This movement energizes and improves circulation through all of the organs by stimulating the triple warmer energy pathway. It also releases toxicity from the body and helps to regulate body temperature. Holding up the Heavens also benefits the pericardium meridian flow as well as the heart and lung organs. As the lower half of the body is very grounded on the Earth, as the heaviness of a bear sinking down, while the upper body is lifted up. This opposite direction helps the flow of qi move more smoothly between the upper and lower parts of the body and also helps to improve physical and energetic balance.
#2 – Drawing the Bow
With the focus, clarity, and precision of the metal element energy, Drawing the Bow benefits the lungs by increasing lung capacity. This movement also strengthens the tendons and muscles of shoulders and tonifies the kidneys. A balanced qi flow throughout the body will also result from this practice.
See you next week for more winter practice and Pal Dan Gum #3 and #4.
Ancient silk drawings show qigong practitioners moving through the exercises of Pal Dan Gum or the 8 Silken Movements (also known as “Ba Duan Jing”). The practice has been used in China and Korea for many thousands of years to develop and maintain radiant health, inside and out, by improving Qi (energy) flow through the body’s energy pathways. Physically, the practice stretches the tendons, making them as supple and resilient as silk in order to enjoy good posture, flexibility, and movement and also prevent injuries. Energetically, the movements activate and balance all of the 12 organ meridians and 8 extraordinary channels, which is why it is considered a complete qigong practice, even though it does not take long to do.
When done regularly, Pal Dan Gum is a very safe but extremely powerful practice for positively affecting the entire body. With just ten minutes a day, one may experience a decrease in symptoms, refreshment and rejuvenation, relaxation, and increase in energy and health.
Some of the many benefits that have been attributed to a regular Pal Dan Gum practice include:
increased and improved flow of life force energy in the body
improved physical and energetic balance and flexibility
healthy organs, including heart and lungs
increased flexibility of the spine, shoulders, and hips
increased brain health
improved clarity of thought
deeper and easier breathing
increased blood and energy circulation, immunity, and cardiovascular health
emotional clearing and balance
improved awareness and focus
promotion of longevity and radiant health
increase creativity and optimism
All of the movements, together, offer amazing overall benefits and health.
Following nature’s lead, this series of Dao yoga classes will embrace the power and depth of stillness and quiet. Now is the time to recharge and rejuvenate our physical and energy bodies. The yin organs that resonates with this cool, dark season are the kidneys—our energy batteries and the home of our original Qi (life force energy).
Dao yogic movements and postures include a focus on the body’s energy pathways (meridians), as well as healing sounds, breathwork, and Qi Self-massage (acupressure points). We rest in the postures and movements (all on the mat, no standing) to allow for a deep release—safe and relaxing opening of the body’s held energies, tension, and connective tissues—so that healing and balancing Qi can flow.
The kidney meridians regulate all of the fluid in the body, including water, the blood, hormones, bone marrow and brain, cerebrospinal fluid, lymph, and joint lubrication. Water, the element that resonates with winter and the kidneys, will help inspire us to go with the flow for our winter practice.
Students in past Dao yoga classes have commented on the deep relaxation and calm they feel during and after the class and how their sleep has improved. It is a wonderful way to slow down, calm the nervous system, and bring balance to a busy and/or stressful lifestyle.
When seasons change, our Qi (life force energy) should automatically, according to natural law, adjust to match nature’s new frequency. In our modern life this does not always happen smoothly or naturally. Without a smooth transition we are more vulnerable to imbalance and illness. Water is the element that represents and resonates with winter, so we will use it in this class to help during this special and important time of transition—winter solstice. The yin organ for winter is the kidneys. The healing sound is “Choo,” and the energy colour is a deep blue and/or black.
Winter brings us to the time and place of moving inward. It is a very yin, slow, quiet, still, and meditative time. Just as nature draws inward and slows while growth takes a pause, it is our time for deep resting, regeneration, building and conserving energy, and filling up our reserves. Winter is also a time to tend to and transform fear, stress, and loneliness, inviting in resolution, trust, calm, and peace.
The winter practices I’ve prepared will focus on renewing and building up of energy reserves by nourishing the kidneys, and gently but powerfully transforming the stress and fear that cause blocks and stagnation in the flow of our human electrical energy system. We will also and cultivating the balancing emotions and energies of the water element, which reside in the spirit of the kidneys, including deep calm and peace, true wisdom and self-understanding, stillness, determination, will power, trust, and the ability to go with the flow—like water—to adapt to the constant and inevitable changes in our lives.
Join me to practice kidney breathing, bone marrow cleansing, turtle drinks from deep pools, and much more. We will also practice the amazingly beneficial Pal Dan Gum (8 silken) movements.
Lao Tzu said, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them—that only creates sorrow. Let things flow naturally in whatever way they like.”
When seasons change, our Qi (life force energy) should automatically, according to natural law, adjust to match nature’s new frequency. In our modern life this does not always happen smoothly. Without a natural transition we are more vulnerable to imbalance and illness. Dedicating some time to support this transition, by spending time in nature and gathering for our qigong practice, we can help ourselves to mirror nature and go with the flow of life and its changes.
Winter brings us the element of water, which helps to remind us to go with the flow of life. The yin organ that resonates with this season and element is the kidneys. The healing sound is “Choo,” and the energy colour is a deep blue and/or black.
While the holiday season gets seemingly longer and louder and busier and brighter, we only have to look to nature to be reminded that winter is actually a time and place for moving inward. It is naturally a very yin, slow, quiet, still, and meditative time. Just as nature draws inward and slows while growth takes a pause, it is our time for deep resting, regeneration, building and conserving energy—and filling up our reserves so we have the energy required for new growth in the spring. Winter is also a time to tend to and transform fear, stress, and loneliness. It is the perfect time of year to sit down with the darkness—to embrace it and feel it and let long-held energies flow.
I hope you will join me—Sat. Dec. 21 from 10-11:15 a.m.—to welcome winter with this class to help us transition to this special time during our practice.
Class size is restricted, so please email me to save your space.
Breath with mindfulness and posture = qigong. All three, together, help to bring about the state in which we can improve digestion, remove energy blocks, and move stagnant energy, allowing Qi—life force energy—to flow. When Qi flows, we are healthy and can digest our food and our life experiences as nature intended.
Without proper digestion, a cascade of health imbalances may result, including allergies and food sensitivities, inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, auto-intoxication, blood sugar imbalance and on and on and on. Digestion literally affects everything. Just as poor digestion affects the whole body, good digestion also affects the whole body—cultivating amazingly good health and energy.
Qigong’s approach to digestive function is through the stomach (yang) and spleen (yin) organs, which are associated with the Earth element and govern the process of digestion. Energetically, the stomach and spleen are where the body holds anxiety, over-thinking, and worry, all of which interfere with Qi flow and balance and, therefore, digestion. The natural energies of the stomach and spleen—the counter balance to anxiety, over-thinking, and worry—include trust, centredness, and balance itself. When we activate these energies within us and bring them in from the Earth, we can find the healthy Qi flow we need for relaxing and optimum digestion.
In addition, the gallbladder (yang) and liver (yin) organs, help to keep things moving smoothly, and the intestines, small and large, take in nutrients and remove wastes. In qigong, the gut is the location of the lower dantian (energy centre) and is considered the second brain, the only energy centre where energy can be stored. Master Mantak Chia, of the Universal Healing Tao (the teacher of two of my teachers) compares the structure of the intestines to a battery that can charge energy. This is where we can recharge the body with Qi, including food Qi, and the Qi we breathe in from our environment. Taking steps to nourish and strengthen these organs, and move Qi through their meridians (energy pathways) helps to address digestion on many levels, including physical, emotional, energetic, and even spiritual.
To heal, enhance and balance digestion, we will work with the classic inner smile meditation, specific acupressure points, and the mindful movement that switches the brain and body over to the parasympathetic nervous system, where healing and digestion take place.
If you’d like to join me for this important and empowering workshop, Sunday, November 17, 2 – 4 pm at Cran Hall, please email me to register as space is limited. The $40 workshop fee includes a 12-page, take-home booklet to support a home practice.
The fall season’s practice is, like nature, all about letting come and letting go. We get what we need at this point in our journey by being open so we can perceive what we need and by being empty so we can receive what we need. Just like the breath, flowing in and out, the organs that resonate with this season—the lungs (yin) and large intestine (yang)—are about taking in and letting go. As are the nose and skin, which also resonate with the fall season.
Lao Tzu said, “The way to do is to be.” In other words, beopen to what comes and beletting go to what needs to leave. This is a wonderful time of year to revisit old grief and sorrow or anything you’ve been holding onto from the past. Letting go creates so much space for new life, energy, health, and experience.
The ability to experience our moments as precious and be present in them, whether they are happy or sad, is the power of lung Qi. Strong and balanced lung Qi and the metal element provide us with the courage to bring in life and also to let it move through us in a timely and natural way.
The lungs, like metal, offer strength, structure, and the ability to bring in Qi from our external sources of life energy. This element, as with the lungs, large intestine, nose and skin, governs the ability to take in and let go—of oxygen and carbon dioxide, nutrition and waste, energy, ideas, habits, relationships, life. The lungs offer protection as well as a home for courage, integrity, grief, and sorrow.
The acquired emotions or states of the lungs when energy is out of balance, deficient or in excess, may include grief, sadness, sorrow, depression, shame, guilt, and despair, as well as anxiety. The balancing and natural virtues of the lungs include integrity, resiliency, courage, strength, reverence, justice, righteousness, and detachment.
Blocks or imbalance in the metal element, are often related to constipation, diarrhea, headache, lung disorders (such as asthma), sinus congestion, allergies, fatigue, and loss of enthusiasm for life. Unresolved grief is often at the root of many physical lung, skin, and elimination problems. Holding on to the past can lead to colon ailments. When we hold onto instead of feeling emotions, which allows them to move through us, we stop and block energy flow.
When open and balanced, metal Qi is experienced as the ability to encounter difficulty with openness and strength, quiet integrity, confidence, and a willingness to release physical and emotional wastes, including old beliefs, habits and behaviours, and unhealthy relationships.
Our fall practice will use the inner smile meditation and lung healing sound to for the alchemy of transforming held or stuck energy. Our Qi self-massage will focus on stimulating the lung and large intestine meridians (energy pathways). Our Dao yoga, breath work, and flowing qigong movements will connect us with our lungs, open, clear, purge, tone, and cultivate fresh and supportive Qi into the physical and energy bodies.
We will work with the healing sound for the lungs, which is “Ssss,” and the energy colour, which is a pure, brilliant white. We will practice Ocean Breathing,Tiger Claws, the Daoist Five Tonification movements, Lung Healing Sound,Silken Form, Embracing Tiger and Returning to Mountain, some of the lung-balancing Shibashi forms, and more.
Late summer qigong practice resonates with the element earth—the centre of all the other elements and seasons. Earth qigong is all about balance, centeredness, and trust. It’s the beginning of harvest season and earth is our source of nourishment, grounding, gravity, and stability. Earth is our mother and she is our home.
The organs that correspond to earth element and late summer are the spleen (yin organ), and the stomach (yang organ). The sense organ is the mouth (taste), which makes sense during this time of abundant food Qi. The healing sound is a grounding “Whoo” and the energy colour is yellow, like the rich yellow of the blooming sunflowers.
Physically, the spleen, which is about the same size as the heart and sits just behind the stomach on the left side of the body, is an important organ of digestion as is the stomach, of course. Emotionally, earth element helps us to digest and absorb our life experience, and is associated with gathering, nourishing, and change.
Emotions and states held in the spleen may include worry, anxiety, nervousness, overthinking, obsession, and self-worth issues. The balancing and natural energies of the spleen include trust, openness, centeredness, balance, and equanimity.
Imbalance, blocks, excess or deficiency in the earth energy may show up as mouth sores, digestive ailments, fatigue, weight challenges, allergies, chronic immune disorders, candidiasis, disrupted cycles, and addiction. The classic symptom of earth element imbalance is seen in the person who is unable to receive love and support but is very good at giving it to others.
As always, the other elements (and organs) play a role in the health of the spleen and balance of earth element. Wood (liver) regulates earth (spleen), just as tree roots hold soil. Compassion and kindness (liver) can help to regulate worry and imbalance (spleen). Fire (heart) is the mother of Earth (spleen) just as late summer is born of summer and joy gives birth to openness. Working with the spleen now, in late summer, will also help us when fall comes and we enter the domain of the element metal with its organ focus of the lungs. The ability to trust, be open and take in nourishment (spleen) can result in the production of integrity, strength, and the ability to let go (metal).
Flowing and balanced spleen Qi helps us to find our balance, our centre, to take in life and to trust in the divine unfolding of our journey. In the coming weeks we will practice Earth Qigong, the Buddha Holds Up the Earth, Carrying the Moon, Rowing the Boat, Separating Heaven and Earth and more. We will also revisit some outdoor favourites such as Tree Qigong, Compassionate Heart Qigong, and Crane Walking.
Much of our summer qigong classes will focus on the element of fire and its corresponding organs, the heart (yin organ), and the small intestine (yang organ). The corresponding sense organ is the tongue (speech). The healing sound is “Haaa,” and the energy colour is red (or pink if you have high blood pressure or a heart condition).
Fire—the heart—is our radiant light, like the sun that sustains life on earth. This warm spark of life is what is traditionally called the “Palace of the Spirit.”
The heart centre is the location of the middle dantian—home of the heart mind. We now know, through scientific research, just how true this ancient idea of “heart-mind” is since there is more electromagnetic energy and neurons in the heart than in the brain.
The acquired emotions or states of the heart may include impatience, hastiness, sorrow, arrogance, cruelty and hate. The balancing and natural virtues of the heart include joy, passion, sincerity, honour, love, forgiveness, healthy boundaries, and order.
A closed or blocked heart, or imbalance in the fire element, are often related cold hands and feet, hot flashes, hard arteries, high blood pressure, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and anxiety. Digestive ailments, such as heartburn, diarrhea and constipation may be related to excess heat caused by an imbalance in the fire element.
When open and in balance, heart Qi is experienced as innate joy, nourishment and the feeling of warmth, the ability to build healthy relationships, a willingness to forgive, the ability to follow one’s passion and complete projects, and a feeling of interconnectedness with nature and life.
One of the easiest and best things for the heart is to laugh, which vibrates the energy of joy and lightness through the body, uplifting the spirit, so we will practice laughing qigong. We will also take advantage of the space and nature of the outdoors by practicing tree qigong and Qi walking, and will work with the element water (kidney) to help balance fire. Summer is also the time to work with the Earth element and the spleen and stomach meridians to cultivate balance and trust.
I hope you will come out to experience just how powerful qigong is in the outdoors and to help yourself find the balance and energy available in this sometimes hot and busy season.
In our qigong and dao yoga classes, and when I’m doing personal Qi (acupressure) sessions, I often encourage and remind people to notice, feel, or experience their energy–their Qi (life force). How this happens is individual, however, since Qi is real, how it happens is also quite physiological. In this short (12 min.) and inspiring video, “Feel the Qi,” the wonderful teacher Roger Jahnke, OMD, explains how Qi interacts with the systems of the body and why and how qigong (which includes dao yoga and acupressure massage) are so effective. (Thank you to my Qi friend and acupuncturist Edward Sanderson of PR Healthworks for alerting me to this video.)