Sunday morning Qigong

Although Sunday is my official sleep in day, the late Summer sun has me awake and firing on all cylinders by 7am. I decided to head on down to the river that flows near my house and to do my Qigong on the riverbank.

There was barely a soul in sight as I rode down along the bike path, looking for a good location. I eventually found a quiet spot where I could practice in relative peace, only noticeable to the joggers running down the far side of the river.
This time of year its green, green and the air filled with dragonflies and various insects busy with their business. The river flows straight down off the mountain side, with lots of idyllic little spots for picnics or nature walks.
I do my stretches and then immerse myself in the local sounds; running water, a little breeze and the orchestration of birds and insects. Since I normally train indoors ( thanks to the near vicinity of a mosquito full forest next to my house), this was a pleasant change and I found myself much more engrossed in the practice than usual. If there is such a thing as being ” at one with the universe”, then Qigong and meditative practices are definitely the pathway to that goal.
Any tension both mental and physical just slipped away as the environment embraced me. It felt great to be able to stretch out my time frame and let the practice meander, rather than the regimented, set time sessions I do before an average work day.
Finishing off with some yoga breathing, I felt pretty charged.
Any of you looking for a way to deal with stress, recharge or just a way to connect with yourself, you wont go wrong having a look at Qigong.
An amazing path of self discovery.

Personal/Group training sessions for Kettlebells and Body-weight training available

Hi all,

Just to let you know that I am available for individual or group training sessions. Classes generally run for two hours, which includes a good stretching/posture check first up, then into some band work/body weight resistance training to get your joints and body ready for work, then the ‘bells.

I tailor every class to the individual needs of the student.

In this weather, you can expect to need a lot of water for training,so make sure you bring at least a liter, probably two to be sure. I train the bells with lots of stretching mixed in, and normally end the class with a little Qigong to relax you.

Classes are tailored to your ability and interest, and generally I give some tips and pointers for develoing your own workout regimen.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me here or at my email.

mark.jersey(at)gmail.com

Happy training!

Mark

Ed Coughlin- Living Qi.

6373_1165867915855_1502629688_420292_1228642_nEd Coughlin is one of the key elements of the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation’s core teaching philosophy, and who is busy this year spreading the awareness and uses of Qigong  for practitioners of the Kettlebell Sport . I had the great pleasure of studying with him earlier this month in Malaysia at the IKFF CKT Level 1 & 2 Teacher’s training, and asked him at that time if I could interview him for Gaijin Kettlebell . Here is the start of what I hope to be a regular spot here at Gaijin Kettlebell on Qigong.

GKJ-Thank you Ed for taking the time to speak with us today. Could you start with telling us a little bit about your long and diverse background. You have been a long time friend and associate with Steve Cotter, to the extent that he often refers to you as his brother.
What led you to Qigong initially? And what is it?

I began studying martial arts 30 years ago beginning with Uechi Ryu karate, I achieved 4th dan and received my teaching certificate after training in that style for 18 years. In the late 80’s I began studying Tai chi and qi gong with various teachers. About 15 years ago I was introduced to my current teacher Master Kao by a friend and fellow student. After being introduced to Master Kao I gave up everything else I was doing at the time to devote myself to his teachings.  Master Kao is a Master of Chinese Internal Martial arts including Xing Yi Quan, Bagua Zhang, Tai Ji Quan and the rare Taoist System called Xiao jiu tian or “Little Nine Heaven” which includes martial arts , qi gong and Chinese sword. He is also an excellent traditional healer. In 2001 I was made a 35th generation disciple in the Little Nine Heaven system, one of only four of master Kao’s students to be made disciples. My friend and Kung Fu brother Steve Cotter is also a close student of Master Kao. In 1996 I graduated the Florida Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine and now work as a doctor of oriental medicine, I also teach martial arts and qigong to a small group of students at my home. For the last decade I have been practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism as a student of H.H. Penor rinpoche.

I had  been introduced to qi gong at various times , first in the mid 80’s with tai chi and a few years later with a number of teachers. Later in Chinese medicine school , qigong was taught as an element of the curriculum. But my real serious training has been with Master Kao. Qigong is an important element of both Chinese internal martial arts and Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Briefly qigong means to exercise the qi .  Qi can be defined as the vital energy of the body and qigong is a method of exercise to preserve , strengthen and circulate this vital energy in the body to promote health and vitality.

GKJ- Tai Chi Chuan is quite well known in the west, but Qigong has appeared relatively recently in the common consciousness. What does Qigong have to offer the average person and why is it important?

Tai 6373_1165820194662_1502629688_420108_1360238_n chi chuan Or tai ji quan is a system of Chinese internal martial arts related to qigong in that they both relay on a cultivation and understanding of qi. Whereas traditionally tai chi was taught as a fighting art and only recently is done primarily for health. Qigong is a health promotion and rehabilitative regime.

For the average practioner qigong offers a simple method to promote health and energy and as a way to repair the body from stress and overuse. While traditional methods of exercise focus on the building physical strength , speed and endurance, the focus of qigong is on the subtle energetic network of the body and the internal organs. Ordinary exercise can be damaging to the body which is in fact why it works by causing the body to adapt to stress, qigong can repair the  body by reducing tension, regulating breathing ,improving circulation and strengthen the internal organs and endocrine system.

The combination of physical exercise such as kettlebells, bodyweight conditioning or martial arts with a consistent practice of simple qigong is an ideal method to promote health , relieve stress and increase longevity. Continuous vigorous exercise without a rehabilitative component to it is a recipe for injuries and a short athletic career with a lot of chronic pain. I believe adding a simple qigong routine to your exercise or just on its own can greatly improve performance , reduce or correct injury and promote overall health.

GKJ.- I have read and heard that it is very important in Qigong to have proper instruction from a teacher. Why is that so? Are there any Qigong practices that a person can try if they are interested in exploring Qigong?

There are many systems or methods of qigong training , primarily what I’m talking about here is qigong for health and longevity  . but there are also qigong methods for martial arts to strengthen and harden the body, medical qigong to cure disease and religious or philosophical qigong done as a spiritual practice. Some systems of qigong are very complicated and involve holding the breath for extended periods , directing the energy(qi) with the mind or the breath or the use of weights or other equipment. The more complicated the method the greater the possibility of side effects .

Therefore complicated qigong systems require instruction and monitoring by a competent teacher to avoid pitfalls, however there are very simple and effective qigong systems that can be practiced on your own once the basic principles are understood. A good example is the level one qi gong that can be found on the IKFF YouTube channel. (Link to the clip here) This is a good introductory qi gong exercise that can be done by anyone and has no side effects, yet is very effective for promoting circulation and reducing stress among other benefits.

GKJ.- In my own short time experience, I have experienced Qi as a form of energy that resides in the body and the atmosphere around us. Doing Qigong practice brings an awareness of this energy that exists around us every day. What is Qi? It is often left as a mystery. Also, this energy awareness comes and goes- is this natural?

6373_1166442210212_1502629688_421951_1194653_n “QI” basically means energy and exists all around us and in us . there are many types of qi. In the human body Qi can be thought of as the body’s vital energy . our body has an energetic system related to but apart from our nervous and circulatory systems.

It is this energetic network that is manipulated in the practice of acupuncture and some types of Asian body work. In traditional oriental medical theory , the energy aspect of this network is called “qi”. Qi  is the body’s motivating force, it is the “stuff” that animates our body. Every living organism has Qi. With conscious training this vital energy can be strengthened and controlled to promote health and longevity, this is the practice of qigong or “working the qi”. Similar ideas of this energy exist in other cultures like the “prana” of yoga. Bio electricity is also a comparable term.

GKJ.- It is also said that Qigong is very effective at relieving stress, and also making the body stronger. How does it do this? Here in Japan, the average office worker deals with low energy levels constantly, due to a fairly intense working environment, non natural light environment and long working hours. Most people feel incredibly lethargic, especially during the hot and rainy seasons. Can Qigong help them?

Through a combination of breathing , movement and posture qi gong practice can increase oxygen uptake , relax the nervous system , increase the circulation of blood and lymph through the activity of propulsion. through breathing combined with right and left movement brain hemisphere and wave frequencies can be normalized. The endocrine structures of the brain can be stimulated by intention , meditation and visualization which are all elements of qigong practice. Increased immune function can be stimulated by breathing ,relaxation and meditation . all of these things have been observed in clinical settings related to the consistent practice of qigong along with other wonderful effects. For people who are high stressed, with long work secludes , sedentary work conditions and who have low energy or only short periods of time for activity or exercise , qigong is the ideal method of training to promote their health and longevity and  eliminate stress and tension .

GKJ.- It seems that from now on, Qigong will feature more prominently in IKFF seminars and activities. What are your own personal aspirations with the spreading of knowledge of Qigong? Can we look forward to having you touring around teaching about Qi?

Steve Cotter and the IKFF are at the cutting edge of fitness and as I noted above the combination of kettlebell training, body weight conditioning and qigong are an ideal health promoting exercise and fitness combination. I look forward to traveling to and teaching qigong at the various level 2 certifications. In the future we hope to be putting out a book and DVD on qi gong and to doing qigong workshops around the globe.

GKJ.-Thank you for your time and I hope to have you hear regularly answering questions about Qigong. It was certainly an honor for me meeting you in Malaysia earlier this month.

Thanks for this opportunity to talk about qigong and I look forward to working with you in the future. More info about can be found at www.xisuigong.com and www.ikff.com

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Qigong- an inner journey

IMAGE_052 I have had a connection with Chinese exercise pretty much as long as I can remember, and for most of that  time I have studiously ignored it, for reasons now unknown to me. Vietnamese refugees resettled near my house as a child practiced various forms, and I remember my new friends doing exercise in the backyard in the earl morning.

A trip to China in my late twenties surrounded me every morning with crowds exercising, doing forms of either Tai Chi or Qigong, silently moving through space and time, with  hundreds of people on a riverbank or in a park moving together in unison.

Perhaps I just wasn’t ready to slow down at that point? Needless to say at this time in my life I am more open to alternative systems of dealing with my own body and invigorating its energies.

At the IKFF Certified Kettlebell teacher training earlier this month, I had to the good fortune to meet Ed Coughlin, Steve Cotter’s long time martial art brother, who led us through four days of basics in Qigong, which already in the week that has passed since I left, has opened up a range of new possibilities for me.

Because of that experience, I will be expanding the scope of the Gaijin Kettlebell site to a full exploration and discussion of Qigong, its practice, uses and benefits, with the intention to gradually build up sufficient interest here in Japan that I can ultimately get Ed to come out here to teach in the near future.

In the perfect balance  of soft and hard, Qigong complements the intense sport of the kettlebell, the body naturally needing to rebalance and recharge itself after an intense workout.

For those not so interested in intense physical activity, Qigong offers them an easy release from high stress lifestyles and a way to maintain energy levels and general health in our fast paced and debilitating society.

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Qigong has already long been believed in China to hold the answers to an array of maladies and debilitating illnesses, and  now in the West has been the subject of intense scientific study for the last ten years or so.

Like meditation, it is not something that lends itself well to logical examination- it is experiential in nature and must be viewed with an open and exploratory mind willing to observe both itself and the body’s basic condition.

So,

you can look forward to a weekly article on either the practice or effects of Qigong in the near future.

Peace,

Markeu

Interview with Steve Cotter

Steve Cotter is one of the cornerstones upon which the international kettlebell community forms a rock solid base. Traveling tirelessly all over the world supporting those that want to learn practical physical skills that they can utilize and perfect throughout their lives, he teaches simple and attainable techniques. At the same time he instills in all who learn from him the fundamental body, breath and self poise and control that marks a true practitioner of the kettlebell sport .

Steve is a constant blur of energy; teaching a seminar all day, interacting with his students in the evening, and on the internet until the early hours answering peoples questions and giving his advice and support freely. His instruction is pithy- you can tell from every word or thought that streams from his consciousness that he takes what he does and what he represents as a teacher very seriously.

I took some time last week to ask a series of questions to Steve on a range of topics, from kettlebells, Qigong and beyond. Here’s a look at the man himself.

GK: Hi Steve, thanks for taking some time off from your busy global
schedule.
It seems that you are everywhere at the moment- last week it was
Finland and Sweden, now you are headed for Italy. It is obvious to anyone that knows you that you pour an incredible amount of energy into what you do. What drives you?

SC: I believe fundamentally that people want guidance and inspiration. I see that there is incredible interest in physical culture and I know that I try to teach with the highest level of integrity. That is to say, I put my heart and soul into sharing what I know, and also I am able and willing to replace my information with new and better information when it appears. water_skipper_3(2)

I believe in the Individual. Within the individual is the Divine. So to be blessed with the ability to teach is a responsibility I do not
take lightly. Our nations throughout the world today need strong and vital people in order to
thrive. I take it as part of my responsibility to share my education
and experience with the world.

GK: You seem to have come out from the last few years of the international kettlebell community as the leading proponent at this stage. How do you feel about being the main ambassador for the global development of the sport?

SC: I am pleased to be able to offer a voice of reason to kettlebell
training community and also be a bridge between the East and West.
The global community is hungry for good information and coaching, as well as the inspiration and confidence to be able to see things
through to the accomplishment of their goals. The ego cannot be so big as to push a specific agenda upon the students of the art. I look to simplify the learning process and bring high quality learning into everything that I do, not only with kettlebells, but with movement in general.
I am American and I love my nation. However I can say that in America today people are used to products that are marketed with excessive hype and a level of arrogance and dishonesty. Part of the reason is because the media is so powerful in the USA and also we are quite isolated;  most Americans do not have regularly access to people from different cultures.

However, in other parts of the world, and in particular in Asia, humility and respect are still valued. I think because of my extensive training in traditional martial arts from the time I was a boy, I was able to appreciate the significance of honor and respect and humility and self-discipline. So I bring these qualities with me wherever I go to teach, and people respond very well to that. So it has afforded me the opportunity to be a representative for kettlbell training across all nations and all peoples. We are all very much the same in essence and we all wish to improve our lives.

cotter It is an honor to be able to spread kettlebell lifting on every continent now and in so many countries. I see the goodness in this world, every time I teach and travel, when people welcome me to their countries. We all sweat together, and when it all boils down, we are all not so very different after all. Within this training, there is a community, a brother and sisterhood, where we can all come together in common goals of health, fitness and well-being.

GK: There are probably many  people out there in poor physical shape, and look at some of the results with kettlebells and feel that for them, its an unreachable dream. What’s your advice to your average 9-5 person who wants to get back in shape and take charge of their health and well-being once again?

SC: First of all, the goal is reason enough to proceed. Where there is an idea and a will to make it happen, all that is needed is the right knowledge. So as a tool, a kettlebell is a very practical and user friendly option for an average person’s fitness needs.
First a good education is necessary. To get the right advice and the main principles and techniques for safety and effectiveness. IMG_2112 Next, belief in self is crucial for progress. The reason to take action is for your own benefit, so be consistent, and stick with it.

Finally, as the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day. It is more
about what you do over time than anything else. Start slow, learn the basics well and make a commitment to yourself and your dreams. Go a little at first and keep adding a little more at a time, gradually. Over the course of months and years, you will be a different person, an improved person.

The science is well established, and if applied to a focused and committed mind, anyone can achieve peak fitness with kettlebell training.

GK: Currently, we live in a time where many people, given the global market conditions, are suffering under increasing burdens of stress. Often, taking care of health becomes secondary to other obligations, and many people struggle to find balance in their lives. Do you have any advice for those people in the kettlebell and international fitness community who are under severe pressure these days? What do you think is the key to finding an inner balance with all the different elements in our lives?

SC: Yes, first I will discuss the mental and emotional components of success, because that is what we are talking about. We all wish to have a good life and to be successful. Most people are willing to work for themselves, and simply would just like the opportunity to do so.

The power of the mind, our mental constructions and projections are immense beyond what we can understand. There is sufficient research and evidence to suggest that we actually ‘create’ our own experience and existence. So beliefs and attitude is central to success. This is a foundational principle. Whatever one puts their mind and energy into, the results will come of that.

Physiologically, we work to harmonies the body’s energies and mechanism. I believe a balanced approach to health, fitness and well-being is the solution for all of us, to varying degrees of need. The aspects of deep breathing, relaxation and mental concentration upon the quality of breath and movement are surely still unchartered areas of human performance.

Most traditional cultures have a concept of balance. The Chinese refer to what they call the yin and yang. With inner clarity the external aspects will simplify. This has more to do with our attitude and presence of mind than any other factor.

GK: So what you are saying Steve is, it is exactly at times of stress that we need our practice most- whatever it is that gives us that sense of center and the resilience to keep going, even when other people are saying ” its too hard” ” I don’t have the time and energy” and quitting their own personal disciplines etc ?

SC: I am saying that people need to have a strong belief in their self, in their own creative process and possibilities. Part of this is the training, the daily discipline and investment in oneself; just as important or even more than the physical training is the mental outlook. We have to choose to take a positive outlook or not;
through the daily practice and the weeks and months and years of training we are also developing our practical and marketable skills as human beings. In time of plenty and times of shortage, there is always a market for excellence and quality.  So, instead of focusing outwardly on the difficulties that we may be currently experiencing, we can and should focus inwardly on developing our own power and skills.

GK: Qigong is also a very important part of your own personal repertoire. Can you explain briefly for us what this is all about? Will the future see you doing more and more of these kinds of seminars? Do you see a link between Qigong and kettlebells?

SC: Qigong is a health system developed within China. Some refer to it as Taoist yoga. Qi or Chi refers to the idea of a life force, or it can be viewed as energy or breath. Gong or kung is hard work or a skillful ability. So Qigong is energy mastery or breathing skill. There are hundreds of different variation of Qigong, including medical Qigong to facilitate healing, martial Qigong to increase the power for fighting and Qigong for health development, which is the most widely practiced.

The basic components of any qigong method involves the coordination of deep breathing with relaxed movement and deep concentration. The most well-known form of Qigong is Taijiquan (tai chi ch’uan). The reason to practice Qigong is to cultivate the increased development and flow of our body’s energies. Whereas physical exercise such as kettlebell training and martial arts strengthen the bones, muscles and tendon structures, Qigong strengthens the organs, which are also muscles. In addition, hard physical training is draining to the body, it breaks the body down and the body must recuperate from that. Qigong helps us with this.

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Qigong is gentle on the body and it builds the body’s energy and
health and vitality. So to be a well-rounded athlete and person and to have vital health throughout our lives, we must balance the hard and soft of physical training with energetic training, such as Qigong and meditation.
The IKFF system that I teach is the leading proponent of linking
kettlebells with Qigong because we want to strengthen both the
structure and the energetic body, and these modalities are a very
complimentary way of doing so.

Qigong is still very new and largely unknown in the West, however in recent years I have seen more interest in people wanting an education in the energy arts of Qigong. As their bodies get stronger and more vital through kettlebell training, they take a keener interest in longevity, which is to maintain that increase in fitness and vitality across their life. So this is where Qigong comes in and where we will see more and more education on these arts moving forward.

Lineage and a direct source of information is very important when
learning and teaching valuable art forms, and especially with training in a system with as many subtleties as Qigong. So I am very grateful to have been accepted as a student to the Grandmaster and lineage holder of the Little 9 Heaven system of Qigong (nei gong) via Master Kao San Lun :
www.xisuigong.com

GK: What, in your opinion, do you see as the future of the kettlebell sport? Its been nine/ten years now since the reintroduction of the sport in the US and globally. Do you see any signs of stagnation, or do you think that it is successfully integrating into the mainstream sporting consciousness?

SC: It is integrating into mainstream consciousness slowly now because we have new and improved information and new leadership at the head of the educational process of spreading the sport. It is surely a work in progress.
While kettlebells have been a breath of fresh air with regards to how we train the body, for the first 10 years they have often been marketed as some ‘hard core’ tool for ‘hard-living’ comrades. All shticks and gimmicks aside, the real value of kettlebells is for the every day person. Most people are not “hard-core’ , and rather than that, they have complex lives and need simple solutions to their fitness and health needs. In addition, to be “hard-core” is a goal for the ego, but it is not practical for most. When we are young and athletic, we can go-go-go.

n1217403473_364778_5064660However in real life, people in their 40s, 50s,60s and beyond can’t just continue to push and push. As with all things, there is a natural limit. So they must have a system that can be sustainable over time, not one that will pump the body up when young but break it down and injure it in older years.

So now we have much more balance in the way that kettlebells are being taught to the mainstream.
The IKFF is reaching out to all demographics and showing that at a very basic level, an unfit person with the desire to change, or a senior or a child, or almost anyone else can use kettlebells safely and effectively.

GK: You spend most of your life meeting people from all walks of life and backgrounds, traveling all over the world to teach. What have all these experiences taught you about yourself?

SC: This is a very important question. There are several key things. Some of them validations about theories that I once had.

I had always wondered if needs and wants were fundamentally the same across all cultural or national boundaries. I have found that they are. We all basically have similar or the same basic interests and desires. So this is illuminating and encouraging for me. Human have strengths and frailties, so interacting with such a broad base of people from across the globe enables me to see myself as more human.

I will say also that more than before, I recognize that to be called a teacher is the greatest of honors and with that comes an enormous responsibility. When someone invites me to their country, or comes to my course, it shows great commitment and sacrifice on their part. That should not be discarded, and it reminds me to give my heart to what I do. I think that it reminds me not to become a guru, or to allow my position to change me in a way that brings me away from my goals. I think it is fantastic to be considered a teacher and a leader, and there, to me, there is no higher honor. I am reminded of that balance between ego and humility, the proverbial teacher/student relationship. I’ve learned to be more mindful and consider both facets of the equation and look for those opportunities to both teach and learn.

GK: Please tell us about Ken Blackburn. You often describe him as your main partner/associate/ brother, and the both of you working together really seems to bring out your individual skills to the fullest. He seems like such an essential part of what the IKFF is all about.

SC: I believe in the highest quality, and I believe in comprehension and balance.

To be truly gifted in one area of specialization is great, those types of talented people are valuable to all organizations and communities. However, to be a leader in the mold that I consider to be a great leader, is to be well-rounded in your expertise. I believe this is a special gift that not all can have. In fact few have.

I have traveled the world, and have interacted in one form or the other with almost every expert of significance in the Western world, when it comes to kettlebells and their integration into the functional fitness movement. Ken is very rare in his diversity of talents and how many important things he can do at a high level.

My idea of an organization is like a family. In some ways, I am like a parent and I want my children to become better off than me, greater than me and to expand past my own potential. I believe any loving parent would want the same for his or her children. The way  to create this is by providing opportunity.

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So to me, for the IKFF to grow into a great and truly meaningful organization, there must be opportunity for growth and their must be a way, and this is of highest importance—there must be a way for the organization to be bigger, to be about more than just the founder.

Like in a family, if the father or mother is the greatest that will ever be, then the children feel they cannot have as good of a life. Yet, what the parents really want is for them to have a better life, to learn from their experience and to benefit from our works.

I consider leadership to be the most crucial aspect and to me leadership means that you care for your people, like your own children and family. The only way that I can create something great and meaningful for this world, is to do it in a way that it can grow beyond just me and that those top people from within can grow to their own highest potential. This way the art and the system of knowledge can live and can improve over time from generation to generation.

So, I selected Ken because he has all the qualities that are needed to lead and he has the same high standard for expertise in all his skill sets that I do. He seeks mastery and this is necessary for anyone. Batman needs Robin, it is that simple 😉

When I decided to create the IKFF, I did so having learned from the mistakes of others. I did not wish to build a team filled with number twos. By that I mean I didn’t want to surround myself with people who will always want to follow for the rest of their lives. I determined that I would help to develop leaders, which means there must come a time when they will become #1. And I am comfortable in my role. The art and the responsibility to teach is more important than me or any one person. Today is my day, yet tomorrow it may no longer be for me to be in the spotlight.

Of course Ken is vital to the IKFF. I developed it to be that way, it is by his own merits. In addition to this, the team of instructors we are developing also have many of the same attributes that make Ken Blackburn a great teacher and leader in our field.

GK: Lastly Steve, what’s your own personal goal?

SC: My goal is to facilitate the growth of strong, focused societies,
nationally and globally, through its people. I see a key to this goal in being the strengthening of the mind and body on an individual basis, through the use of comprehensive health programs like what I offer and through the IKFF programs.

GK: Thank you for your time today and we here in Japan wish you a safe trip, and hope to see you here in the East some day soon!

SC: Thank you very much Mark, it is an honor to be able to teach and I am thankful there is interest in the information I have to share. I actually teach quite regularly in the East and have run course in Malaysia and Hong Kong for the last few years.

Next year I will run courses in Taiwan and the Philippines. Also I have been receiving more inquiries from students in Japan who wish to learn my system. Japan is a culture I have a lot of respect for, so when the day comes that I visit to teach, it will be a very happy time!

Note- If any readers have questions for Steve, please feel free to write in/comment and I will have Steve answer your questions for you.

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Qigong and you

taken from About.com

buddhas_blue_meditationIs your New Year’s resolution to lose weight by going on a diet? Are you frustrated because you have already tried many approaches that produce immediate results, but don’t last? You are not alone. Many people suffer from cyclical and frustrating weight fluctuations because dieting fights against the inner desires of the body and involves eating habits that are not sustainable. They usually involve altering food intake without increasing self-awareness. You radically change food intake and often eliminate the foods you like and possibly need. Diet trends are created by external authorities that do not encourage a person to discover what is best for them.

Qigong presents a sustainable and self-directed approach. Chris Fernie, a Qigong master and founder of the Institute for Internal Transformation, explains, “Instead inhibiting your dietary needs, Qigong practice cultivates knowledge of who you are and how your body works. This knowledge reveals how the body regulates itself so you gain the power to control your health and weight. Through simple daily exercises you can improve the rate of digestion, increase metabolism, and promote weight loss.”

Qigong, a self-healing practice, has been broadly documented in China to improve digestion and overall health. In the U.S., The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the NIH has recognized the efficacy of the use of Qigong in maintaining long-term weight loss and is currently funding research to further document its effectiveness.

In Qigong, students learn exercises combining mind, breath and movement to unify and cleanse Qi — the vital life force in the body. As Qi is balanced, the systems of the body harmonize, digestion improves, metabolism regulates and chronic problems can disappear.

A vital aspect of Qigong’s success is gained through awareness of how the body functions. According to Fernie, “one of the primary goals of Qigong practice is to discover the inner geography of the body in order to develop awareness and control of factors that contribute to health.” Students discover that mind, breath, gravity, posture, emotions, Qi and forces of nature affect the delicate balances of the entire system. In the realm of digestion, that means recognizing that the digestive system is tied to many internal and external factors. For example:

  • Emotions:
    We are all familiar with “comfort eating,” to mask or avoid difficult emotions. In addition, repeated emotional states lead to long term muscular contractions, which in turn radically change metabolism and reduce the ability to absorb nutrients.
  • Posture:
    The digestive track is aided by muscular contractions and gravity. Therefore our alignment in the gravitational field, known as posture, influences our ability to properly digest food.
  • Seasons:
    The body changes with the seasons. Learning how to recognize and respond to these changes enables us to maintain balance throughout the year.

With practice, students develop a deep awareness of the digestive processes. Eventually this awareness allows students to trust their body’s wisdom about what and when to eat so they can naturally attain a healthy weight and metabolism.

However, even before deep awareness of the internal states is cultivated, the exercises inherently speed the rate of digestion. Fernie explains, “Many people in today’s society do not efficiently digest their food-instead it stagnates in their intestines causing many problems. Performing Qigong exercises can speed the rate of digestion and improve many digestive disorders.”

Qigong offers a way to discover that every person can become free to do and eat as they please. George Ohsawa, the founder of macrobiotics, stated that a free man can eat anything. Attaining a desirable weight is not just about the food you are eating, it is about you and your relationship to those things that affect health and digestion. Qigong reaches far beyond weight loss and into a profound transformation of one’s own life and often the lives of those closest to you.

article by Sarah Kowalski