Summit County Seniors Center Qi Gong

Here are the dates for November and December that I will be teaching Qi Gong at 83 Nancy’s Place, Frisco, CO 80443. November 2012 Tuesday, Nov 6th and 13th 10:45am to 11:45am. December 2o12 Monday, Dec 10th and 17th 5pm to 6pm. Tuesday Dec 11th and 18th 10:45am to 11:45am. Location: 83 Nancy’s Place, Frisco, CO 80443   To discover more about Qi Gong and to watch some sample videos, go to TravisDharma.com.
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Breckenridge Summer Sunrise Qi Gong Hike and other classes

This Saturday July 28th I’ll be teaching a Sunrise Hike and Qi Gong class through Meta Yoga studios in Breckenridge. We’ll meet at Meta Yoga at 6:30am, and carpool to Blue Lakes, where we will take a short hike to a clearing under a waterfall with beautiful mountain and lake views. From here we will practice our moving meditation and connect with the elements of nature including the water, earth, and sun. If you can’t make it to July’s Sunrise Hike, there will be another Saturday August 25th 6:30am to 8:30am meeting at Meta Yoga. The price is the same as any other drop in yoga class, which is $15 or $13.50 for locals.   Seniors Qi Gong in Frisco I’m also teaching Senior’s Qi(Chi) Gong at the Summit County Seniors center at the County Commons in Frisco. The classes are all donation based, and open to all ages. There will be chairs set up for anyone who is unable to stand for a long period of time. The Next class will be August 28th, 10:45am to 11:45am. The class will focus on Stress relief. The following classes will be Tuesday 10:45am-11:45am on September 11th, 25th and October 2nd, 16th, 23rd and 30th.   For bi-weekly updates and access to a free Qi Gong for self-healing video, sign up for my newsletter below.  
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Releasing Tension with Free Flow Qi Gong

In this exercise we allow the body to express itself freely. We stop thinking about how to do the movements, wondering if we are doing them correctly, and just let the body guide us. I enjoy setting my timer for 2 to 5 minutes, and allowing my body to move in whatever way it wants. Some small twists, lifting the arms, and just moving without thinking about it. There are three principals of Qi Gong that I like to keep while going into this “free flow” state.
Think less, Just move.
This is big. So many times we can get caught up in doing a certain Qi Gong or Tai Chi movement or Yoga posture “correctly” or not. With this stop thinking about that, and just allow the body to show you where it wants to go. Keeping this principal in mind, the next two are optional, but will tend to allow the movements to be safe and healing for your body.
Feel the breath as you move. 
Without trying to change the breath, just notice how you breath naturally. Acknowledging that if you start to move faster, or do more difficult movements, your breath naturally expands and takes in more oxygen and energy to compensate for the exercise. Notice how soft the breath is when moving slowly or in stillness. Without thinking about, or judging the breath just let it be and aknowledge it.
Keep one foot on the ground
You can jump if you want to, but I recommend at least having one foot on the ground at a time. This is more grounding, and you are less likely to injure yourself by twisting an ankle or falling down. By having one or both feet on the ground you are able to move from your center more easily, and the flowing movements will feel more relaxing.
These are just some tips that I use when I do my free form movement practice. Below you will see a video of me practicing my free form video for 2 minutes. As you can see it really is just following whatever my body wants to do. It doens’t matter if it flows together nicely, just keep moving with the mind focused on the breath.
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Three simple Qi Gong exercises you can do anywhere

This post is inspired by my latest trip to New York City. Many people say they don’t have time to do meditation, or Qi Gong, or Yoga. That they have too much to do during the day to spend time at home before they jet off into the world. This post is to share with those people to explain how you can take those small free moments to listen to your body. Waiting at the street light, standing on the subway, or in line at the bank or grocery check out are perfect opportunities to check in with our body and bring greater awareness and healing. Here are the three exercises. You can download these exercises to your computer below. Joint rotation Moving the joints while keeping our awareness there is lubricating the joint, increasing the range of motion and decreasing pain. An easy example is the hand and wrist. You can start by slowly rotating the wrists in a circle. Then changing directions, moving slowly and feeling areas of tension or blockage. Then spreading the fingers and pulling them in towards the palm. Opening and closing from fist to open palm. This simple exercise helps to bring circulation and energy to the hands and wrists. Breathing into areas of tension Any area of pain you can bring your awareness, and your breath into. For example, if you have lower back pain you can breath into the area, breathing in a healing light. Exhale visualizing any tension or pain going down the back of the legs and into the earth. Weight shift Many times we carry our weight more on one foot or the other. This can lead to all kinds of imbalances going up through the hips and shoulders and neck. With this exercise, you shift your weight from right to left, and forward and back. Bending the knees just slightly. Noticing how you hold yourself in gravity. Is it easier to lean forward or backwards? Are you more comfortable on your left or right foot? Then you can bring your weight into center, feeling all of the corners of the foot connecting with the ground. Bringing this awareness to the feet can make huge changes throughout your whole posture. If you listen to an iPod or mp3 player you can follow these exercises on mp3 by downloading them below. Right Click and “Save Link as…” to download to your computer. Intro Joint Rotation Breathe away Tension Weight Shft Otherwise the transcript of the audio is available below, and you are welcome to record your own version. Transcript of Audio: Wrist rotation – spread the fingers of both hands, squeeze them into a fist repeating two more times, inhale as you expand the palm, exhale as you bring your fingers into a fist. Next rotate both wrists in towards your body. Lubricating the joint with the movement. Rotate the opposite direction. Shake the hands out and feel how your hands and wrist feels after the exercise. Breathing into areas of tension – In this audio we will focus on breathing relaxation into the neck and shoulders. On your own time feel free to use this exercise on any part of the body that has tension. If you can, placing your hands on your shoulders can help us to direct the healing energy. Crossing the arms over the chest and holding onto opposite shoulders can be a good way to do this. Take a nice relaxed breath in. Allowing the shoulders to rise up into the hands slightly, and then exhale, allowing the shoulders to fall away from the ears, into gravity. Continue the breath in this way, breathing in your intention to relax the shoulders, and exhaling any unnecessary tension or stress. Exhale out of the nose if you feel tired and want to conserve energy, or exhale out of the mouth if you feel anxious and want to purge excess energy. Continue this exercise for as long as you want, returning the arms down to the sides when you’ve finished. Weight Shift – While standing, bring attention to the point of contact from the bottom of your feet to the shoes, and ground beneath you. Without changing anything just notice how the weight is distributed on the feet. Is there more weight on the left foot or the right? Do you lean towards the front ball of the foot, or the back heel? Now start to adjust the weight in your feet so that you feel more balanced. Finding your fulcrum point where you are balanced forward and back, and left and right. Even amount of weight on all four corners of the foot. Feel free to continue this exercise as long as you can, and when you’ve finished, start walking again with presence of your connection with the ground beneath you. Grounded.
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New Qi Gong Classes in Breckenridge!

From May 15th through to the end of Summer 2012 I’ll teach two classes a week at Meta Yoga Studio in Breckenridge Colorado.

Mondays at 8:45am (Qi Gong)

Thursdays 6:45pm (Restorative Yoga)

You can follow along with a free sample class on the video section here.

What is Qi Gong?

Qi Gong is an ancient Taoist practice which means “cultivating energy”. Tai Chi is a form of Qi Gong with a series of continuous flowing movements that combine into a form. In Qi Gong we repeat the individual movements, making it easy to learn and relax into a meditative state. My classes start with warm up exercises such as shaking, swinging, stretching and knocking to wake up the body and release anything that is unwanted. There are joint rotation and relaxation exercises that teach us to move from our core, and to relax our shoulders and arms. Then we go into flowing movements where we use minimal effort to make circular movements that mimic the energy flow in our body. I end with self-massage to leave you in a relaxed state of vitality for your day.

How will it help my ability to Ski?

Improved balance, reduced recovery time,  and learning to use the least amount of effort necessary, to increase endurance. My classes focus a lot on bringing awareness into the feet, and working with the structure and alignment of the ankles with the knees,  with the hips, with the spine, and with the shoulders and head. Then next time you have a skiing lesson, you will have increased body awareness, and will be able to respond easily to instructions from your teacher, allowing you to progress and get the most out of your ski vacation!

What if I’m not flexible or strong?

Unlike power vinyasa styles of yoga, Qi gong is suitable for every body, young and old. Qi Gong is prescribed to patients in Chinese Hospitals, and is the perfect exercise for seniors and elderly population. The fluid motions, and flowing movements help to pump lymph, increasing immune function and reducing the risk of injury because it’s performed slow and mindfully.

I’ve tried meditation before, but it’s too hard. Will my mind be too busy for Qi Gong?

Qi Gong is a great way to focus your mind on your body, and release mental stress and worry. Meditation can be difficult to jump into, as the mind finds it difficult to focus on one thing(or nothing) for a long time. With Qi Gong, the mind is focused on the movement of the body, and the flow of the breath.  The class will also include many exercises to release mental and physical tension(shaking, swinging, and knocking) before we go into the more meditative flowing movements. If you find yourself in Breckenridge Colorado, stop by Meta Yoga Studios on Ridge St. and join me for a Qi Gong class. Mondays at 9am or Fridays at 4pm. I also offer private lessons, and you can find out about my massage services here. Feel free to contact me with any questions you have about my classes or other services. Travis 831-588-5833    
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Clear the Clutter from your Body and Mind

 Fall – Return to your roots As trees lose their leaves, and retreat to their roots, as the days get shorter, and the weather gets colder, we can feel that there’s a tendency to return to the essence of life. To spend more time indoors, with intimate family and friends, and to start looking at our lives in a more introspective way. I believe one way that we can embrace the season of Fall is to clear the clutter in our minds and bodies. Transitioning out of the busy, rushing, abundant nature of Summer we can take some time to rest and rejuvenate. Sifting through our mental identities, the mind chatter, and the accumulated tensions and stresses on our body and mind. Because that stress in our mind translates into our body. We get tight shoulders that carry the world at our ears, jaws that clench at what we feel we can’t express, and backs that carry our anger, grief, and emotions we fear to face. By practicing relaxing and introspective exercises like Yoga, Meditation and Qi Gong, we can clear that excess and learn to focus on the essentials. When we practice Yoga we are able to release tension that is held in the body. We can breathe into the commonly held tension in the neck and shoulders, relaxing the hyper tense areas and learning to strengthen the imbalanced weak areas of the body. When we release that tension, we can let go of emotional baggage, bad habits, and other forms of excess. We return with awareness to the essentials of a happier body and true Self. Qi gong flowing movements are similar to Tai Chi forms. We learn to move with effortless power. We teach the body and mind to move without holding onto stress. When we practice these movements regularly, we can find that our mind can start to flow and focus with ease. We learn to root into the earth, and flow with life’s challenges, instead of being tossed around. Meditation clears the mental chatter. Even if it feels like an endless tornado of thoughts and distractions while you are doing your meditation, it releases that accumulated stress by listening to it. We observe the mind as if we are looking at it from a distance. Look at that thought. Oh yeah another one. Oh I got caught on a train of thoughts now I’ll come back to focusing on the breath. And repeating that process of observing the mind, while continually returning to the breath. When we become aware of losing that focus and find ourselves lost in an alternate mind universe, the breath is the constant. All of these practices are about coming back to the present, and rooting our awareness in the body. The mind can help us to figure out all kinds of different tasks, but if left to it’s own accord, it will continually keep us busy and frustrated. We need to develop that awareness of the body in order to declutter the mind and body, and increase peace, happiness and good health. Namaste.   You can find free Qi Gong videos here, and guided meditations here.
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Connecting to Trees for Health and Balance

I walk out my door to take a 30 minute jog through nature. I wave hello to the oaks, sequoia, and redwoods as I pass, the grass under my toes, the sand from Henry Cowell slipping beneath me. I jog out into the wilderness and find an Oak tree to connect with. I stand quietly, with my arms facing towards him. I send out a loving thought and intention, feeling back to see if he responds. The feeling is mutual, and I come closer to feel the aura of the tree. We connect, creating a cycle going up through my feet, out of my head, and into the tree, through it’s roots, into the earth to be renewed, and back into my feet again. This cycle goes on for several minutes, and I decide to physically connect with the tree by climbing. The tree’s branches go out in all directions. Reaching out to others, it’s limbs are easy to stand on. As I walk on the tree, I can feel the strength; the years and years that it’s been here, cultivating it’s strength, growing out from it’s roots, and expanding towards the Sun. Spending time with Trees is very beneficial for us. Trees are always meditating. When we quiet our minds and intend to connect with them, the trees can help us with many ailments and unbalanced energy. Just like how trees take in the Co2 that we breath out, and give us fresh oxygen, trees also take in our excessive yang energy, and balance out yin energy, allowing us to be more grounded and at peace. They can also help with all kinds of dis-ease. The tree’s roots go down deep, while their branches and leaves reach towards the heavens. Receiving nutrients from the water in the ground(yin) and the sunlight in the sky(yang). They are perfect models for our Qi Gong practice, teaching us how to connect with heaven and earth to initiate healing within ourselves. Sitting with a tree can be very healing. Breathing in the healing energy, and allowing disease to flow out into the earth. Make sure to always keep the highest intent for the tree as well, keeping it a beneficial relationship for the both of you. Don’t choose a tree that looks sick, or is too small to transform your energy. Look for a medium to large size tree, one that you have an affinity towards. It’s good if it’s a tree near your home that you can keep visiting every day. Then your connection will become stronger and you will be able to share and connect more easily with the tree. It’s actually easier to connect with trees that are used to having many people around, versus trees that are hundreds of miles away from civilization. They’re already used to human energy, and would be excited to have one of the people consciously connect. Another way to connect with trees is to climb them. Sitting or laying down on their branches you can feel supported by the safe embrace of the tree. Be sure to be aware and conscious, and as you climb higher up the tree, you can ask it if it is safe to continue. This is a great way to see the world from the trees perspective. I climb a redwood tree is my backyard, and I’m able to see what it’s like to look over the neighborhood from 30 feet above the ground. If you have a fear of heights or of climbing the tree, you can start by doing a standing or sitting meditation with the tree. This will help to ground you, and will improve your physical and mental balance. Declare your gratitude for the tree, thank it for the experience, and for teaching you how to heal and recycle your energy. If you want you can ask what it’s name is, so that you’ll feel more of a personal connection with him/her.  Listen and go with whatever pops into your mind first. Remember to return to the tree over the next few months/years, continuing to meditate and connect with this tree. Trees live on a much longer time frame than us, and will open to us more deeply when we see them frequently over a long time.  

You can use this practice to connect to the healing energy of nature, balancing yin and yang, quieting the mind, finding inner peace, and refining your senses to pick up more subtle feelings.

  For more Qi Gong exercises with Trees: How to befriend a Tree
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Yin Yang Guided Meditation

Yin Yang Guided Meditation

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In my last post I described the everyday benefits of balancing the active and passive aspects of your lifestyle, and with this guided meditation you will be able to balance yin and yang in your body and mind. This meditation helps to bring awareness to the yin and yang aspects of the breath. The inhale is yang: expansive, light, and full. The exhale is yin: sinking, dense and contracted. This recording goes through the contrast and then combines the two energies in the heat, with yin energy rising from the navel, and yang energy sinking down from the third eye center. This combination creates a healing elixir within you, seeking balance and coherence within your physiology. It increases communication between your nervous system, blood, organs and other aspects of your body to facilitate the healing process. This also helps with balancing emotions, reducing excesses and increasing awareness of how you truly feel. This guided meditation is perfect to use if you have trouble falling asleep. In the beginning and end I encourage you to sink and relax into the surface that you’re laying on. Encouraging peace of mind, stillness, and silence as you drift into a sleeping state. Enjoy this balancing guided meditation, and look for a yin/yang Qi gong video to be released in the next couple weeks. Transcript: This guided meditation will help you to tap into vitality, healing and peace of mind by combining yin and yang energy within yourself. It will end in a calm and relaxing way, so if you need to be awake and aware after this meditation, you may want to set an alarm for 30 minutes to make sure you get up after the session has ended. Find a relaxed position, laying on your back on a bed or floor. You can place a pillow under your knees if you have any discomfort in your lower back. As your body settles into this relaxed position, adjusting as necessary, your mind begins to slow down. Scan your body from head to toe, noticing where you feel energized and flowing, and areas where you may feel discomfort and stagnation. As you scan your body, notice how heavy you feel. Feel the power of gravity pulling you down, deeper and deeper into the cushion. On the every breath out feel the abdomen sink deeper, allowing more space for the inhale to fill your belly, mid drift, chest, and lungs. A full yogic breath, giving your body all the relaxing benefits of deep breathing. As the breath deepens, the exhale continues to help you sink lower and lower, down into the earth. A sense of peace, silence and returning home is present within you. On your next inhale, notice the contrast of growing, expanding, filling yourself with light, love and sun energy on every breathe in. The breath out slows you down, sinking into silence and peace. The breathe in you are floating on a cloud, the sunrise light shining through you, expanding and overfilling you. The sun sets on the breath out, your body caressed by a half-moon that floats you down to the earth. Continue this practice, of floating and sinking, expanding and contracting. This is yin yang awareness through the breath. The boundless energy of yang; expansive, universal, light and vast. Contrasted with the dense energy of yin, still, peaceful, quiet, and settling. With your next breath in allow the yin energy to rise from your lower abdomen, and exhale the yang energy to sink from your 3rd eye and crown, combining in your heart center. The moon rises as the sun sets, spiraling in your heart. A full yogic breath, from your lower abdomen, up above your chest to your lungs. Allowing the yin and yang to create a white and black spiral in your chest. Breathe in and Concentrate in your heart, and with the breath out let the energy expand beyond your body, filling your entire consciousness with this healing elixir of yin and yang. Continue this visualization, cultivating and overflowing with this healing energy. The combination of the yin and yang is like home away from home, peace with power, silence with action, expansive and grounded, lighthearted and determined, playful yet disciplined. Release the visualization and allow your attention to come back to the body and breath. Scan your body once again, from heat to toe, feeling the deep peace you’ve cultivated within yourself. If you wish, you can allow your mind to wander, finding a deep, restful sleep. Slowing down, and sinking deeper and deeper into the earth. At peace and at one with the universe.  
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Yin Yang Balance in Everyday Life

Passive, introspective silent, dark, cool still, earth, water, grouding, are all yin aspects. Active, loud, extroversion, expansive, light, warm, space/universe are all yang aspects. We come across both aspects throughout our day. In the United States we have a strong influence of yang energy on our lives. Whether that is through working long hard hours, exercising at the gym, driving in heavy traffic, watching television with loud noises, or drinking coffee and energy drinks. Some yin aspects of everyday life would include taking a bath, receiving a massage, introspection and writing, a gentle walk in nature, seated meditation and deep, restful sleep. The act of balancing the two is important for health, vitality, and peace of mind. Whether a deficiency in Yin or Yang energy, we will have low energy, difficulty sleeping, and high levels of stress. We need a good foundation of earth/yin energy to keep our yang energy grounded. Without that foundation, the active stress of everyday life will have us confused, with an easily distracted mind and an over exhausted body. Some symptoms of deficient yang(and too much yin) energy include laziness, excessive sleep, spending too much time alone, depression, cold hands/feet, and overeating/lack of appetite(unhealthy eating habits). The act of balancing is what is important. You don’t have to achieve perfect balance, you only need to be aware when one area is becoming overpowering, and when to either become more active, or take time to slow down and look within. A common problem for people in modern times is to have too much yang in their mind, and too much yin in their body. The excessive yin body is from sitting at work, sitting watching television, sitting while driving, and then trying to lay down and go to sleep. Yet while the body is being passive, the mind is very active, watching fast paced television commercials, reading and responding to emails, Facebook updates, text messages, and trying to multitask to be more efficient. A great way to balance this out more, is to take 5 or 10 minutes to go on a quiet walk after work in the afternoon/evening. You can focus your mind on your breathing, be aware of every step you take, and allow your mind to quiet down, while your body gets some movement and exercise. Receiving a massage is also a great way to quiet the mind, while healing the body, reducing soreness and pain and allowing you to be more active. Here are some examples of how I’ve been using this yin/yang philosophy for balancing my own life. I recognize when I should be taking a yin/restorative yoga class versus a more strenuous Vinyasa class. When I need to do more movement exercises or when I need to practice a seated stillness meditation. Listening to my body, understanding when I need to rest to heal my body, and when I need to be more active to circulate and become more energized. Routine and habits are more yin, while spontaneity is yang. I observe when I’m becoming limited by my habits, and when I need to incorporate something new to get my creative juices flowing. I can feel when I need to eat more, less, or eat more cooling(yin) or heating(yang) foods. I notice when I need to consume reading material, or write from my own creativity. When I need to ruminate and brainstorm, or refine and publish my material. When I need to sleep in, or wake up earlier. When I need to travel and discover or stay and home and look within. Learning to balance, and not take judgment on myself when I get off center has helped to create peace of mind and increased creativity in my life. Here are two practices that you can use to combine yin and yang energy for health and vitality. One is a guided meditation(yin), and the other is a video of Qi Gong movements(yang) to combine and circulate heaven(yang) and earth(yin) energy. This combination creates a healing elixir of life, allowing a natural state of peace and well being. They both act to balance the energy within yourself, and will help you act on your decisions to be more active, and/or to take more time to look within and relax.
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Qi Gong exercises for warmer hands

Qi Gong exercises for warmer hands from Travis Usinger on Vimeo.

I recorded this video to show some of the qi gong exercises that I’ve learned to increase circulation through the arms and to stretch the tendons in the hands and wrists. With these exercises, in addition to regular exercise/movement, hot winter soups, and herbal teas you’ll have warm toasty hands and a healthy body flowing with Qi. The exercises include stretches that you can feel from your neck down to the tips of your fingers, wrist stretches to open the joint, and shaking and movement to flush lymph, blood, and Qi, creating greater circulation and flow. Stagnation causes disease, poor immune system, and cold extremities. By adding movement throughout the day you can keep your body healthy and flowing. I would recommend after every 45 minutes or an hour of sitting to take 10 or 15 minutes to do some of these exercises. Another way to get increased flow and movement in the body is through Thai massage. Thai massage is said to be “lazy man’s yoga” incorporating passive stretches and a flowing massage session that looks like a dance. I learned Thai massage at Twin Lakes College and have found it to be a very therapeutic style of body. Within the next few months I plan on creating a video that shows what Thai massage looks like. May you all enjoy your Winter, and stay warm. Massage.TravisDharma.com