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.
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.
Playing with Waves: This is probably my favourite movement in the Shibashi practice, not only because I love waves, but also because it generates so much calm but powerful Qi. If you experience insomnia, this is an excellent movement. It is also helpful for conditions related to the spleen, liver and lungs. Of course, working with the water element, playing with waves is also a good fit for our winter practice as it benefits the kidneys. Since pushing a wave is not possible, this movement helps us to practice wu wei (effortless effort) and cultivates ease and grace while strengthening body and energy.
Spreading your Wings: A beautiful movement, this is soothing for the nervous system and conditions the heart and lungs while balancing Qi flow through their meridians. Since this movement gently opens and loosens tension or holding in the chest, it is helpful in the case of depression and low self-esteem. By embodying a sense of natural avian pride as we open our wings, we open up to self-respect and honour of true nature.
This week we will review movements 8 and 9 of the Shibashi practice (Carrying the Moon and Twisting the Waist/Pushing Hands) then learn movements 10 and 11.
Playing with Clouds: This powerful but soft, beautiful practice relaxes the body’s “fight or flight” (sympathetic nervous system) response and switches us to the “rest, digest, heal” mode (parasympathetic nervous system). As a result, it is a very soothing movement that cultivates an alert, but relaxed state for the body and smooth Qi flow. The movement offers significant benefits to the digestive system and nervous system as well as increasing spiritual energy.
Scooping the Sea: Our image with this movement is that we’re scooping up fresh, positive energy from the sea and using it to cleanse our body and energy. This movement is sometimes called “Touch the Sea, Look at the Sky,” lending the image of gathering Qi from both sources, yin and yang. This form brings benefits to the lungs and large intestine, our “taking in” and “letting go” organs, but supports all of the yin organs, helps strengthen the legs and back, and increases spiritual energy while soothing the nervous system.
I just saw this amazing heart-monitoring readout, showing the heart-rhythm pattern of someone feeling frustration compared to appreciation, shared by an organization called HearthMath® Institute. They recommend breathing with a focus on the heart area, using the imagination to breathe through the heart, and activating positive feeling–all tools that qigong’s Inner Smile Meditation practice has used for centuries.
We always smile to the heart first in the Inner Smile Meditation, even if our class focus is with another organ. In qigong it is believed that the heart is the leader of all of the other organs and all 12 channel networks.
So, you see, when I ask you in class to smile to your heart, it is a powerful practice I am suggesting–one that science is beginning to measure.