Traditional Chinese Medicine is a powerful, 5000-year old system of holistic healing with a strong emphasis on preventative lifestyle. This modality empowers the individual by suggesting that we can take control of our own health and destiny by tuning in more deeply to our bodies.
Starting May 30, Herbalist, nutrition coach and energy healer Inga Bylinkina will be teaching a 6-part workshop "The Dao of Health: Flowing in Harmony with Nature's Cycles," at The Alchemist's Kitchen on traditional Chinese Medicine that will cover the 5 elements, Yin and Yang, Daoist Tonic Herbalism, the vital energies of life known as the 3 Treasures, and more.
In this interview, Inga discusses the radiant potential of traditional Chinese medicine, its origins in shamanism, how it helps us become more in tune with ourselves, how it transformed her own life, what she will be covering in each workshop and more.
Click here for more information about the workshop.
Tell us about the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine. What makes it such a powerful healing modality?
Chinese medicine is one of the oldest health care systems on the planet. The key principles of this ancient holistic medicine have been observed, practiced and distilled over millennia. According to the Daoist knowledge keepers, the evolutionary roots of Chinese medicine came into being at least 8 thousand years ago. They were passed down through generations orally and actually predate written language in China.
The origins of this beautiful holistic Eastern system are, in fact, shamanic. The early physicians - the shamans - served as intermediaries between the world of spirits and humans. They were skilled meditators and oracles, bringing messages from the other realms that could be useful for healing. Through centuries, under the influence of cultural and historical shifts, Chinese Medicine has evolved into a complete system of healing. Modern TCM uses ancient theories mainly in the practice of two modalities: acupuncture and herbalism. All together there are 8 branches of TCM, including meditation, energy exercises, 5 Element nutrition, bodywork, Feng Shui, and cosmology.
At the heart of Traditional Chinese Medicine lies the philosophy that humans are part of nature, and that remaining in harmony with nature is key to our health. Chinese medicine teaches us how to make sense of our own health by developing a relationship with the energies of our internal landscape and becoming aware of the external influences that affect our state of wellbeing. It guides us on a journey to discover what is best for us from day to day instead of repeating our daily patterns without regard to how we feel.
Personally, I grew up immersed in the principles of seasonal living and intuitive connection to the sources of nourishment and healing. It wasn't until I got deeply fascinated and started studying Chinese medicine that I developed a truly free and empowered attitude towards my health. I recently made the discovery that once you align yourself to the flow of nature and its cycles, and surrender fully to your needs for rest, activity and nourishment, your inner ears become attuned to the universal heartbeat, and your body and psyche becomes incredibly sensitive, and even psychic to what you will need in the future to maintain equilibrium. That to me is very powerful medicine, and it is much needed in our modern day reality.
Unlike our modern Western medical paradigm, which takes the power to heal oneself away from an individual, Chinese medicine offers a framework that with time allows us to become sovereign masters of our health and destiny. It’s really fascinating!
We all have our health issues and experience various symptoms, right? Well, these symptoms bubbling up to the surface as pains, breakouts, or rashes, are a way our body is trying to communicate with us about an imbalance somewhere in the system. But did you know that these “surfaced symptoms" have unexpected relationships with our internal organs that impact our overall health and appearance? Our face, skin, hair and nails are like portals into the inner dimensions of our internal landscape, and these breakouts and pains are just the tip of an iceberg. Once you find that thread, you begin to see patterns, and with a bit of detective self-observation you can really get to the root of your health issues. The cool thing is, these threads of connections and patterns have already been mapped out for you… and it’s called Chinese Medicine!
Please explain more about Yin and Yang, the timeless universal concept of duality, and how it applies to women's and men’s health and well being.
With pleasure! In Eastern healing arts there is a realization that all things and processes are interconnected. The human body, mind and spirit are seen as one complete whole. Most people have seen the epic Yin and Yang symbol, a circle with a wavy line in the middle that separates it into black and white parts.
In Chinese theory, in the beginning there was One - the Dao - which split into two - the Yin and Yang, representing the duality of nature and all phenomena that form our 3D reality. Our whole universe is a cosmic stage for constant change and the interplay of these opposing energies. The Yin and Yang represents dynamic, fluid and somewhat elusive state of balance. Some very common examples of these polarities are day and night, sun and moon, and even simply the positive and the negative.
The Yin essence is considered inward, interior, descending, accumulating, cold, dark and heavy. It has to do with physical substance, the body, but also our subconscious mind, intuition and deep inner realms. Yin stands for the feminine aspect, night time, and the moon, winter season and color black. We all have these different qualities of Yin.
Even if, say, you are born in a male body (Yang), you will still have a feminine side and Yin aspects affecting your being. For example, you could be more extroverted, intuitive and receptive in character (Yin) as a man, rather than aggressive, assertive and mental (Yang).
Yang represents the masculine, outward, outgoing, exterior, rising, active, expanding energy, and hot, fiery, light qualities. It’s a very simple concept to grasp. You don’t need to memorize the list, but just looking at them intuitively you can start seeing that these Yin and Yang qualities are present in every aspect of our lives!
We can’t choose which one is better, because they can not exist one without the other - they are completely interdependent and inseparable.
Health is dependent upon the maintenance of the correct balance of Yin and Yang energies in the body and psyche. Everyone is born with a certain constitution, your personal nature, that can be simply defined as more Yin or Yang. As we grow up, we start interacting with the environment around us, adopting and absorbing the influences of our culture, family and nature.
Sometimes these influences go against our "our nature” and we get sick. When we understand our inherited tendencies, we can work with the various tools in our lifestyle and diet to heal ourselves, and even cultivate the vital energies for a long fruitful life without disease by using special tonic herbs. This is exactly what we are going to explore in the upcoming Dao of Health series, and we will begin with the great principle of Yin and Yang.
Tell us more about Daoist Tonic Herbalism, and the vital energies of life, the 3 Treasures.
Thousands of years ago a great concept appeared In Chinese medicine that still has relevance today. It is called The 3 treasures, known as Jing, Qi and Shen. It represents the three primary energies that form the basis of human life. Nourishing and regulating these treasures is one of the primary goals of Daoist tonic herbalism. When these 3 energies are strong and balanced we develop mental, physical and emotional intelligence that leads to adaptability, abundant energy reserves and calm outlook on life’s challenges. If we can reach this state, we become radiantly resilient and life flows effortlessly.
In brief, Jing is the first “treasure” and is generally translated as Essence. Jing is the deepest source of energy in the body inherited from our parents. It governs the graduate process of development and aging, our creative and reproductive potential. Our Jing is what makes us unique and gives us the pure potential to create and manifest our destiny in this reality. Jing is very hard to replenish, but there are certain foods and herbs that can strengthen this foundational energy. We will be focusing on cultivating this treasure a lot throughout the series and particularly in session 5.
Qi is the second treasure and represents our day to day Energy, or simply Vitality. It supports the everyday function of our organs and the immune system. We acquire this vitality from the foods we eat and the air we breath. This means that we need the best quality food and air and an efficient digestive and respiratory system in order to produce potent Qi. Qi is also about flow. To prevent disease and disharmony we need to ensure that Qi is not blocked or stagnant, and that it flows smoothly through the channels, nourishing all organs and systems. This is what we are after in sessions 3 and 4 of the series. We will explore the herbs and lifestyle practices to strengthen Qi.
Our third treasure is Shen, normally translated as Spirit. It encompasses our mind, intelligence, emotions, consciousness, and animates our personality. When Shen is calm and stable, we feel peaceful, happy, and connected to the universal and timeless flow of life — you have a place and a purpose. Shen is what links us with the eternal, God/Goddess, the Dao, or whatever your belief is. It is the channel between your Higher self and your Earthly self, a download from the Heavens that gives you a roadmap to pursue your destiny. Shen is said to be housed in the Heart. In session 2 we will look at the connection between the state of our Shen treasure and the health of our physical Heart, a link that is often ignored in modern medicine.
The ancient Chinese were clearly onto something. In the Three Treasures model they developed a way of explaining human existence and the secrets of self-development and cultivation. In one way, these 3 treasures can be seen as a tower: Jing at he bottom, Qi in the middle and Shen at the top. Jing provides a solid foundation, security and keeps you strong and healthy as you age. Qi keeps your body and mind working day to day and keeps everything flowing. Shen gives you mental and emotional flexibility, and the ability to access higher states of consciousness. I am sure by now you see the importance of nourishing the 3 treasures.
Daoist tonic herbalism is the only herbal system that gives you the tools, like special herbs and formulas, to build a powerful self-care practice focused on promotion of Radiant Health. My goal is to introduce you to a few dozen tonic herbs that will revitalize your whole body and quickly get you started on your journey towards longevity.
Please tell us about your 6 classes and what they will cover, and what people will be learning and/or making to take home. How will herbs be incorporated into the classes?
In the first 5 sessions, we will go on an elemental journey, exploring 5 elements of Chinese Medicine, the seasons that they rule, as well as the body organs and systems that resonate with each element. 5 elements is a wonderful system that will help us understand the cycles in nature, in our bodies and lives. For example, if you feel stuck in some aspect, or feel like you’ve plateaued, adopting a diet and some practices that are in alignment with the current season could plug you right back into the flow of life and uncover new inspiring resources.
In the 1st session (May 30) we will look at Spring season as we are still under the influence of Wood element. Liver is the main organ associated with this element and you will be surprised by how many symptoms and health issues are rooted in the imbalance of the liver energy. Allergies, skin issues, hormone imbalances, blood sugar issues, menstrual problems are just to name a few. I will have some famous liver herbs in the class to smell, taste and get familiar with and will make a tea for us to enjoy.
Session 2 (June 12) is dedicated to Fire Element as we are moving into summer season in the Northern hemisphere. We will look at how Fire element imbalances affect our Heart, emotional state and spiritual wellbeing. A new set of herbs will be there to explore and taste.
Session 3 will take place in September, just in time for transition from Fire into Earth element and Indian summer. This is an important window to address any digestive issues, cravings, blood sugar imbalances, and also ground ourselves back into the body in preparation for the colder time of the year.
In Session 4 in October we will cover Metal Element, Fall season and explore ways to consciously work with the Lung and Large intestine organ system. Did you know that the Lungs are responsible for constructing a protective shield of our immune system around the body? Partnered with Large Intestine, this duo forms the intelligence that keeps the bad bugs at bay. We will focus on the herbs and medicinal mushrooms and make an elixir to help us ease into winter.
Session 5 is going to be an important class not to be missed! Water element is dear to my heart as it is my predominant element and the one I had to work with the most in my own healing journey. This class will take place in November, just as we move into winter season. This time of the year is most potent for cultivating the Jing treasure and working with Kidneys and Bladder organ system. My students get the most “aha" moments and shocking realizations in this class about how much our modern lifestyle drains our internal battery reserves and burns our Jing. I will introduce you to the best practices for recovering shot adrenal glands, building adaptability against stress and nourishing the very foundation of your health. I will make an amazing elixir from my most favorite herbs that have been my allies for a long time.
Session 6 will be more practical. We will explore Elixir craft, following the principles of 3 treasure and medicinal wine formulation, and each student will walk away with their own medicinal herbal elixir created in the class. Towards the end of the series, we will explore self-cultivation practices of the Daoist alchemists, focusing specifically on the use of tonic herbs, medicinal mushrooms and ancient superfoods in elixirs and special dishes to sustain your optimal wellbeing, youthfulness and longevity.
Each session will build harmoniously upon the previous ones so that you can develop a complete holistic view of your health and use herbs appropriately and timely to empower organic transformation on all levels through the different stages of life. I recommend that you take them all in sequence, but you can also hop in on any one of them if you can’t make the full course.
The goal of these classes is to help develop the skills to start understanding the body as integrated whole and start mapping out patterns of disease and predispositions, eventually leading to creating a long-term Health and Longevity Plan, which can include body awareness rituals, diet, and a more grounded and consistent herbal regimen.
How have these healing modalities transformed your own life?
I had a really good start in life. My grandma had a lot of land where our family was growing organic food and we were pretty much self-sufficient with seasonal produce. Since very early I developed intuition around food. I learned to forage for herbs and mushrooms from my father and grew up using them as my main medicine. I still had my fair share of health troubles through the years, particularly after I moved to US, but I was always devoted to sorting out these issues on my own, it seamed like a fun thing to do. In fact, I feel blessed and grateful for the symptoms that showed up early on and called me to build a better relationship with my body. Without them I wouldn’t find my way to Chinese medicine and perhaps would never discover Daoist tonic herbs.
In my early 30s I got really deeply into studying and practicing the principles of Daoist health cultivation. After years of experimenting, I have become aware of my deficiencies and excesses. I got my diet fine-tuned to my constitutional needs, which helped me to stabilize my weight, balance my energy levels and clear my long-standing health issues. I was making herbal decoctions, practicing meditation and Nei Gung. I felt on top of my world and, for the first time since childhood, I achieved that elusive feeling of balance, where you are in a sort of lucid state of being and can see all aspects of your body and life 360 degrees around and feel fully plugged into the universal energy grid. Wow! I was crystal clear about my direction in life and had a full tank of fuel to get me there.
Right at that moment I picked up a deer tick while spending time out on Long Island. Needless to say, the next year was the most challenging and draining time of my life. From the very beginning of my lyme journey I decided to heal myself and forgo any medical treatments. I took this challenge as a test of my knowledge, wisdom and belief in my body and its self-healing power. Healing lyme was a full time adventure and I don’t know if it would be successful at all if not for the tonic herbs and Chinese medicine principles that I used to formulate my treatment strategy.
Lyme is a powerful teacher as it highlights the weak aspects of the body, or the parts of being that have been ignored. I have grown so much through this experience, it has given me the understanding that any health challenge, however big or small, can be a powerful opportunity to shift our life in the direction of more freedom, authenticity and connectedness. When we have such amazing ancient tools as Chinese medicine, we can blast through any challenges and have a healthy, happy, and meaningful life we deserve.
I created the Dao of Health series to inspire, motivate and give back a little of what I’ve picked up over the years. I invite you to join me at the next class to get a jumpstart into Radiant Health healing arts. I hope you will find it useful and entertaining.