Updated: Nov 16
Yangsheng thought, rooted in traditional Daoist Chinese philosophy and medicine, revolves around the concept of nurturing life and promoting wellbeing though everyday living. This is in keeping with the 'modern' principles of whole person health and, popular in the media, Blue Zone living.
Yangsheng 养生 can be translated as "nourishing life" or "cultivating vitality". It encompasses a holistic interpretation of health (encompassing diet, exercise, mindset and relationships) and brings both Western and Chinese thought and practices into alignment.
As ever, please talk to your doctor or medical practitioner most familiar with your medical history before implementing any changes in diet, exercise or lifestyle, especially if you are under treatment. Links to any supporting studies or resources are shared at the end of page.
Yangsheng thought has it own principles for health, in many respects similar to the pillars of health that are recognised as the foundation of self-care and lifestyle medicine. Essentially they are represented by the following tenets:
Harmony with nature by aligning one's lifestyle with the natural rhythms and cycles of the environment. This involves adapting daily activities, such as sleep and exercise, to correspond with the changing seasons and the body's internal clock.
Balanced diet with a focus on consuming a wide range of natural and seasonal foods. The idea is to nourish the body with a diverse array of nutrients to maintain balance and prevent disease. Even in modern urban living it is possible to find healthy, traditional eating practices suited to any tastes.
Mind-body harmony and the cultivation of Qi. In traditional Chinese medicine "Qi" is considered the vital energy that flows through the body. Yangsheng practices aim to enhance and balance Qi, promoting the smooth flow of energy to support overall health. Practices such as meditation, tai chi and qigong are often recommended to cultivate mental tranquility, reduce stress and enhance overall wellbeing.
With prevention prioritised over treatment Yangsheng encourages proactive self-care measures for preventing disease. This includes regular exercise, proper nutrition and stress management to maintain a state of optimal health.
Moderation in all aspects of life, for example diet, work, and recreation. Avoiding excess and extremes is believed to contribute to a more balanced and harmonious life.
Social harmony by building positive relationships and fostering a sense of community are considered important for overall wellbeing in Yangsheng thought. Emotional health is seen as integral to physical health.
Environmental awareness and the importance of a clean and balanced living environment. Being mindful of the surroundings and minimising exposure to environmental toxins is considered essential for health.
Yangsheng encourages individuals to take an active role in their health, recognising that personal choices and daily habits profoundly impact overall wellbeing. It reflects a whole person health philosophy that integrates physical, mental and social aspects of life to promote lasting health. Certainly we can give pause to thought as to what elements we can practise in our own lives.
Alastair and Felicia
JOSHI, Devin K..(2021). The way of longevity: Blue zones as unselfconscious models of Daoist living. Journal of Daoist Studies, 14, 128-151.
Buettner D, Skemp S. Blue Zones: Lessons From the World's Longest Lived. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2016 Jul 7;10(5):318-321. doi: 10.1177/1559827616637066. PMID: 30202288; PMCID: PMC6125071.