don't play the anti-aging game. What we think of as youthfulness is really just the level of health you're able to cultivate and support in yourself. So I play the pro-health game, which is about bringing vitality, healthy circulation, and strong organ function back into play. I have with my own hands felt the return of life force (blood, qi, vital fluids) into my patients' tissues. And with my own eyes I have seen the way that brings color and life back to skin, and more strikingly - the way it brings out a person's relaxed smile and easy laughter. That is what I think is the most beautiful.
So if you're into what I'm saying, how about we make a pact? From now on let's be pro-health, pro-Qi, pro-aliveness, pro-life force. I will help you use the wisdom of Chinese medicine to guide you on this new path. And I promise you, when we do that, beauty will simply be an inevitable and natural consequence. Who's with me?
[photo: Debora Francis Photography]