9 things ancient Asian medicine tells us about anger and mental health with Haunani Chong Drake

If you are angry and you know it clap your hands. Yeah, well, that’s why I’m not a comedian.

People! Bad jokes aside, I am more than excited to be here today, because I have the pleasure to interview a dear fellow yoga teacher but also a person that I highly respect. She is a cool friend and a dedicated professional, both in yoga as in ancient Asian medicine. She holds an MS on Traditional Oriental Medicine from Pacific College of Health and Science, is a certified Ayurveda Wellness Counselor, a licensed acupuncturist and international Yoga teacher, with the mission of helping busy women make their best step towards self-care and healing . She is here today, to talk to us about how to use ancient Asian medicine for anger and mental health purposes.

We have all heard about the many uses of Asian medicine, however, I’m willing to bet that most of us don’t really go past acupuncture and it’s uses for pain. If you are, apologies, and if you are not, then you are in for a treat. I decided to dive deeper into the core of this tradition and really understand how you can be served through it and improve your life.

You see, there are people who have an awesome life, and awesome abilities, but who still struggle with mental pain, such as what our starting topic here is, (It’s anger by the way, I mean, it’s in the name). At some point in life, it’s not just about reducing something but about increasing something else, that’s why we invest into self-development, because It will not only help us reduce whatever bad thing we are experiencing, but it will also increase the quality of human being we are. In such spirit, I asked Haunani to give us a tour on 9 things we absolutely must know when it comes to ancient Asian medicine and its uses for mental health and anger.

Ready? Let’s go!

1.  What does Asian medicine teach us about anger? Or how does Asian medicine treat anger?

Wow! Let’s get right into it.  Asian Medicine is a broad term.  From the lenses I have studied and immersed my life are through Yoga, Ayurveda, and Chinese Medicine.  Both see the body, mind, and spirit as one entity, always connected.  So for me, when I use the term “body,” I inherently am taking into consideration the mind, emotions, and spirit. 

Emotions, such as anger, are often discussed in categories “of the mind” because like our thoughts, emotions are not tangible.  It’s hard to grasp them and touch them.  Side note: With this said, anyone who has taken a moment to notice what goes on inside the body when they experience any emotion, will agree that there is a physiological (stuff going on inside the body) when they experience an emotion.  Anger will create physiological experiences in the body. 

What makes Asian Medicine so beautifully organic and not so linear, is anger can be seen as both the chicken and the egg per se.  One can experience anger as a response to an outside stimuli (i.e. you don’t like what someone did to you or someone you love and you react/respond with anger).  This is how most people who grew up in linear, cause and affect dominated cultures will relate to and understand their emotions: as a response to an external stimuli.  Asian Medicine goes one step further to explain, if the anger is stuffed, not expressed, or dwelt on for too long (too long depends on the person and their constitutional strengths and weaknesses) it can lead to physiological and pathological dis-ease of the person.  This is how our emotions can create dis-ease or illness.

Asian Medicine offers another layer of our emotions that are often overlooked in bio-medicine or linear thinking.  Due to the interdependence of the physical and subtle/bio-energetic aspects of the body (our emotions would fall under the category of the subtle body), it is also possible that their is a stuckness or stagnation, lack of flow, too much flow, or wrong direction of flow of our body.  This could cause stress on the internal physiology that overtime could lead to the manifestation of anger.  Essentially that the lack of balance or homeostasis within the body could also give rise to emotional states or extended experiences of emotional states of being. 

Asian Medicine practitioners aim to get to the root, or the main reason, why this person in front of me is experiencing xyz…in this case anger or rage.  Is this person’s unexpressed anger building up causing them to manifest other dis-ease or illness through constraint like high blood pressure, irregular or painful menses, or other digestive disorders for example. Or is lack of movement and exercise, overwork, and high stress creating the fertile grounds for anger to build up

Haunani Chong Drake

So how does Asian Medicine treat anger…it depends on the person.  Asian Medicine is a very person-centric model when it comes to treatment.  Asian Medicine practitioners aim to get to the root, or the main reason, why this person in front of me is experiencing xyz…in this case anger or rage.  Is this person’s unexpressed anger building up causing them to manifest other dis-ease or illness through constraint like high blood pressure, irregular or painful menses, or other digestive disorders for example.  Or is lack of movement and exercise, overwork, and high stress creating the fertile grounds for anger to build up.  Once we know what is causing the anger, once we know the root of the anger, we can choose the best treatment options.  The Asian Medicine practitioner’s toolbox is versatile and includes lifestyle and dietary recommendations, hands on treatments like different types of massage, acupressure, acupuncture, gua sha, cupping, and herbal remedies.  Each person would receive their own unique recommendations and each person would receive the treatments and recommendations that fit their motivation level of participation in their own health and wellness path. 

2. Can it be use alongside western traditional medicine and psychotherapy? 

YES and in fact, we’re seeing that more and more in western traditional hospitals.  Places like China and India have been using this integrated model for a long time.  Here in the US, we’re starting to see more western hospitals and clinics integrate Asian Medicine and mindfulness practitioners to support the holistic needs of their patients.  Since a majority of top diseases in the United States (heart disease and obesity specifically) are often lifestyle related, the paradigm of medicine is slowly shifting to a more holistic model. Even the U.S. military hospitals and VA are integrating Asian Medicine and mindful practices into their clinics. 

Western and Eastern medicine. The holistic approach.

3. What is the deal with the tongue and stress and why is it important if you have anger issues?

You know, I LOVE looking at tongues and educating people to look at their own tongue.  The body is very wise and has left us several ways to communicate with us what is going on inside (the parts we can’t see when looking at a mirror).  Furthermore, the inner sense or interoception is not really taught or developed in our more masculine, linear thinking, outward focused dominant culture.  In Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine, the tongue is a very useful diagnostic tool to help us figure out what’s going on inside the body. 

The tongue is the only muscle we can see on the outside of the body.   We can look at the color, size, coat, and moisture of the tongue to get a sense of what is going on inside the body.  The tongue specifically reflects our state of digestion which can be thrown out of balance very easily by anger and stress due to the digestion’s close relationship to the parasympathetic nervous system “rest, digest, and breed” system.  The tongue also can be viewed like a map and reflects different areas of our inner physiology.  The tip of the tongue is more correlated with the upper chest area.  The center of the tongue the main digestive organs.  The back of the tongue the pelvic cavity.  The sides of the tongue can change shape, texture, moisture, and color and this is the area we often see when there is suppressed anger or the internal environment that could lead to anger.  If someone has anger and/or high stress this side area will often be pinched, bright red, sometimes deep red, or even have red dots or spikes. 

4. What are sublingual veins?

Haha, you must be looking at my Instagram.  Yes, the sublingual veins (SLV, my shorthand) are on the underside of the tongue and is part of the map of the tongue.  If you curl the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, there are two prominent veins at the bottom of your tongue.  Depending on the size and color, these SLV can show us how much a person is holding on or constrained physically or mentally/emotionally.  What I think is fascinating is how much the SLV can change in relationship to a female body’s menstrual cycle.  Think if pre-menstrual signs.  For some female bodies, irritability, anger, and frustration are common and recurring around the same time of their cycle.  This will often show up in the SLV.  During this irritable, frustrating, or angry time the SLV are often larger and darker than other parts of the month. 

5. Why the emphasis on the digestive system?

I alluded to it above with the autonomic nervous system. There are three main branches of our ANS, the sympathetic, parasympathetic, and enteric.  All of those affect digestion in some way or the other.  Sympathetic nervous system shuts down digestion in preparation to fight, flee, or freeze from a real or perceived danger.  Parasympathetic and Enteric both keep the digestion function moving regularly and smoothly.  So, any type of stress that begins to affect the body or mind will affect the ANS and thus have a direct influence on digestion.  Anger has a particularly constraining and often heating effect on the physical body.  The constraint and extra heat will disrupt the free low and smooth rhythm of the digestive system.

Samadosha samaagni samadhatu samamalakriyaha prasana atma indriya mano

6.  How does Ayurveda define mental health?  

There is no separate definition of health and mental health in Ayurveda.  The definition of health in Ayurveda includes mental health.  The definition of Health in Sanskrit is:

Samadosha samaagni samadhatu samamalakriyaha prasana atma indriya mano

This translates to:

Health is balanced dosha ( bio-energies of vata, pitta, kapha), balanced agni (digestion), balanced dhatu (tissue layers of the body), regular and balanced excretion (bowels, urine, menses), with a contented state of senses, mind and spirit.

You cannot separate one part of the whole to try and achieve whole health.  You might be at peace in the mind but have imbalance digestion.  Soon enough, this peace of mind will be disturbed by your out of balance digestion. 

Haunani Chong Drake

You can see from this definition that the mind, spirit, and body must all be working together to create overall health.  You cannot separate one part of the whole to try and achieve whole health.  You might be at peace in the mind but have imbalance digestion.  Soon enough, this peace of mind will be disturbed by your out of balance digestion.  In the same respect, have you ever met someone with overactive bowels (think of someone who has colitis or Chrone’s), it literally takes over your life and their mind is hyperfocused on it. 

7. We hear acupuncture and we think chronic pain, but there is certainly more to it, so I’m wondering, can we use acupuncture as a mental health tool, if so, how?

Yes!  While there may not be as many Licensed Acupuncturists promoting themselves as specializing in “Mental Health,” this is definitely something we can address with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal formulas.  At our college we were required to take a whole course on mental health, acupuncture and chinese medicine.  Our teacher worked with more severe DSM diagnoses like schizophrenia, borderline, bi-polar, and PTS syndrome, but as you know, many people need basic mental health support.

Many people who have chronic conditions (physical, stress, trauma) will have an element of mental health concerns, signs, or symptoms.  Emotional regulation, mental rumination, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression are a few of the top of my head that I saw regularly when I had a clinical practice. 

Haunani Chong Drake

Again, since our outward thinking dominant culture here in the U.S. hasn’t really cultivated curriculum or developed media messages helping people to recognize and manage their stress, mental health, emotional health, and spiritual health, I really hope people begin to realize they don’t have to suffer.  What I love about acupuncture for my personal mental health, is that after the initial consultation which is often very involved and lengthy, I don’t have to do all the “talk therapy” about my issues but I can tell things have shifted after a treatment session (the way it might after an EMDR session). 

8. Besides popular preconceptions of Yin and Yang, exactly what is that paradigm and how can it change our mental health?

Wow, this could be the topic of an entire Ph.D thesis! 

The best way to sum it up is that nothing is as it seems.  And nothing is forever. 

Yin and Yang are not separate, nor can they be truly understood with linear thinking. They are in constant relationship to each other and interdependent.  Within Yin is yang.  Within yang is yin. As long as there is life they are also transforming into and out of each other.   If you try to separate them, there is death or non-life. 

Haunani Chong Drake

For mental health, it depends on what condition and how severe.  As you know, there are spectrums to everything.  There is irritability to rage.  Sad because you heard sad news to deep profound grief from the death of a loved one.  We sometimes use the same name of like “anger” or “sadness” respectively, but these are very different expressions of experience and need to be looked at and managed differently.  Yin and Yang provide a model of interdependence, interconnection, and a mindset of wholeness rather than separate, independent, and linear-thinking that is idealized and dominant in the US culture.

9. What is one Asian medicine tradition people can start implementing as a daily habit today? Give us the step by step!

I would typically give a food recommendation but sometimes changing food and eating habits is harder than changing someone’s religion.

Asian Medicine, like many ancient wisdom traditions around the globe, has always had an intimate connection with an emphasis on being connected to Self, Others, and Nature. 

This might sound way too easy but RECONNECTING with NATURE is some of the best medicine we have, and it usually is FREE!

Haunani Chong Drake

Simple steps or how to reconnect with nature:

●             First thing in the morning, open a window or step outside and take 10 deep breaths of morning air.  You can do this at night too. (Free)

●             Take a walk OUTSIDE after lunch or mid-day if you work in an office. (Free)

●             Take off your shoes and put your feet in grass, sand, rocks, or mud.  Really feel your feet on the Earth.  You can even lay down on the ground if you want extra credit.  (Free)

●             Watch a sunset or sunrise.  Extra credit, try to do BOTH in one day! (Free)

●             Next time it rains, go play in the rain and jump in puddles. (Free. If you live in a desert, then DEFINITELY go play in the rain when it arrives!)

●             Try and find the moon every night and notice its shape.  Learn about the moon and how its cycles affect water on Earth.  Keep in mind you are 65-75% water yourself.  (Low cost)

●             Tend to seeds or plants. You don’t need a garden or land for this.  Grow seeds in a plastic container (recycle something to use as your pot).   (Low Cost)

●             Next vacation go on a wellness retreat or outdoor adventure (High Cost)

For those who are super motivated to improve their digestion, you can download my free Three Nourishing Life Tips to Improve Your Digestion This Week at www.qiandprana.com/free

I do hope you were able to get as much as I did from this interview, what a ride. Haunani was not kidding! This was a lot of fun and full of so many facts I wasn’t aware of prior to this. Comes to show how much knowledge on mental health there is out there and how important it is to stay a student, no matter if you are already a professional.

What were your favorite parts? I’m still processing all of this, however by the end of each interview, I like to highlight my takeaways, and I already have some in mind. What would yours be? Comment below, I’m curious to see.

Without further ado, here are my highlights:

Chances are you are going to have to improve on a bigger scale.

+ Let me start with number 9 on the list: I tend to gravitate towards the empirical paradigm of study, because of this, the first time I started out with yoga, I saw it as a cool fitness experience. Funny how things change. My practice now, has naturally gravitated towards deepening my self-growth. I see now, how yoga is truly a philosophy, not an exercise. Because of this, I cannot wait to take my shoes off and wander about in the mud. After all, I used to do that constantly as a kid, and now I get to do it under professional advice, thank you Haunani! But seriously, each activity she just suggested to us, require us to take time out of a very busy life. It forces us to slow down, and balance our metabolism, because that’s what you do when you go from expensive activities metabolically wise, to low cost ones. After a while, your body will be asking you continue your practice.

If you are leaning towards an empirical occidental paradigm, like me, but still want to expand your health repertoire, start with something closer to home, like the breathing exercises she is suggesting and grow from there.

+  Number 6: “There is no separate definition of health and mental health in Ayurveda.” To tell you the truth, I didn’t understand this until I got sick. Nowadays, if I want to make sure to have physical energy, I have to make sure my mind is taken care of and vice versa. I’m not one to tell you what diet you should be on, or what kind of exercises you should practice, however, the fact is, that body and mind influence each other, whether I tell you this or not. Want to stop being an angry person? Chances are, you are going to have to improve on a bigger scale. Would that be such a bad thing, though? I mean, we are talking about things like making sure your emotions are flowing in a balanced way, which will make you sleep, eat, and feel better. Would that be so terrible?

+ Number 1: “So how does Asian Medicine treat anger…it depends on the person.  Asian Medicine is a very person-centric model when it comes to treatment.”

In the clinical world, we are forever testing treatments to make sure we can find enough data that tell us that it actually works, and it is not just a placebo effect. We do this many times and in different scenarios and demographics to make sure that it can actually be recommended as an effective treatment. The best example for this is CBT, a well-researched therapy that has been proven to work effectively as treatment for different psychopathologies and conditions. It is a standardized therapy, so, it is not a person to person thing, or is it? The reality is, that even though it works, personality will play a big role on how a person responds to therapy. Ancient Asian medicine person-centric model knows this. And so, the recommendations will vary depending on the needs of a particular person. And I think that’s a fantastic lesson to bring to psychology. If you have anger issues and also colon problems, maybe your treatment will be different than those of a person with chronic pain and anger issues, and that’s a good thing.

Dear people, today was a good one! There are so many things that I could highlight, but I’m going to go ahead and be balanced and stay with these 3.

Thank you for reading this far. Continue to get the wisdom of our lovely guest, here, and here.

If you want to put your best foot forward, start with digestion my friend. You will not regrated, get Haunani’s free method, “Three Nourishing Life Tips to Improve Your Digestion” This Week at www.qiandprana.com/free

To Haunani, I can’t stop looking at my tongue now. Thank you very much.

To all of you, have an awesome day! Don’t forget to share this with more angry people. See you next time!

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