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The national Italian association for Tuina and Qigong practitioners is 18!

The national Italian association for Tuina and Qigong practitioners is 18!

OTTO (Operatori Tuina-Qigong e Tecniche Orientali), the national Italian association for Tuina and Qigong practitioners, is coming of age - We celebrated our eighteenth birthday on the eleventh of December 2021. Last year, thanks to the suggestions of ETCMA’s leadership seminars, we strengthened the dialogue with our associates and started a series of informal monthly meetings ("eight steles"), open to all our members, on issues often debated among our professionals. This project is still ongoing, with growing success. This year, turning eighteen, the right time has come for reviewing our path and to look to the future. These two objectives have been reflected in two round tables, entitled “Synopsis” and “Synapsis”, which we expect to continue for at least one more year. The first aims at updating all our statutory documents, with particular concern for our "cultural principles"; a flagship that completes our code of ethics. Synopsis is a small panel discussion, engaging the president, honorary president and a couple of board members. The second round table, Synapsis, is intended to compare the cultural foundations of Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM)  with the emerging paradigms from the most advanced points of Western medicine, particularly referring to epigenetics and psycho-neuro-endocrine-immunology (PNEI). 

For our annual meeting, last spring, we had lectures from specialists in Epigenetics and learned that the micro-macro cosmic relationship, on which CCM is grounded, could be effectively supported by its assumptions. Meanwhile, taking advantage of the fact that some of our professionals are also qualified as physicians, physiotherapists, biologists and psychologists, we started to open an interdisciplinary dialogue open to qualified externals. After a selection procedure, based on personal qualifications and working experiences, new members can take part and offer their expertise to the group. The project purpose is to create “crosslinks” among on the one side Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM) - obviously with CCM as a lead - including natural disciplines which have an affinity to Qigong (e.g. Yoga, Feldenkrais, etc.) and, on the other hand, the latest scientific updates on psycho-physiology (PNEI) and “environment” medicine (epigenetics). The final goal is to “translate” the language of science into that of traditional wisdom and vice versa, to build a common reference system, promote an integrated approach to medicine respectful of the original identities and - hopefully - move a step towards overcoming the Efficacy/Effectiveness Gap in our disciplines, by setting the grounds for a new multi-faceted methodology in research. Practically speaking, the project members meet every four weeks to review their previous work, while collecting and discussing recent scientific papers in this new light. 

Recently, OTTO and the Synapsis project members have started an important collaboration with SIPNEI, the Italian society of psycho-neuro-endocrine-immunology. Two members of the Synapsis group have been invited as speakers to the webinar held to celebrate the 20 years of SIPNEI foundation. Their lectures were centred on how Qigong practice can affect the soft tissues and interstitial fluids circulation. The concept of “membrane” was explored by Chiara Cusa (physician, a specialist in internal medicine while also being in the National Commission for integrative mind-body practices) through comparisons with the CCM concepts of Gao-Huang and Sanjiao. The concept of tensegrity structures was exposed in parallel with the postural alignment of Qigong. 

The report of our treasurer, Elisa Muscarella, who in addition to her expertise in TCM s a biologist, specialising in clinical biochemistry and clinical immunology, has generated great interest. Following an analysis of the “membrane” concept at large (including cell membrane and endomembranes), she exposed the findings of Pollack about the different behaviour of bulk water, by comparison to the water in the Exclusion Zone (close to a surface). These findings are generating new insights about the meaning of “resonance” in CCM, leading to a less materialistic view of the exchanges with the extracellular environment. Cell viability is not dependent only on nutrients and oxygen supply, but also on the peculiar characteristics of “biological water”, as Del Giudice and Tedeschi have named the super-coherent network of coherence domains oscillating in the same phase in physiological fluids. It is the semi-crystalline state (fourth phase) of the biological water that allows the internal environment to absorb electromagnetic impulses (and possibly other still unknown energies) from the external environment through a “resonance” process. Nothing new for people used to the concept of Qi and Ganying  (resonance), is it?

Going back to the biomechanical interpretation of the health benefits of Qigong practise, we have explored the functions of the fascia. Current research shows that every single cell is linked to all the others, thanks to the fascial system, a huge net composed of different kinds of structures and fibres, wrapping every single tissue and organ within the human body, thus connecting the extracellular matrix to the DNA chromatin. Therefore, every mechanical stress of the body, through the fascial system, is ultimately translated into gene expression modulation (epigenetics through mechanical signal transduction). The spiral and torsional movements, typical of Qigong and Taiji exercises, exert a sort of eu-stress on the fascia and other forms of connective tissues and membranes, thus greatly benefiting the health of every single cell.  Fascia is a highly innervated tissue, rich in different kinds of receptors; it appears that the connective layers of the body surface are not to be intended as mere protective and isolating support tissues, as it happened in the past. No wonder since it is in this district that the meridians flow. In other terms, the recent acquisitions of mechanobiology might help us to better understand the benefits of traditional CCM exercises. Talking about Sanjiao and Gao-Huang, the pleuro-diaphragmatic space (called Gaohuang in CCM) brings us to the functions of the diaphragm and the vagus nerve, at the basis of the autonomic functions of all the organs of the human body. We already know that Qigong practice, by its peculiar movement patterns and conscious breathing, promotes a general relaxation state and provides an energy boost at a cellular level, as shown by scientific evidence. The next step will be to investigate how the different breathing techniques affect the autonomic functions through the vagus-diaphragmatic system.

By Giulia Boschi

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