The Mystery of Walking Backwards and Ear Flicking

April is probably the best time of the year in Shanghai, sun shines in blue sky, birds chirping behind leafy trees, flowers blossoming, wind blows gently, and fashionable girls and boys can’t wait to take off the heavy winter coats to show off the well toned limbs. In the mornings and evenings, parks transformed into centres of recreational activities, taichi, sword dance, line dance, and percussion drums, just to name a few. You’d see people jogging, walking, and practicing peking operas. Everyone minds his own business in any way he likes as if there’s no one watching. It could be noisy at times when all the activities take place at the same time with different background music, but it’s the best noise for me in the world, the sound of spring, the sound of life, the sound of enjoying life. It is the time of the year I spend more hours sitting on a cool park bench than my big leather office chair, I let my eyes stray and my mind wander.

I don’t know if you have seen people walking backwards in parks, and/or flicking ears in public anywhere else in the world, I haven’t. I asked my well travelled colleagues, they consider these can be well categorized as the few “Only-in-China Phenomena”, and “weird”.

Confucius once said he would have no regret to die in the evening if he had learnt the truth in the morning. Although I don’t want to die yet, it will certainly make the bench sitting days worthwhile if I could take a stab at unveiling the mystery.

They say sharing is caring, here’s what I found.

Walking Backwards – First of all, it has nothing to do with superstitions, in contrary, it is a recommended exercise for the elderly and the adolescents, provided doing it right – no bending knees, walk backwards steady and slowly, fingers closed, arms moving forward and backward gently, keep back straight and breath rhythmically.

The benefits of walking backwards are: strengthen spine and muscles on the lower back, good for “chi” and blood circulations on the back, relieve fatigue and pain in the area, especially for the seniors who suffer from the chronic pain of lower back.

The theory is: when moving backwards, different muscles and tendons on the lower back, around knees and ankles are used than walking forward, and extra pressure will apply while keeping legs straight, hence the foresaid would be strengthened and reinforced. Also it requires more balancing technique when step backwards, it stimulates cerebellum as well.

I am no physiotherapist so I am not going to bore you with technical details. I promise this is no prank, so you should be able to feel the difference if you stand up and experiment yourself (ok, maybe not the cerebellum as that’s hard to measure, but you will definitely fall if not focused).

For the adolescents, walking backwards is in a similar vein as walking with a book above one’s head – to prevent bad postures.

Walking backwards is a gentle workout, as a result it is recommended to those who are not suitable for strenuous exercises.

Ear Flicking – as weird as it sounds, ear flicking is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, which has a history of more than two thousand years. According to TCM, ears are miniatures of a human body, and the acupoints on ears reflect status of various organs, therefore stimulating the pressure points would help to restore the strength of body parts. It is said about over 190 chronic illnesses range from internal to dermatology can be treated through massaging, acupuncturing, pressing, and other ways of sensitizing the ear acupoints. Yes, exactly the same concept of foot reflexology.

Speak of that, I reckon my effort just earned me a pampering foot massage on this beautiful Friday evening. Bye for now dear readers, wish you all a happy weekend!

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