Health & Well Being
Chinese Medicine and Fitness
Andy has a genuine passion for making a positive impact in the fitness industry through learning and sharing different unique methodologies. He currently teaches education courses on behalf of companies such as the National Academy of Sports Medicine, TRX, Trigger Point Performance, and Power Plate. He has made guest appearances on Hong Kong television shows, as well as presenting at different public fitness events.
Drawing on his master’s degree in exercise science and influenced by his 10-year stay in the United States, Andy has a unique outlook on health and athletic performance. You’ll find hints of traditional Chinese medicine integrated into his training philosophy, where harmony between all aspects of life is a prerequisite to optimal health and human performance.
Andy is the co-author of his book Dynamic Balance: Integrating Principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine into Strength and Conditioning.
For the first 5 people who listen to the show and rate the show, take a screen shot and send to my email address, you will receive a hard copy of my book "Dynamic Balance: Integrating Principle of Traditional Chinese Medicine into Strength and Conditioning.
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[00:03] Intro: Welcome to the Heart Soul Wisdom Podcast, a journey of self discovery and transformation. Moira Sutton and her amazing guests share real life stories, tools, and strategies to inspire and empower you to to create and live your best life. Come along on the journey and finally blast through any fears, obstacles, and challenges that have held you back in the past so you can live your life with the joy, passion, and happiness that you desire. Now, here's your host. Create the life you love. Empowerment life coach Moira Sutton.
[00:58] Moira: Welcome to season three, episode 66, Chinese Medicine and Fitness, with our very special guest author and expert in performance training, Andy Chan. Andy has a genuine passion for making a positive impact in the fitness industry through learning and sharing different unique methodologies. He currently teaches education courses on behalf of companies such as the National Academy of Sports Medicine, TRX Trigger Point Performance and Power Plate. He has made guest appearances on Hong Kong television shows as well as presenting at different public fitness events. Drawing on his Master's degree in Exercise science, and influenced by his ten year stay in the United States, Andy has a unique outlook on health and athletic performance. You'll find hints of traditional Chinese medicine integrated into its training philosophy, where harmony between all aspects of life is a prerequisite to optimal health and human performance. Andy is the coauthor of his book, dynamic Integrating Principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine into Strength and Conditioning. So, without further ado, it's been a while for Andy and I to get together. I would really like to introduce you to Andy Chen. Welcome, Andy.
[02:16] Andy: Thanks for having me.
[02:17] Moira: Yes, it's been a while for us to put this together with China and Canada, right?
[02:23] Andy: Yeah, exactly. But, hey, at the same time, sometimes I sit back and I just think, wow, we're literally halfway around the globe, and yet technology can allow us to have this conversation. So with all the backlash with technology, we can still put it to good use if we want to.
[02:41] Moira: It's true. My husband's father, who passed last year at 104, his brother's children, they got to see him for his party through Zoom, and they're in Paris, and they're in China. One of the children in Ottawa and Montreal, so they all got on Zoom to say hi to their grandfather. So you're correct with that.
[03:04] Andy: Yeah. And guess what? All the listeners, they now get to listen to someone all the way from Hong Kong sharing about what I have in mind. So it's amazing.
[03:14] Moira: I think it's wonderful. Okay, so, Andy, let's start at the beginning with your own personal story on how you got into this study of Chinese medicine. And for yourself and for better performance for yourself, tell us a little bit about that story so people can have a foundation.
[03:30] Andy: Sure. Well, my daytime job, my real job, is I am a strength and conditioning coach or a fitness personal trainer. And a few years ago, I was back in school for my Masters in exercise science because I wanted to take my career to the next level. And I realized that in order for that to happen, I have to go back to get an academic degree just to build some credibility and to get into the research. And as part of the degree, there was a course where we learned to interpret research, because, as we know, there are a lot of flaws within research, right? And it all comes down to statistics. So we don't learn to interpret the way that the studies were done. We're not going to have an idea on the accuracy of the research or the credibility. And so as part of that course, we get to do an assignment where we get to look into the research on any topic that we want, because the exercise was just there to help us get familiar with looking into the database and different journals. And my topic at the time, because of Michael Phelps and the Olympics, and at the time, people were seen with these purple dots or Michael Phelps was seen with purple dots on his back, and the fitness community went crazy. What was this? And so that was my assignment, my project. I wanted to look into the research, to look at cupping, and I wanted to look into the efficacy. So in other words, does it actually work? Because as someone who has grown up in Hong Kong and who spent ten years in the States, I'll say I have a pretty good mix of Chinese culture and American culture. Yeah, I don't really fully understand the problem or fully understand the modality, so I figured I'll go in to the research. But at the same time, that's kind of a light bulb moment, right? Because I realized as I was digging into the research that there were kind of two angles on this topic. The first angle is the Western Human movement science, which I was in school for. And if we look into studies in that area, the studies would focus a lot on the effects of these modalities on the soft tissue, so on, physically speaking, what is happening to my soft tissues, what is happening to my muscles whenever I apply these modalities on my body. Now, the second perspective was from the Chinese medicine perspective, which was, for lack of better word, weird, because I found myself reading up on stuff that was explained using a subset of languages that I didn't understand, like chi, blood, ying yang, five elements. You know, I grew up in Hong Kong. I didn't understand, and I had a light bulb moment because I realized that if I feel like I don't understand this language, then there has to be many people that understand it. So that's kind of when I started looking into Chinese medicine. And then ever since then, I wanted to share the philosophy with the fitness community so that we can bridge the gap between these two philosophies. Because after all, they're quite different, right?
[06:29] Moira: So you've mentioned some terms in there I'm sure a lot of people don't know it, such as cupping. So let's touch on the base what is cupping? And you hear at the odd time in the news some major names that have been in politics that do that. So let's talk about that. And then I want you to explain cheap for people that don't know what that means.
[06:51] Andy: Yeah, I love to. Well, first of all, cupping. There are a few common modalities that are used within trans medicine. You've got cupping, you've got acupuncture, you've got washi. I'll explain all three simply. So cupping is it can be done with silicone cups, it can be done with glass. But essentially you're trying to create a suction effect from the cups. So once you have that, you place that onto the body and it literally sucks the skin up. And the whole idea of this modality is that from the Western human movement science perspective, we are trying to relax the soft tissue by disruption effects. And from the transmission perspective, we're trying to improve circulation. Now, on the idea of circulation, and of course, they will always say that by this section, we also remove toxins from the body. But with this thought, we have to move into the basic Chinese medicine terminology such as qi that you just mentioned. So I think the biggest misconception that people have with chi, the biggest misunderstanding, is that they lack to understand. Every single term in Chinese medicine has two meanings attached to it. One is the functional meaning, and then second is more of a conceptual philosophical meaning. So if we look at the word chi functionally, it means energy. Now, that part we have no problem understanding because it just means something that keeps us going for the day. Yet conceptually or philosophically.
[08:30] Moira: Sorry, I just coughed. I apologize.
[08:33] Andy: No worries. Conceptually, it is also a concept because it is an energy that sustains life. And usually it is the conceptual part that people get confused because whenever you go to a Chinese medicine practitioner, you ask, what is cheap? And then they'll tell you it's energy. And then you might ask them, well, show me that energy. Because if you think about Western science, you can always have terms that you could kind of know, right? You've got ATP, you've got blood sugar. It's something tangible. But in Chinese medicine, qi has both a functional meaning and a conceptual meaning. So when we apply this understanding to the modalities, whenever they say improve Qi, essentially they're saying improving circulation.
[09:21] Moira: I never really thought about it. From circulation standpoint, I'm a Reiki master and a current a Reiki master. So Reiki, how we used to say that versus key here is chi pronounced. But from a standpoint of circulation and toxins, there's a lot of people who have problems in that area?
[09:40] Andy: I think so. And that could be a result of many different things. Right? And the whole whole point with trans medicine is that it's a preventative lifestyle medicine. And what it actually does is look into your lifestyle and figure out, okay, so there are different facets within your lifestyle. And as well, you have different seasons, you're in different geographic location, you have different diet. So what is the thing that is upsetting the system? And I think that's kind of the whole part that's really fascinating to me. Because at the end of the day, in that days we hear so much that there's no one size fits all solution to everything. And essentially that's what Chinese medicine is. But at the same time, because it's got so many solutions, people have trouble grasping because in the west we kind of have this binary culture. It's black and white. Just tell me what it is. But as you know, the body is never as simple as a black and white answer. Right.
[10:38] Moira: So where does an individual begin to create their own dynamic balance? Like what does that look like? What does that feel like? What are the first steps to the basics of the conditioning and goals for them? How do you work with somebody? Let's hear an example.
[10:53] Andy: Yes, an example would be, let's say today I have a new client, you come into a session with me. Most often times people expect a fitness instructor just to work on their fitness. Right? That's kind of how we're brought up in the west. We go to nutritionist or dietician for dietary advice, we go to a personal trainer for fitness, and then we go to a sports medicine professional for whatever treatment we have. Well, that's great because we should go to experts for different areas. The problem is most people have trouble just understanding the basic connection between different areas. So what I do is I give people principles. I tell them that, well, when you come into the gym, it's only 1 hour of your day, you still have 23 hours to go. So what are you doing with those 23 hours? When it comes to diary balance, I believe that we have to take three things into consideration our diet and then the way we manage our emotions. And then lastly, our movement, because those three are interconnected and they're inseparably linked. And so if we neglect one area, then it's going to have a knock on effect on the three.
[12:02] Moira: When you think about emotions, how do our emotions affect? Let's dive into now the yin and the yang and let's talk about some of the parts of the organs that are governed by our emotions, like anxiety, depression, stress, a biggie.
[12:19] Andy: Yeah, so this is the area that people are usually not aware, right? That the connection between just now I said the connection between a diet are emotions and a movement. So a lot of times people will be like, wait, there's a connection between emotions and movement. Can you elaborate on that? The example I'll tell them is, well, here in Hong Kong, I work with predominantly finance people. And what that means is they're usually under chronic stress. And what you'll find is a lot of times when they come in for the first session, they'll say, oh, I'm a stiff person and it doesn't matter what I do, I'm still stiff. And so right off the bat, the first thing I tell them is, well, you have to understand that stiffness is a response of stress. Because whenever you stress, the fight or flight system is activated whenever there's a perceived threat and as a result, your body will be rigid time after time. When that happens, then it doesn't really matter what you do inside the gym, all the stretches you do, it's irrelevant. Because if you don't get to the resource of the problem, which is the fact that you up regulated and you stress all the time, then what you do inside the gym will be wasted. And so the first thing we have to get them to understand is that there is a connection between our emotions, meaning whether we're stressed or we're too relaxed, hence the yin sign and the connection with that and our movement.
[13:56] Moira: It's interesting what you said, or too relaxed. What do you mean by that? Wouldn't be a relaxed safe be a really a good thing?
[14:03] Andy: Yeah. So if we think about the yin yang sign, right, the classic yang sign, there's a black and then there's a white part. And when you look at the white part, there's a little black dot. And when you look at the black part, there's a little white dot. And the reason why that is because the Chinese believe that there's no absolute basically everything is quite relative. So we look at emotions. For example, a lot of people would look at happy or joyfulness as a good thing. It is, right? Because we're happy. It's a yang thing. It brings a lot of laughter to us. And most people, as I said, associate that with a happy. Emotion is a beneficial thing. Yet when we think about this emotion, sometimes if we're overly happy, it can lead to us making terrible decisions. And there's been ted talks on this topic and the fact that we just value happiness so much, yet if we have too much of it, sometimes it makes us irrational. Because sometimes we do need a bit of stress to get us going and to help us think clearly. And it's the same thing with stress, right? A little bit of stress can help us a long way. Right. Think about if there's a deadline approaching, we are more likely to actually work harder because there's a perceived threat for us to finish something. Yet if we're under chronic stress or if we're too stressed out, we'll never be able to do anything because that will over consume us. And so for that reason, whenever we look at the yin yang sign, we always say that there's no such thing as good forever, because too much of a good thing can actually be bad for you.
[15:48] Moira: I find that very interesting. Is that kind of like a good stress, bad stress, I think people talk about.
[15:54] Andy: Yes. And the right amount. Right. So in Dari Balance, a book that I co author, we stress the point that emotions, it's all about management in Chinese medicine, because a human body is quite strong and tough and robust in that we can face we're meant to experience different types of emotions, right. And the problem is, in the current lifestyle, we just have too much of a particular type of emotion. What we ought to do is actually learn to manage and learn to accept the fact that we're a bit stressed. And perhaps what we should work on is managing that stress instead of saying, oh, I shouldn't have any stress because it's going to be bad for me, and this will be how we kind of put the yin and sign and the chi and how the emotions and your body is linked together. And that's kind of how we apply to our lifestyle.
[16:52] Moira: It's interesting when you're sharing that knowledge. We have a five month old kitten that we got about a month ago, and when that cat is really, really happy, sometimes he goes a bit nuts after that. And we're like, Why is he going nuts? He brushed him, we petted him, he got fed, but he had a lot of happiness and then he went over the top.
[17:18] Andy: Yeah, exactly. And also another example that I use is posture, right. Obviously, as a fitness instructor, we talk about posture a lot. Most people have a basic idea of good posture. It's like a soldier. You have your shoulder blades back, you stand really tall, you brace your core, you brace your hips, and you stand there. And yet you can ask anyone who has stayed there for five minutes in quote unquote, good posture, they're going to feel stiff because we're not meant to be in that good posture for a long time. And what we're born to do is actually be in different posture. And it's just a problem right now is we're in the sitting posture for an extended period of time. And so here's where the yang sign is also at play when it comes to posture.
[18:05] Moira: When you think about it today, how many people are sitting at computers, like nonstop, where they're sitting on a chair with computers? There are offices now, or people at home that can have a stand up computer desk, but that's sitting all the time must be doing a lot of damage to a lot of people.
[18:23] Andy: Yeah, well, sitting all the time, definitely. And the other thing that people overlook is the connection between sitting and your mental wellbeing, so you think about it. I assume most of us who are listening right now is sitting. Most of us are sitting. And whenever we sit so let's say you're sitting down right now. Let's all try and exercise. Let's all try to take some deep breaths. Okay, so what are you going to try to do now? You can try to breathe in through your nose and you're going to try to take as deep of a breath as you can that's right now. So that's the first part. And the second, I want you to sit upright. So if you look at your hips, let's try to sit closer to the edge. If you're able to if you're driving, then don't, don't try this right now, obviously, but sit close to the edge so that you have more of a neutral hips, neutral pelvis, and then you'll be more upright with the upper body. And then you just open up your chest a little bit. Now try to take a deep breath for your nose. So what was the difference, do you think?
[19:32] Moira: I felt more expansion when I sat closer to the edge of the chair?
[19:38] Andy: Yeah, you're absolutely right. And whenever we're saying in hunch posture, we're not able to take a full deep breath and as a result, we go into chest breathing. And I'm sure most of us are familiar with, or if we're not familiar with the effects of chest breathing, essentially it is a way to upreculate because it is a type of stress response. So if you look at any kids who are crying, their chest will be expanding and contracting because whenever we're stressed, we do shallow chest breathing. And so what sitting does to us is that we are up regulating the system without us knowing it because it doesn't allow us to actually relax. And I think that's a bigger problem because we go into this vicious loop. Okay, computer in front of us, we're on social media. We're working hard, so it's stimulating our brain. And then we're in a hunched posture, so we cannot take a deep breath, which means we're going to chest breathing, which means we can upregulate. You see where I'm going with this? So we're going to cycle where upregulate, upregulate. And whenever there's a moment when we start those off, oh, no, I need some caffeine or I need some social media just to wake me up. In the long run, it's just quite bad for the mental health. As a result, it's also quite bad for our bodies because we're going to become tight and rigid.
[21:06] Moira: So this is the movement-based training approach that you integrate into your work to do things like this, the breathing. And then I think in your book you have images of like, the bear and I think the stork or different postures that we can do. Tell us a little bit about that.
[21:23] Andy: Yeah, so my own training philosophy. I focus a lot on movement. And what that essentially means is if you think about traditional ways of training, a lot of people will focus on different isolated body parts. They might train their chest one day. They might train their back one day. They might train their ABS one day. Right. But the way that I look at movement is, again, if we just have the visual image of an NBA player, LeBron James, for example, when he goes dunking the basketball or when Steph Career shoots the basketball, do you think he thinks about which muscle parts he's using? No, not really. Right? No, no, for sure not. When he shoots the ball, he doesn't think about first using his legs and then using his core to transfer force and using his arms. Yet that's exactly what we're doing at the gym. Right. Most people want to be a better basketball player, so they go, they work on their legs, they work on their triceps. But the best athletes are the ones who can move with ease, right? Who can produce fluid movement. If you have been to an NBA game or any elite athletic game, you realize that, wow, they're so strong, yet they move with ease. And I just want to take that concept into the gym. So instead of doing lower body, I'll do lower body movements where we do squats, lunges. Because my whole thing is when we do the movement right, then when you use the right muscles, just like shooting a basketball, right. When things are not in sync, you'll find people having trouble shooting a three pointer. I'm sure most of us have tried shooting a basketball, and we will have to go to shooting a really long jump shot. Yet if you look at those NBA players, it looks like they're barely even trying from half court. And that's because they have got the force production. Right. And that's why I work have my athletes work inside the gym.
[23:15] Moira: Yes. So we're talking about diet, emotions and movement. And you talk a lot in the book about harmony in that it's more fitting than balance. What do you mean by that? What's the difference between harmony and balance? And can you again expand on that for us?
[23:33] Andy: Yeah. So when it comes to diet, the transmission scholars or the practitioners, they believe that we should eat according to number one, where we're at number two, the current season, the current climate. And then internally, we also have to eat according to who we are because we're prone to have different types of imbalances due to just kind of our genetics or the environment that we're in. And whenever we open a book on nutrition or whenever we look to advice on diets, most people will always say, oh, this is the perfect ratio. This is how you ought to eat, and this is what you should eat. But the reason why we use the word harmony is because if you think about and also, let me say, like in just classic nutrition books, sometimes the devices, oh, you should eat a balanced amount of everything. You should just eat a fixed amount of everything. But that's not necessarily true because the reason why we use the word harmony is if you think of an orchestra, when they want to play a beautiful song, they don't have three pianos and three violence. They have one piano and they might have ten violence because that's what makes the music pleasing to the ear. And it's the same way with food, right. Depending on our current body constitution, our current body state and the current environment, our diet might look very different. Another example that I want to give is I'm currently in Hong Kong, and three years ago, my wife and I went to Copenhagen, Norway, copenhagen, Denmark, for a honeymoon. And whenever we got there, the diet will be quite different because it's so cold there than what we eat here in Hong Kong. Right? And that's the word harmony at play, because we shouldn't eat the same foods because geographically we will have access to different foods for that reason. We just don't think that balance is the right word. And we think that harmony is a better word because everybody should be taking a different approach depending on who they are and where they are.
[25:46] Moira: So when you went there, did you try to eat food similar to what you eat in Hong Kong, or did you try other things? Did it irritate your body or was it or did you just, out of a balanced situation, eat let it be salads or whatever? We'll go into that through about different seasons and what you eat. So because the season was different there for you, how did you go about eating and choosing food?
[26:12] Andy: Yeah, that's a great question. Well, I think back in the days when we're allowed to freely travel, I guess we're almost back to those days when we are able to travel to wherever we want, we will go for local foods because that's kind of the defining characteristics of human culture. And so the Chinese believe that wherever the local culture has is the best for that culture because nature gave them food for a reason. And if you look into kind of the yin yang on different foods. So again, just to talk about to our earlier conversation, she describes circulation, and then yin yang describes the effect on the food, on your cheat on your circulation, right? So the food could be in or yang, so it could kind of bring more yang state more it could generate circulation, or it could calm you down. When I went to Copenhagen or if I go to other places, I try to stick to local diet because I believe that's the best for my body. But of course, it takes a while to adjust because back in the day, people would slowly migrate from one area to the next, whereas now we just take a flight and then all of a sudden we're in a different time zone, different weather, and different food. But to answer your question, I try to eat locally just so I get a taste of what it's like to be there.
[27:38] Moira: I know many years ago for my husband and I, over 30 years, we sold everything and we bought a boat and lived in the Bahamas on our sailboat. And Cliff would die for our dinner. So we had fresh, fresh lobster, fresh fish, and then we would have fresh bread just made on the islands. And you're walking on the time, you're moving your muscles. It was one of the healthiest times in our lives. Yeah, just think about that when you were talking.
[28:10] Andy: I mean, that's the way to live. That's the way to live. Because if you can get in naturally, then it's definitely what's best for you.
[28:17] Moira: Right? I'm thinking about how your body needs rest to recover, maybe change our diet. How do you feel about that? Rest and recover. About fasting, cleanses. Because people there are people I know that do that. Is that part of the TCM, traditional Chinese medicine?
[28:38] Andy: Well, that's a difficult question to answer, and I don't want to offend anyone. No, I'm just kidding. I would say that my answer to these usually is if something has been around for a long time, then I think it's more trustworthy than something that's only been a trend over the past few years. And we certainly know fasting has been a part of Chinese culture for thousands of years because the monks would have done it, the producers would have done it, and people would have done it for different reasons. So personally, I would have no problems with it. But I don't personally do it just because I think the reason why people go on fast is they acknowledge the fact that they're eating too much. If they think they're eating too much, then usually my question to them would just be, well, why don't you decrease the amount to where it is just enough? For example, you could eat until you're 70% full instead of 100% full, where you feel like you cannot eat anymore. That's what I encourage others to do, to find balance, because you're going to go on fast for two years, and then most of them, they break the fast and they return to normal, and then they will find that perhaps they'll gain weight again, and then they go on a fast again. At least that's the clientele that I've worked with here in Hong Kong, because people are quite impatient, so they go on a fast hoping to lose weight quickly. So personally, I don't have a problem with the fast. It's just I believe that if people see this as a quick fix, then this is a bigger problem than the fast itself. Does that make sense?
[30:21] Moira: Yes, it does. So for a body which does need rest at time, is it more so having rest, like having sleep, taking time away from stress, taking a walk in nature, which I want to jump into our connection with nature. It is important, though, for us to have rest and good sleep and all that, is that correct?
[30:45] Andy: Well, yes, I think no one's going to argue with the importance of sleep. I think the problem is people stress out over sleep. Now, certainly in the demographic I work with, because we know sleep is important. Yet I think in Hong Kong, one of the three people has insomnia, so they either cannot fall asleep or they wake up easily, no deep sleep. So as a result, they wake up not feeling refreshed. Because we all know how important sleep is. Usually I want to talk to that crowd more just because I think there are reasons why we're not getting the sleep that we deserve. And that is actually because of the fact that we are not paying attention to our diet emotions and the way we move. Because if those three are in sync, then we should have no problem relaxing. Right? Because after all, if you think about sleeping, it is a downregulation of the mind and then a downregulation of the body. But if we're just stiff all the time, and if we're just stressed all the time about something, then we will have trouble falling asleep. I think sleep is definitely important, but the bigger problem right now that at least I see is it's not a question of why sleep is important, but second, like, how do we actually fall asleep? Because with the phone being so accessible, I think a lot of people are having trouble just relaxing.
[32:17] Moira: Yeah. I think it's like almost a habit. You're looking at the computer, you're picking your phone up. There's that stimulation going all the time versus taking a break. I know when we go on vacation, we have our phones if our family needs us, but we don't take computers or anything like that. It's taking a break from that.
[32:37] Andy: Yeah. Earlier you mentioned about taking walks in nature, and these days I'll go on the Internet and I'll see something like our research tells us that we should spend more time in nature because it is good for us. I look at these things and I think obviously that's made for us to live in. And I think we now live in an overstimulated world because there's just so much information thrown at us. And if we can just spend some time in nature, you'll find that yes. Although it's not as stimulating as a funny video on YouTube, but there are quite a lot of subtle things to look at and to appreciate, and that's going to make you relax naturally. And so everyone should do that more.
[33:26] Moira: It's one of the reasons, Andy, that we moved out of Ontario. We moved to Nova Scotia. So we're on a lake and I'm looking out at the lake right now and how common it is. And we have a forest around us and we're in the country. We're in the country. We went into the city the other day. We went to the mall, for which we don't go to the mall very often. And we were kind of even shocked by the mall. There wasn't hardly anybody in the mall. It was during the week, but we saw these stores and we don't need stuff and we're like, wow, this is such a big mall. But it doesn't really doesn't interest us anymore. Well, when we talk about nature, you also go into in your book about the different phases of wood, fire, earth, metal, water and the organs. Can you tell us a little bit? I know that's a big subject, but if you can just share a little bit about that, that would be great.
[34:20] Andy: Yeah. So the whole point of starting bounds are both is to introduce the ideas of transmission to someone without any power understanding, so someone with no background in transmission. And from that point of view, we have to understand that the five phases or the five elements are commonly referred to is a way for the Chinese to understand relationship of nature. So you've got the five elements and what they do is they will separate different seasons, they will have different tastes, and then they will have different organs. They will categorize in different categories. That is there to help transmit practitioners and to help them understand the relationship between the body, what we eat, the taste with what's going on in nature. For that reason, you commonly find that when you go to trans practitioner, there's a suggested food for the season, because in the season, because of the element, it will correspond to a certain taste and then a certain taste will correspond to a certain organ. So as a result, in this current season, you should eat a certain taste. And that's how it came about and that's what the five elements are there for. I just want to encourage everyone to kind of look for more connections because that's what the Chinese did and that's what the philosophy was all about because.
[35:51] Moira: I found that very fascinating. Spring and then summer, it gives me my throat. I'm drinking water. I don't know what's happening. But there you go, spring, summer, that spring is a time of rebirth, renewal and growth. And there are certain foods and drinks that you talk about that correspond with that and then into summer and autumn. And again, do you find that when people like this is an education for you to really learn, like to eat spicy flavors, not too much to stimulate the liver. It's quite the learning curve.
[36:28] Andy: It is just because there is so much to look at when you dive into what to eat for the season, because what you just touched on was, okay, so there is a particular taste I should eat for a season. It's just important for me at the same time not to be too caught up on it, if that makes sense, because then that's a rabbit hole in itself. And so, for starters, we always recommend just eating something in season first, because if something is in season, then nature tells you to eat it during that season.
[37:10] Moira: Because I found it interesting, like for winter, to avoid foods that are cold in nature, especially salads and raw foods. And I thought that's interesting because people think salads you should eat salads all the time. One of those shows.
[37:24] Andy: Yes. Usually on this topic, whenever I do workshops, I would ask, let's say today you're sitting on a beach by the Bahamas in the summertime. Would you have coconut water? Watermelon, or would you have hot chocolate?
[37:42] Moira: No, I have hot chocolate here. Nova Scotia. No, it will be the other one.
[37:46] Andy: Yeah, exactly. And usually it's within the cold weather that you have hot chocolate because watermelon wouldn't even be available in coda areas. And it's the same thing with salads, right? Because you most likely would prefer salads in summer because, you know, after eating it, you feel quite fresh because salad has a cooling nature or in nature, and therefore it's not suggested during the winter.
[38:17] Moira: That's a whole different way of looking at it. I really love the whole philosophy. What are some nutritionist foods that we can eat to boost our immune system? And also, how important are fruits and vegetables in our diet?
[38:31] Andy: Well, they are extremely important. But what's nutritious that? I have to go back to understanding your body constitution first, because currently in the fitness industry, health and fitness industry, we have all these superfoods that people eat. Top ten superfoods you should have in your diet. But the food is only super if it is suitable for you, right? Because you might not be able to digest that particular food. Well, how do you know what's good for you? You should start by knowing where you are currently in dining balance, or you can actually find it online. I mean, you don't have to go to our book, but you can do different quizzes now to figure out your current body state. And in transmission, things are divided into nine different body types, which means that there are different foods for the body type that you have. And so the first step that I would encourage everyone to do is actually figure out your current body type first, and then you figure out the current season, and from there you figure out what's actually nutritious, because that could be very different for someone like me in Hong Kong versus someone in Scandinavia.
[39:39] Moira: Well, I know another thing I found interesting is you think of people like in the Arctic or that or Eskimos, that they eat a lot of meat and all that protein in that if we went into that culture to eat that, that would not be good for our bodies.
[39:55] Andy: Yeah, exactly. In Hong Kong, we eat mostly vegetables because they're available, and you won't see any Eskimos eating vegetables. That just goes to speak that different cultures have different foods. And if they have our diet, what's considered healthy, you don't see them eating avocados out there, do you? It's just not for them. Absolutely right.
[40:27] Moira: So avocados learned even something that we knew growing up that was in my household. And there's something I wonder about what your opinion is. You know, you think about one of the things we had for our sandwiches for school with peanut butter or peanut butter and jam, or peanut butter and banana, and now you have all these at school. You can't bring that in because there's peanut allergies and different allergies that were never there. How do you think those came about?
[40:54] Andy: Oh, well, this one actually I read a couple of years ago. I read a book called Deep Nutrition by Christianhan, a doctor in the US. And her argument is a lot of the modern disease is a result of us not eating or not satisfying our body's need for authentic foods. Because obviously, over the past 2030 years, we have been eating fast food. It could be cereal, could be sandwiches, it could be processed meat, could be anything. And as a result, we are staring away from real, authentic, organic foods. And as a result, different types of sicknesses has came about nowadays where so many people will have eczema, I mean, things like that or allergies or what have you, that were basically nonexistent thousands of years ago. And so her argument, the central argument that she makes, is that we really need a human body crave real food. And the lack of that is causing a lot of the Martin disease to face. And I would say a lot of transmission practitioners would agree with that.
[42:08] Moira: We now have glutenfree diet, which, again, was never a term growing up. It's all new.
[42:14] Andy: Yeah. All these different types of diets. You go online and you're like, wow. I mean, there's a new type of diet every single week. And at first, as a personal trainer, I mean, it's not really my scope of practice to recommend diets, but people still come and just ask, what's your thought on this? And I found that to a point where I can't keep up. Because there's a new diet every single week.
[42:37] Moira: Yeah, I think so. Now that we're talking about these kinds of things, what's the view in your culture of sugar and sugar intake and also about the importance of drinking so many glasses of water every day?
[42:56] Andy: Sugar? Well, first of all, I'll tell you, as someone who has spent ten years in the US. My tolerance for sugar has gone down a lot ever since I came back. Like when I was in the US. For school. Whenever my parents came, visited, whatever they ordered, they'll be like, oh, this is so sweet. Why do they have sugar in here? And to me, I was like, what are you talking about? I mean, I just don't even think this is sweet. But ever since I came back to Hong Kong in 2014, and then I've gone back to the States three, four times, everything is just so sweet because they do add sugar in it. And so I think we do live in a globalized economy. So I think everybody's tolerance for sugar is must be 100 times higher than what we were 5000 years ago. But even then, I think in North America, I think things are generally a lot sweeter than here.
[43:55] Moira: And how does water, drinking water, and is it better to have three meals a day or five small meals for our digestion, our health and our wellbeing?
[44:06] Andy: Yeah, I think those things are. When it comes to water, I actually want to talk about one key point, and that is the effect of hydration on our muscles. Again, I just want to deeply talk about the connection between diet and movement. A lot of times people don't really see the connection. But if you think about our soft tissue, it is mostly consists of fluid. And so whenever we're dehydrated, it also causes stiffness. So we think about if you have been listening to this pocket we've been sitting around for, I don't know, having an hour now. And so our body is starting to become rigid and dehydrated. So couple that with not drinking water the entire day, which is what a lot of us are doing at the moment, or just drinking anything but water, that's also going to dehydrate us and it is also going to cause stiffness. And then it will also make us stress because of the connection. US being hydrated actually has a profound impact on the health of our soft tissue. So with that said, usually I recommend people just take sips of water whenever they remember and then if possible, also massage your body a little bit. The reason why I say is if you think about your soft tissue, it's a lot like the sponge that's at your sink. So if you think about a sponge, those dishwashing sponges, when they are dry, they are rigid and it's hard to move them around. And that's essentially what it's like as a modern day person, your soft tissue. They're just crying out for hydration. So in that instance, we need to hydrate them. We need to massage them so that they will be pliable and soft and watery as they're supposed to be. So that's kind of the imagery that I give to my students. So we should hydrate and we should also maybe do some foam rolling, do some massages, do some stretching so that we can attack it both ways.
[46:06] Moira: I love that example. As you're talking, I'm massaging my hands and just working away on that. What about coffee and herbal teas? I know we're just doing all the diet right now, but again, you know, it's interesting. If I feel and I don't get colds very often, so if I feel a cold coming on or if I don't feel good or I feel tired, it's interesting. I don't eat meat, and I won't drink coffee. But when I'm feeling great, I don't eat a lot of meat, but I do eat meat, and I drink a cup of coffee a day versus, again, when I don't feel well, I'll have a cup of chamomile tea. Or that. What does traditional Chinese medicine say on coffee and herbal teas?
[46:50] Andy: Yeah, coffee. I think it's a double edged sort. It's great that you drink coffee whenever you're feeling well, because I say for most of the fitness community, people drink coffee when they don't feel well, right? When they feel like they're lacking energy, they're going to get some coffee, and I need to get some coffee in before I go exercise because I need a booster. I think that's not a good practice to have to drink coffee if you're not feeling well, because that's just some false energy that you put in yourself if you think about coffee. So back when coffee became really popular in Seattle because of Starbucks, if you think about the weather or the climate in Seattle, it is damp, right? So it's usually quite humid. And we know that the bitter taste helps clear dampness. And so that's how the transmitters and purchasers will look at it, right. They will look at the taste, which is bitter, and then they will correspond to to the five elements. Okay, so bitter, it clears heat, and then it clears dampness. And for that reason, it will be beneficial for that demographic. And that's maybe why it took off in Seattle. Now, coffee might not be good for places that are too dry because then it's going to make you more dry. And so whenever it comes to coffee, the same principle exists, and that it just depends on who you are and where you are.
[48:24] Moira: Fascinating. It helps with that dampness. So when we talk, we talk about the term the pathogen to refer to the factors that affect our bodies. Qi and the balance therapy and Yang, you know, what's the term used in TMC when you have, you know, a pathogen, what does that mean? How does it affect her health and her well being? Where do you go from there when you identify that?
[48:58] Andy: Yeah, well, it's great that you bring out that question, because my coauthor, Dr. Sale Wong, she is a Tri master practitioner, which I'm a fitness instructor. So a lot of the Tricemaster site was actually written by her. And at first when she wrote in a lot of pathogens that can cause imbalances, and that the editors of our publisher didn't like it because they said, well, in Western culture, whenever you say pathogen, it actually means something like a disease or an actual serious thing. But what Dr. Wong wanted to say was pathogen. Chinese medicine, it just means a source of imbalance, right. If you're eating the wrong food, it could be a pathogen because that is a way for sickness to enter the body. And then when too much sickness is in the body, your body cannot cope and it will get sick. So whenever we talk about pathogen in the body, we're talking more of like a risk factor rather than like an actual disease that is causing something as Western conventional would see it.
[50:03] Moira: I love that it's just a source of imbalance. And to discover that yeah. What about the meridian system? How does that work in Chinese medicine? There's so much knowledge here, andy, as I told you, it was a big learning curve for me reading your book, and thank you for your book. But the meridian systems that we have in the direction of flow in our body, is it important always to have that flow? How does it flow?
[50:31] Andy: Well, that's a great question. Is it important to have the flow? Yes. How much flow should we have? Well, here's the ying and philosophy at play, because in a broken downing balance, we use the idea of a highway system. If you think about traffic in the highway, you want kind of an adequate amount of cars where you could drive smoothly. Yet you always have some reckless drivers who are going too fast. And they also mess up the traffic system because when they're going too fast, whenever they're going too fast, they arrive at their destination too fast, which messes up the whole traffic system. On the other hand, whenever they're going too slow, it's also going to **** up the highways and then it's going to cause slow traffic. And we use that example because it's the same way whenever we think about our meridians. Right. If you think about circulation or energy in the body, if you have five coffees today, your heart will be pumping, your heart will be racing, you'd be ready to go. But is that good for you? Not really, because you'll be so hyper and there will be too much energy flowing in the body. On the other hand, if you haven't slept for two days and you have been sleeping terrible, you'll be quite sluggish. And that will be the other extreme because energy is not flowing in the body. And so whenever we talk about meridians, there are these pathways within the body that energies is circulated throughout, and we kind of want them to be just right. The right amount of traffic where you could go to the mall in an accurate amount of time. Not too fast, not too not too slow.
[52:13] Moira: I like going slow. Here in Nova Scotia, they have very windy roads and no side banks. And if anything when my husband's driving, I'm shutting my eyes and meditating because I like to go slower here. But no, that's not how it works on their major highways and stuff for somebody to start other than I really recommend people to get your book Dynamic Balance, and we'll be putting that in the links because there's so much knowledge there and it opened up a whole new world for myself. And so thank you for that. And you've already said for people, if they're starting to look at this and if they're ying yang deficient, if their body is out of whack, either way, they can start by discovering their body type and the seasons of food they eat for them, what would be best for them. So I would highly recommend that Andy, I would love you to share an excerpt from your book, and in this case, I think you've chosen one to encourage our listeners to look for that connection between different areas of their life. And my whole mantra, again, is for people to live their best life. If you could read that for us, I would love that.
[53:23] Andy: Sure. Yeah. So this excerpt is from Diary Balance, page 139. Look for Connections one last reminder. We talked about each of the three sources of imbalance diet, emotions and fascia as neatly divided topics. Don't forget that Dynamic Balance is ultimately about how everything is in separately linked diet effect emotions, emotions affect fascia and fascia can affect how you feel and your dietary needs. The connections between food, emotions and fascia determine the body's basic physical and mental health. Understanding the interplay of each of the pairings will help you and your athlete untangle the imbalances that you are facing.
[54:06] Moira: Wonderful. And again, we didn't really use the word fascia in our conversation, but there's so much to learn in your book, so thank you for that.
[54:20] Andy: No, fascia is a type of soft tissue just for listeners who hasn't heard of the term before. So through the conversation we talked about soft tissue. We're referring to fascia.
[54:33] Moira: I realized that after I said that, but that's good that you said that if people weren't listening and you could just share with our audience today that the gift which is very generous that you'd like to give to them today, and I know it's time sensitive. And again, please note that all the links to this unique, lovely gift from Andy and how you can reach Andy will be below in the show notes.
[54:55] Andy: Yes, so today I want to give five hardcover books to the first five people who reached out to me after this episode and who also gives a rating. And so after listening to the podcast, you can reach out to me on Instagram at @tszchiuandy or you can shoot me an email at Andy@tszchiu.com. So my first name and tszchiu.com and yeah, I love to send you a free copy of the balance. But you have to promise me that you let me know your feedback after reading the book. It doesn't have to be positive. It could be negative, but please give it in a constructive way, because like everyone else, I'm here trying to improve.
[55:43] Moira: Yes, and I love the idea that it's time sensitive for people listening today and also that for them to give a rating of this conversation and the knowledge that you shared today. And they can do a screenshot and send that to you. And we will put the email in the Instagram below also. So, Annie, thank you so much. So great having you here today. And thank you for sharing from your Heart and Soul your Wisdom on Chinese Medicine and Fitness. Namaste.
[56:13] Andy: Thank you.
[56:22] Outro: Thank you for listening to the Heart Soul Wisdom podcast with Moira Sutton. I hope you enjoyed today's episode. Please join our community at Moira sutton.com and continue the discussion on our Facebook page. Create the A Life You Love you will be part of a global movement connecting with other heart-centered people who are consciously creating the life they love on their own terms. Together, we can raise our consciousness for the greater good of humanity and for our planet.