Ask Me Anything [April 2016 Edition]

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Plucking Stars (Photo by Anthony Korahais)

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Time for another edition of Ask Me Anything! Here’s how it works:

  • Click here to submit a question for a future edition.
  • I’ll answer your question in an upcoming edition of Ask Me Anything.
  • Click here to read more about why asking questions (not just reading answers) is so crucial.
  • Comment below if you have follow-up questions, even if the original question wasn’t your own.
  • Comment, like, or share this blog post if you’d like to see more of the same in the future.
Dear Sifu Anthony

I have been taking qigong classes for about 3 months, I started it as a reward to myself for quitting smoking and to also help me feel better about myself. The class is held outside by a river in Florida and it is beautiful with all the nature around. After the class I feel so good, but I am confused about the qi. People in the class talk about how they have seen their qi and how it glows. How long does it take to feel the qi?

– Moe

Hi Moe,

First of all, congrats on quitting smoking! I myself just passed my 10-year quit anniversary. Keep rewarding youself!

Secondly, I’m glad you’re enjoying your qigong classes. It sounds like a lovely place to learn and practice!

Different teachers have different approaches, but my advice is not to worry about the qi at all. Worry about results, not fleeting qi sensations.

You said that you feel good after class. That’s awesome! That’s what counts.

Some people are more sensitive to the qi. Some, like me, are not. Or rather, I’m sensitive now, but it took me a long time to develop that sensitivity.

It might take you years to become sensitive to qi. Or it might take months. As long as you’re getting results, does it really matter?

Dear Sifu,

In our society, money is placed higher in value than the benefit of the individual. As a result, there are so many “capitalists” preying on us. One of the arenas that earns the highest revenue is diet and nutrition.

With all the information out there from the paleo diet, to Ayurvedic, vegetarian, etc., in your experience what diet template do you recommend best for qi cultivation? (I know that every individual must take a template and make it their own based on listening to their body.)

-Jordan

Hi Jordan,

You’re absolutely right that the diet and nutrition world is super confusing. But I don’t necessarily think it’s just capitalism at work. For example, I think the USDA has done plenty to contribute to the confusion about nutrition, and we can’t blame capitalism for that one.

As you may know, my wife and I follow a paleo-ish diet. Actually, my diet is more of a “just eat real food” diet. I’m not strict. Here is my own personal template:

  • I eat local. Most of our food comes from nearby farmers’ markets.
  • I eat real food. I avoid processed food as much as possible. Much of my food has no label whatsoever.
  • I eat meat. I mainly eat humanely raised, local meats. I’d rather eat vegetarian for a meal or two than eat bad meat.
  • I eat my veggies. I sometimes joke that I eat more vegetables than vegetarians. Some vegetarians are actually just pasta-tarians. They hardly eat any vegetables. That’s not how I roll.
  • I eat organic. I’m happy to pay the extra cost not only to support sustainable, organic farming, but for the added health benefits.
  • I avoid sugar. I really eat very little sugar of any kind. I do, however, enjoy local, raw honey.
  • No soda whatsoever. I can’t remember the last time I had a soda. It was over a year ago.
  • No fast food. I haven’t been to a fast food restaurant in over a decade. Life it too short to eat fast food.
  • I drink alcohol in moderation. For me, moderation means an average of 5-6 alcoholic drinks per week.
  • I drink coffee. I only drink organic coffee, and I drink it black. I drink about 2 mugs per day.
  • I don’t eat much. I rarely overeat. I eat to satiation, and no further.
  • I avoid gluten. My wife is gluten sensitive, so I avoid gluten too.
  • I eat mindfully. I don’t always succeed, but I try to eat mindfully, chewing my food, savoring it, and being present.
Farmers' Market (Photo by Anthony Korahais)

A photo I took at our local farmers’ market.

Is my template for everyone? I definitely can’t say that. I can only speak for myself. I know what works for me.

For example, I was a vegetarian for 3 years, and a vegan for 6 months. I can say with confidence that a vegetarian/vegan diet is not for me.

As for qi cultivation – I think it depends on the person. Does your food nourish you and make you feel full of energy and vitality? Do you savor your food? Are you healthy?

I found what works for me. I recommend that you do the same.

How can we tell what works?

You hit the nail on the head when you said that we’ve got to listen to our bodies. There’s a lot of wisdom in that.

See how you feel, but be brutally honest with yourself. Do you really feel better, or are you trying to convince yourself?

I also recommend partnering with an acupuncturist for a diagnostic. For example, my wife can take my pulse, look at my tongue, and do a diagnostic to see if my diet is really working for me. If not, we can make adjustments.

As the Buddha said, find the middle way. If the sitar string is too tight, it will break. If the string is too loose, it will not play a sound.

Arkansas 2016 Group (Photo by Anthony Korahais)

Dear Mr. Korahais,

Can I learn qigong basics alone or do I need to find a teacher? I want to start learning, but there are no teachers in my city and I’m afraid of hurting myself in training.

– Stacy

Dear Stacy,

At my recent qigong retreat in Arkansas, people drove from Illinois, New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania (a 20-hour drive).

Why would anyone drive so far for a qigong class?

The answer is simple: Because most people can’t find a good teacher in their local area.

Thankfully, there are many ways to learn qigong in the 21st century. I started from books, and then later learned from living teachers. The internet wasn’t an option back then.

Today, I think the internet is a fantastic way to get started. In fact, that’s how some of the students in the Arkansas retreat started. They learned from me online, decided that they liked my approach, and then drove to one of my retreats.

The ability to try out different teachers without even leaving your house is amazing. If I had had that option 25 years ago, I would have definitely tried it. Instead, I had to travel all over the world just to see if I liked the teacher!

Don’t be scared to learn qigong. If you find a good teacher, it’s safer than getting in your car.

The key is to get results. If you are getting results, if your pain goes away or your anxiety lesses – then you know it’s safe!

The method I teach gets surprisingly fast results (which means its also super safe) . Since you seem to like my approach, why not start with my method and see if works for you. I think you will, and I think you’ll see just how safe and enjoyable qigong can be.

Click here to learn more about my next live online workshop. 

If you were having friends over and you had to choose between Knob Creek, Henry McKenna, and Benchmark, which bourbon would you choose?

– Dudley 

When it comes to bourbon, my favorite is Buffalo Trace. I do like Knob Creek, but I haven’t tried Henry McKenna or Benchmark, but if you say they’re good then I’ll give them a try!

Did you know that drinking bourbon in a wine glass makes it taste better? It brings all of the aromas alive, just like with wine. Try it! 

Dear Sifu,

It is nearly 7 months since your 101 workshop. I have practiced all the videos, 99% of the time at least 15 minutes twice daily and recently am doing a set (6) of Louhans every morning plus your suggested low-back set of 6 every afternoon. Have been very pleased with health results.

I seem to have plateaued in late December. Stiffness returned to arthritic knees, however my overall flexibility continues to expand and my 70 year old severe back problems seem to be gone. Is this return of stiffness (seldom pain) a common plateau?

– Tom

Hi Tom.

First of all – congrats on your discipline. That’s wonderful. It’s so nice to see students take the ball and run.

Secondly – it’s common to plateau about 1 year in. For dedicated students, it can happen a bit faster.

It’s clear to me that you’re still getting results, like your flexibility and your back problems. I bet there are other benefits that you’re not noticing. Pay attention to those too.

Please remember that the human mind notices negatives more easily than positives.

It sounds like you’re getting results in some areas, but also plateauing in other areas. Congratulations! You’re no longer a qigong beginner!

You had a wonderful honeymoon period. Now it’s time to work on your long-term marriage to qigong. There will be ups and downs. There will be plateaus. But as I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s a fantastic and rewarding journey. 

Dear Sifu,

Two related questions about practicing the Warrior Stances:

(1) How can I fit stance training into the fifteen minute routine? I usually do it after dynamic exercises and before energy flow.

(2) As my practice progresses and I devote more time to the Warrior Stances, is it helpful to practice stances separately (some days two shorter sessions are easier to manage than one longer session) or is it preferable to keep it as a part of the five part routine? Or does it matter?

– Bill

Hi Bill,

The first question is easy to answer: you can’t. You just can’t fit the Warrior Stances (zhan zhuang) into a 15-minute session, at least not meaningfully. You can dabble a little, and do a few minutes here and there, but it would be better to go up to 20 minutes and do at least 5 minutes of zhan zhuang. Ten minutes would be even better.

Luohan Carrying Water (Photo by Anthony Korahais)

Luohan Carrying Water, one of the many different Warrior Stances (zhan zhaung).

To answer your 2nd question more directly, if you want to develop real internal power, then you need to increase the time spent in the warrior stances. Period.

Whether you spread that time among 2 sessions, or put it all in the morning session is up to you. But put in the time. 

Dear Sifu Anthony,

I would love some advice from you!

I’m 44 years old and have struggled all my life with emotional problems stemming from growing up in a deeply unhappy (and somewhat warped) family environment.

My coping strategies, including suppressing emotions and chronic people pleasing, have unsurprisingly backfired. I’ve had a host of physical difficulties over the years but currently the main issues are adrenal fatigue and digestive problems.

Conventional medicine has not been helpful but I’m realising that energy work is the key to healing and building myself up.

I do seem to be highly sensitive to energies. I get emotionally injured or knocked out of kilter easily by negative energies but I respond equally strongly to positive ones, for example all manner of energy therapies. In fact, therapists often comment about my body’s dramatic responses to their input, often saying that it’s the most dramatic response they’ve ever seen!

I seem to be particularly prone to energy blockages and imbalances, I think that’s why the results from therapies tend to be quite short-lived.

For this reason, I need to become my own healing practitioner by getting into Qi Gong.

Unfortunately, however, there isn’t a Qi Gong instructor nearby. Is there any particular exercise that jumps out at you that you feel would work well for me that I should focus on? (If you know the chakra system, it’s the solar plexus chakra that seems to be the most imbalanced.) Do you have any resources that would cover these issues?

Many thanks,

Rachel

Hi Rachel,

Thanks for opening up to me. I know it takes courage. Good for you.

I’d really like to help you to heal yourself with qigong. In order to do that, I’m going to answer your question as directly and as bluntly as I can:

No, there is no particular exercise that you should focus on. In fact, I would strongly encourage you to run like hell from that kind of thinking.

Self diagnosis is tricky business. Even master diagnosticians like my wife have trouble diagnosing themselves. For an objective and accurate diagnosis, we need outside help.

The style of qigong that I teach doesn’t need a diagnosis. In fact, many people come to me precisely because my style works even in cases where nothing else has worked.

The beauty of this method is that you can heal yourself WITHOUT diagnosing yourself. This is possible because of the the 5-Phase Routine that I teach, which allow the energy to flow where it needs to go, rather than where you THINK it should go.

Thoughts like, “I’ve got a blockage in my solar plexus chakra,” and “I should practice ____ qigong exercise to clear _____ blockage” are problematic.

Don’t get me wrong. You may be 100% right that there is a blockage in your solar plexus chakra (which is roughly the same as the Ju Que 巨闕 acupuncture point). But in Traditional Chinese Medicine (of which qigong is a branch), the blockage may or may not be the source of the problem.

If you go see an acupuncturist for headaches, you may receive needles in your feet. What you are doing is akin to saying, “I’ve got a blockage in my solar plexus area, therefore I should do acupuncture in that area.” It’s supremely logical, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work.

I hope this makes sense. It’s a complex topic, and something I’m passionate about.

If you’d like to learn a safe and effective way to heal yourself, then I strongly recommend that you take my online workshop. This will teach you to forget about choosing particular exercises, and instead focus on deepening the fundamental skills of qigong — like entering into a Zen state of mind, correct breathing, energy flow, and consolidating the qi.

These skills are what will you to heal yourself with qigong, whether the problem is really in the solar plexus chakra, or somewhere else. 

Mindfully yours,
Sifu Anthony

I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world to use qigong for their own stubborn health issues. I teach online courses, and also lead in-person retreats and workshops.

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6 Responses to Ask Me Anything [April 2016 Edition]

  1. Bill Putman April 5, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

    Very helpful answer. Thank you!

  2. Dion Short April 6, 2016 at 11:52 pm #

    Is it possible to repeat the Flowing Zen 101 online course more than once? I ask this because I remember Phases 1 – 4 and 6, but I seem to have forgotten what Phase 5 consists of. In other words, I know what I It is — consolidation– but I forget what it consists of, of what I should be doing. Or, can I download a copy of the seminar or purchase a video or pdf file outlining the 5 Phases?

  3. John April 12, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

    I’m not sure that this is the right place to present an “Ask me anything” question, but ….Does the direction in which I face during active qigong exercise have any bearing (pun intended) on the effectivity of the exercise? If so how do I determine the optimal direction? Also, does the position of the tongue make a difference, i.e. should it be in contact with the roof of the mouth?

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais April 12, 2016 at 6:08 pm #

      Hi John. Please submit those questions here for a full answer: http://flowingzen.com/got-questions/

      To hold you over — don’t worry about the direction you face, and there’s no need to connect the tongue to the roof of the mouth unless you’re doing the SmalL Universe (which is an advanced technique in my school).

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