QiGong for Healthy Digestion

Lee Holden
Year Released: 2007

Categories: Tai Chi / Qigong

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This video was one of the gems in the 10-pack that I purchased from the Exercise to Heal website, and I admit that it was one of the last ones to be opened because I was much more interested in the flows and joint specific practices. I do not think it is an essential DVD for the exerciser who dabbles in QiGong occasionally, but for a serious student I would recommend it as part of a well rounded library. I came across a QiGong quote recently, something along the lines that “health is present when energy circulates outward from the center.” The sequence of exercises on this DVD are geared more toward that philosophy - removing blockages and stuck energy, and bringing fresh energy into the internal organs, as opposed to similarly named yoga practices which promise to alleviate upset stomach or constipation. (No disrespect to yoga to treat those ailments - I use those practices too!)

The aim of this DVD is to reach deeper than any physical digestive discomfort that you may be feeling, or pounds you may wish to lose, but rather hone in on the happiness of all the tightly packed organs in the abdominal cavity and the surrounding musculoskeletal structure and stimulate a ball of energy from within. Throughout, the practice emphasizes visualization of golden light within the body’s center, at times described as a small sun, and we are asked to visualize the golden rays of the sun shining within the body and warming, healing all of our cells.

During the practice Lee enlightens us as to which parts of the body are being targeted. With a gentle series of twists, small flows and stretches, he works through the abdomen as a whole, the diaphragm, spine, ribcage, liver, gall bladder, spleen, stomach, and yes the intestines. It is a very meditative practice, and if you are in the right mindset QiGong for Healthy Digestion really can leave you feeling a glow within you.

All that said, this practice is indeed effective when the blockage you seek to relieve has not so much to do with a disconnect within your internal body of light as it has to do with that pizza with extra cheese you ate last Thursday.

The DVD consists of two segments, the longer standing digestive series and a shorter floor routine. The standing flows consist of:

~ Knocking on the Door of Life, rotating and letting the arms knock freely across the lower abdomen and back.
~ Deep abdominal breathing.
~ Energy belt breathing, reminiscent of a Pilates breathing warmup with the hands under the ribs and focusing on breathing so the hands spread outward.
~ Fire breathing, similar to Breath of Fire.
~ Abdominal circles, hands over one another and gently circling the abdomen in a self massage.
~ Peristalsis pump, a gentler movement than the QiGong Pump in which you raise the arms overhead and flop them downward and back while squatting. In this exercise the arms only move within the range of the torso and you do not squat.
~ The Arrow, reaching up with hands clasped and index fingers pointing upward, then squatting and bending with the arms/hands pulling behind the head.
~ The Arrow: Stretch and Flow, interlocked hands reaching up into a gentle backbend, then swan diving, similar to a yoga flow, with arms outward into a forward bend, then scooping up energy from the earth to beginning.
~ Qi Belt Flow, gentle rotations with the palms held slightly outward from the abdomen.
~ Spreading the Feathers and Twist, twisting while pressing the front arm upward and the rear arm back, twisting and turning, knees bending like a pump.
~ Shaking to clear stress and promote awareness of Qi.
~ Tree Swaying, twisting and bringing hands upward on the twist, then turning back to the center and floating hands down, back and forth.
~ Pebble in the Pond, floating alternating hands forward and back around to the body.
~ Turning the Wheel, emulating a wheel turning in front of the abdomen with the hands while flowing with the spine.
~ Centering, sweeping alternating arms overhead and gently down the midline of the body, side to side.
~ Qi ball breathing, or “creating an energy ball,” hands floating outward and towards together while gently squeezing the “Qi ball.”

The Lying Face-Up segment consists of:

~ Deep abdominal breathing
~ Breathing into the ribs
~ Both knees hugged into the chest, with gentle rocking side to side and then circling the knees
~ Hugging alternate knees into chest
~ Gentle supine twist on either side
~ Abdominal self massage
~ Relaxation

In summary, I find this to be a slow, very meditative and introspective QiGong practice. It is valuable to focus so intently on the core of our being and not worry so much about the limbs moving properly. One caution would be that the standing segment might be problematic for someone who cannot stand on their feet for a period of time (the total exercise time is 35 minutes and about 28 minutes are spent standing with both feet in the same general area). If the soles of your feet start to bother you, refocus on a loose stance with the knees relaxed and tailbone dropped, and shift the feet a little. I think most of this segment could also be done seated on a chair or stability ball if the standing is really troublesome.

Notes on video: this is from the QiGong II series with the blue covers, filmed at Lake Tahoe. It seems to be early morning - sunny but the sky is still a bit overcast behind Lee at the horizon. A few ducks or gulls swim by to greet us at the beginning. It is beautifully filmed, and I love that the water is choppy and you can hear the water sounds throughout the video, enhancing the reminder to flow like water. The music is gentle and soothing, with some Oriental flute-y type notes. It is coached in voice-over.

Instructor Comments:
Lee Holden makes QiGong accessible to the home exerciser. He has an easygoing, approachable manner. There is bonus segment with behind the scenes footage, and one shot is of three tee or sweatshirts hanging on branches with the caption "Wardrobe." To me, that epitomizes Lee Holden.