Relax and Clear Stress

Embodied Intelligence With Qi Gong

Text from the video: Relax and Clear Stress, with Lee Holden (20 minutes)

Relax, let go, and flow . . .

Welcome to Qi Gong for whole body intelligence.
This routine is for deep relaxation.
It will clear stress, tension, and tightness out of the body and energize the system.

Let’s begin by bringing one hand over the lower abdomen and one hand on the chest.
We’re going to take some nice deep breaths.
Inhale from your belly; let the belly expand, then let the ribs expand, and then come all the way up to the chest.
Exhale chest, back down through the ribs, into the belly.

This breathing exercise is called wave breathing, and it is designed to clear stress, tension and tightness out of the body.
It helps the nervous system to rebalance and reorganize.

Long, slow, deep breathing sends a message to the nervous system to relax—
to switch from sympathetic, or fight-or-flight mode, into the parasympathetic and relaxation mode.

So inhale belly, ribs, all the way to the chest; exhale all the way out.
This is truly a full deep breath.

Now, when you’re studying or focusing the mind,
often we get tightness and tension, we get cluttered thinking.
This breathing exercise also will help to relax the mind,
bring clarity to our thoughts, and help to release tension out of the body.

So inhale, big deep breath. Inhale, belly, ribs, all the way to the chest.
Exhale all the way out.
Feel the breath flow through the torso, bringing healthy energy to all the internal organs.

Part of being clear in our minds is to have clear energy circulating through the body, so that we can relax, we can unwind, and truly focus.

When you exhale, you can exhale out through the mouth.
Inhale through the nose.
Exhaling out through the mouth brings a little bit more cleansing into the mind and the body.
It’s a way to release excess stress that’s held in the system.
Now stress can be held in the system through the body or the mind.
And breath helps to release both.


Next we’re going to do an exercise that stretches the neck and shoulders.
This exercise is called spreading the feathers.
You’re going to bring your arms in front of you and then extend and reach down towards the floor, tuck your chin back and in, and make your
spine real long by lifting the top of the head.

Do that again, arms circle and spiral in front.
Spiral through the hands and turn the thumbs over.
Tuck the chin in and make the spine long.

This is an excellent stretch if you’ve been sitting at a desk for a long time, studying, working on papers, and need to clear tension out of the upper back and neck.
Reach toward the floor, tuck the chin back and in, and lengthen.

Often students, professors, people who work at a desk, will hold stress, tension and tightness in the neck and shoulders.
Now in Qi Gong, when the tension accumulates in the upper back and neck,
that free flow of energy doesn’t get to the brain.
So this one is for clear thinking.

Lean the head over to one side. Keep reaching towards the floor,
and then roll the head back and forth.
This gets in a little bit deeper into those muscles and releases tension and tightness.
Take a nice deep breath.
Roll the head back and forth across the shoulder.
Feel the movement like a good massage working out the tension.

Go to the other side; slowly roll the head back and forth across the shoulder.
And this will work out tension and tightness in the front of the neck, in the back of the neck, and right between the shoulder blades.
This can be a great exercise to do when you’ve been seated too long; you can just stand up and stretch, take a little Qi break,
get that blood flowing through that part of the body and up into the brain for clear thinking.

Take a nice deep breath; exhale all the way out to release tension and tightness.
Inhale (big deep breath); exhale all the way out.

And bring your arms down to your sides and shake out a little bit.
Shake your wrists, shake your shoulders.
Bring your arms down to your sides and just relax into it.

Then we’re going to do the other side, so the arms circle and spiral behind you.
Now the pinky fingers spiral and turn up.
Tuck the chin back and in and lengthen through the spine.
Do that again, hands come behind you,
gather and then lengthen.
Fingers reach down towards the ground.
Tuck the chin back and in, spiral behind you, reach the hands, reach the fingers towards the ground.
This is great for alignment through the upper spine.
Reach and stretch.

Often we get out of alignment from sitting too long, or working on a computer, or reading books.
The neck often gets pulled forward.
This pulls the neck back into alignment with the rest of the spine.
Reach down towards the floor. Tuck the chin back and in.


Now go ear towards the shoulder and slowly roll the head back and forth, and feel that opening through the neck.
Roll the head back and forth across the shoulder.

Take a nice deep breath.
Let that energy lengthen and open. Fingers reach towards the floor. Palms are turned upwards.
Inhale through the nose; exhale out through the mouth.
And we’ll open the flow of energy that goes through the neck and shoulders.

Come down and across to the other side.
And roll the head back and forth.
Lengthen and stretch.

This area of the body is called a line of tension. It’s where we chronically hold stress and tension in the Western world, from sitting, from looking at computers and devices.
This will rebalance the body for more open upper back and neck, and better circulation into the brain and clear thinking.

Again, nice deep breath.
Roll the head back and forth.
Feel that stretch, feel that opening.
Bring your hands down to your sides and feel the flow of energy going down the arms into your hands.
Feel some tingling, some improved circulation down the arms into the hands.
When you feel a lightness, a buzzing, and a tingling, this is what the ancients called Qi, the life force energy.
Qi has to do with blood flow, and nerve current, and the way the mind and body interact.

Now inhale and bring the hands up over the head,
circle the arms around,
slightly bend your knees, inhale and come up,
exhale arms out to the sides.
The breath here is the same one we started the routine with.
We’re going to inhale first into the belly and let the breath rise
up through the torso and into the chest; exhale as the arms come around.


This begins the flowing movements in this section
And flowing movements are done slowly, with the breath and with relaxation.
These movements cultivate deep relaxation, a balanced nervous system, and a clear mind.
Inhale up; exhale arms out to the sides.

See if you can deepen your breath a little bit.
Let your body flow with the breath.
Cultivate inner peace and relaxation.

The slowness of the movement helps us to be more mindful.
That’s why Qi Gong is called mindfulness in motion.
Inhale as you bring the arms up; exhale, arms float out to the sides.


Now, palms face up, and back of the hands flow towards each other, and spiral the hands in towards the chest.
This one is for emotional balance.
Back of the hands float forward and towards each other, then spiral in toward the chest.
Exhale as the arms go out, and inhale as the hands come in.
Exhale, you float the arms out. Inhale, spiraling in.

Qi Gong movements mirror what’s happening in nature. The ways water flows, the ways trees grow are very natural ways of expressing energy.
In Qi Gong we spiral the body, like the branch of a tree.
We move slowly and gracefully like a river flowing down the mountain.

Exhale arms go out.
Inhale spiraling in.
Gather the energy into the lungs and into the heart center for emotional balance.

Often schoolwork, learning, and being in those kinds of environments are emotionally draining or have a lot of stress that comes along with it.
To rebalance that stress, we do flowing movements and moving meditations.
These are called transforming stress into vitality.
So feel that flow of energy coming into the heart center, washing through, and keeping you balanced and centered.

Now take both hands together by the heart. Take a nice deep breath.
Feel that calm tranquility permeating through the heart and the chest.

Relax your hands down.
Let’s do that movement again. Float the arms out, coming in and breathing that calmness, that tranquility, that inner peace through the whole system.

Let’s do this movement with a little bit more flow—a little more relaxation.
Float the arms out as if you’re swimming.
Slow graceful movement helps to calm the mind, keep the heart open, and
transform stress back into vitality and energy.

Bring the hands back together by the heart center.
Take a deep breath.
Breathe in calmness, tranquility, and relaxation.


Now bring your arms round and in front of you.
Drop your right arm down, and turn to your left. (I’m going to be doing your mirror image here.)
Shift the weight over to the right and turn to the right. Then shift your weight left, and turn left.
This movement is called cloudy hands,
and it’s another flowing movement, another moving meditation using mindfulness.

So your right hand comes across the chest, shift the weight right.
Then the hands switch: left hand across the chest, shift the weight left.
This is a wonderful exercise for right-left brain balance, and for creativity and emotional balance.

Now let the movement speed up a little bit. . . let the movement speed up.
Go a little quicker.
Shift the weight; turn in the hips.
Shift the weight; turn in the hips.
This one now is designed to clear stress and anxiety.
So whatever you might be holding on to,
whatever worries or problems,
feel the movement washing them out. Feel a cleansing and clearing:
mind, body, and heart center.
Inhale through the nose, and exhale out softly through the mouth.

And then once again, you slow the movement down
Relax into the movement. And as you go slower, now
we’re cultivating the kind of energy that we want for the rest of the day
Bring in peace, relaxation, clarity, mindfulness, presence.
Bring in creativity.
Bring in that light sense of joy and relaxation.

Bring both arms round and in front of you.
So we cleansed and cleared stress, and then we bring in the kind of energy that we want.
Letting go of old energy, and making space for new energy.

Let’s do it again. Right hand across the chest, shift the weight right. Then left hand across the chest, shift the weight left.

Cloudy hands, keeps the heart open, gives the mind perspective, transforms stress into energy.
Go a little quicker now. Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth.
Release the energy you no longer need.
Let go of other other peoples’ energies that have influenced you.
Let go of stress, Anxieties, worries.
It’s as though the wind picks up and the wind moves the clouds, cleansing and clearing.
Movement is done a little quicker, shifting the weight, turning from the hips, shoulders are still nice and relaxed.

Now, slow it down and bring in the kind of energy that you want.
Accumulate and gather: peace, tranquility, creativity, and relaxation.

Let this movement, the slowness and the relaxation, be a moving mediation—where your mind relaxes into the present moment and you
feel grounded, centered and balanced.
Just feel the way your hands move through the air.
Feel your feet on the ground.
Breath coming in, out through the nose.
Then take both hands by the heart center.

Drop the hands down into the lower abdomen, and your feet come together.
Take some nice deep breaths right down into the lower abdomen.
This movement in this position is called centering.
So, we’re connected to the very center of the body.
When we’re connected to the center, now I’d like you to
rock or sway like a tree in a light breeze.
Let that relaxation just move through you.
This is bamboo in the wind.
Feel connected to your center. Feel feet connected to the Earth.
Mind relaxed.
The body recharged.
Feeling that sense of being connected to nature,
connected to the energy all around you.

Relax, your upper back, your neck and shoulders.
Relax the muscles around your spine.
Have that sense of nowhere else to be but right here, right now.
Feel as if your whole body, your mind had been activated, connected, and integrated.

School life and academic communities can be extremely stressful as well as enjoyable.
When you practice Qi Gong and mindful movement,
you activate whole body intelligence, where your mind, your body, the energy that connects the two circulates through you.
Qi Gong is about staying connected to our inner potential, our inner resources.
So use these exercises as a routine,
or you can use them individually when you need a little break from sitting at your desk, recharge and replenish.
Use them to clear stress and transform it back into your own internal power.
Have a wonderful rest of your day. Thanks a lot.

The Embodied Intelligence project sponsoring these videos is made possible by the Ron and Jessica Liebowitz Fund for Innovation (FFI) at Middlebury College, hosted by Professors Andrea Olsen and Nükhet Kardam on the Middlebury, Vermont and Monterey, California campuses.

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