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Introducing Keith Ashton

Rhoda-Mary Health
When you think of Traditional Chinese Medicine, what images float to mind? Silver needles puncturing your skin? Or herbal teas that look like the forest floor? How about building a beautiful singing voice? Or forging a mind-body-spirit connection so deep that your intuition knows how to guide you to health? Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been practised in the Far East for millennia. It is a healing modality that is at once sophisticated and practical. It treats the mind-body-spirit as an entity and uses herbs, acupuncture, nutrition and energy-raising exercises, such as Qi Kung and Tai Chi, to restore health and balance to the system. If you're feeling flattened by the festive season or sick of martial law (aka New Year's Resolutions!) you might enjoy a healing weekend instead. Keith Ashton, Head of Traditional Chinese Medicine at The Irish Institute of Nutrition and Health, is presenting a two-day workshop on 6-7 February on the fundamental principles of TCM. He will be looking at vitality and optimum health; how to handle the Γ’Β€Β˜invadersҀ™ (i.e. the causes of health problems); body-mind-spirit medicine from a TCM perspective; and much more. (For workshop details, click here.) We thought you might like to meet Keith before you meet him, so we caught up with him for a chat Ҁ“ a feat in itself, for in addition to working in Ireland, he runs busy practices in Brighton and Wimpole St, London. Keith employs Chinese diagnostic tools, nutritional therapy, herbs, acupuncture and Qi Kung in his work to facilitate his patients' return to health. He also teaches the key principles of TCM. So how did he get into Traditional Chinese Medicine? 'I had wanted to do it for 10 years before I did it,' he says. A professional TV and theatre actor for many years (so that's why he looks familiar!) and marketing director of a whole foods company for several more, he felt 'inspired' by witnessing the healing possibilities of acupuncture. In 1983, he embarked on a three-year course in Acupuncture and continued to study both Traditional Chinese Acupuncture and Herbal medicine for the next five years at various colleges, including a hospital in Nanjing, China and The Academy of Oriental Medicine in London. KeithҀ™s main teacher was Vietnamese. He taught Keith several effective needling and herbal techniques and other inspiring family secrets passed down from his father and grandfather, both of whom practised Oriental Medicine. One technique practised by his teacher's grandfather, who was a very sensitive healer, was to turn his back to a patient and try to feel the power of his or her constitution solely by using his sensitivity to energy. (It is necessary to have a good idea of the strength of a patientҀ™s Constitutional energy to be able to treat the person.) Eight years prior to studying TCM, Keith understood the importance of 'tapping into our true inner selves through drama and healing.' He dreamt of establishing a community in Cambridge, where he lived, which would focus on healing through theatre, alternative medicine and spirituality. Having previously worked with a children's travelling theatre in Devon, his goal was to create a centre where people could work long-term while availing of ongoing, low-cost therapies. A key element was self-expression through drama. Although his vision did not come to fruition, the theatrical side took off and he was instrumental in organising lunchtime performances of plays written entirely by local people and performed by professional actors. Traditional Chinese Medicine embraces a similar holistic outlook. Keith aims 'to enlighten people as to how to reach their optimum health through body, mind and spirit' by bringing TCM to a wider audience. TCM is profound because it understands the causes of problems. 'You can almost explain a person's life by their symptoms, which lead to the cause,' he explains. He knows that all physical, emotional, mental and spiritual ailments are connected. A patient suffering from manic depression, for example, will also need attention to the blood and the heart. Such an understanding is why TCM can work so deeply. On a different note, TCM can help to strengthen the body's abilities. If you are a singer, Tai Chi can do wonders for your voice, as I discovered first hand when my singing teacher, Daphne, asked me if I had been practising moreΓ‚ often than usual (ahem!) because my voice had suddenly improved. Er Ҁ¦ no, I hadn't. What I had been doing (instead of my Ki Ay Os) was Tai Chi! According to Keith, TCM (which incorporates Tai Chi) is the opera singer's friend. It strengthens the spleen, lung and kidney energies and Ҁ“ in so doing Ҁ“ strengthens the tone, quality and power, respectively, of your voice. It also purifies the two emotional organs Ҁ“ the liver and the heart Ҁ“ which increases the depth of feeling in your vocal expression. If it can have such a deep effect on an individual singer, imagine the beauty of a choir powered by TCM...! Ultimately, Traditional Chinese Medicine is a coherent system, grounded in common sense and useful not only for healing ailments but also for tapping hidden talents. Acupuncture, herbs, foods and graceful movement are but tools to help you access your inner being and furnish it with the fuel it needs to flourish. If you are interested in learning more, come along to the workshops on 6-7 February. If you are new to TCM and can only make it to one workshop, choose the first day: 'Vitality and Optimum Health'. The second workshop builds upon the basics outlined in the first and will make no sense without that foundation. If, however, you have done some groundwork in TCM but can only attend one workshop, you may choose the second workshop on 'Vitality and Emotional HealingҀ™ if you wish.

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