Posts Tagged ‘Healthy Living’

Climbing the Mountain of Life

Living in the mountains of Western Maine offered several delightful memories including breathtaking vistas all year whether verdant spring greens, a dramatic pallet of fall colors, or white cotton snow.  After living near oceans, in the subtropics, and the desert southwest, my favorite place to call home remains among mountains, now the mountains of western North Carolina.  DSCN1735.jpegOther geographical sites offer their own beauty, but the mountains… they offer a splendor, ofttimes beyond words.  We can observe the weather-worn peaks of our mountains close-up or far away, each one with its own unique beauty.     

    Observing these magnificent mountains generates a deep sense of appreciation, climbing them takes us to other peaks of gratitude, including respect, joy, exuberance, satisfaction, and maybe fear. Doesn’t traveling through life offer those same levels of recognition?  So then, climbing a mountain could equate with moving through life, not only on the cited levels but many others.  No wonder wise sages, philosophers, poets, screenwriters, and many others use the analogy of climbing a mountain when contemplating life.     

    My good friend and mentor, Ken Two Feathers, compared life to climbing a mountain. “We’re all climbing the same mountain.  There may be different paths for different people, but we’re seeking the same summit.  We all have our own path, and the path we choose is the one that feels right to us.” Not everyone has the same path.  That is an essential truth.  Someone may not be doing the same thing as you or I.  It may be entirely different from our way of thinking.  As long as no one and nothing is being hurt as they climb their mountain, who are we to criticize?

    As a path is chosen to scale a mountain, it is determined based on our own abilities and limitations.  We decide to hike a particular way because it suits us.  It fits us.  Others may follow, but they will not experience it in the same manner.  We can even show others a route to take, but they have to hike it to experience it.  We cannot walk it for them.IMG_3201.jpeg

    When obstacles block or complicate the hike, we may choose to walk around, climb over, or even temporarily seek another route to avoid the obstacle.  No one else can hike it for us.  We must place one foot in front of the other and continue to move forward.  A guide can point the way, but it is we that must make the journey to learn.  Even if we follow someone else’s lead, choices remain, to continue, rest, or quit. Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski once said, “Never follow somebody else’s path; it doesn’t work the same way twice for anyone… the path follows you and rolls up behind you as you walk, forcing the next person to find their own way.”     

    When you think about climbing a mountain from this perspective, living life takes on a deeper meaning. In life, it is easier to follow someone else who’s been there.  That is an excellent first choice, but at some point, we must move ahead on our own to learn our own life’s lessons.  The juvenile fledgling will never learn to fly until it leaves the safety of the nest.  Sometimes the parent pushes it out because she really does love her offspring.    

    So how do we create our own pathway as we scale the mountain?  The answer is simple.  The action may not be.  As we walk our path one step at a time, gather and evaluate information from our friends and mentors.  How does their guidance relate to us and our own needs and circumstances?  Some advice may fit well while another may not.  We must choose.  When we falter, don’t give up.  Stop.  Evaluate. Choose an alternative, and move on, one step at a time, then another, and so on.  We may still seek wise counsel on how to proceed from the same people or new ones we meet along the way, but they do not walk the path for us; we must walk the trail on our own.  We may even strike out and blaze a brand new trail.  Move forward.  Keep moving.  Seek rest when needed.  Make sure to take what you need along the way and above all, enjoy the journey! That’s the way we climb life’s mountain path.

    Our reward, like climbing any mountain, is the elated sense of accomplishment we claim, for our own, when we view the world from the summit of life’s lessons.

What Are Chakras Anyway?

Here are the basics.  Several books and articles are available on the subject of Chakras.  In its purest form, the word Chakra originated from the ancient language known as Sanskrit and means “wheel of light.”  Chakras are wheels or spirals of energy interacting with layers of energy fields that interact with our physical body.  For exampchakras-310119_1280le, each Chakra resonates with a specific musical note.  When the musical note is created, the associated Chakra responds.  This may explain why certain sounds or music cause reactions to some listeners.

There are several Chakras throughout, above, and below our energetic bodies, but I would like to look at seven primary Chakras.

To begin, the Root Chakra, near the base of the spine, usually associates with the color red.  It focuses on natural, primal instincts, grounding, survival, and the will to live. It’s primal in nature.  An imbalance of this Chakra may cause frustration, insecurity, lack of grounding, or anger.  Areas of the body that may be affected include kidneys, nerve or blood disorders, lower spine, feet, or legs.  The Root Chakra resonates with the earth element, the astrological signs of Aries and Taurus, and the planet Saturn.

Next, the Sacral Chakra, usually identified with an orange color, is near the lower abdomen below the navel.  Its purpose centers on desire, pleasure, creativity, the will to feel, reproduction, and to express emotions.  An imbalance of this Chakra may real symptoms of repression, inhibitions, control issues, holding on to old relationships, worry, and lethargy.  Areas of the body affected may include the bladder, appendix, lumbar region, reproductive organs, and intestinal or digestive track.  The Sacral Chakra resonates with the water element, the signs of Gemini and Cancer, and the planet Jupiter. 

The third or Solar Plexus Chakra, near the upper abdomen where the ribs come together, is yellow. It’s considered the seat of one’s personal power, self-interest, the will to think for oneself, and clearing lower regions.  When out of balance, there can be signs of nervous dysfunctions, inner rage, depression, abusive behavior to others, dominance, or states of being obsessive.  Physical imbalances may show up in the liver, pancreas, stomach, gall bladder, upper abdominal disorders, or signs of poor circulation.  The Solar Plexus Chakra associates with the element of fire, the astrological sign Leo, and the planet Mars.  The commonly referred to a sense of “fight or flight” feeling originates in this same location.  You can tell when it activates because you may feel a tightness well up at the solar plexuschakra-3131632__480

The fourth is green, known as the Heart Chakra, and is at the center of the chest next to the heart.  The heart focuses on love, joy, compassion, and radiance to transform, to bridge, and to connect with others and the immediate environment.  An imbalanced Heart Chakra may lead to covetousness, coldness, dissatisfaction, resentment, greed, hostility, or bitterness.  Physical disharmony of this Chakra may affect the heart, blood, circulation, blood pressure, palpitations, ulcers, arms, chest, thymus, and hands.   The Heart Chakra resonates with the air element, the signs of Virgo and Libra, and the planet Venus.

The Throat or fifth Chakra is at the center and base of the throat. It’s blue and focuses on the will to express oneself and communication.  An imbalance of the Throat Chakra may manifest as being withdrawn, throat infections, laryngitis, hysteria, over self-concern, selfishness, possessiveness, or hyperventilation.  The areas of the body most likely affected include respiratory issues, bronchial, lungs, thyroid, parathyroid, vocal problems, ears, and mouth.  This Chakra works with the element of air, the signs of Scorpio and Sagittarius, and the planet Mercury. 

The Brow Chakra is indigo blue, sometimes referenced as the third eye,  and in the middle of the forehead.  As the seat of the mind, it focuses on intuition, clairvoyance, visioning, wisdom, and imagination.  When the Brow Chakra becomes unbalanced, there may be signs of egotistical behavior, short-sightedness, loftiness, or being overly authoritative.  Physical symptoms may relate to the pituitary gland, brain, sinuses, insomnia, nervous system, eyes, nose, ears, and headaches.  The Brow Chakra identifies with the light element, the signs of Capricorn and Aquarius, our sun, and the moon.

The seventh and final is violet (and sometimes white) and called the Crown Chakra, at the top of the skull. It’s about the higher will, searching for the truth of life and being, spirituality, and it is the seat of the soul.  Imbalanced conditions may include weakened psychic ability, a lack of understanding, creative, physical, mental, and spiritual exhaustion, being overwrought, migraines, or nervous tension.  The natural areas usually affected by this Chakra are the upper brain and the pineal gland. The Crown Chakra resonates with the element of higher thought, the sign of Pisces, and the Universe.

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This is just a basic overview of a profound subject and, as mentioned earlier, there are several books available on the subject.   This has hopefully helped broaden your understanding of this ancient and magical subject, The Chakras.

 

Let’s Make Ghee!

IMG_2767Ghee has been rightly identified as a food of the gods with a history dating back as far as 1500BCE.  It has so many uses including ceremonial, medicinal, and nutritional.  Among the law verses in India’s Dharmasutra, a code detailing religious and political requirements, ghee is referenced as a key element of religious rituals. It also appears in the Bhagavad Gita’s, chapter 9, and in at least one of the hymns titled Rg Veda.  Medicinally, Ayurvedic Medicine often uses Ghee in the preparation of herbal formulations. Medicinally and nutritionally, Ghee actually eases digestion through butyrate, a short term fatty acid.  Also, just one tablespoon supplies 15% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin A.  Since Ghee contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), it’s also a cancer fighter.  Not just a cancer fighter, CLA may also aid with insulin resistance making it very beneficial for those with diabetes and prediabetes too.  This wonderful source of natural fat also contains significant levels of Vitamin E and Vitamin D.  Though many may think of fat as unhealthy in our diets, our bodies require fat to function properly.  Ghee is also a source for Omega-3s (monounsaturated fats),  another healthy fat.  So, Ghee isn’t just another choice to coat your pan for cooking, it’s a great food choice for your healthier diet and lifestyle.

Begin with 1 pound of unsalted butter.  Unsalted tends to cook down better without the residual salt.  I’ve actually had some negative results using salted butter.  It won’t be the end of the world if you end up with salted, but keep an eye on it while you heat.  It seems to heat up quicker.  I also try to stick to good quality butter with no growth hormones etc in the milk used to produce the butter.  Raw butter is perfect. I’ve just found a good source for Amish butter and it’s wonderful!

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Place the butter in a medium stainless steel saucepan over medium heat.  Don’t use any coated pans.  Stainless steel or glass to avoid chemical transference.  Heres’s where the fun begins!  It will start to spit and sputter gently as the water and milk fats separate from the butter.  I don’t stir mine.  I may occasionally skim some of the froth off the top with a fine stainless steel mesh strainer, but stirring spreads the solids around making more work for you.

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Once the spitting and sputtering slow, the process can complete quickly so watch it closely.  Skim aside some of the froth on top to see if you have any sediment forming on the bottom.  Those are the separated milk fats.  When they are golden brown and an aroma of freshly popped popcorn presents, it’s done.  Remove it from the heat source.  If the sediment goes dark brown (and this can happen quickly once it’s turned golden brown), you’ll note a nutty aroma.  You’ve scorched the gee.  It’s not ruined, but it will have a stronger taste.  By the way, gently adding hot tap water to your pan after it’s cooled a bit to warm, to avoid burns, will make cleanup much easier.

If you have a stainless steel tea strainer, place it on the mouth of a pint mason jar and slowly pour the melted ghee into the jar.  If you don’t, be careful on the pouring to avoid any sediment getting into the jar.* Once the sediment begins to pour from the bottom of the pan, I quit. IMG_2764

 

 

Remove the tea strainer from the jar.  Screw usual mason lid on top.  Careful, it’s hot!  Leave on the counter to cool.  And there’s your ghee. 

 

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It should solidify to a nice golden color.  If it’s brown, it’s scorched/overcooked.  Don’t throw it out!  Just recall the process for next time and don’t overcook it.  Your ghee doesn’t need to refrigeration because it’s pure saturated fat.  It will keep indefinitely.  If mold should appear in the jar, it’s because you didn’t heat it long enough and all the water during the heating process didn’t evaporate and it’s begun to go rancid. 

FYI other names for Ghee are clarified butter or drawn butter!  Enjoy!  Have questions or comments contact me!

* Stainless tea strainers are great and can be found at most health food stores or tea rooms.  Once I use that tea strainer for Ghee, I don’t use it for anything else to avoid contamination.

 

Quick Reference Directions:

Ingredients:

One (1) Pound Unsalted Natural Butter with no Aditives or Hormones.

Place butter in a medium stainless steel or glass saucepan.  Heat at medium heat until sediment forms at the bottom of the pan with a distinct aroma of freshly popped popcorn.  Pour off remaining liquid (Ghee) into a one-pint canning jar.  Gently screw on the lid (careful, it’s hot!) and allow to cool on the counter.  Once cooled, it may remain on the counter or in a pantry unrefrigerated

 

 

Qigong – Low Back, Knees, & Hips

570_feel_the_qiQigong supports the whole body even when we focus on specific areas. The previous two blogs addressed the upper body and back. Though those were addressed our whole body benefits. Blood flow increases and Qi moves better as we practice regularly promoting overall well-being.  The side benefits embrace so many, senses, balance,  mental clarity, circulation, bodily functions, and overall awareness to name a few.  It’s like we move and function with our complete body rather than one specific area. 

Think about it.  When we walk, our brain sends messages to our legs and feet to engage propelling us forward, backward, up, down, fast, or slow.  walking_person_silhouette_clip_art_15563Without noting anything else within ourselves or our surroundings, our legs and feet simply continue, doing our bidding, until… we hit a patch of ice in the winter, a root on the path, or a branch, then, then the rest of the body gets involved with a flinch like reaction to the unexpected followed by gyrations, that may put a contortionist to shame, just to keep our balance, which often subsequently fails.  We then find ourselves in a face plant, on our butt, or some other pretzel like configuration, because we weren’t engaging our whole being in the process of simply walking.  mfu0014I’m not saying we’ll never stumble, trip, or fall again, but when these interruptions of movement come along we’ll be more prepared, because we learned to involve our whole being in our movements.  Qigong teaches us to move from our core, our Dantian, our energy center.

In this next section the Low Back, Hips, and Legs will be the focus of our training.  As we train, however, think about initiating your movement from the Dantian.  The torso of the body has upper, middle, and lower Dantian areas, but a primary Dantian location resides about two finger widths below the navel. This may also be referenced as the Hara.  So, as we move, think of initiating or engaging the movement first from that point.  This series of movements may help with disc problems, low back muscle degeneration, stress, or strain, hip joint and associated soft tissues in that region, chronic structural or muscular issues, recovery from injuries, and arthritis.  Other disharmonies may be addressed as well, these are just some examples.

As I’ve stated before, Qigong is one of the less demanding forms of exercise and movement, yet any physical activity should be approached to work within your own abilities and limitations. If you cannot get the full range of motion at first, make it a goal and go as far as you can. If you have any health issues, concerns, or limited mobility consult with your doctor first before exerting yourself more than you should.  The practice of Qigong has been known to improve overall health and personal well-being.  Also, though not mentioned before, the instructions for this series recommend a certain number of reps.  These may be increased or decreased according to your own needs.  If you feel stiff or sore in a given area  couple hours following additional reps, then too many have been done and you should reduce the number of reps.  This is especially true in cases of arthritic conditions or recovery.  Listen to your body.

If you have questions, you may direct them to me through either this blog or through my websitehttp://www.eastwesthealingarts.org.  If you live in the Portland, Maine area, you’re invited to join in for not only Qigong classes, but also Taiji at the Maine Center for Taijiquan & Qigong.  The link is added here http://www.mainetaiji.com/, so you may visit the website for the class schedule and details on our studio.

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Lets begin with the knees.  Before the actual movement, keep in mind the importance of maintaining healthy knees.  The knees and shoulders are the two most common areas for injury and strain because they have more range of motion than other joints in the human body.  We should do all we can to care for these areas.  Let’s begin!

Therapeutic Qigong – Part Three

Position 13 – Knee Rotation

Begin with Feet together.

Place both hands slightly on your hands.

  1. Slowly circle knees clockwise, 4 times
  2. Repeat the knee circles, counter clockwise, 4 times

Important – As you circle your knees, you are also exercising your hips, knees, and ankles.  Don’t forget to breathe evenly.

Position 14 – Side Lunge Turn

Body Opposite 45

Take a big step to the left and place both hands on your waist.

  1. Exhale as you slowly bend left leg and turn your body to the right at a 45 degree angle.
  2. Inhale as you slowly turn your body back to the center position, straightening both legs and shifting your weight to your center.
  3. Exhale as you slowly bend right leg and turn your body to the left at a 45 degree angle.
  4. Inhale as you slowly turn your body back to the center position, straightening both legs and shifting your weight to your center.

Repeat steps 1-4

Important – Bend legs as low as you can.  Keep you back straight

Position 15 – Cover Knee and Stretch Leg

Begin with feet together

  1. Place both hands on knees
  2. Slowly bend both knees with good support from feet
  3. Place hands on the tops of the feet, raise hips as you straighten legs
  4. Slowly roll upper body up and let hands relax at your side.
  5. Repeat above one time

Important Note: Normal breath.  Try to keep hands on feet as you raise hips and straighten legs.  This will aid lower back and associated leg muscle tissues.

Position 16 – Cover Opposite Knee,

Alternately Raise Arm

Take a big step to the left

  1. Cover left knee with the right hand, inhale
  2. Raise left arm forward and up over your head, palms up, simultaneously bending both knees, horse riding stance, exhale.
  3. Straighten legs and cover right knee with left hand, hands now on opposite knees, inhale.
  4. Raise right arm forward and up over your head, palms up, simultaneously bending both knees, horse riding stance, exhale.
  5. Straighten legs and cover left knee with right hand, hands now on opposite knees, inhale.
  6. Raise left arm forward and up over your head, palms up, simultaneously bending both knees, horse riding stance, exhale.
  7. Straighten legs and cover right knee with left hand, hands now on opposite knees, inhale.
  8. Raise right arm forward and up over your head, palms up, simultaneously bending both knees, horse riding stance, exhale.

Important – Breathe evenly.  When in horse stance, keep your back straight.

Position 17 – Arm Raise and Knee Hug

Begin with feet together.

  1. Slowly step forward with left foot, putting weight on left foot.  Raise arms above head with arms straight, palms inward, inhale.
  2. Separate arms to side, lift up right knee with both hands as high as you can, exhale.
  3. Step back with right foot and raise arms up again with palms inward, arms straight, weight on left foot.
  4. Circle arms down to your side and step back with left foot.
  5. Slowly step forward with right foot, putting weight on right foot.  Raise arms above head with arms straight, palms inward, inhale.
  6. Separate arms to side, lift up left knee with both hands as high as you can, exhale.
  7. Step back with left foot and raise arms up again with palms inward, arms straight, weight on right foot.
  8. Circle arms down to your side and step back with right foot.

Important Note: Stretch Arms as high as you can.  Breathe deeply, hug your knees as close to your chest as you can.

Position 18 – Slow Walking Forward / Backward

Begin with feet together, place hands on waist and relax shoulders.

  1. Step forward with left foot, lift right heel, weight on left foot.
  2. Shift weight back to right foot (sit back, bend right knee), lift toe up, heel down.
  3.   Step forward with right foot and put weight on right, left heel up
  4. Shift weight to left foot (sit back, bending left knee), right toe up and heel down.
  5. Shift weight to right foot with both legs straight, left heel up.
  6. Again shift weight to left (sit back) and right toe up.
  7. Step back with right foot.
  8. Step back with left foot, bringing feet together.  Repeat above with opposite foot movement.

Important Note: Walk slowly.  When shifting weight, put full weight on one side then the other, keeping back straight.  When stepping back, step with toes first, and the rest of the foot follows (toe, ball of the foot, heel)         

Qigong For The Back

This is the second installment on the series of blogs dedicated to Therapeutic Qigong.  Practicing Qigong and Taiji promotes balance and wellness.  Each part of this series addresses a specific region of the body.  36 movements make up the complete series of Therapeutic Qigong.

Balance of our being is the result of proper nutrition, physical activity, and nurturing of the spirit.  Aside from implementing dietary practices for our physical well being, Qigong provides many levels of sustenance for the body and spirit.  Physically, range of motion and agility can be improved through the daily implementation of movement.  Spiritually, Qigong provides forms of moving meditation feeding the internal just as food provides the needed nutrition for our bodies to function.

B&W Qigong As we execute Qigong movements Four Elements of Qigong require our focus: Body – Breath – Sound – Mind.  Three of the four apply to the 36 movements of Therapeutic Qigong; body, breath, and mind.  Sound, although very important because they address organs as well through Medical Qigong, won’t be included in these movements.  I will address those in another future blog post.  Body training speaks for itself and moves below the surface into to organs, tissues, and circulation.  Improving balance, proper methods of standing, sitting, and even meditation involve the body.  The Breath, also vital, helps retrain our habits of breathing.  It’s been said if you want to know how to breathe, watch a baby breathe while they nap.  They engage their entire lungs and diaphragm, something our fast-paced world caused us to forget.  When we were much younger and unencumbered, we focused on the elements vital to our being. The slow movements of Qigong guide us back to caring for those vital elements.  It encourages slower and deeper breathing, engaging more of our lungs and diaphragm thus reducing stress along with its many negative affects.  Slow movements allow our Minds to integrate more with our bodies.  More oxygen moves through the body and thus more oxygen in the blood stream and on to other parts of the body.  Through our attention to proper breathing, scattered thoughts of the mind reduce and the bodily movements become more fluid, less encumbered. With this proper attention to the Body, Breath, and the Mind, Qi flows naturally with less restriction and balance is encouraged within our being.Qigong washing

Remember, any physical activity should be approached to work within your own abilities and limitations. If you cannot get the full range of motion at first, make it a goal and go as far as you can. If you have any health issues, concerns, or limited mobility consult with your doctor first before exerting yourself more than you should.  The practice of Qigong has been known to improve overall health for those with High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, and Arthritis, among many other ailments.  It’s also effective for all ages and can compliment other sports activities such as Martial Arts, Weight Training, Running, and Aerobic Exercises to name a few.

The second series of six detailed in this blog address the back to help relieve various back problems including chronic issues related to back injuries, contusions, arthritis of the spine, soft tissue degeneration, disc problems, and muscle spasms relating to the back.

If you have questions, you may direct them to me through either this blog or through my websitehttp://www.eastwesthealingarts.org.  If you live in the Portland, Maine area, you’re invited to join in for not only Qigong classes, but also Taiji at the Maine Center for Taijiquan & Qigong.  The link is added here http://www.mainetaiji.com/, so you may visit the website for the class schedule and details on our studio.

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Therapeutic Qi Gong

Position 7 – Holding Sky and Side Swing

  1. Begin with feet shoulder width apart.  Breathe evenly through the body.  Unlock all joints.  Knees and shoulders relaxed.Interlock fingers in front of your body, inhale, raise hands up above your head as high as you can.  Arms straight.  Palms up.
  2. Exhale while you slowly bend your upper body to the left then return upright.
  3. Repeat step 2 with an inhale before bending to the left.
  4. Exhale while separating hands to side and down, eyes follow left.
  5. Repeat step 1.
  6. Exhale while you slowly been your upper body to the right then return upright.
  7. Repeat step 6 with an inhale before bending to the right.
  8. Exhale while separating hands to side and down, eyes follow right.

Important – Arms straight when fingers are interlocked above your head.  Keep hips still.  Do not swing upper body too fast.  Breathe evenly.  Keep weight in your center.

Position 8 – Tea Pot Push

Begin with feet shoulder width apart.  Breathe evenly through the body.  Unlock all joints.  Knees and shoulders relaxed.  Put fists on waist with palms up.  Take deep breath.

  1. Exhale and slowly turn your body to the left pushing right palm forward, left hand remains on waist like a “tea pot” shape.  Focus energy in the center of the right palm (Laogong Cavity {P-8}).
  2. Inhale and turn body back to center, bring right hand back to waist (in fist position palm up).
  3. Exhale and slowly turn your body to the right pushing left palm forward, right hand remains on waist.  Focus energy in the center of the left palm (Laogong Cavity {P-8}).
  4. Inhale and turn body back to center, bring left hand back to waist (in fist position palm up).
  5. Repeat above movements 1-4 once.

Important: Keep back straight when turning your waist, push hand with internal energy, exhale as you push, all your negative energy is going out through the exhale and your palm.  Inhale when you bring hand back, bringing back good energy.

Position 9 – Hip Rotation

Begin with feet shoulder width apart.  Breathe evenly through the body.  Unlock all joints.  Knees and shoulders relaxed.  Place hands on hips.

  1. Slowly circle hips clockwise; left, forward, right, and back 4 times.
  2. Slowly circle hips counter-clockwise; right, forward, left, and back, 4 times 

Important: Legs and back are kept straight.  Breathe evenly

Position 10 – Arm Raise Fly Down

Step to left, with feet shoulder width and 1/2 apart.  Breathe evenly through the body.  Unlock all joints.  Knees and shoulders relaxed.    

  1. Inhale and overlap, slowly raising hands up above the head with arms straight.
  2. Exhale and separate hands, until arms are straight on both sides at the shoulder level, palms up, eyes follow left.
  3. Slowly bend forward until body is at 90 degree angle to the legs, (arms are still outstretched to the sides). 
  4. Slowly bend more and move hands down, overlap hands.
  5. Keeping arms next to your ears, inhale and raise the body, arms and hands above the head.
  6. Exhale and separate hands, with arms straight at shoulder level and palms up, eyes follow right.
  7. Slowly bend forward until body is at 90 degree angle to the legs.  Move arms down and relax hands.
  8. Slowly roll up the upper body one vertebrae at a time.  Arms and hands are held loosely at your sides.

Important – Keep back straight at step 5.  Arms straight at steps 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7

Position 11

Lunge Position and Stretching to Side 

  1. Exhale, stepping to the left, turn to left bending left knee, and move right hand fingers straight, to left left on waist.  Right leg straight.
  2. Inhale, turn your body back to center, shift weight to center, legs straight, fists on waist.
  3. Exhale, turn your body to the right.  Bend your right leg and stretch left hand straight out to right. 
  4. Inhale, turn your body back to center position with legs straight, fists on waist, and weight on center
  5. Repeat 1, 2, and 3 above 
  6. Bring left foot back to center.

Important – When in the lunge position, remember to stretch hip to the maximum, keeping arms and back straight.  Breathe evenly.  Breathe out as you stretch out.  Breathe in as you shift your weight to center.

Position 12 – Reach Feet

Begin with Feet together

  1. Inhale, interlock fingers in front of the body and raise hands up above your head, palms facing upward, and arms straight
  2. Exhale slowly bending forward , them downward, as close to your feet as you can, arms straight all the way down.
  3. Release hands, and roll up to starting position with your body relaxed.
  4. Repeat 1-3 above

Important – Keep upper back straight when you are bending forward at step 2.  Upper body and arms move together.

Qigong For The Upper Body

This will begin a series of blogs dedicated to Therapeutic Qigong and its practice to promote balance and wellness in the daily life.  Each blog in the series will address a specific region of the body.  There are 36 movements in the form I’ll be sharing.

4331281288_f8405600cdThrough the centuries Qigong has been taught in many various forms.  Some say there are hundreds if not thousands of different movements and styles, but their common thread holds to the Nurturing of Qi, the energy that flows and embraces the life force of every living creature and substance.  The disruption of that Qi through stagnation or excess results in imbalance and ultimately ill-health.  Qigong helps to restore balance through moving Qi throughout the body by a series of movements that specifically target various parts of the body.  Learning basic movements associated with each region of the body will help address either those specific regions or the whole body to maintain wellness and balance.

As with any physical activity, work within your own abilities and limitations. If you cannot get the full range of motion at first, make it a goal and go as far as you can. If you have any health issues, concerns, or limited mobility consult with your doctor first before exerting yourself more than you should.  The practice of Qigong has been known to improve overall health for those with High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, and Arthritis, among many other ailments.  It’s also effective for all ages and can compliment other sports activities such as Martial Arts, Weight Training, Running, and Aerobic Exercises to name a few. QiGong 2

The first six detailed in this blog address the upper body including the neck, arms, chest, upper back, and shoulders. They support these regions to relieve various concerns like neck and shoulder stiffness and pain – ligament and other soft tissue degeneration – bursitis – tendonitis – rotator cuff discomfort – headache relief – stiff or painful upper back – frozen shoulder – pre and post surgical therapy for these zones – limited range of motion for any of these areas.

If you have questions, you may direct them to me through either this blog or through my website http://www.eastwesthealingarts.org.  If you live in the Portland, Maine area, you’re invited to join in for not only Qigong classes, but also Taiji at the Maine Center for Taijiquan & Qigong.  The link is added here, so you may visit the website for the class schedule and details on our studio.

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Therapeutic Qi Gong

Position 1 – Slow Neck Motion

Begin with feet together.  Breathe evenly through the body.  Step slowly to the left equal weight on both legs.  The distance between the feet should be shoulder width.  Place both hands on waist, shoulders relaxed.  Unlock all joints.  Knees and shoulders relaxed.

  1. Slowly turn head to left and inhale slowly while turning head.
  2. Exhale while turning head back to center
  3. Slowly turn head to right and inhale slowly while turning head.
  4. Exhale while turning head back to center
  5. Tilt head backward and inhale slowly while tilting head
  6. Exhale while moving head back to center
  7. Tilt head downward toward chest and inhale slowly while tilting head
  8. Exhale while moving head back to center

Important – If you have neck problems, you should repeat every day for eight cycles.  Stretch as far as you can, but do not over extend.  Work within your limits.  Keep your head straight while performing this movement.

Position 2 – Horizontal Arm Stretch

Begin with feet together.  Breathe evenly through the body.  Step slowly to the left equal weight on both legs.  The distance between the feet should be shoulder width.  Unlock all joints.  Knees and shoulders relaxed.  Lift arms up in front of you in a slightly elbow bent position at chest level.  Bring index finger and thumb of each hand close enough together to form almost a circle.  Hands should be placed in front as though you are pushing something away from you.

  1. Stretch arms to the side as far as you can, elbows pointing 45 degrees downward (hands moving into a relaxed fist as you stretch), eyes and head turn and follow to left when moving arms.  Inhale as you stretch
  2. Slowly open hands as you bring hands back to front while exhaling, eyes following back to center. 
  3. Repeat above except with eyes following to the right when stretching arms to the side.

Perform this movement four (4) times for one (1) set. 

Important – Remember to stretch arms as wide as possible, and breathe deeply.  Inhale as you stretch, exhale as you move hands back.

Position 3 – Vertical Arm Stretch

Begin with feet shoulder width apart.  Breathe evenly through the body.  Unlock all joints.  Knees and shoulders relaxed.  Bend both arms with fists up, elbows pointed down, and shoulders relaxed.

  1. Take a deep breath and slowly raise hands up, palms facing forward, eyes following the left hand up.
  2. Breathe out and slowly move hands down with fists up, and facing forward.  Eyes follow the right hand down.
  3. Take a deep breath and slowly raise hands again, palms facing forward, eyes following the right hand up.
  4. Breathe out and slowly move hands down with fists up, and facing forward.  Eyes follow the left hand down.
  5. Repeat above movements two more times. 

Important – Raise hands up as high as you can, with arms straight, breathing deeply and slowly, breathe in as you raise your hands, breathe out as you lower your hands.

Position 4 – Rotational Arm Stretching

Begin with feet shoulder width apart.  Breathe evenly through the body.  Unlock all joints.  Knees and shoulders relaxed.  Overlap hands in front of you.   

  1. With arms straight, slowly raise hands until overhead.  As you raise your hands, deep breath inhale and eyes follow hands upward.
  2. Separate your hands.  Slowly move hands down along the side of your body with straight arms, eyes following left hand as arms go down.
  3. Again, overlap hands in front of you and slowly raise hands until overhead.  As you raise your hands, deep breath inhale and eyes follow hands upward.
  4. Separate your hands.  Slowly move hands down along the side of your body with straight arms, eyes following right hand as arms go down.
  5. Repeat items 1-5. 

Important – Straighten and stretch arms as far as you can and breathe deeply

Position 5 – Angel Wings Shoulder Rotation

Begin with feet together.  Breathe evenly through the body.  Step slowly to the left equal weight on both legs.  The distance between the feet should be shoulder width.   Unlock all joints.  Knees and shoulders relaxed. Place both hands behind buttock area, with palms facing inward, but not touching the body.

  1. Inhale while slowly raising shoulders and hands along the spine, lifting shoulders as high as you can, eyes following left side.
  2. Exhale and slowly move hands to front of the body, relax shoulders and press palms downward.
  3. Inhale while slowly raising shoulders and hands along the spine, lifting shoulders as high as you can, eyes following right side.
  4. Exhale and slowly move hands to front of the body, relax shoulders and press palms downward.
  5. Repeat above steps twice for a total of four (4) rotations

Important – Maximum breath in and out, maximum shoulder movement.

Position 6 – Arm Back Stretch

Begin with feet shoulder width apart.  Breathe evenly through the body.  Unlock all joints.  Put right hand on lower back with palm facing out.

  1. Inhale.  Slowly raise left hand up from left side until above the head with arm straight and palm facing up.  Follow the left hand with your eyes.
  2. Exhale.  Slowly move left arm down behind lower back placing left hand above the right hand, palm side out.
  3. Inhale.  Slowly raise right hand up from right side until above the head with arm straight and palm facing up.  Follow the right hand with your eyes.
  4. Exhale.  Slowly move right arm down behind lower back placing right hand above the left hand, palm side out.
  5. Repeat above movements 1-4

Important – Breathe deeply and keep your back straight

Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/16230215@N08/4331281288″>Garden of Peace</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Benefits From Observing Nature

We connect with spirit in many ways. Art expresses the inner self while music transports to realms of new insights and self-discovery. Observing nature also opens horizons of new perspectives as we progressively move through life. Nature can whisk us on to the very core of our spirit and soul.DSCN0310

Connecting with nature through mindful observation provides countless opportunities to learn, grow, gain wisdom, receive guidance, and resolve difficult situations. Views of nature become more active and less passive when you integrate and partner with nature instead of being apart from nature. When you pause in a garden, merely letting the cares and concerns of the day slip by, you may find yourself visited by a butterfly, bird, or small woodland residents like a chipmunk or squirrel. Stay a while longer, sit on the grass among the flowers, mindfully pick out one personal concern then give it out to the Universe. For example, “What can I do to begin improving my life”? Then, let the thought go and return to simply watching and observing the butterflies, birds, and chipmunks. Nature becomes your partner as you follow the inhabitants, watching them with not only the eyes of an observer but the eyes of a participant. Observe, seeing if any of them or anything new presents itself, mainly if they do something unusual. Then ask yourself and the Universe how this may or may not relate to your question.

A dear friend of mine often said, “Remember to look to the little things.” Maybe the butterfly lands on your nose, followed with the thought, “The answer is as plain as the nose on your face.” So, you move on to the next level, by seeking further insights. Crow1Suddenly, a crow incessantly caws ruining your solitude… but is he? He annoyingly returns a few more times, nothing else happens, so you despairingly leave the garden to attend your day’s activities.

For some reason, that irritating old crow returns to your mind. What a pain! It persistently interrupted your wonder-filled moments of solitude by coming back time after time cawing and cawing, sometimes close enough to slap. What made that crow act like it did? Curiosity causes you to study crows. Your study leads to a book that moves beyond their physical characteristics and on to their spiritual qualities. You discover crows depict personal truth.  The answer rings clear, all the pieces come together as the answer to your question reveals itself. “What can I do to begin improving my life”? Begin by being true to your self or walking in your own truth instead of someone else’s.

Another example with the same circumstances, but this time, you just want to sit in a garden for relaxation. Without posing questions to the Universe, being quiet and alone are your only goals… but the crow still keeps coming by. That afternoon, the next day, or a week later, something happens, causing you to return to those moments with the crow in your mind. Perhaps you found yourself in a situation where you know you should have followed your feelings and “spoken your truth,” but you didn’t. Then you did the same research and found the same reference of speaking your truth, honoring your truth, or practically speaking, be true to yourself. In the first instance, you sought guidance. In the second, the Universe provided the crow to teach a valuable life lesson. Nature provides countless examples when you take time out of your day to simply enjoy being a part of nature.

Learning to look beyond the academics of species and genders opens up our hearts and spirits to infinite lessons and practical teachings, transforming us into better people. We enjoy spring at The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Everything is brimming with life. The rose gardens near the conservatory are effervescent with the aromas of roses. Consider a tea rose. The tea rose is classified as flora, plant life, a flower… simply a flower. But it may not be that simple. Certain specific characteristics classify it further as a rose then, depending on who identified or created the strain, the particular group, and type of tea rose is determined. That is one view. Our senses begin to awaken feelings. Focusing on the gentle fragrance blended with delicate beauty, we are transported to another dimension of appreciation. Like the aroma of freshly baked bread stimulates our physical appetite for physical nourishment, the rose may stimulate spiritual nourishment. The spiritual applications are endless, limited only by our current needs in life. This takes us to the next step.

We may be facing a dilemma in life that may appear complicated, layered with countless alternatives. A nature walk seems an appropriate tonic for our muddled confusion. While walking, we stop short of stepping on a small wild rose, still in its budding stage. For some unknown reason, the little bud seems to call us in for a closer look. We observe enough of the small rose to see shades of pink blended with a bit of pastel yellow. Scrutiny adds a delicate aroma to our observation. Looking around, we see it is alone in the dirt, with no apparent support or help.

A gentle feeling begins to envelop us like a warm and tender hug from a loved one. This little rose will soon become a beacon of beauty out of the dirt. Creator will help open the petals, so it can become what it is meant to be. Then, the practical application blossoms, presenting an answer to our dilemma! If Creator can unfold petals of beauty out of just a root and some dirt, what can happen in our lives if we stop trying to do everything for ourselves? If we relinquish control to Creator and the Universe, what beautiful creation can come from the apparent dilemma? We return our thoughts to the conundrum with another view. We claim a renewed assurance that circumstances can work themselves out and hopeless situations fade. As long as we stay focused and devote ourselves to the given task, the Universe can handle the details. All this, from watching and observing a little rose… paying attention to a seemingly insignificant part of nature; watching a small thing. Think of the other treasures that await our discovery.

Several avenues transport us into the environments providing opportunities to get away from the ruts of life and back to nature. A hike in the woods nearby, caring for the small garden in an urban setting, or weekend volunteer ventures that benefit the environment. Take your choice, but begin by strolling and enjoying simple truths taught through nature.

We desire to learn how to become better people or better souls. These desires can be met by observing nature. The cliché “getting back to nature” suggests something has been left behind or ignored from life. Perhaps we should reclaim the wealth of knowledge available to us through taking time to observe and become a part of the natural world around us.


Silent Walking