When was the last time you felt anxious, depressed or stressed out?
If you’re thinking “Right now! This moment. Today, yesterday, most days,” you’re definitely not alone.
It happens to everyone. You get stressed, you start breathing wrong, and the day gets away from you.
Most of us would agree that we’ve never seen people, especially in the western world, more sick and stressed out than right now. And more and more, it’s unfortunate to see the younger generation suffering.
Our tech-heavy environment is simply out of alignment with our genetics, but there’s plenty we can do to correct that imbalance.
And the good news is that it only takes a few minutes to calm your mind, find your center and get into that flow state where everything becomes effortless.
And to show us how, today, I’m honored to be here with Lee Holden, a doctor of Chinese medicine, author and internationally celebrated Qi Gong master who has devoted over 25+ years to helping others learn and benefit from the powerful principles of Qi Gong. Holden has taught his practice to the NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes, royal families, and even Adam Sandler.
This episode with Lee Holden is very packed and concentrated with information, I hope you dig it. You’re about to hear:
- Why a relaxed state achieved through Qi Gong will help you shed fat more efficiently
- Tips for longevity and antiaging from a 106-year-old teacher
- How to balance our energy and escape the wired and tired cycle
- How athletes can easily tap into the flow state and bring their best energy to their sport
- Increasing productivity by scheduling 3-minute breathing breaks
- Why rest days are essential to peak performance in athletics
- How to recover with stress management practices that replenish your energy
- And tons, tons more…
Let’s go hang out with Lee Holden.
A quick note, during this episode Lee offers a quick little meditation practice that takes just a few minutes, but if you are driving or operating heavy machinery or something like that, make sure that you don’t do the relaxation exercise at the same time that you’re driving. That wouldn’t be safe, and we care about you folks.
So you can always save that quick little exercise for later.
But Lee’s techniques are super effective if you want to work on your mental health, your physical health, get your habits in order, and work on your breathing.
You can do all of that with less commitment than you probably think. So with all of that said, I hope you enjoy this.
Where To Find Lee Holden
Go to HoldenQiGong.com to find all those condition specific exercises that Lee talked about in today’s show, as well as classes and online courses, the 30-day challenge, teacher training, resources and much more.'Health and longevity comes from the inside out.' - Lee Holden @LeeHoldenqigong Click To Tweet
And of course, if you’re ready to commit and start incorporating the Qi Gong habit into your daily practice, then check out the 30-Day Challenge.
Lee Holden: HoldenQiGong.com, and then you can find all of those resources and start your Qi Gong practice today and see how beneficial it can be for your life.'Give yourself time limits when you're on your social media.' - Lee Holden @LeeHoldenqigong Click To Tweet
You can also find Lee Holden’s books, DVDs and more on Amazon, including 7 Minutes of Magic, Qi Gong for Health and Healing complete training course, Qi Gong Mindfulness in Motion – Meditation for Beginners DVD, Qi Gong Five Elements Energy Balance with Lee Holden DVD, Introduction to Qigong Exercise for Beginners with Lee Holden DVD, Qi Gong 30-Day Challenge with Lee Holden DVD, Your Body of Light: Energetic Practices for Better Health, Emotional Balance, and Higher Consciousness audio CD, and the Searching for SUPERHUMANS Docuseries.'Take a 3-minute Qi break. Stand up, stretch your back, do some breathing, and you'll be way more effective.' - Lee Holden @LeeHoldenqigong Click To Tweet
Follow, be friends and keep in touch with Lee Holden on social media, including @HoldenQiGong on YouTube, @HoldenQiGong on Facebook, @LeeHoldenqigong on Twitter as well as @holdenqigongofficial on Instagram.
And one more time, just go to HoldenQiGong.com for video demonstrations and more on how you can start benefiting from the peace, relaxation and healing of working Qi Gong into your practice.
Minimum Commitment Way to Enjoy Life-Changing Benefits of Qi Gong
Abel: Today, I’m honored to be here with Lee Holden, a doctor of Chinese medicine, author and internationally celebrated Qi Gong master who has devoted over 25+ years to helping others learn and benefit from the powerful principles of Qi Gong.
Holden has taught his practice to the NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes, royal families, and even the one and only Adam Sandler.
Welcome to the show, Lee, it’s an honor.
Lee Holden: Hey, so great to be here. Thanks so much.
Abel: So let’s start with the people who may have heard of qi and Qi Gong and that sort of thing, but might not have worked it into their daily practices quite yet.
Let’s just do a general overview of what it is and also how you got into it.
Lee Holden: Absolutely. Qi Gong is the most widely practiced exercise in the world, I don’t think people know that.
There’s about 80 million people that do Qi Gong each and every day. Mainly because it comes from China and people in the parks wake up to this and just get their day started.
And I got fascinated with it at an early age because it had such a tremendous impact on my healing journey.
So I was a collegiate athlete, I was playing soccer, I was finally starting and traveling with the team.
And early in the season, I got an injury. I jumped up in the air and somebody took out my legs and I landed on my tailbone.
I was so bummed, I was walking around depressed. And here I was, a 19-year-old, depressed, I couldn’t walk. I was just sidelined, I couldn’t do anything.
The Western medicine, the shots, the painkillers basically did nothing for my back pain and gave me a stomach ache.
And I remembered I had this great martial arts teacher as a kid, and he broke this stack of bricks and I will always remember it.
I was like, “How did you break that stack of bricks?”
And he said, “Qi.”
And he grabbed me by the lapel, he pulled me close, and he’s like, “But Qi isn’t for hurting people, it’s for healing.”
And so all of a sudden I had this flash, “I should go see that guy and see if he can help me.”
Well, he showed me a bunch of Qi Gong exercises, did some pressure points, and in one treatment I was feeling maybe 70% better.
In 3 treatments, I was back playing, I was 95% better.
And all the team doctors had said, “You’re out for the season.”
So this was a catalyst for me, I was like, “Why don’t more people know about this? It feels so good, it’s relaxing, and not only did it heal my back pain, but now I had all these tools and resources to manage my stress with school and being a collegiate athlete.”
And it was just something that I became really passionate about at an early age.
And one of the Qi Gong teachers that was coming through town, I asked him if I could get a job with him, and he immediately said, “Yeah.”
And over the years, I became his ghostwriter, I started writing books for him. I did 12 trips to Asia working for him, and I’d always stop in China or some other place and train with other masters.
So over the years, I just developed this really wide repertoire of teachings and lessons.
And when I graduated from college in my early to mid-20s, I was like, “How do I teach this to people working in Silicon Valley? How do I teach this to my soccer player friends who have no idea what qi is?”
And that became my passion and my journey, to really make this ancient practice accessible for modern people.
So qi simply means energy, life force energy, but it’s really this special kind of energy that keeps us alive.
Like, what is the force behind your heartbeat?
What is the light in your mind?
What is the way in which our cells communicate?
Well, the ancient Chinese, and for that matter almost all ancient cultures have this word for aliveness.
In China, it was called qi, India prana and Native American traditions and Hawaiian traditions they always had this word for a life force energy and practices to work with it.
In modern life, we just kind of take this as self having, “Yeah, we’re alive.”
But what does that mean and how do we make this a thriving kind of life force energy?
And that’s what the Chinese and Chinese medicine did so well.
For the last 4000 years, Qi Gong has been part of their medicine. It’s one of the 5 branches of Chinese medicine. You’ve got Acupuncture, Herbs, Massage Therapy, Nutrition, and then the cornerstone of this practice was something called Qi Gong.
“Gong” simply means to work with qi, work with this aliveness and make it optimal.
Abel: And it doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in it, it’s still happening, right?
Lee Holden: That’s so true. I love this story, this is a great story.
This patient came into my office and his wife had brought him in and he was just like sitting in the corner, scowling and she had this funny look on her face.
And I said, “Hey, come on back.”
And he said, “You know what? My wife is making me do this, and I just figured I’d come in because she’s just yapping about, ‘You gotta do Qi Gong. You’ve got to try acupuncture,’ and I just don’t want to listen to her anymore, so I’m here. But just so you know, I don’t believe in this. I’m a Western medicine doctor, it just doesn’t work.”
And he had shingles, so he was in tremendous pain and Western medicine wasn’t doing anything for his pain.
I said, “Just lay on the table.”
I did some Qi Gong, I did some acupuncture on him, and the following week he came back in, his wife was smiling and I was like, “Okay, I wonder how that landed with him.”
He comes back in the office and he said, “Hey, just so you know, I still don’t believe in this, but it’s the only thing that’s working.”
So this doctor, he kept coming back and saying the same thing.
And then I never got more referrals than this guy. He referred so many patients to me, but he was emphatic that he still doesn’t believe in it, but it’s the only thing that’s working.
So yeah, you’re right, you don’t have to believe in it.
Abel: Isn’t that amazing? Have you put your finger on why it’s so much more difficult to get people from the West maybe onboard with that way of thinking?
Lee Holden: It’s such a great question, and I think it’s because we’re so focused on material things and we’re so focused on the external, the things, the stuff, and what do I have.
And we keep thinking that the things in our life are going to bring us some kind of energy.
What I mean by that is, “Hey, this new house, that car, the new cell phone, it’s going to give me peace, relaxation, happiness, joy, contentment,” when it really doesn’t.
Because then we just want the next thing.
And if we haven’t tended to our own inner landscape of our own internal energy, these things fall very short.
It’s not that they don’t provide us with joy and contentment, they do, but it’s just very limited.
And really what people are seeking is some kind of energy, and what I mean by that, just to demystify what “energy” is really, we’re looking for emotions, we’re looking for a quality of energy.
So let’s say we’re looking for peace. What is peace?
Well, it’s a feeling. What’s a feeling?
Can you find that feeling in your body? Could we open up your body and see how much peace you have inside of you?
No. It’s completely energetic, emotion, energy in motion, energy movement.
So whenever you have an emotion, this is a feeling, this is energy circulating in our body, whether it’s stress, whether it’s depression, whether it’s anxiety, these are all energetic qualities that we can’t find physically.
The same with our mind, the same with our consciousness, our spirit, all of these things are invisible. But they have a dramatic impact in our lives and we just don’t know quite how to work with emotions, thoughts and energy to make ourselves feel better.
So the goal of Qi Gong practice really is quite simple: It’s to cultivate health, happiness and fulfillment.
And we all want that or we’re just going about in ways that don’t lead us to that destination.
We look around modern life, there’s more sickness now than ever before, there’s more stress, there’s more anxiety. And in fact, anxiety, stress, depression are infiltrating into our younger generation, there’s more of that now in teenagers and kids more than ever, and we’re really just cut off.
And even though we have big technology, we have telephones and apps and blah, blah, blah, all this stuff, it’s not going to lead us to those destinations that we’re really seeking.
And so the East and this practice of Qi Gong is really an antidote to the things in modern life that bring us so much anxiety.
And it’s not that these things are going to go away, or that we have to not use them, no, we just need a remedy and balance to create harmony and really understand what is our path.
What do we want? What do we want to cultivate if we want joy and happiness and peace and these positive qualities of energy?
How do we go about navigating that and bringing it into our lives in more fulfilling ways?
How To Easily Tap into the Flow State
Abel: One of the things I love about your work as well, Lee, is that, for so many, there’s a tendency to think of on or off, yes or no, 100% or 0%.
But—we were talking about this before we started recording—you don’t have to move across the world and dedicate your entire life to this sort of practice, you can actually just start working it in a little bit at a time.
You don’t have to understand everything. In fact, I felt it much earlier than I ever attempted to understand it when I first started about 10 years ago doing a Qi Gong practice.
Once again, I didn’t move across the world or anything, but just met a few people who really convinced me that this might be worth trying.
And to this day, my wife and I are still very adamant about trying to include it in our daily schedule. Not every single day, but most days.
And man, if we don’t, we miss it. It shows up, it shows up when we don’t, you know what I mean?
Lee Holden: Absolutely. I always tell people you’re like, “Oh, I’m too busy, I don’t have enough time to do Qi Gong, but every time I do it I feel so good. But man, I got kids, I got work, I got this.”
And I’m like, “Hey, you are too busy not to do Qi Gong because it’s going to make you more efficient, more joyful.”
People always come at life before Qi Gong and life after is so different.
And when we want to get into that flow state where things happen effortlessly, with ease, when you can move through your day with a lot more joy, this practice is essential because you’ll find your center, you’ll find flow, it’s like direct training into flow state, which I love so much.
And the research is coming out, there’s so much research on these Qi Gong principles. It’s not called Qi Gong, but flow state, and athletes and artists and all kinds of stuff.
And studies on stress are showing, how do we perform our best, how do we bring our best selves into whatever it is you’re doing, whether it’s parenting, whether it’s work, whether you’re an artist, whether you’re an athlete, how do we bring our best energy into that?
And the answer is, keep your stress levels down, stay relaxed, calm your mind, increase your energy and you’re going to be in flow state.
And that’s what’s fun, that’s what makes life fun.
Even if we have stress and challenges, when you have enough energy and enough clarity to deal with life’s challenges, we don’t get overwhelmed.
It’s when our energy is depleted and now we have stress, now we feel overwhelmed and then this stress can be detrimental to our health, and that’s what all the studies are showing.
Hey, stress is the root cause of most diseases. Emotional stress, that means energy, that means you perceive something, you think about the future and you get all stressed out, your body tightens up, you got tightness in your neck and shoulders, all that stuff causes such detrimental physical ailments.
And I think the statistics, the last time I looked, was about 89% of primary doctor’s visits are rooted in emotional stress.
Lee Holden: That’s a lot.
How To Balance our Energy and Escape the “Wired and Tired” Cycle
Abel: That is a lot, 9 out of 10.
Now, it’s fascinating though, because it happens to everyone where you start getting stressed, the day gets away from you, whatever happens happens, and you start breathing wrong, you’re in this posture like this. It’s basically the opposite of Qi Gong, right?
It’s like Qi Gong almost prevents it or starts to undo the things that we naturally do when we’re stressed.
And I think most people would agree that we’ve never seen people in general, especially in the Western world, more stressed than now, and we’ve never seen their health fall apart more than now.
Whereas if you can just put in a few minutes of this practice in your day, it can completely change your patterns without you actively realizing it.
When you’re holding your breath and clenching, maybe you’re a little bit less likely to do that if you’ve gone through a Qi Gong set that morning, right?
Lee Holden: Absolutely, you really touched on some really important points, and habituation is one.
How do we change our normal habits of thinking, reacting, breathing, posture, these are going to have great influence on your overall quality in your day.
And in fact, qi was seen as wind, because wind is invisible.
So when we’re talking about our posture, for example, when we look at nature—and by the way, Qi Gong comes about from looking and observing nature and mirroring the movements of nature.
So look at a tree for example, does the tree move the wind?
No, the wind moves through the tree.
So that qi as it moves through you is going to create your posture.
So if you’re feeling depressed, your chest sinks down, your head drops, there’s a certain facial feature.
And people go, “Oh, what’s wrong?”
If you’re slouching and you’re down and your chin’s down. “What’s wrong? What happened?”
If you sit up tall, expand, smile a little bit, your energy changes.
And one of the things you can do is to change your emotional energy as you change your body position.
So for example, if everybody listening, if you just round your back and look down—don’t do this while you’re driving—but you just sink your chest and then say, “I’m so happy.”
It’s not congruent, right?
And if you look up and put a big smile on your face, try this everybody. Smile a little bit and then say, “I’m so depressed.”
And you just can’t do it.
Your body and your emotions are going to be so connected.
So the emotion is like the wind, your body is like the tree, and as we feel things, our body’s going to change. So the wind is the energy moving.
In Qi Gong, emotions are referred to as quality of energy. The quality of energy.
So we want to improve the quality of energy and we also want to improve the quantity of energy.
So when we think about energy, everybody, if I asked you, “How much energy do you have?” A lot of people will answer that.
“Do you feel like you have a lot of energy?”
“Well, no, I get tired in the morning and then I have lunch and I’m tired after the lunch, but then when I go to sleep, I can’t go to sleep ’cause my mind is too active.”
We call this wired and tired.
So we’re tired during the day, our energy is all out of balance, but when we go to sleep, we’re so frustrated, “Gosh, I just want to go to sleep and get a good night’s sleep so I have energy tomorrow,” now so we’re out of balance.
And so the Qi Gong practice—and I have my PBS show was called Less Stress And More Energy—as you lower stress down and you increase energy, we’re just more effective in our lives.
And I think this is one of the best practices for reducing stress because it’s so engaging with our bodies, it’s like mindfulness meditation and a Yoga class and a Tai Chi class all combined into one cohesive practice where you get benefits in 20 minutes to an hour, even probably a lot shorter, and we were talking about how accessible this practice is before the show.
You can really shift your energy really quickly.
Increase Productivity with 3-Minute Breathing Breaks
Lee Holden: The other thing you mentioned was the breath.
And so when we think of qi, there’s a lot of different kinds of qi, remember aliveness.
So food, nature, sleep, human connection, but your quickest source to qi is your breathing.
And so your breath is going to be patterned in a particular way, and if you change your breathing, you’re going to change your energy.
So there’s lots of different techniques on breathing, synchronized with movements, or breathing connected to meditation, energy meditation practices that are so effective to lowering stress, increasing energy and getting rid of pain.
Giving people a little bit more context and a little more history, which was, there’s five branches of Chinese medicine, Qi Gong as being one.
But the way this medicine worked, and I think you’re going to love this, everybody, is that you paid your doctor as long as you are healthy.
And as soon as you got sick, you stop paying.
This is true healthcare, it’s complete opposite of what we do.
Nobody in our medical system gets paid unless people are sick.
So now we have this incredible technology indeed, but we have more sickness and disease than we’ve ever had, and there’s a lot of money being made.
So we have a medicine that is sick care, not healthcare, and to tend to health means that you prevent problems from arising.
So if you exercise, you eat healthy, you meditate, you keep stress levels low, you are going to prevent all kinds of problems from arising, and that now is up to us individually to really tend to our own health while we’re healthy.
And there’s a saying in Chinese medicine, “Don’t dig a well when you’re dying of thirst.”
Don’t just start thinking about your health and your breathing, eating healthy and doing all these things that we know are going to prevent the problems in the first place.
Abel: And you brought up technology and cell phones earlier, and I think that even since I started this show a little over 10 years ago, that landscape has completely changed.
And back then, you may or may not have been on your phone every day or for a lot of the day. And now, pretty much everyone is, no matter who you are, and that’s also the expectation, which has changed.
So how can we reconcile that sort of culture and experience with the lessons that you’ve learned and have been teaching for a few decades now?
Lee Holden: Yeah. And you’re totally right.
Now, the way to make it work as integration, we can use this technology for the good of ourselves.
We can tune into a podcast like you’re, that gives us healthy ideas, we can listen to a book on tape that’s positive, we can call a friend when we need it, it’s wonderful to have this technology.
The problem is it is so addicting, it is massively addicting. We’re constantly checking our phones so our energy is always pulled out of ourselves and we really get lost, we don’t know who we are.
And so to have breaks through the day, just put that thing away.
“I’m going to take a half hour break and I’m going to do my breathing. I’m going to do Qi Gong, I’m going to stretch, I’m going to take a walk in the woods.”
This is something that is constantly talked about in my house because I have teenagers.
Even when they have friends over socializing, I’m constantly saying, “Hey guys, if you want some time on your phone, we got to go get out in nature.”
“If you guys want to have friends over and be on those devices, we’re going to also do this other thing.”
And so I’m always putting my phone away or taking their phones away and creating this integration, either one, finding healthy things to be on your phone about.
Give yourself time limits when you’re on your social media, “Hey, I’m not going to do more than an hour a day, 2 hours a day on my social media.”
And you can program your phone to do that. I think that’s really good, and also build into your schedule time for breaks, Qigong practice, breathing and just schedule.
Just put it in your phone, “Oh, hey, it’s 12 noon, and I’m going to take a breathing break.”
And when you’re working on your computer and you have your phone, take a little bit every hour, every other hour, take a 3-minute Qi break is what I always do.
Stand up, stretch your back, do some breathing, and you’ll be way more effective in your job then if you just try to power it out.
And again, the research is out. It’s about 45 minutes of focused attention and then productivity goes way down.
So take a little break and do a Qi Gong exercise or two, and then come back to work more productive, more efficient than before.
Quick Qi Gong Exercise to Release Tension
Abel: I love it. Well, since people are on devices right now listening or watching us at this moment, maybe there’s a quick thing we could do to release the back or at least some tension as a quick exercise for them to try.
Lee Holden: Absolutely, I’d love to do that.
There’s a great exercise, and you can do it in your chair. Again, the caveat is just don’t do it driving, obviously.
I’m going to do two things, one is a spinal enlivening exercise that you could do seated.
And then two, I want everybody to feel their energy.
When I say Qi, I want you to go, “I felt that in my body.”
I’m gonna give you a 30-second to 1-minute activation of your energy so you can feel your Qi and know what the heck we’re talking about.
So number one, let’s loosen up the spine, this is called spinal cord breathing, and the reason I like it is it’s very simple, it’s very effective, and it activates the spinal cord fluid, the craniosacral pumps—that’s your low back and your upper back and neck.
And so if you could do it standing or you could do it in your chair, and you just bring your hands by your shoulders, so just up by your shoulders here, and then as you inhale, you’re going to look up.
And then as you exhale, you’re going to round your back and bring your chin down towards your chest and your elbows come together in front of you.
So you inhale and look up, nice deep breath, and then you’re going to round your back, chin down, elbows coming towards each other as you exhale.
So you synchronize the breath with the movement, inhale, you look up, and exhale, you round your back.
Inhale, look up, and you’re just trying to move all the joints in your spine.
If you’re standing as you round the back, you tuck your tailbone under so that all the joints in the spine are moving.
And really, it’s that lack of movement that creates stagnation in your body, that creates tension in your muscles.
So you inhale, look up, exhale, and round the back.
Do that one more time. Nice deep breath. And then relax, relax. Fantastic.
Abel: Well, I just got an adjustments from that, I needed that.
Lee Holden: Yeah, you might get some free chiropractic.
How To Avoid Energy Stagnation in the Body & Using Qi Gong Instead of Painkillers
Abel: Yeah, that’s the thing too, when you’re all locked up, it prohibits you from being in the right posture. And you don’t even necessarily realize that, you might feel sore.
But it’s just like, that is the reason is you’ve been locked in the wrong position for too long now you can’t get out of it, unless you do something like this.
Lee Holden: Yeah, and, you know, Abel, the study that I talk about all the time and is the results of the study on the name of the article was Sitting is The New Smoking.
And here’s why.
If you sit too long, it creates all this stagnation and it is just so unhealthy for our bodies.
And the problem with modern life is we sit all day at work, we come home and we sit for dinner, and then we sit and watch TV. And it’s like 8-12 hours of sitting every day.
And even if you got up in the morning and did your gym workout or went for a run, and then sat for 10 hours, it’s still not healthy.
That’s why it’s important to move your body. Move your body just like we did, even a sitting movement practice is better than not doing anything at all.
If you did that two or three times a day, it’s way better than if you just sat in one position.
We say that Qi moves in your body like water.
So what happens to water if it doesn’t move? It gets stagnant.
And so your energy was going to get stagnant from not sitting.
You could just think about this, you go on a long road trip in a car, and after 5 hours of sitting in the car, nobody gets out and goes, “God, I’m so relaxed, I just sat there for like 5 hours, I feel so good.”
A plane flight, the same thing, nobody’s like, “Oh hey, I just sat for 10 hours on the plane flight from here to Europe, now I feel so good.”
No, everybody feels like, “Oh my God, my back, I feel… Uggh… ”
That’s stagnation of Qi.
The right movement, the skillful use of movement will help to balance mind, emotions and body, and that’s what this practice is so skillful at doing is creating that inner balance and harmony.
So when I’m on a plane flight, I’m always going to the back by the bathroom and doing spinal cord breathing or taking 5 or 10 minutes and just stretching and doing a few things.
Or if I’m sitting, I do long, slow, deep breathing so that I’m getting movement through my ribs, my diaphragm, and even your spine.
Deep breathing is a great way to move and circulate energy if you can’t get up and move your body.
Abel: And it’s stressful to be in that same position the longer we do it, but we also have this tendency to think, “Well, I’m not doing anything unless I execute this advanced yoga move and stretch or posture or something like that.”
But in fact, you kind of just need to get flowing again and do something simple maybe, as opposed to once again that all-in, on/off approach.
Lee Holden: That’s right, you said that before, that on/off and it’s just building in some good habits throughout the day.
So yes, get up in the morning and exercise, do your hour yoga class, do an hour of Qi Gong, go to the gym, but then throughout the day, do little things, take a 3-minute breathing break, step outside and take some deep breaths, do one or two Qi Gong movements—they’re so effective for keeping your whole body loose.
And your body is trying to talk to you.
When you have tension in our neck and shoulders, the tension is saying, “Hey, do something different.”
If you don’t, tension turns into pain, pain then turns into more pain, because your body is communicating to you and you’re not listening.
So what do we do?
“Oh, I got a headache, my neck hurts, I’m going to take a painkiller,” which means, “I’m not going to listen to my body, I’m not going listen to the wisdom of my body.”
And then we get more and more and more problems, and all of a sudden, neck tension turns into headaches, headaches turns into high blood pressure, blah, blah, blah, and then we start taking pharmaceuticals.
Those pharmaceuticals now have side effects, and pretty soon we don’t know how to manage our energy or how to even improve our health because we’re so far down this rabbit hole of stress, tension and tightness, now we have a hard time unwinding.
Well, the solution is just to get your body moving in skillful ways, simple skillful movements are the way to get ourselves out of pain.
And true healing happens when we’re relaxed.
Because when we’re stressed out, that means your body is perceiving life as dangerous, we’re in sympathetic mode, which means all this energy is just going to go to your muscles, you’re in fight or flight.
And if we don’t fight or flee, all this energy just gets stuck within you and it doesn’t dissipate or get discharged.
That’s why stress is so harmful on our system, especially chronic stress.
There is stress that’s good for you, there is ways to use stress and it’s good for you, so not all stress is bad.
There’s low-grade stress, that’s the, “I’m sitting in traffic every morning, I go to a work where I don’t like my boss, and we get into confrontations.”
Or, “I have this stress, a financial pressure level.”
Day in, day out, we need the remedy of that, so we need to be able to discharge that each and every day, and that would be true healthcare for yourself.
Abel: And it cascades when you don’t take care of it, it’s one of those things where, like you said, it starts with a little thing, but then you shut off your neural connection to your body, you shut off your connection with your physiology and you’re just, “Oh, I can take care of this. I know what pill to take.”
But I was reading recently some research around just basic painkillers like Tylenol even, which can be psychoactive and increase risk-taking behavior and decrease your sensitivity emotionally to other people.
And so not only are you reducing your sensitivity to your own body and the way that it’s supposed to function, but you’re also kind of changing the world around you.
Where I feel Qi Gong and those sorts of practices actually reconnect you with not only your inside world but your outside world, as well.
But you have to engage that pathway and work that way instead of the opposite.
Lee Holden: Yeah, totally. You know what?
A Qigong teacher of mine once answered the question, “What does it mean to be a Master?”
And he said really simply, he said, “Inside, outside energy in harmony.”
My inside energy is harmonious with my external energy.
And he also said, “Well, how does that manifest?”
And he said, “Well, you’ll know when you have mastery when you no longer worry.”
There’s just no worries because you’re just present, you’re harmonized.
And I thought those are really simple answers.
As my internal energy in harmony with my external means I go through my day, I like what I’m doing, the things I do bring me some joy and inspiration, and I just, I feel good inside, I have plenty of energy to meet all of life’s demands and I have plenty of skills within me when life gets stressful to be able to neutralize it and regain my composure in my center, and then there’s harmony.
And so it’s always this delicate balance of what life throws us things that were unexpected all the time and how can we flow with it, rise to that challenge and actually make it really an enjoyable process.
Why Rest Days are Essential to Peak Performance in Athletics
Abel: So when you have worked with people who are high achievers, especially professional athletes, they’re used to workouts that are punishing, and you being an athlete as well, there’s a tendency to think that you’re not getting that much done unless you’re going hardcore, right, and doing something ridiculously difficult?
Whereas what you’re teaching is more about the flow.
How do you convince people who are hardcore in that way, especially the professionals out there where their job is at stake, to see that this is actually worth it?
Does it increase speed or does it make other things easier?
What’s the hook there for them?
Lee Holden: Man, that is such a great question, and here’s the answer, and it’s also very well researched, you need rest days.
So professional athletes, there’s no way I’m going to say, “Don’t go hardcore.” No. Go hardcore, but have rest days.
And the rest days are not “sit on the couch, do nothing.”
They’re active rest days, which means Qi Gong is the perfect kind of practice after a really hardcore workout.
So yin and yang need to be in harmony.
Yes, go hard.
Do you really push it? But then recover really well.
And the athletes that recover really well are the ones that have longevity, they intern the flow state better, their performance goes way up.
And so the rest days are essential to peak performance in athletics.
It’s not about going hard every day.
And for all of us that aren’t athletes, we need rhythm, too.
You might be like a really strong work day and a really hard workout in the same day, you might need to then recover with some practices that are managing your stress, nourishing, or what we call replenishing your energy.
And so we are a culture fascinated with yang energy.
And what do I mean by yang energy?
Action. When we think of energy, we think of Red Bulls and coffee and go, go, go.
Well, there’s two kinds of energy, there’s that kind, which is yang, but there’s also yin energy, which is relaxation, which is rest, which is restoration, which is quiet mind, which is sleeping really well.
So there’s no yang energy without the yin energy.
If you don’t have a good night’s sleep for a couple of days in a row, the yang energy is completely depleted.
If you do yin energy activities really well, you’re going to have a lot more yang energy to go and do all the things in life that you need to, and you’ll do it effectively without being so stressed out.
When you start noticing that you’re really stressed out by the little things, that’s a signal that your yin energy is depleted, it’s time for you to replenish your energy because your reserves are getting worn down.
So if you’re snappy about this or traffic is really irritating or the kids say something and you snap at them, it’s like, “Oh, that’s a signal to me that you need to relax, take a break.”
Like, “Hey, daddy needs a time out, mommy needs a time out. I’m going to go outside, I’m going to go take 3 minutes and just get back to my center, regain my composure.”
And you’ll be so much more effective. You’ll parent better. You’ll communicate better.
Nobody is their best selves when they’re depleted and stressed out.
Abel: And so many of us really are, if we admit it to ourselves. But replenishing that sort of thing, especially once you’ve wiped it out, it’s more like an aquifer where it’s not just one little sprinkle here and there that’s going to fill it back up, that is the benefit, or you start to see the benefit when you work this in on a regular basis.
So how do you encourage people to do that?
I know you have “7 Minutes of Magic,” your book, and I really love that sort of approach where you’re going through kind of this minimum commitment maybe that you can do sometimes most days or whatever, and it’s a good way for people who aren’t totally committed yet to start to work this into their own lifestyle, right?
Lee Holden: Yeah, that’s it. And that’s what I did with the book 7 Minutes of Magic.
And then we have a 30-Day Challenge on our website, which is thirty 7-minute routines, and you could get one every day.
It’s like, it’s only 7-minutes.
We did this for two reasons—one, 7-minutes is about a minimal amount of time to do a practice to really feel a transformation and a shift in your energy.
You do seven minutes, you’re like, “Wow.”
So 30 days of 7-minute practice, you’re going to build a wonderful habit of doing the practice.
Usually what people do is they do 7-minutes, they feel better, they want to do more.
So now what happens is people do have these 7-minute routines somewhere on their devices, and when they’re busy, they do a 7-minute routine.
And when they have an hour, they do a full practice.
And when they have 20 minutes, there’s a 20-minute routine.
So I have all these different routines with different times, so the people can say, “You know what? This morning I only have 7 minutes, but I’m going to do it.”
And it makes a difference.
Or they do their 20 minutes in the morning, and then somewhere during the day, their lunch break, they do a 7-minute routine, and it just keeps this flow of energy going because it’s so important to create those good habits in our minds and bodies.
Abel: And you can also do this in a more targeted way.
For example, my wife and I, just yesterday, did one of your ear exercises, which is life-changing.
When you take a part of your body that doesn’t have enough energy or is malfunctioning, or I’ve had Tinnitus and not anything too bad, but for many years, because I played out as a musician for too many years too, and it was too loud.
And so anyway, it’s a pretty common problem for a lot of people out there, whether you’ve been exposed to that kind of loud, it happens to a lot of us and for other reasons too, some of them kind of like bio-mechanical.
But jeez, when I did a few of those pressure point moves and back and forth, and the rest of it, maybe you can just show a little bit to people since they’re using their ears right now, how you can also use pressure point techniques in a more targeted way to go after some things that aren’t working quite as well for you right now.
Lee Holden: Right. Yeah, and this is great because on our YouTube channel, we do different things.
Like people ask a question and then I’ll say, “Oh, that’s a great question. I’m going to create a short little video series for that problem.”
How to use Qi Gong for eyesight, did one for prenatal, for Tinnitus, like you were saying.
And so in Chinese medicine has different ways of looking at the body and the energy system.
So if somebody says, “Oh, I have Tinnitus,” the West, we’re going to look at the ears, the ear only the physiology of what’s happening in the ear.
In the East, we’re going to look at what’s the energy like, moving and circulating through the ears and what systems are connected to it.
So in that video, I did do pressure points.
If you feel your ear lobe, right behind your ear lobe there’s like a little indentation, that is a good pressure point for Tinnitus.
So if you press there and make a little circle, you wiggle your finger, it’s a little tender.
That’s also good for jaw tension, ear aches, or whatever, you just push your finger there and do a little wiggle.
So pressure points are this wonderful thing, it’s like having a first aid cabinet, but it’s on your body.
So you just squeeze a point, “Oh, this point is good for headaches, this point is good for hormone balance, this one’s good for sleep.”
And to know some of those points can be really effective in helping us manage our energy.
And Abel, I was going to show people how to feel their Qi. So let’s do that now, too.
I want you all to be able to say, “Ah, I felt Qi.”
So now what you’re going to do is you’re going to bring your fingernails and touch them together. So both hands, your fingernails are touching, and that first knuckle right above your fingernail is touching, and you’re going to go back and forth and just rub them back and forth, vigorously. Very quickly.
This is the ends of the meridian lines, and meridian lines in Chinese medicine means energy pathway. And so you’re just stimulating the energy points at the ends of the fingers now as you’re doing this, everybody.
Take a nice deep breath in through the nose, and you can exhale through the nose or out through the mouth. Either one.
Let’s do it one more time. So about 30 seconds to a minute of activating these points, you’re going to feel energy.
Big deep breath and a long exhale.
And now just put your hands in your lap, you can have your palms face up or down to your sides and see if you feel buzzing, tingling electricity in your hands.
That is the quality. That is the sensation of Qi.
We activated the Qi and now we feel it.
Your body is like an instrument, it’s like this wonderful instrument. And if it’s out of tune, we just feel discordant within us, and so these little techniques are ways in which we can tune up the instrument of our bodies, of our minds, of our heart centers and of our energy centers.
And so those kind of exercises activate, stretch, breathe, flow will all be part of a typical Qi Gong class.
How to Recover with Stress Management Practices that Replenish Your Energy
Abel: I love it. Now, you’ve been at this for a while, 25+ years, at least in this current form—I’m curious on your perspective on how things have changed, whether it’s the way you teach, or the world around us and new challenges that we’re all dealing with or what have you, because obviously, the world is a fundamentally different place than it was probably when you started it.
Lee Holden: Yes. Yeah, and I feel like people are more opened to it, they’re more awake, they’re looking for answers, because we go through the western path of what society tells us is going to lead us to health, happiness and fulfillment.
And at some point in life it’s like, “Oh, it doesn’t have all the answers.”
It might have some very good answers. Absolutely.
But all of a sudden we’re like, “Man, I’m unhealthy. I’m frustrated with western medicine, I went to this doctor, I waited in the waiting room for hours and hours, it took me months to get an appointment. They gave me this prescription, that gave me these side effects,” there’s a lot of frustration that’s happening in the western world. And people are looking for answers.
More and more people are looking for answers, and now there’s much more information available even from a western well-researched perspective, like all the studies on stress, the studies on movement, the studies on meditation are all saying, “This is something that really helps lead you to health, happiness and fulfillment.”
Now, in the East like in Qi Gong practices, they’ve been saying that for like 3000 or 4000 years.
And remember, western medicine is only about 200 years old, so it’s still in its infancy.
And so new ways of bringing in this information and complementing each other, I think east and west needs to come together and have a complementary medicine.
And I did that here in my hometown of Santa Cruz, California. I partnered with a holistic western MD, and we created an integrative medicine center, it was fantastic.
We saw patients based on east west perspective, and then we got incredible results. So I think that’s the way things are going to go, and I think we’re going to see more and more holistic practices, like Qi Gong emerging.
My goal is to bring Qi Gong into popularity, similar to yoga. So more people have access to it.
Because it’s simple, it requires no changing your clothes, you don’t need a mat, you don’t need to stand on your head, it’s just a very simple practice that’s very effective to getting us what we want.
And so what I’ve done is I’ve taken—like we were talking about with Tinnitus—I’d say, “What are the most common problems that people have?”
Upper back and the neck pain, breast, lower back pain, high blood pressure, joint issues.
And so I just created condition-specific routines based on Qi Gong.
So I have a whole bunch of programs on all these different routines, whether it’s insomnia, fatigue, and I just did workshops and programs.
Some of the programs we went and filmed in beautiful areas like Yosemite and Croatia and Redwood Forest, so you have these beautiful programs that we filmed.
And then when I wanted to go deeper, and then I created all these workshops around those condition-specific topics.
Why a Relaxed State Achieved through Qi Gong will Help You Shed Fat More Efficiently
Abel: That’s amazing. For weight loss in particular, once again a lot of people looking for weight loss, like the pro athletes in a way, or looking for that hardcore thing where they have to go all in, but you can actually get surprising results in different ways.
Lee Holden: Absolutely. The results are so good.
I don’t know if you know this, but I was hired by Weight Watchers for 3 years, and I designed a whole off the scale program for them, and we did it nationally, we did it internationally, I was touring all kinds of Weight Watcher centers all over the U.S.
I was training Weight Watchers leaders, we went to the UK and did a whole thing.
And the company said, “This is the best piloted program the company has ever run.”
Which means that the people, the Weight Watchers members were saying they wanted more of it, they referred their friends to it.
No other program got as much engagement as this one.
So I was like, “Wow, this is really working.”
And the simple answer is keep stress levels low because when we’re stressed out, what happens is your body allocates energy to your muscles and it takes it away from your digestion when you relax.
Relaxation, this means you’re in the parasympathetic branch of your nervous system.
What is the word for parasympathetic? Rest and digest.
So you’re either in fight or flight, or you’re in rest and digest.
When you’re in rest and digest, you metabolize your food.
When you’re in fight or flight, when you’re stressed out, your body stores that food for later.
It’s like, “Oh, we can’t deal with this. We’re in danger, we’re going to metabolize our food later because we gotta escape the grizzly bear.”
So when you relax, everything works better, that’s when your healing will happen, that’s when you metabolize your food.
You will definitely lose weight much more efficiently when you’re relaxed.
And so yes, everybody, when you want to lose weight, healthy eating, healthy movement, but some of the biggest factors manage your stress, sleep better, those were two big ones, top top of the list.
And when you’re stressed out, you don’t sleep as well.
So again, it comes back to managing stress, sleeping really well, and then when to eat.
So we also did these little Qi Gong practices about when metabolism is highest, earlier in the day. Don’t eat really late at night.
Breathing was another one that’s so important.
So if you teach people how to breathe into their belly, your diaphragm will go up and down and actually massage the internal organs.
If you don’t breathe diaphragmatically, the organs get compromised and they don’t circulate and move the food through and metabolizes as well.
So there’s a whole protocol that I developed for Weight Watchers around Qi Gong principles, and it was extremely effective and it worked very, very well.
Tips for Longevity from a 106-Year-Old Teacher
Abel: Amazing. What about longevity, anti-aging, how does Qigong enter into that?
Lee Holden: Oh, that’s great. You know one of the original names of Qi Gong was “The Arts of Preventing Disease and Prolonging Life.”
And I love this because the perception in Qi Gong communities is that as people get older, they’re more revered to have more wisdom, and their movements are even more graceful, which I find so enticing because here in the west, we often don’t revere aging, we kind of we want to escape it somehow.
And we don’t create health from the inside out, we do it from the outside in, whether it’s creams or serum or plastic surgeries and things like that. But really health and longevity comes from the inside out.
And so, I’ve seen people in their 70s, 80s, 90s, 100s practicing Qi Gong.
In fact, one of my teachers, she was 106, and she taught this form called Swimming Dragon Qigong, and she said, “Hey, if you do 20 minutes a day of this particular style of Qigong, these particular movements, I guarantee you’re going to live to over 100.”
And I was like, “That’s cool.”
I was about 27 when I was studying with her.
But she was 106, she taught 2 classes every day, 5 – 6 days a week. She was vivacious, flexible, moved her body.
And I was like, “Man, that’s what I want, and that’s what I want people to have at their disposal, exercises that will truly lead to health and longevity.”
Abel: Yeah. And so that’s a big difference than playing football professionally for 5 years, or whatever the pinnacle achievement in our society is, to a large degree, it really puts that up on a pedestal.
But the football player who lives past 100, I would listen to that guy much more than the current pro athlete.
Lee Holden: Probably he’s doing Qi Gong.
Abel: Yeah, absolutely. Well Lee, this has been such a pleasure. I’ve really enjoyed connecting with you.
What’s the best place for those listening to find your work, your books, your programs, and all the rest of it.
Lee Holden: So great to be here. Yeah, come to HoldenQiGong.com, and we have all those conditions specifics, we have a free 2-week trial to video class subscription which is basically like you just taking weekly classes with me. You can try it out for free.
We have that 30-day challenge.
Abel: Fantastic. Lee, once again, thank you so much for joining us here today. This has been awesome.
Lee Holden: Thanks, Abel, it was wonderful to be here.
Before You Go…
As many of you know, my wife and I have been practicing Qi Gong almost daily for over a decade now, and we hope you enjoyed today’s interview.
If you’re not already signed up for our free newsletter, be sure to sign up here on FatBurningMan.com to get all the updates, discounts, new show updates, behind the scenes news, and you can even ask me questions there, as well.
I read as many as I can, and I reply to as many as I can, and I always love hearing from you.
Let me know what you’d like to hear on this show next, whether it’s a question I can answer or a new guest to bring on, I always love hearing from you.
Now, when you sign up for the newsletter, you also get some free bonuses, including a 7-Day Wild Meal Plan and a Wild Quick Start Guide to help you get results as quickly as possible.
So one more time, just head on over to the FatBurningMan.com home page, type in your email address to sign up for the newsletter, and you’ll have lots of goodies coming your way. Love being in touch with you.
And if you’d like to help us out, make sure that you’re subscribed to the Fat-Burning Man podcast wherever you might listen to it, whether you’re on Apple Podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, YouTube, Android, Pandora, Vimeo, Stitcher, TuneIn, and many more.
We should be there, so make sure that you click that Subscribe button, it really helps us out and makes sure that more people can come across this free show, so hopefully it can help them too.
And if you can think of a friend or a family member that might enjoy this show or a past episode of The Fat-Burning Man Show, please go ahead and share it with them. It really helps more than you know.
And of course, if you’d like to access the almost 500 episodes of this show for free, many with transcripts, audio, video, write-ups, and all the rest of it, take a gander at the Podcast section here on FatBurningMan.com.
Here on the website, you get access to every episode, which may or may not be in the podcast feeds, a lot of behind the scenes content, recipes and much, much more.
Don’t forget about the good old fashioned websites, which tend to get buried in the modern day of social media and artificial intelligence search services and Google and all the rest of it.
So if you really want to find us, and keep in touch you can always do so by following what we’re up to here on FatBurningMan.com and by being on the newsletter.
This episode of Fat-Burning Man is brought to you by our friends at CuredNutrition.com.
If you want to optimize your hormones, getting solid shuteye is a must.
But if you’re one of the many who struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night, then the Sleep Bundle from Cured Nutrition is a natural way to help you catch a few more Z’s.
The bundle includes their bestselling Zen capsules, which packs a potent combination of functional mushrooms, adaptogens, herbs and full-spectrum cannabinoids.
The Zen capsules can be combined with the raw full spectrum CBN Night Oil. This full-spectrum extract contains the complete profile of cannabinoids and terpenes in the hemp plant.
Anecdotally, according to my sleep and fitness trackers, Zen and the CBN Oil have helped my sleep significantly and noticeably, especially REM sleep and deep sleep.
Right now, CURED is offering Fat-Burning Man listeners like you an extra 20% off the Sleep Bundle, so you can try it for yourself.
Just head over to CuredNutrition.com/wild and enter the code WILD at checkout to redeem your savings of 20% off.
What did you think of this interview with Lee Holden? Have you tried Qi Gong yet? What difference have you noticed after incorporating it into your practice? Drop a note in the comments below!