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QI GONG LIVING WITH LEE HOLDEN
In this special content section, Master instructor Lee Holden shows you more ways to blend Qi Gong and other healthy practices from the ancient world, into a busy 21st century life. Check here for his latest articles and tips!
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A BETTER WAY TO A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP...NO PILLS NEEDED!
Sleeping pills and fancy mattresses may be the de facto solution to a better night's sleep. But new studies show that Tai Chi (an offshoot of QiGong) may be the all-time best prescription for quality shut-eye. Read about it here.
The response to my just-released DVD, Qi Gong for Weight Loss ,has been amazing! I'm a huge believer in using this ancient practice to restore balance to the body's systems -- and naturally achieve your healthiest weight. Here are a couple of my favorite exercises to try right now!
1. Deep abdominal breathing. This exercise increases metabolism and clears stress. Stress in general is one of the biggest factors in weight gain. And stress that gets stored in the abdominal area creates a sluggish metabolism.
· Place both hands over your lower abdomen. As you inhale, allow the breath to sink down into the belly. Take a full deep breath in, and feel the abdomen expand. Exhale all the way out, squeezing the abdomen towards the spine. Breathing into the lower abdomen massages all the internal organs and strengthens digestion.
2. Chi Massage – This is another exercise that brings circulation and energy to the internal organs to increase metabolism. When the organs are full of energy, our metabolism is rejuvenated and functions with a more youthful vigor.
· Keep both hands on the lower abdomen directly over the navel. Massage the abdomen in a circle using the palms of the hands and firm pressure. Circle with the flow of digestion, going clockwise – coming up the right side, moving across the top of the abdomen, and down the left side of the abdomen. Massaging over the abdomen brings circulation and blood flow into this area of the body, strengthening digestion.
· Knocking – Lightly knock with both hands directly over the navel. This should be done with firm pressure, but should still feel comfortable. From the navel, knock up towards the solar plexus, then over to the left side of the abdomen, then over to the right side of the abdomen. Knocking is a massage technique that helps to flush out toxins and clear tension and tightness through the internal organs.
3. Tiger – this exercise strengthens the largest muscles in the body (hips, gluteus, legs). Combining this muscle- building exercise with a deep breathing produces an amazing effect on metabolism.
· Standing with the feet shoulder width, bring both hands up over the head. Slowly squat down, bending the knees as deeply as you can comfortably. As you go into this deep knee-bend, bring the hands down towards the floor. Then, inhale, standing back, and reach up back up with the arms and hands. Repeat.
4. Pebble in the Pond – this is a flowing, Tai Chi like exercise, that focuses energy (chi) into the abdominal area. Again, this is another way to increase metabolism and clear stress from the mind and body.
· Stand with the feet shoulder-width apart. Extend both arms out in front of you, at the height of your abdomen. Then circle the arms out and around to the sides, bringing them back towards your navel. Move your arms and hands in this circular pattern. Feel as if the arms are floating along the surface of water. As you bring your hands toward you, this helps focus energy into the lower abdomen and clears stress out of the system.
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CancerWise, a leading cancer resource, has some exciting things to say about how Tai Chi/Qi Gong can benefit cancer patients. Read about it here.
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I recently got this article in my email from Bottom Line Secrets (May 11, 2008 edition)– their interview with Amit Sood, MD, director of research at the Complementary and Integrative Medicine program at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. Dr. Sood had some amazing things to say about the power of alternative/complementary treatments when paired with conventional medicine. Dr. Sood lists these among his “Top 10” therapies:
Tai Chi. The gentle, slow-paced moves are especially useful for improving balance among seniors. In a study of 278 elderly people at Vrije University in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, those who performed tai chi three times a week for six months had 50% fewer falls. LEE ADDS: Tai Chi and Qi Gong derive from similar martial arts backgrounds, but Qi Gong is far easier to learn. The health benefits—such as reduced stress, improved balance and increased vitality – are much quicker to experience. I’ve created a whole library of QiGong routines that are easy to do and offer significant health payoffs. Have a look.
Guided imagery. Patients vividly imagine a soothing environment, such as a warm, peaceful beach. Also known as Visualization, this technique helps reduce anxiety in patients who tend to become claustrophobic during MRI scans, those who are having outpatient surgery without general anesthesia or those who’ve been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.
A study at the University of Akron in Ohio was conducted among a group of 53 women receiving radiation therapy for breast cancer. Those listening to guided imagery tapes once a day felt more comfortable and less anxious during treatment. LEE ADDS: The power of the mind is truly extraordinary, that’s why I created my own Guided Imagery CD. My clients use it for everything from reducing stress or healing illness, to helping them get a better night’s sleep!
Yoga is great for stress relief, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis, anxiety and depression. In a study conducted at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, 98 people with heart disease or diabetes who practiced yoga experienced dramatic reductions in their total cholesterol and blood sugar. LEE ADDS: I love yoga, but for a lot of folks, it can be a little intimidating. I’ve incorporated some powerful yoga moves (that are simple to do) in my DVD 7 Minutes of Magic. It’s a great way to reap the healing benefits of yoga without getting “stuck” in a posture that requires the Jaws of Life to get you out of it!
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Are you getting enough sleep? If you're an average American, most likely you are not. Don't reach for that prescription just yet, though. Studies show that a very old technique may provide a new path to better, more restful sleep.
"The practice of tai chi significantly improves sleep quality in our older adult (patients)," reported Dr. Michael Irwin of UCLA. The practice Dr. Irwin discusses is a 2000 year-old Chinese martial art that combines flowing movements with meditation. Tai Chi is an outcropping of the even older practice of Qi Gong, an ancient Chinese mind-body practice that is believed to be integral in the prevention of disease and in the maintenance of a healthy body and mind.
In a recent study by UCLA researchers addressing various causes of nocturnal ailments, 112 older adults (aged 59 to 86) complaining of moderate sleeping ailments were divided into two experimental groups. One group studied Tai Chi while the other group attended health education classes on stress management, diet and healthy sleep habits. Lynn Gadal and Brigid Najera found themselves studying this ancient art as a possible solution to their own sleep troubles. "I'd say I was probably sleeping maybe three hours a night, " said Gadal. "I just could not turn off my mind." For Najera, the issue wasn't falling asleep, but staying asleep. "I was waking up between 3 and 4 in the morning," Najera said. Neither wanted to try medication because of possible side effects. Both believed their problem stemmed from stress.
"Stress is really considered a key component of poor sleep," Dr. Irwin reports. "Stress can affect every aspect of our health, including sleep." With this in mind, doctors across the country are encouraging patients to try non-traditional stress relievers like yoga, meditation, tai chi, and qi gong. The UCLA study found that the tai chi group showed significant improvement in self-rated sleep quality, reduced drowsiness and better concentration. This study appears to reflect the conclusions drawn in other studies that show older adults who practice tai chi daily tend to sleep better; falling asleep faster and awakening to feel more rested. "With tai chi, I am finding that it is so much easier to go to sleep," Gedal said of her own experience. Najera adds that she is now "seldom waking up in the middle of the night."
Dr. Irwin said that the stress relief of tai chi also appears to boost the immune system. Other studies on the effects of tai chi have also found the practice to help lower blood pressure, regulate blood sugar levels and relieve pain associated with tension headaches and migraines. "We found that the practice of the tai chi can also lead to improvements in overall health functioning, " Dr. Irwin said. And better health overall helps the body anytime, day or night.
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QI GONG: A GREAT MOOD BOOSTER
It’s no surprise that people say they feel better not just physically, but mentally, after some exercise. I just read a news article about a new set of research studies that show physical activity is literally “medicine for the brain.” Among the highlights:
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Every day, we see more ads for ‘’miracle drugs” designed to ease age-related conditions like arthritis pain, stiffness, high blood pressure, and more. (We also hear about their scary “possible side effects,” too.) But there’s a simpler, healthier, drug-free way to keep your body strong and pain-free: exercise, specifically, the ancient routines of Qi Gong (and its spin-off, Tai Chi).
Qi Gong is one of the oldest (and easiest) forms of exercise. It’s practiced by millions worldwide as a way to gently strengthen muscles and improve cardiovascular capacity. More importantly, Qi Gong works from the inside out to tune up each system of the body so that the whole works more efficiently. And when that happens, you see a dramatic improvement in flexibility, sleep quality, longevity, balance, reduced stress, and more.
The word “qi” translates literally as “life force.” A fundamental idea behind Qi Gong is that we lose this essential energy as we age, and this leads to stiffness and pain in our joints. Qi Gong gently restores our life force energy, regenerating the natural lubricants in the body and making joints more supple. The movements are designed to mirror the flow of nature, specifically water. They’re done slowly, with a focus on coordinating the breath. Many can be modified and performed sitting down, making it a great option for those who are more physically limited.
While Qi Gong may look serene, it has a powerful impact on joints, bones, and organs. Recent studies by the National Institute of Aging and the National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (branches of the National Institute of Health), and Emory University show the benefits of Tai Chi (a form of Qi Gong) match and often surpass those of more complicated and expensive alternatives. Improvements in balance, strength, cardiovascular and respiratory function, flexibility, immune response, and bone density have all been recorded. Seniors in one study exhibited increased ankle and knee strength and a reduced fear of falling.
One of the surprising things about the practice of Qi Gong is how fast results are experienced – even if it’s been years since you’ve gotten off the couch. I’ve had many clients report a dramatic drop in pain and discomfort after just a single workout;. Of course, for those already in good health, Qi Gong is a wonderful tool for maintaining that precious gift. And the only “side effect” is a rediscovered joy of living!
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TAI CHI AND QI GONG HELP TYPE 2 DIABETES
Tai Chi and Qi Gong can curb symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes. Two just-released studies reveal that the moderate, rhythmic moves of these ancient systems are more effective than more rigorous forms of exercise in improving blood glucose levels. Read the complete article here.
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QIGONG AS COMPLEMENTARY TREATMENT FOR OSTEOARTHRITIS
Qigong therapy, a form of traditional Chinese medical practice, appears to be a potential complementary treatment for osteoarthritis, according to a study conducted at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey by Dr. Kevin Chen and Dr. Adam Perlman. The study, “Effects of External Qigong Therapy on Osteoarthritis of the Knee,” was published in the April 2008 edition of Clinical Rheumatology. An abstract of the report can be found at the PubMed website.
Affecting nearly 21 million Americans, Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the US. Of this, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Patients suffering from osteoarthritis are increasingly utilizing complementary and alternative medicine treatments, including Qigong therapy. Qi Gong has been used in China for treating arthritis, among other ailments, for centuries.
“Although further research needs to be conducted, Qigong may be an effective complementary treatment for osteoarthritis,” said Dr. Perlman, chair of the Department of Primary Care and executive director of the UMDNJ-Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. “Given the limitation and potential adverse effects of drug intervention of osteoarthritis, Qigong therapy might prove to be a valuable option as a supplement to conventional treatment.” Further study is required to determine the efficacy of the practice.
In this study, two Qigong therapists used external Qigong therapy on patients afflicted with osteoarthritis. External Qigong therapy (which is different from the practice of Qi Gong movements that are found in Lee's DVDs) involves hand movements, similar to therapeutic touch, acupressure on specific points, focused attention and other mind healing techniques to direct the therapist “qi” or energy into the patient. This is performed in an effort to remove sick “qi,” eliminating disease or relieving pain.
Both healers were trained in China, but from different traditions. The first healer had lineal heritage in Taoism and was known for his anticancer training and achievement. The second healer was the fifth generation born into a traditional Chinese medicine family but did not attend medical school. It was noted that there is considerable variability in the forms of External Qigong Therapy practice, varying by school and practitioner.
Study participants reported significant pain reduction and functionality in varying degrees after therapy. The researchers indicated during the course of the study that participating healers produced significantly different outcomes.
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Plus, it can do great things to boost your immunity, as you can find here.
TAI CHI AND QI GONG -- TERRIFIC FOR ANTI-AGING!
Take a moment to read what these studies have discovered about the healing benefits of tai chi and qi gong. It's exciting how much impact these two systems can have on healthy aging.
Start here for a great overview on how Tai Chi and Qi Gong (which share many similarities) can help the body.
Tai Chi and QiGong may help bone density in menopausal women. Read about it here.
The National Institute of Aging shares how tai chi and qi gong can help seniors prevent falling. Learn more here.
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“Spiritual practices that involve the physical body, such as t’ai chi, qigong, and yoga, are also increasingly being embraced in the Western world. These practices do not create a separation between body and spirit and are helpful in weakening the pain-body. They will play an important role in the global awakening.”So next time you hit the yoga mat or do a few minutes of qi gong, remember that you're not just helping your physical body, you just may be helping the world, too!
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One recent study from a Louisiana research facility tracked 464 sedentary women. After six months of doing about 10 minutes a day of leisurely walking, the women showed significant boosts to heart strength and overall fitness. In another study, folks who did 10 minutes of weight lifting three times a week gained as much strength as those who did three times that much. Even just ten minutes of riding a bike delivered the mood-lifting benefits of longer sessions.
So yes, while you do need longer bouts of exercise to help reduce fat deposits and seriously boost cardiovascular health, don’t let that keep you on the couch during a busy period of your life (like the holidays!). In this case, a little “less” can be “more” when it comes to your health.
[And if you want to experience those kind of benefits in even less than 10 minutes, my 7 Minutes of Magic routines are perfect!]
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For people with chronic pain, exercise may seem like the last thing they should do – but according to experts, it should be the first! Regular, gentle exercise offers some specific benefits for managing pain. Among them…
* Increased blood flow, which brings more oxygen to the muscles, clearing away carbon dioxide and other toxins that can cause or worsen pain.
* Improved cardiovascular fitness. And when your heart pumps more efficiently, you won't get tired as quickly.
* Endorphin production in the brain. Endorphins are natural painkillers.
* Better sleep. You'll fall asleep more easily and feel more refreshed upon waking. Poor sleep can worsen both your pain, not to mention your mood.
Naturally, check with your doctor or physical therapist and start slowly. But adding exercise to your medicine chest may help you do away with some of your pain medications!
More experts are weighing in on the ways Tai Chi can contribute to healthy aging. Read this article from NJ.com!
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Talk to just about anyone during the day and you’ll hear them mention how tired they are. How many ads have you seen for sleep aids or fancy mattresses? And then there’s the accessory du jour – the giant cup of coffee that we cling to to get through the day.
Lack of sleep is our national nightmare: according to a study from the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research, about 40 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems; 20-30 million more experience them on a semi-regular basis. * There are as many reasons for this epidemic: the techno-lifestyle that keeps us plugged in 24/7; the crazy family schedules; the crazier work schedules; overstimulation from the internet, TV and text messaging. It’s no wonder our natural rhythms are all ker-flooey. [*2002 Sleep in America poll]
[FUN FACT: Before the invention of the light bulb, people slept about 10 hours a night on average. Now, Americans get about 6.9 hours of shut-eye on weeknights, and 7.5 hours on weekends*.]
So let’s talk about ways to restore your body to healthy sleep:
Eastern thought also states that the emotional energy of the heart directly influences your sleep; in order to have restful sleep, your heart – the king of our emotions – must be balanced. The following is a breathing/meditative practice drawn from the Six Healing Sounds of QiGong. It clears excess emotional energy from your day --- and works like magic to give you a deep, restful sleep.
1. Lie face-up in bed and get comfortable.
2. Bring your hands to your sides, palms facing up.
3. Notice how your body feels.
4. Set a clear intention for yourself, such as “As I sleep tonight, allow my body to be recharged and renewed; allow my mind and emotions to be rejuvenated and cleansed.”
5. Take some deep breaths and relax any tense areas of the body.
6. Take another deep breath, filling the belly, then the rib cage. Allow the breath to move into the chest.
7. Exhale, saying the “Heart Sound” of “Hawww.” This is done in a whisper, and sounds like you’re saying “hot” -- without the “t.”
8. Take another deep breath and exhale the “Hawww” sound.
9. Make the Heart Sound 7 times; each time, feel the stress and worries of the day being cleared from your body. Picture a wave of relaxation moving from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
10. As you finish the exercise, allow yourself to drift off to sleep as you normally would. Sweet dreams!
“Now, blessings light on him that first invented sleep! It covers a man all over, thoughts and all, like a cloak; it is meat for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, heat for the cold, and cold for the hot. It is the current coin that purchases all the pleasures of the world cheap, and the balance that sets the king and the shepherd, the fool and the wise man, even.” ~Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, 1605
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