How to Leverage Structural Tension

There is a wonderful framework used by artistic creators called “Structural Tension”.

Within this framework, the artist or writer or other creator focuses on two ends of the creative spectrum or process.

The first point of focus is the vision for what they wish to create.

The second point of focus is on where they are now, or the starting point.

Creative tension results from the dissonance or distance between where the creator wants to go – their vision of their finished creation – and the beginning of the creative process.

As long as the artist or creator stays focused on their vision or goal, they maintain the creative tension. And by tension, I don’t mean something negative. It’s more like a “pulling toward” feeling, by which the creator invests emotional, mental, and sometimes physical energy into the process, so they stay on track and, bit by bit, chip away at what they are working on.

Each of us can use this Structural Tension framework as we approach our own goals, dreams, and vision for our lives.

Medium to longer-term goals may require that you operate on a lower but more constant level of creative tension or energy. You feel the dissonance between where you are now and where you want to go or what you want to manifest in your life. And at times, you may lose the feeling as you focus on shorter-term goals or current life problems or challenges.

Eventually, you will come back to that goal or dream. It’s always there, percolating under the surface.

Get back in gear by renewing the creative tension. Allow yourself to feel the pull of the goal and the emotions of wanting to achieve it. Bask in the feelings you will experience once you have it. Then begin. Take a small step today from where you are today.

As Teddy Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Creative Tension in Our Practice

We practice within this Creative Tension framework every time we do our Qigong and related dynamic exercises.

In fact, our standing practice helps us to develop structural tension and stability – what’s known as “tensegrity” – so we feel more stable and grounded and can stand for extended periods of time. This in turn strengthens the supporting structures and allows the body to open so the energy can flow.

We strive to stay relaxed… yet we also learn to focus our mind and intention. We stand still in our Wuji stance… yet the energy flows and tingles throughout our body.

In many of our forms (such as the Yi Jin Jing or Muscle-Tendon Changing Classic), we stretch to create structural tension on our ligaments, tendons, fasciae, bones, and muscles…then we release that tension into relaxation or into movement in another plane or direction.

Tension, relaxation, tension, relaxation…stretch, relax, stretch, relax…inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale…rhythmic cycle after cycle after cycle.

These instances of “micro” structural tension – relaxation cycles help condition us and improve our abilities to leverage creative tension in all areas of life, helping us bring into being the person we want to be and the contributions we want to make.

You Can Do It!

Dr. Karen

Qigong and What Else?

Practicing Qigong is a fun, wonderful, fulfilling, and minimal impact way to stretch and strengthen without the potential risk of injury from other exercise modalities.

In addition to moving forms, such as the Ba Duan Jin (Eight Pieces of Brocade) and Yi Jin Jing (Muscle-Tendon Changing Classic), standing practices also improve our strength and flexibility. In fact, as you progress in your Qigong, you will find that your standing practice, coupled with the internal work (Neigong) that you do while standing, becomes the more important and profound aspect of your practice and development.

Having said that, I also feel it critical to point out the following: Qigong practice alone is not enough!

This may go against the grain of some purists, but it’s true.

You must also include other types of strength and aerobic capacity-building exercise to help ensure you stay fit and strong, as well as help recover from or prevent the common injuries and complaints many people experience as they get older. We’re talking resilience against back problems, knee problems, osteoporosis, diabetes, early aging, etc., etc., etc. We’re talking improving your capacity to adapt. We’re talking quicker, easier recovery if you do become injured or ill.

Dynamic Energy Exercise

This is so important that, years ago, I developed an approach to fitness for myself that included the major components that help develop resilience, capacity, and improved health and energy. I called it “Dynamic Energy Exercise” and it proved so effective for me and my clients and students, that I actually registered it with the US Patent Office.

Dynamic Energy Exercise™ is an approach to exercise and wellbeing that integrates your body, mind, and spirit through the focal point of your breath. It leverages time-tested principles and techniques from Qigong and other energy disciplines, breathing methods and practices, and traditional martial arts. It’s grounded in years of study and teaching, rigorous and ongoing education in Medical Qigong and Classical Chinese Medicine, and continued practice and evolution. It’s extremely effective yet easy to learn and accessible to anyone.

If you’re interested in learning more about it, visit my other website,

Anyways, I mention this because I’ve learned from first-hand experience that following a well-rounded program is key to avoiding injuries, getting stronger and fitter, and staying younger and more energetic. Qigong and breathwork are at the heart of this type of program, of course. Then you want to add the other components. AND be efficient in your program so you’re not tasking yourself with having to work out all the time.

An example I am super familiar with is studying martial arts, especially more traditional approaches. For years I have studied Uechi-Ryu Karate (a traditional Okinawan style with roots in Southern China) and a traditional form of Tae Kwon Do. (I took some time off from martial arts when I became a mom but have been back in the saddle the past few years.)

My instructor, Grandmaster George Mattson, is considered the “Father of Uechi-Ryu Karate in America”, because he first brought Uechi to the U.S. back in the late 1950s, and over the years has run dojos, online schools, tournaments, and been a wonderful role model and ambassador of the style. Mattson Sensei continually stresses the importance of supplemental training as a complement and support to our Uechi-Ryu. In Uechi we train for fighting, self-defense capabilities, and self-development. We perform body conditioning and special breathing exercises. AND… we supplement this with exercises such as calisthenics, lifting and manipulating weights and weighted tools, and aerobic exercise to help build up our bodies.

Your Body is a Temple

Centuries ago, a wise sage traveled to a reknowned monastery to teach his version of Buddhism. When he arrived, he found the monks to be so focused on their spiritual practices, which involved copious time spent sitting and meditating, that they had allowed their bodies and health to deteriorate. The wise sage knew they would never reach their spiritual goals unless they also built up their physical and mental health and capacities.

And so (it is said), he developed the Yi Jin Jing (Muscle-Tendon Changing Classic) to help the monks build their strength and flexibility, begin to flow internal energy, and gain an appreciation for the physical aspect of their being. (This wise sage is also said to have developed a second classic Qigong practice, which we’ll get into at another time.)

The wise sage knew that the physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual are all tied together. In fact, many believe they are all…the same thing.

It would seem to make sense to embrace all three within your own health practice, wouldn’t it?

You Can Do It!

Dr. Karen

Two Keys to Breathing Better

If you want to improve the functioning of your lungs and your ability to pull in more life-giving, energy-stoking oxygen, you need to focus on two major areas.

The first is to develop the muscles and structures that support proper, healthy breathing.

The lungs have no muscles of their own. Their expansion and contraction are completely dependent on the muscles surrounding the rib cage and the diaphragm. You need to build up the strength and coordination of the structures that support proper, full breathing.

The second major area that affects your breathing has to do with what goes on inside your lungs. This includes your vital capacity and the residual air that remains in your lungs when breathing. The size of the lungs varies from person to person. But each of your lungs is about the size of a football.

Isn’t that funny? The first time I heard that, I thought “My lungs aren’t that small!” A football just doesn’t seem that big to me.

Naturally, a larger person will have larger lungs than a smaller person. Men have larger lungs than women. So there are some natural limits to lung capacity.

However, lung size is not as important as the total capacity of your lungs that you can use. This usable portion is called your vital capacity. A well-conditioned person’s vital capacity is about 75 percent of his or her total capacity.

When you exhale, you breathe out all the air you can from your lungs. The remaining air is called the residual volume. This is air that remains fixed in your lungs. You may have heard it referred to as “stale air”.

Too much residual volume is unhealthy. If you are inactive for any length of time, or you have a respiratory condition that is not well-controlled, the unusable portion of your lungs may increase. This physically blocks off more of your airways, which leaves less space for normal breathing – and makes it even more difficult to breathe when exerting yourself. You may get to the point that just climbing a flight of stairs leaves you breathless.

Unless you do something, this breathlessness and chest tightness will keep getting worse and worse. These two key areas – developing the structures that support proper, healthy breathing and improving your vital capacity – are the same areas we work on with the dynamic energy exercises I teach in my classes and through my programs. We’re talking simple, ancient, time-tested breathing and energy exercises that work – AND leave you feeling great!

An effective fitness program can help you improve your ability to breathe, build your vital capacity, and reduce the residual volume. However, many people do not breathe correctly when they exercise. In fact, unless you seek out this information, you likely have not been taught how to breathe to maximize the results you get from exercise.

Increasing the efficiency of your breathing and your ability to allow things to open up in a relaxed manner is a surefire way to target, develop and maximize the work performed by your lungs, as well as the structures that support proper breathing. If you’re serious about improving your physical condition and your health, you should make it a point to focus on expanding your vital capacity and ability to breathe properly. This type of dynamic breathing exercise will help you get fit more quickly. And it provides the foundation for robust health and longevity. AND – key point – it makes you feel great!

If you’ve thought about exploring breathwork…you’re interested in developing your breathing ability…or you’d love to enhance your health and energy levels, try my Introductory Program, “Breathing & Qigong for Health and Energy – 4 Week Introductory Course“.  This program will introduce you to a proven health and energy cultivation method impacting body, mind, and spirit. It’s easy to do and only takes a few minutes per day. I personally send you a new lesson each week, but you can learn and enjoy at your own pace. Click here for more details or to order.

You Can Do It!

Dr. Karen

The Faster, Easier Way to Balance Your Energy

What’s a surefire way to turbocharge your Qigong or Breathwork practice? The fastest and easiest way to balance the energies in your body?

It’s what we call “Tree Qigong” (or “Tree-Gong” for fun).

Your overall constitution, which is a huge driver of your health, resilience, outlook, energy levels, and how fast you age (or how young you remain), is a compilation of your three main energy centers or dan tien:

-Lower Dan Tien: Physical

-Middle Dan Tien: Mental and Emotional

-Upper Dan Tien: Spiritual

When you practice your Qigong and Breathwork, you are building up your constitution so you can be healthier, enjoy more energy, have a more positive attitude or outlook on life, and just generally be more adaptable and roll with the inevitable punches and problems of life.

And making Tree Qigong a regular part of your practice or self-cultivation is a wonderful way to fast-track your development. You’ll increase your awareness of energy and improve your ability to remove blockages or stagnation and open the energy channels that flow throughout your body.

When I provide my clients or patients with prescription exercises, I often recommend performing centering, grounding, and basic breathing exercises in the vicinity of trees. (For a wonderful introduction to these practices, as well as several other foundational energy exercises, check out this course. It will help you transform stress, center yourself, and improve your health and energy in four short weeks!)

Better yet, find a tree that resonates with you and get close to it. Standing in the vicinity of its roots and under its canopy helps create an energy capsule of protection and good feelings.

IMPORTANT: Don’t just walk up to a tree and begin doing your thing! Take a little time to “introduce yourself” energetically to the tree and see if you can sense how receptive it is (or is not) to your approach. If it’s not receptive, no worries, just find another tree (or come back another time). If it is receptive, spend a few minutes just sitting or standing with the tree so you can begin to pick up on its energy.

What Type of Tree Works Best?

Depends on what your current needs are. If you’re feeling down, lethargic, a little under the weather or blah…or you just can’t seem to get moving on important projects or work…work with a tree that is more YANG in nature.

Generally, this means trees that are fast-growing. Aspens, Weeping Willows, Poplars, and Cedars are all fast-growing trees. Here in Texas, the Sugar Bush or Hackberry tree is an excellent YANG companion. The Cedar (or Juniper) tree is a close second.

On the other hand, if you need to improve the health and energy of your internal organs, especially due to chronic issues or after surgery, chemo, or radiation…or if you’ve been feeling too scattered or hyper, ungrounded, and/or can’t seem to settle down and focus… work with a tree that is more YIN in nature.

Yin trees include most Oaks, Hickory, and Beech trees. These trees are slow-growing and take years to establish a tap-root and build their root structure before they begin to grow to any significant height. Therefore, any medium to large trees of this type (I’m thinking of the beautiful oaks and live oaks that are prevalent here in the Austin area) will make for an excellent YIN companion.

Here are a couple of MY favorite trees (friends) with whom I share energy and “Tree-Gong” on a regular basis:

This beautiful willow tree lives near Lake Travis in one of our more natural park settings. A stream and wetlands area are just to her left in the photo, so there are always a lot of birds and other critters around. When I’m feeling a little blah or like I need a pick-up, I hang here. The combination of the tree’s YANG energy and proximity to the lake combine to help energize and balance me.

This lovely, stately lady is one of my favorite trees. Her energy is just incredible, you can feel it walking toward her. She exudes calm, cool, healing YIN energy and is very receptive to sharing energy. For many years, she has provided a home and shelter to birds, squirrels, and other critters. I love to hang with her when I’m into serious cultivation or simply need a quiet space for reflection.

I encourage you to find your own tree or trees with which to practice your Qigong. It’s likely to become one of your favorite things to do!

Want to Live Longer? Live Near Green Spaces…

...AND make friends with a tree

The Washington Post published an article yesterday titled, “Living Near Green Spaces Could Add 2.5 Years to Your Life, New Research Finds” (you can read the article here).

They go on to discuss an article in the journal Science Advances which suggests long-term exposure to more greenery where you live can add an average of 2.5 years to your life. The study looked at long-term exposure to surrounding green spaces among a group of more than 900 people in four U.S. cities. They found that being near green space causes “biological or molecular changes that can be detected in our blood”.

Well, I’m happy that modern science continues to catch up with ancient medical wisdom. For centuries, our Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM) paradigm has educated us on the importance of staying close to nature. Taoist practices have had a major influence on CCM and Taoism is all about simplicity, staying close to nature, and following nature’s rhythms and cycles.

In CCM, we teach that the blood and the Qi are synonymous and how important it is that both flow without obstruction or stagnation. Blood and Qi are energy, information, communication, and alimentation (i.e., nourishment) for every structure in our bodies and brains. One of the wonderful benefits of our Qigong practice is an increase in the circulation of blood and qi along with a concurrent decrease in stagnation or blockages. So it’s interesting to hear of a study that identifies actual markers in the blood that indicate a younger biological age due to living closer to green spaces.

When I teach Qigong, I make sure that the participants and I center and ground in every single session. It’s such an important skill, not just in our energetic work – it’s an essential life skill too! As the students in my group and private classes will tell you, I often encourage them to go outside in their bare feet and engage in a few minutes of conscious breathing, centering, and grounding. It’s much easier to feel or become aware of the Yin energy coming up from the earth and to get into a grounded state when you connect directly with the ground. It’s such a pleasant, wonderful feeling too!

Say Hello to Your Big Friend

To turbo-charge your practice, choose a spot close to a tree. Stand with feet about shoulder width apart or in your Wuji posture and follow your

process of breathing, focusing inside, centering into the lower abdomen (or heart center if you prefer), and ground via the Kidney 1 (Bubbling Well) point in the bottom of each foot. Imagine your feet are projecting a tap root down into the earth, so you feel fully rooted. And see or sense your tap roots are becoming intertwined with the roots of the tree.

Feel the energies of your root system commingle with the energies of the tree’s root system. Then inhale deeply into your lower abdomen. At the same time, allow the Yin energy of the earth to come up through your roots and your Kidney 1 point, up through your legs, and into your lower abdomen (lower dan tien or energy center). Gently “fill up the bathtub” in your lower abdomen.

With each exhale, allow the energy to drop back down through Kidney 1 into the earth. As the energy drops, release and purge any unwanted stagnation, stiffness, tightness, blockages, emotional content, or thoughts that are not serving you well. Let it all drop into the earth.

Then take a fresh breath and repeat the cycle.

Obviously, there are some subtleties and finer points to doing this. But don’t worry about that for now. Keep things simple.

As you repeat cycles of inhalation and exhalation, pulling energy in and allowing energy to drop and release, you may get into a profound state of grounding. You are also sharing or cycling energy with your new friend, the tree. This results in profound physical, mental, and emotional benefits, which we will discuss in our next post.

In the meantime, get back to nature, find a new friend – er, tree – and allow yourself the pleasure of interacting in a whole new way.

Forget About Resolutions. Do This Instead

Each New Year can feel like a new beginning. This man-made structure of the calendar, with its ritual ending of one year and beginning of another, serves most of us as a cue to take stock and reflect on the past 12 months…and think about what we want to manifest in the coming 12 months.

Many people make a New Year’s resolution – or multiple resolutions – at the beginning of each year. The expectation and potential of the new year combines with the reality that we came up short the previous year and propels us to think optimistically. “This year I will do it! This will be my year! This time I will stick to my diet / fitness program / new work habits / stop procrastinating / stop yelling at my kids” etc. etc.

Typically, these resolutions involve things we want to change about our lives in the coming year. Many folks start out strong. Unfortunately, as studies (and our own experience) have shown, most people drop their resolutions by about mid-February. In fact, it’s a truism in the fitness world that most gyms make their money on the people who sign up in late December or early January. The gyms are super crowded during the first four to six weeks of each new year, frustrating the regular gym-goers who now must compete with the newbies for the equipment or the spot in the group fitness class. However, by mid-February, the gyms are noticeably less crowded. Most of the newbies have stopped coming or come only occasionally. The regulars get back to their own routine and can snag the fitness class spot or piece of equipment they want with no problem.

If resolutions don’t work so well, what is a solution? What’s an alternative that works?

I encourage you to switch from making resolutions to setting intentions. An intention is a directed impulse of consciousness that contains the idea, the form of what you wish to create. Based on quantum physics, it is thought that each of our ideas or intentions broadcast out into the quantum realm of possibility, like the ripples or waves on the surface of the water that emanate out in all directions from the rock that you throw into the pond. Those waves of possibility move out to the future, charting a potential path for manifesting the reality of the intention into your life.

Some waves “bounce back” to us in the form of a material change in our lives. How successfully we manifest our intention depends on the strength of the wave we send out. The strength of the wave – whether a small ripple, a large surfing wave, or a tsunami – depends on two things: (1) How definite and clear our intention is – in other words, we have a clear, well-defined purpose or achievement or way of being; and (2) how much desire or emotion we have invested into that intention.

The wonderful thing about intentions is that they are not tied to the calendar. You may have an overall intention of getting into better shape, or feeling more energetic, or finally achieving a goal that has eluded you. And that’s great! Define it clearly AND allow the feeling associated with the intention to wash over you. Get enthusiastic about it. Feel as if you have already achieved it, or it has already come to you or happened to you. Bathe in that feeling and that vision regularly.

At the same time, set smaller intentions for each day that help support or feed into your larger intention. This is akin to setting “process” goals – or things you will do daily, weekly, or monthly, on a consistent basis – that help you accomplish your more substantial goals. When you link your bigger intentions to your daily activities, you keep that intention front and center. Each time you complete a task or smaller goal that supports a larger intention, you send out additional waves into the realm of possibility, further strengthening the probability that your intention will come true.

To have a momentous year, you don’t have to” set the world on fire”. You don’t need “massive action”. You simply need to go inside, take stock, consider what you really want – the thing or things with the most meaning to you – set the intention, and imbue it with feeling. Then set your supporting intentions and take the small, daily, consistent steps each day to help bring to fruition that which you wish to manifest in your life.

You Can Do It!

Are You Focusing Enough on This Critical Area?

I live in the beautiful Hill Country of Central Texas. (Notice how
I capitalized those terms? That’s how special Central Texans think
this area is.) Our little community on the shores of Lake Travis
is blessed with lots of woodlands and natural beauty.

Along with our healthy habitat comes a plethora of flora and fauna
that never cease to fascinate and entertain.

For example, one of the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen –
and I’ve been to some places like Costa Rica that seem to have
invented beautiful flowers – is the yellow flower on the prickly
pear cactus.

And one of the cutest animals I have ever encountered is the
baby aramadillo that meandered into our back yard one time. Poor
little guy just wanted to dig in the mulch. He dug in, held on
and made little baby grunting noises as we tried to pick him up
and move him to a safer area outside of our back yard (where our
dogs and cats roam).

We also have a very healthy deer population. Many towns and suburbs
are overrun with deer, and I know this can be a topic of
contention for many people who have seen their shrubs and flowers
get eaten, seemingly overnight.

Our yard borders on a well-trod deer path. We have kept the lot
next to our main yard wooded and in a natural state, so the
deer can traverse the area between our neighborhood streets
in safety. So we see quite a few deer moving through our yard.

Yet imagine my surprise when I went out to get the papers one
Saturday morning a few weeks ago, and I saw a baby fawn deposited
on our front lawn, not 15 feet from our front door!

Baby fawn in our front yard
Baby Fawn in Our Front Yard

We’ve seen baby fawns before, including last year when one was
lying under a tree just on the other side of our street. No,
the mama deers are not bad mothers. Apparently they leave the
fawns so mama can go forage and eat. The fawns know instinctively
to stay still and not move. In most cases they are well
camouflaged. And these newborns lack any kind of scent, so they
are actually safer without mom because coyotes and other potential
predators can’t smell them.

However, right smack in the middle of our front yard seemed
kind of nuts! The fawn definitely was visible.

We resisted the temptation to pick the little thing up and hide
it someplace better. We looked out and checked on it a few
times. Eventually mama deer came back and took the fawn along
with her, down the deer trail.

I’m happy to report that mom and baby are doing great! We see
them every morning and every evening as they make their way
along the deer path. They’ve been joined by a few other does
and fawns too, and we enjoy watching their antics as they
learn the ropes.

As I watch the fawns jumping and leaping, bounding and running,
I’m struck with how powerful they are. That kind of power –
to be able to start on a dime, jump and bound with great force,
and accelerate quickly – demonstrates the tremendous potential
energy they store in their muscles and tendons.

Same thing with our pets. We have two dogs and two cats. (And
they all get along just fine.) Our dogs tend to want to nap
and lay around, in particular they like to lay on their dog
bed here in my office and hang out while I am working.

Our cats are, well….cats! Which means they also lay around
and nap quite a bit.

But rouse any of one of these puppies or cats with something
interesting, like the rabbit that runs through our yard (the
dogs’ current obsession), or a bird or butterfly flitting
by (the cats, of course)….and they fire into action.

In a heartbeat, they can go from resting to full sprint.

Young children demonstrate the same capability. My son and
his friends can go from zero to 60 in an instant – from
laying around reading to sprinting into the back yard with
their nerf guns, ready to attack “the enemy” in their pretend

They can stop on a dime. They can sit and stretch and hop
without any warm up at all.

The key to this type of flexible power and quick starting
ability is in all of us.

It’s dictated in large part by how flexible we are.

We see this unhindered flexibility in young children. We can
continue to cultivate is as young adults. But then….

It seems to go away. As we get older, we lose our flexibility,
as well as our ability to start fast and accelerate quickly
without a warm up – AND without pulling a muscle or putting
oour backs out.

Our muscles and tendons get tighter. Our joints get tight or
even painful. Our backs ache.

This loss of physical flexibility is echoed in a loss of
mental flexibility and emotional resilience. In fact,
many bodyworkers and energy practitioners have linked
cognitive challenges and moodiness to a lack of flexibility.

Of course, these are unwanted results. I think you probably
agree that you would rather maintain flexibility of both
body and mind. But how best to reclaim your god-given
flexible power?

On the positive side, even if you’ve lost that youthful
flexibility you once enjoyed, you can still get it back. The
human body has amazing regenerative powers.

And improving your flexibility results in a number of
positive side effects, including mental and emotional

Dogs and cats, children and fawns actually stretch all the
time. And they stretch in a particular way.

It makes sense to consider this as you work on your own

I think flexibility is one of the most important areas you
should focus on, especially as you get older. But most people
don’t understand how important this is…or how best to
get started.

I’ll devote my next few tips to addressing this important

You Can Do It!


“Transform Body Mind and Spirit with Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2014

I Want To Send This To You – and It’s On Me

Best Breathing Exercises logo
The Best Breathing Exercises Letter
There’s a lot of mumbo jumbo out there about breathing and energy
exercises, about “secret” techniques and methods, about how you
have to study and practice for a long time before you get to the
really good stuff.

The reality is this: you can pick up quite a bit of technique and
skill by starting at a basic level, practicing and experiencing
at that level, then building from there.

It’s similar to teaching any new skill to anyone, from music to
martial arts to macrame.

First, you provide a basic foundation of knowledge, initial skills,
and a few key techniques.

You then have the student practice these, over and over, so they
actually experience them and therefore learn them. The experience
part is critical. Just reading about something won’t make you good
at it, or allow you to understand it.

Actually DOING THE THING, even if it’s at a basic level, pushes you
forward toward competency and, eventually, skilfulness.

At the same time, an instructor will work to ensure their student is
progressing in increments or steps that make sense: steps that
challenge the student just a little to keep it interesting, but
don’t overwhelm so much that the student gives up.

I know from experience teaching martial arts and breathing exercises
that too much time spent in explanation is boring.You have to
explain the basics, then let the student work with it and practice.

Once they have some experience, you then add the next layer of
explanation, detail or complexity.

Move the performance level and knowledge base up, step by step….
and you have a winning formula for progress and learning.

(And, as one of my favorite martial arts instructors always says,
“Repetition, repetition, repetition – plus enthusiasm – is the key
to success in all your endeavours.”)

I can teach and explain quite a number of wonderful exercises to
you in these email tips. However, because of the length at which
I have to keep these (so you will actually read them), I sometimes
struggle with how much detail to include.

How best to resolve this?

Well, for one thing, I have created a number of information
products which go into greater depth on specific areas of
breathing, energy cultivation, stress management, and flexibility.
(Visit to
see a complete listing.)

Here’s another thing I used to do: early on, when I first started
the Best Breathing Exercises website, I published a short, two to
four page newsletter that I sent out each month to my customers.

Yes, a PRINT newsletter which I mailed out.

I know I know, not common in this day of digital everything. But
I tried it out anyways.

And I was pleasantly surprised at the response. My customers
loved it!

They loved that I could devote more space to really digging into
a specific topic, or even cover off a couple of topics, in more
detail than I usually can through a blog post.

And I loved being able to share even more information, insights
and inspiration with my customers.

I eventually stopped doing the print letter. Not sure why, now
that I think of it.

But, I’ve decided to start up me ol’ letter again. And you,
my friend, are the beneficiary.

As I said, the “Best Breathing Exercises Letter” will be written
for you and mailed to you each month.

It’s like a letter I would write to a good friend, one who wants
to learn more about improving health and energy levels,
transforming stress, being more focused and confident, and
becoming more resilient.

And, because it’s a print newsletter, I don’t have to edit
myself at all, like I sometimes do when posting online. So I can tell
you what I really think!

So, how do you get on my list?

Here’s the deal:

I initially planned on including only customers in my newsletter mailings.

However, I’ve got a lot of devoted readers of my blog, and I would
love for you to also benefit from the newsletter.

Therefore, I have also decided to open up this new version of the “Best
Breathing Exercises Letter”
to readers of this blog.

If you’ve been reading for a long time, or for just a few days,
and would like to receive the “Best Breathing Exercises Letter”,
simply give me your mailing address and you will be good to go.

Here is the link to provide your current mailing information:

(A number of folks have already signed up – if you have already
input your mailing address information, you do not have to do
it again – I’ve got it!)

Only sign up if you are truly interested in receiving and
reading the Letter. I want people who will actually USE and
therefore BENEFIT FROM the information I will be providing.

And I want to hear back from you, including your recommendations
for additional topics you would like me to cover.

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even more information, insights and inspiration to help you live
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You Can Do It!


“Transform Body Mind and Spirit with Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

P.S. Yes, you too can receive and benefit from even more breathing
and energy exercises and instruction, and deeper insights
into the physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of
abundant energy, health and fitness – by signing up for my FREE
monthly print newsletter, the “Best Breathing Exercises Letter”.

In the next few issues, I will be exploring the fascinating
psychological and metaphysical background which informs and
contributes to the effectiveness of breathing and visualization.
And I will share more details on several of the most productive,
yet easy to learn, exercises that I have enjoyed over the years.

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Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2014

It’s the Best Time of Year For This

In our modern, always-on society, we often lose track of natural
cycles which affect our health.

As we move into summer here in the U.S., I’d like to remind you
that now – late Spring / early Summer – is THE BEST time to lose
weight, if you have weight loss – or more specifically, fat
loss – as a health goal.

(Apologies to my friends in the Southern Hemisphere – I will write
something geared toward Fall and Winter for you soon.)

Anyhoo, right now your metabolism is at its peak and your body is
oriented toward shedding winter’s fat and bloat and leaning out.

The days are longer and brighter, which automatically improves
your mood and revs up your energy levels…so you feel more
motivated to engage in physical activities, such as heading
outside, exercising, doing yard work, swimming at pool or beach,
and so forth.

Seasonal fruits and veggies are bursting forth. Our garden is
doing awesome this year, with various sorts of peppers and
tomatoes already gracing our dinner table. At this time of year,
your body naturally craves more nutritious, water-rich fruits,
vegetables and juices – ideal for cleansing, healing and slimming

But here’s the deal: NOW is the time to take advantage of this
natural cycle and leverage it to lose weight. NOW is your
window of opportunity. So don’t delay!

Unfortunately, late summer is not so amenable to weight loss
and slimming down. In late summer, our bodies begin to move
into fat storage mode as we prepare for winter, and the cycle
pushes us to fatten up to help our energy stores last through
winter, when (at least theoretically) we will have less food,
and less fresh food, to eat.

Of course, that’s not really the case anymore for most of us.
But your body works based on 10,000 years plus of evolution.

It makes sense to ride the wave when you can, doesn’t it?

This means get busy now!

You Can Do It!


“Transform Body Mind and Spirit with Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

P.S. “I believe that if a person can maintain enthusiasm long
enough, it will produce anything!” (Frank Bettger)

Stoke your enthusiasm with the inspiration and the certainty that
come from knowing what to do, and how to do it, to successfully
reach your health and fitness goals. My Special Report, “Ten Universal Strategies for
Optimal Fitness” covers – in a concise, easy to understand, and easy to implement
way – the most important elements  of an efficient, effective and
ENJOYABLE approach to getting fitter and feeling healthier than
you ever imagined.

The information in this report will point you in the right
direction and show you exactly what to do to get maximum

If you’re intersted, you can pick up a copy of my at and
ride the summer cycle to improved health, fitness and weight

Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2014

Last Day of School – and My Son is Sad?!

Today is the last day of school in our town. The kids are going
nuts with excitement, as you might expect.

They’ve had a fun week: assemblies, end of school parties, field
day. I volunteered at field day to help run one of the stations
for the third, fourth and fifth graders. Not surprisingly, every
kid I spoke with was ready for summer.

I still vividly recall that feeling of relief, excitement and
anticipation that always came at the end of the school year,
especially during elementary school.

The promise of a long, hot, wide open summer with the freedom to
read what I wanted, play with my friends all day, spend some
relaxed time with my parents, and even a family trip or two to the
beach….ah, heaven!

I still get that feeling today, even though it’s been many many
years since I had a summer off.

As we drove to school this morning, I asked my son Miguel if he
was psyched that it’s the last day of school.

He said, “Yea. But I’m also sad.”

“why? I asked, a little surprised.

“Because I will miss Mrs. Olson”, who is his third grade teacher.

How sweet!

When we went into school to give Mrs. Olson her gift, I thanked
her for all of her work and kind attention this year. And I
shared with her what Miguel said.

I could tell she really appreciated it.

Miguel has really enjoyed being in her class this year. He has
struggled at times with math, but overall his love of learning,
reading, doing projects, and helping out in class have continued
to grow.

And when I look back and compare where Miguel was at the
beginning of the year with where he is now, I can’t help but be
impressed with the amount of progress made, knowledge learned,
and new skills mastered.

Mrs. Olson is known as a teacher who expects a lot from her
students and really pushes them. She employs a solid routine,
good structure, and makes sure the kids are working on the most
important things each day and week.

On the other hand, she is also a lot of fun. She lets the kids
do “read-ins”, when they bring in their blanket and favorite
books and read most of the day. She is kind and encouraging to
each of them, letting them know SHE knows they can do it.

And, as my son likes to remind me, “Mrs. Olson can do The Worm!”

(He is most impressed by that particular talent….)

I think Mrs. Olson’s approach to running her third grade class
provides a good example for each of us, in terms of how to
approach our own fitness and health regimen.

It’s a combination of five key factors:

(1) Have high expectations for yourself. No matter what your
age or present physical condition, you can make astounding
progress and enjoy significant results, if you put in a
consistent effort. So think big.

(2) Set a few key goals for yourself – goals that are personally
meaningful to you. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many. And
while setting a general timeframe is good, don’t box yourself
into the “Must lose 20 pounds by X date” mentality.

(3) Make a plan, make a schedule for how you are going to
weave your health and fitness practices – including exercising;
breathing and energy exercises; meditation or prayer; taking
time to prepare and enjoy healthy meals; getting enough sleep,
etc. – into the fabric of your daily life. In other words, keep
a good routine.

(4) Hold yourself accountable. Keep track of how you’re doing.
BUT – see yourself with kind eyes. Don’t get too down on
yourself if you miss a workout, or eat crappy for a few days.
Picture your own inner “Mrs. Olson” giving you a little pat on
the back and saying, “You can do it!”

(5) Have fun! Enjoy what you’re doing. Enjoy the process. Just
as Miguel has been blessed with a love of reading and a love
for learning, you too should learn to embrace the process and
embrace this healthy lifestyle…And realize that this process
has merit in and of itself.

Here’s the deal: For most of us, the most difficult part is
the start.

Because, if you’re doing it right – and not falling victim to
some crash diet or weight loss gimmick – it will take a little
time before you see results.

Don’t get discouraged by slow results, or seeming lack of
progress up front. It’s been my experience that you will start
to FEEL better before you actually LOOK better in the mirror, or
on the scale.

To keep yourself motivated, consider this:

Weight lost quickly will just as quickly reappear. A sudden,
drastic decrease in calories will set off alarm bells in
your body and brain.

On the other hand, slow and steady weight loss ensures you are
losing fat, not lean mass, as well as bypassing your body’s
natural urge to compensate and cause you to pig out.

Also – fitness gains achieved quickly based on some crash course
in exercising can also disappear quickly – usually because you
are unable to sustain the effort or the time investment

On the other hand, slow and steady increase wins the race,
because, over time, you are building a foundation of aerobic
capacity and strength.

Positive expectations…slow and steady….good routine….
continual improvement, bit by bit….having some fun along
the way….

Not only a recipe for third grade. A recipe for life!

You Can Do It!


“Transform Body Mind and Spirit with Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

P.S. A good exercise routine can literally rocket launch you to
improved health and fitness, higher energy levels, better brain
and cognitive function, and enhanced productivity. Unfortunately,
many of the recommendations and conventional wisdom out there
are not very helpful, and can even be detrimental. Even worse,
they’ll have you spinning your wheels and getting no result.

Plus, there are so many fitness fads and gimmicks out there
today. What’s realand what’s BS? Where should you start?

I wrote my Special Report, “Ten Universal Strategies for
Optimal Fitness”, to help answer these questions. I cover – in
a concise, easy to understand, easy to implement way – the
most important elements of an efficient, effective and
ENJOYABLE approach to getting fitter and feeling healthier than
you ever imagined.

The information in this report will point you in the right
direction and show you exactly what to do to get maximum

The revised and improved version of the report is coming off
the presses in a few days. Claim your copy today at the (still)
low introductory price (plus access to a special bonus offer)
by clicking HERE.

Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2014