Resources and Self-Help

Whereas in modern times acupuncture might be the first port of call for certain conditions (although people usually come to me after they have seen their GP, osteopath and homeopath etc) traditionally in China acupuncture and herbal medicine were often seen as a last resort after having tried various lifestyle changes based on self-help. These included diet, exercise and meditative practice. The importance of this in the modern era is that you can take responsibility for your own health and this is often the most powerful and empowering approach. It is not necessarily an easy road though!

My suggestions on each of the following subjects will I hope point you in the right direction and you must 1. go with what you feel comfortable with but 2. expect to exert a little discipline if you want to make a difference. This never hurt anyone.


I recommend both tai chi and yoga as regular practices and of course doing some regular exercise is better than nothing.

Personally I start the day by doing a simple yoga routine known as the Five Tibetans. It is best  to do this when you have done some basic yoga practice with a qualified teacher, though the exercises can be seen online. The ‘whirling dervish’ asana, while on the surface the easiest, must be taken very easy until you build your confidence – otherwise you will get dizzy and fall over. Apparently it should also be done in reverse if you are in Australia!

The key for me is that these exercises build strength and resilience in your neck, back, shoulders, wrists, knees and ankles, whilst they also offer the chance to enter a state of mindfulness before you start the day.

If you are looking for a ‘style’ of yoga, I like the Iyengar style. It can be hard work, but creates an amazing sense of well-being at the end of a class. I was taught by the lovely Kay Fowler who had trained with Mr Iyengar himself. If you live near Vauxhall Jake McLellan does a great class on Friday evenings at the Bonnington Community Centre.

Like all yoga it is enormously beneficial for health when practised with correct posture and breathing.

“Of all the health advice I have had in my life I think James’ recommendation of the Five Tibetans [yoga exercises] has made the most impact on my well-being in that I haven’t had a single day of back pain since taking up this simple set of daily exercises.”

/ G.P. SW8 /

Other than this I’d recommend walking as much as you can, especially if you have a busy job and need time to reflect on things. Solvitur ambulando is one of my favourite Latin phrases and is mentioned in Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines. Chatwin ’passionately believed that walking constituted the sovereign remedy for every mental travail’.


Diet is one of the most powerful agents for self change that exists, but it can need a lot of self discipline and family support. If you would like to know how Chinese dietary therapy and other diets can help your general health and help specific conditions please talk to me. I also recommend reading the below document on Chinese dietary therapy:

Breathing, relaxation and meditation

The benefits of twice-daily breathing relaxation cannot be over-emphasised, especially where you have mental or emotional problems which are affecting your daily life. Try the following:

  • Sit upright in a comfortable chair in a quiet room with all electrical appliances switched off. Light a candle if it is dark.
  • With your eyes open focus your mind on your body, how it feels in the chair, and then slowly shift your awareness to your fingers, hands then arms and shoulders, let them all relax in turn.
  • Be conscious of your neck relaxing then move to your toes, feet and legs so that finally the whole body is comfortable and relaxed.
  • Now close your eyes and simply concentrate your whole attention on the rhythm of your breath. As you breathe in be aware of your abdomen slowly filling up, and then focus on your out breath.
  • Keep this going. Especially at first all sorts of thoughts will come into your mind. Just let them go and without judgement just return your mind’s eye to listening to your breath.
  • Do this for 20 minutes at the beginning of the day (after you wake up) and the end of the day (before you eat in the evening). It is amazing how quickly the time will pass!

This is a very powerful self-help activity. If you want to develop your practice try any of the Apps that are on the market. I recommend Head Space which currently offers a 3 month trial.


There is no harder decision for new parents than what to do about vaccination. All I will say is: be informed! You will have no difficulty accessing NHS advice but I strongly recommend reading the following articles and watching the listed You Tube videos.

Acupressure for pain relief in labour

In those quiet evenings before the baby is born here is some homework for those interested in self help!