The town in the Bavarian Forest is a west-eastern fountain of health. Recuperative programmes are offered with Kneipp cures and treatments as well as with traditional Chinese medicine. We decided to take a closer look at that. Text: Markus Stein. Photos: Frank Heuer
Bad Kötzting. It’s Qi for me!
End of July. The sky above Bad Kötzting is a summery blue colour. The town’s river – “der Weiße Regen” or “White Rain” – flows quietly through the town. It is eight o’clock in the morning. In the garden of the Clinic for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the Qi awakens. That is, it is awakened by Dr Ma.
“Qi” is the life energy that flows through the body in pathways called meridians. “Qi” gets the blood flowing and keeps the body going. Breathing, digestion and sweating. Qi is also the source of all energy in the cosmos – that which holds the world together at its core.
“Gong” can be translated as “work, skill”, “qigong” as the “ability to use qi” or “work on oneself”. Through Qi Gong, people strengthen their Qi, and harmonise its flow. This promotes mental resilience and prevents illness. That is at the heart of Far Eastern theory.
Centre of life? Just under the navel
Master Ma, casually dressed in a blue T-shirt and grey trousers, puts the CD player on the lawn. Soft flute tones. Ma looks at an imaginary point with an unwavering expression. Slowly, while inhaling, he raises the arms stretched out in front, bends them at the level of the sternum and places the left palm on the back of the right hand.
The arms are now horizontal, the elbows pointing outwards. On the exhale, the hands descend about ten centimetres in front of the chest and abdomen and remain a hand’s breadth below the navel – where the “Dan Tian”, the human centre of life, lies inside the body. Then, they slowly move up again on the inhale.
Shifting the rainbow
After the Qi awakening, the actual round of exercises begins. It is known as the “Eighteen Harmonies”. Ma’s movements are elegant and supple, his body taut like a Manchurian bow. Breath, movement and meditation combine to form a unity. The twenty or so patients in the garden follow the master...
With bending bodies or swinging arms, with legs spread or lunging, and especially in their thoughts, they have a good time. They shift rainbows, push clouds apart or lift the sun with one hand. Sometimes the fists box forward, very slowly. An iconic image of Qi Gong. That alone is reassuring to watch ...
Mao saved TCM
“Our clinic was opened in 1991, and it was the first German clinic for traditional Chinese medicine. We are also a university clinic of the TCM University in Beijing and have many Chinese staff,” says Professor Dr Erich Wühr.
“Traditional Chinese Medicine is thousands of years old,” Wühr continues, “starting in the 19th century, Western medicine conquered China, not least thanks to its success in fighting epidemics.
In 1929, Chinese medicine was even banned. But there were too few Western-trained doctors to care for such a large nation. TCM was simply needed. Mao, therefore, put Chinese medicine on an equal footing with Western medicine from 1949 onwards. Today, every hospital in China has a TCM department!”
Release Qi blockages
The basis of all naturopathy is to stimulate the body’s self-healing powers. But if blockages are allowed to form in the flow of qi, the result can be dysfunctions afflicting the organs – such as the liver or bladder – and subsequent pain. The only thing that helps is to get the Qi going again. The Chinese have several methods for this.
Reunion with Dr Ma. In his clinic room, he treats a patient with a Qigong technique: as if pianist virtuoso Lang Lang were striking a chord with spread fingers and holding it for a long time – this is how Dr Ma “plays” on the back of the lying patient.
He presses his fingertips firmly on meridian points alternately on the abdomen, chest, collarbone and knee. He keeps up the pressure for minutes at a time. This technique stimulates the flow of Qi and healing energy passes from the therapist to the patient.
The massage frictions generate enormous heat
Friction heat and needle point
Another “Qi turbo session”, the Tuina massage (“rubbing and pushing”), is demonstrated by Dr. Yu. He massages different points and areas of the body with the back of his hand or lays his hand on them to release energy blockages. The massage friction generates so much heat that a sheet is placed over the patient’s body to protect her from burns.
Acupuncture is probably the most famous healing method. The fine needles can penetrate centimetres deep into the skin, Dr. Yu places them on different meridian points depending on the complaints. However, this can hurt – especially on the toes or hands – and may elicit an “ouch” from the patient.
Alisma and Coicis Semen
There is hardly an ailment for which there is no herb. The healthy plant juices are the central element of TCM, and the natural pharmacy is the clinic’s heart.
The dried treasure is stored in a cellar room. It smells intensely earthy and spicy, with a slightly exotic note. Components of more than two hundred different plants are stored in large metal cupboards with umpteen drawers. Flowers, leaves, roots, barks, fruits. In various shades of brown, but also in ochre, yellow or red, as powder, granules, stalks or slices.
Botanical and Chinese names on the drawers provide information about the contents. For example, it states Alismatis Rhizoma/Ze Xie (“Common Alisma”), Poria/Fu Ling (“China Root”) or Coicis Semen/Yiyiren (“Cheop Seed”).
The plants are imported from China. After anamnesis, tongue and Chinese pulse diagnosis, Prof. Dai and his team design an individual mixture for each patient, consisting of up to fifteen different herbs. A fresh brew (“decoction”) is made from it daily for each patient, to be drunk twice a day. “It doesn’t always taste very pleasant, but it helped me”, as one patient says. For arthritis and rheumatism, the herbal juice is available as a poultice.
Strutting over shuffling
It is afternoon in Bad Kötzting. Heat rests on the Auwiesen Spa Park. A stork heads for its nest on the town hall, flapping its wings vigorously. I wonder what he thinks when he sees the people down below in a pool of water, doing the stork walk?
“You could also just shuffle through the water,” Bettina Pritzl admits with a smile. She is the managing director of the Kneipp Association. “But the stork walk has two benefits. On the one hand, the evaporative cold provides additional stimulation every time you lift your leg, and on the other hand, the hydrostatic pressure when you dip your leg back into the water.” The water doesn’t have to be ice cold, cool is enough, i.e. well below skin temperature, preferably below 18 degrees.
One hour break between treading water and arm bath
Ms Pritzl inspects the Kneipp facility in the park, which has been given a whole new look. Two arm pools, two foot pools, two foot rocking benches and a barefoot path invite you to try Kneipp. There is even a place to de-robe. Another tip from the health trainer: “Between treading water and arm baths – a few minutes are enough in each case – you should take a break for an hour and give your body time to react to the stimuli.”
According to Kneipp, these activate the immune system and stimulate circulation, blood flow and metabolism. And ultimately strengthen the body’s self-healing powers. And they have it good in Bad Kötzting, after all, the state-recognised Kneipp spa has a comprehensive range of Kneipp cures and treatments.
Kneipp also knew it
The holistic concept that Sebastian Kneipp developed 150 years ago is similar in many ways to Chinese naturopathy. It is also based on five pillars: stimulation of the immune system through external stimuli (above all through water, but not just that), medicinal herbs (in the tradition of Hippocrates, Paracelsus or Hildegard von Bingen), exercise, healthy and wholesome nutrition as well as “order-related therapy”; today, in common parlance, people would talk of a health-promoting, stress-reduced lifestyle. And that can achieve a lot.
“Eighty per cent of illnesses in Germany are chronic conditions,” confirms Professor Dr Wühr, “and they usually result from an unhealthy lifestyle.” Therefore, the TCM clinic also provides tips and suggestions for this and develops individual programmes for patients for a healthy lifestyle. They are based on TCM, as well as Kneipp and are imparted through lectures, health coaches or training support via the web over several months.
And now: time to bathe the arms!
An hour has passed since the footbath. Just the right time to send the arms on a dive. Pritzl reveals how to do it correctly according to Kneipp: “Breathe in, breathe out, then immerse with the right forearm, and then immediately afterwards with the left.
Now circle your forearms around each other in the water, move your fingers and stay in the water until you feel the stimulus and the skin tightens,” says the health trainer, “twenty, thirty seconds is enough, then take your arms out of the pool. Wipe off the water and moisten the back of the neck.” Done. This refreshes, invigorates and stimulates the immune system – and could certainly please Master Ma and the Qi!
Traditional Chinese Medicine helps against this
Most of the patients who come to the Kötztinger Klinik have been suffering from complaints for a long time and are often out of treatment options with conventional medicine. TCM is also good for acute illnesses and for prevention. Apart from surgical interventions, indications for TCM therapy are: diseases of the musculo-skeletal system, gastrointestinal tract and respiratory tract, functional pain conditions, nervous disorders, cardiovascular diseases, hormonally induced diseases and skin diseases.
More information at tcm.info
Kneipp is good for that
A Kneipp treatment programme helps with the following clinical conditions: heart, circulatory and vascular diseases, allergies, nervous disorders and nervous complaints, sleep disorders, rheumatic and degenerative diseases, and metabolic diseases. Practical kneipp tips for life at home are available at kneippbund.de. (only in German)
More information about health offers in Bad Kötzting (only in German)