What Should I Be Eating Right Now?

Nutrition, digestion, and nourishment are central foundations of life. Life is impossible without the Earth Element function to receive food (and drink), transform it into Qi and blood, and transport the Qi and blood throughout the body.

Even though winter seems far away right now, Late Summer is a crucial time of preparation for the colder weather. As we follow the seasonal cycle, we focus on the Spleen and Stomach organ system during this time because it’s important that we eat in order to prepare our bodies for winter and hibernation.

Of course, in modern times, as denizens of rich western societies, we no longer must prepare ourselves for lean times and curtailed food choices or availability in winter. In fact, many of us put on some pounds during winter because we aren’t as active and aren’t going outside as much.

However, you can still follow the natural cycles and phases of nature…and you will be all the healthier for it!

So, what do we eat to help regulate and balance our Earth element – our Spleen and Stomach? The Spleen and Stomach like “sweet” foods. Late summer is a time of harvesting and gathering, so we eat late summer corn, fruits, and grains. Sweet foods that strengthen the Earth element include whole grains like millet and rice, and root vegetables such as yams, sweet potatoes, and carrots.

“Sweet” in Classical Chinese Medicine also refers to certain meat dishes, such as rich beef stews with vegetables. Think of dishes that soothe and nourish, and you are on the right track.

Most of us are still active this time of year. Yes, the kids are back in school and many of us are back to a regular work schedule, so we may feel time starved. But it’s important to continue to get outside and get that natural Vitamin D – and equally important to maintain physical activity. Physical activity helps ensure regular peristaltic activity in the stomach, intestine, and colon supporting good digestion, assimilation, and elimination.

The mouth is the sensory organ related to the Spleen. Issues such as chronic bad breath or bleeding gums could be a sign of deficient Spleen / Stomach function.

The muscles are the tissue associated with the Spleen. Think about the healthy folks you know. They likely have a strong, balanced Spleen and Stomach. The ability to maintain or build muscle mass means your digestive function is working and you can process the protein you eat into amino acids that help build and repair body structures as well as important enzymes that support critical processes.

Now think about someone you know who has difficulty gaining or maintaining weight. This person could have digestive troubles and be weak or out of balance in their Spleen and Stomach organ system.

How to Boost and Balance your Spleen / Earth Element

In addition to “eating for your Spleen” (that sounds like a wonderful tagline for a promotional campaign), you can also practice the Wu Xing / Five Elements exercise for Earth / Spleen.

Earth elemental energy rises from the level of the Spleen and Stomach and then divides as it reaches the top of the thrusting meridian (Chong Mai), which moves up through the center of the body. This yellow, dividing energy exists at the point of change or transformation of the other elements.

In the Earth / Spleen exercise, we use movement and intention to pull up energy from the ground / earth through our core, through the level of the Spleen and Stomach, up to the point at which the energy divides at the center point of change between the other elements. The nice stretch and twist of this exercise also directly activate the Spleen and Stomach meridians.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Five Elements exercises, visit the Wu Xing / Five Elements Course page.

In our next post on the Earth Element, we will go deeper into the Earth / Spleen energetics and the emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of transformation.

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, www.BestBreathingExercises.com.

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

Be In the Moment

Are you present in the moment?

Or are you doing one thing and thinking about something else? Or thinking about what you’ll do next? Or worrying about some future event that may or may not occur?

A fundamental teaching of the major religions – especially Eastern traditions such as Daoism and Buddhism – is to be present in the now. Fully live and experience life by being present with whatever you are doing.

This is wonderful advice if you are looking to improve your performance in any area of your life. Whether at work, developing a new skill, spending time with one of your kids or grandkids, or doing something simple like washing the dishes…being fully present and doing ONE THING AT A TIME is a secret to doing that thing better, AND enjoying it more.

And how many times have you worried or ruminated about someone, something, some event that might occur or that you might have to deal with. Only to find the event or terrible thing did not occur as you had feared. How many wasted minutes and hours have you lost doing this…have I lost doing this?

As Mark Twain famously said, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe. I have spent most of my life worrying about things that have never happened.”

Pets Are Great Teachers

I find the best teachers of the principle of being in the moment are our pets. Dogs and cats provide wonderful examples of being fully present, giving unconditional love to those around them, and being fully invested in whatever they are doing. Could be walking, could be playing, could be taking a nap. Doesn’t matter, they are 100% there! And they usually are having a jolly good time too!

We are blessed with two dogs and four cats. Here is our youngest – the baby of the family – Ciara (which means “Dark-Haired One” in the Celtic language):

Here is Miss Ciara on the move in our back yard. She’s practicing her scary face as she, through play, learns her hunting skills. (So far no kills!) She runs and climbs and plays with her sister cats – what experts call “The Zoomies” – for a half hour, hour at a time. Then…

Time for a nap with big sister Stella. And she is OUT for an hour or more.

It’s Even Biblical

Jesus taught the importance of being in the moment and fully present. In Matthew 6:34, Jesus tells us “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.”

Being fully present in the moment is a skill or capability you can develop. When we practice our Qigong, do some deep breathing, or engage in deep prayer or meditation, we focus internally and fully inhabit the present. When we find our thoughts drifting to “What’s next?” or “What should I have for lunch?” or “How the heck am I going to deal with X problem?”…we gently coax our thoughts back to our practice – our breathing, our intention, our movement.

Yes, you can be happy and content TODAY. You can be grateful in this moment. You can inhabit the present and invest your attention and energy in such a way that you feel relaxed, you feel the flow, even as you allow yourself to experience FREEDOM from anticipating and worrying about what’s ahead.

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.

Can Better Posture Improve Your Health? Part 2

Posture doesn’t receive enough attention. Some years ago, I began to attend to my posture more consistently. I’m still not perfect, but I constantly work on it!

When I was in college, I was hit by a car. Unfortunately, the car won. I had a lingering back injury that forced me to pay attention to how I stand and sit.  Later, when I began to explore various causes and solutions for my adult-onset asthma, I realized that my posture had a huge impact on how well I was able to breathe.

Today, I always pay attention to how people carry themselves when they are exercising. To my dismay, I see a lot of hunching and rounded backs when people are walking, jogging, or lifting weights. Not good!

Your posture is one of the master keys to abundant health and energy

Keeping an upright posture with good spinal alignment is key to avoiding injury, performing well, and getting reliable results from exercise. It also helps you feel more powerful and in control – not only when exercising, but in all areas of your life. And possessing an enhanced sense of power and control is something we can all appreciate.

The spinal cord is a critical communications channel. It’s not just a passive channel for transmitting information – it’s actively involved in transposing and making sense of the information and sensations coming in from our nervous system, as well as other sensory organs.

Your posture has a direct effect on your spine’s ability to conduct and intelligently monitor that information.

In addition, the way you hold your head directly impacts your brain’s ability to think. The poor habitual posture we may develop over the years leads to our head slumping forward. And when you lose this base postural support, you impede the flow of blood, lymph, and nerve impulses to and from your brain – resulting in brain fog, low energy, and even chronic headaches.

Posture in Qigong

When we practice our Qigong, we maintain a relaxed but upright posture. When standing, we create a gentle extension of the spine by turning our hips slightly forward and imagining the crown of our head is suspended by a string from the ceiling, and/or gently tucking our chin. This ensures the optimal alignment of spine / back, neck, and head, which not only facilitates the health of the spine, but also helps us maintain the standing posture for time because our frame and weight are aligned and supported.

When moving in Qigong, we typically maintain good posture and a straight line from lower back through torso through neck. With some movements, we perform subtle to more pronounced flexion and extension of the spine, which helps to stretch and strengthen the paravertebral structures supporting the spine as well as open the meridians associated with the spine. Energetically, spinal movements impact the Chong Mai or Thrusting Meridian, Du Mai or Governing Meridian, and Ren Mai or Conception Meridian. The Dai Mai or Belt Channel also gets some excellent work from many of the movements that exercise the spine.

As part of our preparation, we also perform loosening exercises which ensure articulation of the hips, spinal column, and neck.

Each one of these components is important in protecting, strengthening, and enhancing our spine and back and helping ensure the health of this critical communications and structural support component of the body. Not only does this help us move and feel better today…it also helps us stay younger.

As you go about your day, pay attention to your posture as you sit, stand, or walk. Leverage your Qigong to help reinforce specific postural elements and then see if you can carry these over to everyday activities.

And here’s a little secret: attending to your posture – not all the time, but just as a checking in type process – will help you become more mindful.

The Fire Within

Well, we are really into summer now, aren’t we?

Here in Central Texas, we have been experiencing our first set of continuous, 90-plus degree days along with humidity, pushing our heat index to 100-plus. Someone just told me it’s forecast to “feel like” 108 degrees this afternoon. Hot stuff!

This time of year, I do my Qigong and my walking or jogging first thing in the morning, to get ahead of the heat. I prefer to do my Qigong outside, in one of several special or “sacred” spots in my yard or in the woods behind us. The air is much fresher in the morning, in part due to the relative coolness, in part due to the respiration of the trees which is changing, so they are releasing more oxygen and thereby increasing the ionization in the air.

Anyways, back to summer. We started discussing the Five Elements (Wu Xing) a couple of months ago. We hit the highlights of the Spring element, Liver / Wood, and have been practicing our Liver / Wood exercise. It’s past time to dive into summer and begin practicing our Heart / Fire DaoYin. Here is some information on this element to help inform your practice.

Heart / Fire Element

According to Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM), the Heart is the Emperor of all the organs. All the other organs will sacrifice for the Heart, in other words they will give their energy to the Heart to help maintain its balance. The Heart’s associated yang organ is the Small Intestine.

The Heart is responsible for the circulation of blood as well as lymph. The Heart is also considered to be where the mind resides. So we refer to the “Heart-Mind” in this area, as it is a mental and emotional center. And when you think about it, this makes sense. We know that the Heart has its own nervous system which can function autonomously from the brain and provides information to the brain. We also know that the digestive system, particularly the small intestine, has its own brain, called the enteric nervous system.

Think about how you make decisions, either consciously or unconsciously – typically through a combination of analysis or rational thinking plus a gut feeling or impression. Hence the concept of the Heart – Mind working together.

Physical Aspects of the Heart

The Pericardium protects the Heart. In the Fire / Heart Wu Xing exercise, we work directly through the Pericardium meridian to pull healing energy into our Heart / Middle Dan Tien. We also explore an important healing point, the Laogong point (PC8), which is on our palms.

The tongue is the sensory organ related to the Heart. We use tongue diagnosis in Classical and Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture.

The blood vessels are the tissue associated with the Heart. Because the face has many blood vessels, the complexion can reveal the state of the Heart. A pale complexion can indicate insufficient blood flow, an overly red face can indicate excessive heat or inflammation. As we have learned more about a lot of the chronic diseases that afflict our Western society, we have increased our focus on inflammation (or “heat” in CCM) as a common causal actor, including in heart disease and related conditions. 

Psycho-Emotional Aspects of Heart / Fire

Excessive joy and excitement are the negative emotions associated with the Heart. It’s taking the positive emotion of happiness or joy too far, so it’s like a manic type of feeling or energy. For example, someone with ADD or ADHD who might be super high energy, but also has trouble winding down or calming themselves so they can focus or sleep.

Excessive stress can negatively impact the Heart. As can the lack of self-expression or not being able to share. The heart’s associated organ is the tongue, which is evidence of the its close connection to language, creativity, self-expression, and sharing love.

Positive emotions associated with the Heart are happiness, joy, and love. These emotions can inspire us. They can also lead to a state of peacefulness.

Why is Summer associated with the Heart and Small Intestine? Fire generates light energy, and light is love. Without love, we would wither away from the inside out. Without passion, life would be joyless. And without self-love, we could never blossom into the fullness of all we are meant to be. Love, passion, and enthusiasm inspire creativity and self-expression.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Wu Xing Jing / Five Elements Health Form, click here. Discover the master blueprint for a powerful health practice!

An Easy Way to Nourish the Qi and Blood

When first learning Qigong, you focus quite a bit on relaxing, breathing, and learning the movements of various exercises.

Your initial task is to learn the correct form of each movement while staying relaxed. Then you learn to match the correct breathing pattern (“inhale here, exhale there”) with the movement. Once the movement and breathing become more automatic or “dialed in”, kinda like muscle memory, you can relax more fully and use intention to help improve your awareness of your internal energy, or qi (“chi”).

While we keep in mind the general pattern of energy flow associated with the movements, we never force or guide the energy. The body, in its innate wisdom, knows what to do and how the energy should flow. Instead, as a newer practitioner, you want to open your awareness of the energy centers (the Dan Tien) and the energy flowing within you. It’s often a subtle thing: you slowly become aware of the flow, the feeling of tingling, or heat, or of a heavy, almost magnetic liquid. You may begin to feel a more powerful connection between your hands when you play with your energy ball (or energy pearl). And you begin to feel not only heat, but also movement in your lower dan tien during your standing practice.

These manifestations of Qi are welcome events. But don’t become stuck on them. Enjoy the sensation, be proud of your progress, but don’t dwell on the feeling. Keep practicing and learning, keep relaxing and opening, allow your focus and intention to grow. Be mindful during your practice; gently focus on what you are doing. Your ability to simultaneously relax and focus is one of your most powerful tools in Qigong – AND in life.

Activating Points

With our qigong, we seek to promote the flow of energy through the meridians, or energy pathways. Maintaining this free flow and eliminating any blockages is especially important. However, we sometimes focus on a specific point to help increase the results we can achieve from a particular movement. Or we press or tap on specific points to help balance or regulate their corresponding organ or energy center. Point manipulation should be an important part of your health and wellness practice. This is why we often end our Qigong classes or sessions with some seated work, during which we tap or rub along our meridians and rub specific points.

One of the best points to start out with is the Zusanli, or Stomach 36 (ST36), point. This point is below the knee along the Stomach meridian (see image below). The best way to locate it is to place your four fingers just below and to the outside of your knee cap. Just below your little finger will be the correct level of the point. Then move laterally so you are to the outside of the tibia (shinbone). You should find a small depression in the leg where the point is located (in between the crest of the tibia and the tibialis muscle). Feel around a little, pressing with your thumb or finger, until you get a sense of the point’s location.

ST 36 has a nourishing effect on the Qi and the blood. It’s a commonly used point and a great one to start out with, as it will not have a detrimental effect on any internal condition you may have. You can activate it by massaging or pressing on it with your thumb. Find and rub the point on one leg, then the other. Once you have the feel of the point on each leg, stand up and assume your Wu Ji posture, which we use for standing qigong and meditation.

Once in Wu Ji, bring your awareness down to the ST 36 point in each leg. Use your awareness to activate each point. Breathe into and out of the point. Specifically, focus on your exhale as you maintain intention on the point. After a few minutes, you should start to become aware of an increasing pressure in the area of your ST 36 point. The point may become warm, and you may start to feel energy or tingling. As you continue to keep your awareness at the point and lead your breath, you will move energy into the Stomach meridian.

If you continue, you may feel warmth and tingling move out along the meridian. This is a sign that the Qi and blood have been stimulated. Enjoy the feeling for a few more minutes. If you don’t feel anything, don’t worry about it. It may take a few attempts of finding and pressing or rubbing the point to get the feeling…focusing your awareness and breathing on it…then beginning to feel some pressure or warmth. As long as you are following these steps, you are engaging in a nourishing practice with wonderful benefits to your energy and wellbeing.

Why is the Zusanli point so powerful and nourishing? Why is it one of the key points that Medical Qigong / Classical Chinese Medical doctors have traditionally focused on and worked with, since ancient times? We’ll discuss this and more in our next post.

Resilient Edge Wellness Featured by the North Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce

I was delighted to be interviewed and featured in a recent BizBuzz video published by the North Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce. Our Chamber is based in Lago Vista and does excellent work within the communities of Lago Vista, Jonestown, and Point Venture. These towns are little gems located on Lake Travis in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, and just a short ride from Austin.

Local BizBuzz: Resilient Edge Wellness

The current episode of Biz Buzz takes the NLT President, Tim McClellan, to the office of Resilient Edge Wellness. Dr. Karen Van Ness (DMQ,DCEM,CPT, MS) specializes in Medical Qigong (pronounced chee-gong). Tim will take you on a quick visit with Dr. Van Ness to learn more about the traditional aspects of this ancient medical system now available on the North Shore. Used as both alternative and complementary to Western medicine, there is a lot to learn about this fascinating practice. (Click on the image to view the video.)

Visit us at our website to learn more, download our most popular special report, or schedule a free, 30 minute consultation.

Resilient Edge Wellness

7400 Lohman Ford Rd Suite E

Lago Vista, TX 78645

Ph. 512-267-3915