Anna Cartalade shares her experiences on a Chinese medicine training programme now offering courses in Grenoble city centre.
I’ve been living in Grenoble eight years now and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be here many more! Over the time I have been here, one of my big questions has been: What am I going to do here in the long term? I needed to work out not only what I wanted to do, but also what was accessible to me here.
In spring 2012 I finally found the course I’d been looking for and last September I began my first year of training in Tradition Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Qi Gong. Studying something in French that I find really interesting has done more to make me feel confident in my ability to communicate in French, and more to make me feel happy and settled here, than anything else that I have done in the last eight years. Up until now I always felt that the future might take me somewhere else, but now that I have a project and I can imagine my future career here I feel far more at home.
The school offering the course is L’école de Médecine Chinoise & Qi Gong which is based in Entrevernes near Annecy. They have been offering training in TCM and Qi Gong there for the last twelve years and they also run courses in Bugarach. September 2012 was the first year that offered their courses in Grenoble city centre and in September 2013 they will be opening the second year of their courses in Grenoble. They are also hoping to open their doors to new students wishing to begin their first year of training in TCM and/or Qi Gong in Grenoble if there are enough people interested.
I have really enjoyed my first year and since they will not be offering another intake for several years, I thought I would let you all know a little bit about what Chinese Medicine is and how the courses work in case any of you are interested.
First of all I shall explain a little bit about the origins of Chinese Medicine and what it is, for those of you that may be wondering.
Chinese Medicine is the oldest complete medical system still in existence. A “complete medical system” means a system that is capable of treating every problem a human has. That can be quite hard for us to grasp in the west where we see it as a complementary therapy. It is something that has only sunk in gradually for me over the last year.
The fact is that TCM is used as a primary treatment by millions around the word and it has a very long history to recommend it. It originated in China at least 4,000 years ago and its origins can be traced back to Taoist doctrines. The approximately 2500 year old NEI JING “The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon,” in which the theoretical foundation of Chinese Medicine and its diagnostic methods are explained, is still a fundamental reference text today.
Treatment in Chinese Medicine aims to maintain health rather than merely treating disease and ill health. Although it is also excellent in dealing with illness when it occurs, prevention is always preferable to cure and there is an ancient Chinese saying that originates in the NEI JING that treating an illness is like starting to dig a well once you are thirsty!
The tools used by a practitioner of Tradition Chinese Medicine to treat a patient are acupuncture, moxibustion, diet, Tuina massage, herbs and Qi Gong.
Chinese Medicine is based primarily on the belief that human beings and nature are one and that man cannot be seen as separate from and independent of the environment. The ancient Chinese observed the laws of nature in order to understand the human body and they noticed that every change in nature provokes changes in the human body. That is why Chinese Medicine puts a lot of emphasis on the seasons, on climatic changes and on the human body’s ability to adapt to those changes in order to preserve good health.
Health and balance in the human body are the result of two immutable natural cycles: Yin and Yang. These to opposite, but complementary forces can only exist in relationship to each other. If either energy is deficient or excessive, imbalance and disease result.
According to Chinese Medicine the human body is a set of interrelated systems governed by nature and the seasons.
A practitioner aims to uncover the cause of the imbalance that patient is suffering from rather than focusing on the effects. They review the patient’s current lifestyle and then give them advice on healthy living and healthier eating habits. They explain the mechanisms by which the human body can become unwell due to certain lifestyle choices and they teach breathing exercises and appropriate Qi Gong exercises. They also use treatments such as acupuncture, massage or herbs that are adapted to the patient’s complaint.
“Energy” is a greatly abused word in the world of complementary medicine and often makes people turn off the minute they read it. Unfortunately it is impossible to talk about Qi Gong without talking about “Qi” which roughly translates as “energy” in English! Qi Gong is a system of therapeutic exercises that aim to help increase the supplies of Qi in the body and circulate this energy freely throughout the organism. It could be seen in some ways as the Chinese equivalent to Yoga. One of its great advantages over yoga being, in my opinion, the fact at you don’t need to be able to get your knees behind your ears or balance on your head! However, as with yoga, regular practise increases flexibility and reduces pain because you learn to let go of the tensions accumulated in your body.
Millions of people in China practise Qi Gong on a daily basis to help themselves stay fit and healthy throughout their lives and into old age.
Some hospitals in China specialise in treating illnesses with Qi Gong. In that context it is a method that requires great commitment from a patient, because in such hospitals patients repeat the movements prescribed to them by their doctors for several hours a day over periods of weeks or months.
The courses run by L’école de Médecine Chinoise & Qi Gong prepare students to take exams run by the UFPMTC (Union Française des Professionnels de Médecine Traditionnelle Chinoise) and CFMTC (Confédération Française de Médecine Traditionnelle Chinoise). These associations are the voluntary regulatory bodies for Chinese Medicine in France. As well as setting the exams for member schools, they have set up a code of ethics for practitioners and they are working for a greater recognition of TCM in France and better communication between practitioners of TCM and practitioners of Western medicine.
The courses are run as three-day weekends every two months for TCM, or every month if you choose TCM and QI GONG. The diploma in TCM is four years long with a fifth year of specialisation, while the diploma in Qi Gong is three years long.
If you are interested in any of the courses run by L’école de Médecine Chinoise & Qi Gong, you can find out more on their website.
I am also happy to answer any questions you would like to ask me about my experiences so far.