Rather than concentrating on building cardiovascular stamina and body strength, the Chinese concept of fitness focuses on general health in a holistic sense. Living in Shanghai is a great opportunity to explore holistic health.
Places offering massages, acupuncture, martial arts and meditation are relatively inexpensive and can be found throughout the city. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on a pre-scientific paradigm of medicine that developed over several thousand years and involves concepts that have no counterpart within contemporary scientific methodology. In TCM, the body is treated as a whole comprised of several systems of function. Many of the gyms and health-centres in Shanghai now offer a lot of the below.
Acupuncture and Acupressure
Reports from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the American Medical Association (AMA), as well as various government reports, have studied and commented on the efficacy of acupuncture. There is general agreement that acupuncture is safe when administered by well-trained practitioners using sterile needles. Acupuncture and acupressure are available in Shanghai through several established hospitals, such as the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (www.shutcm.com/english) and ParkwayHealth (with an English-speaking doctor). It’s useful to do some research and go to an English-speaking practitioner the first time, so that you gain an understanding of the process. If you do decide to go to a local practitioner, make sure they have been recommended. While acupressure is basically safe, there are health concerns with acupuncture including hygiene, sterilisation of needles (even packaged needles may have been recycled) and herbal medications.
One of the best ways to relieve stress while finding inner harmony is through the practice of yoga. Whilst you’ll find Shanghai’s elderly population practicing tai chi in city parks, the younger generation are stretching and sweating in one of the hundreds of yoga centres across the city. There are several yoga styles to choose from. Hatha yoga focuses on holding postures and enhanced breathing, while Vinyasa emphasises building strength by moving from one posture to the next. If you need to sweat out stress and toxins, give bikram (hot) yoga a go. For beginners, try three to four classes per week. It’ll be painful at first, but long-term practitioners swear by its short- and long-term benefits. Try www.yogafinder.com for a comprehensive list of yoga centres popular with expats.
One of the luxuries of living in Shanghai is getting a quality, affordable massage. There are countless massage parlours throughout the city, with prices ranging from RMB 60-400 for a session. The most common form is Chinese massage, which involves digging, prodding and pressure of the main pressure points to facilitate the positive flow of qi throughout the body. This is excellent treatment for sore or knotty muscles. Oriental foot massages feel very therapeutic (unless you’re ticklish) if you’ve been on your feet all day. Aromatherapy massages are another popular form, offering a gentle touch by relying on the power of essential oils that work wonders as they are absorbed into your skin. Avoid massage parlours adorned with red lights or twirling barbershop poles.