Nurturing Whole Health
Gratitude Practice and Qigong Shaking
Last month, I shared practices for reducing stress, increasing and moving stagnant energy and balancing mood. In Part Two of this series, I offer two very simple and powerful practices for increasing mood, calming your nervous system and releasing stagnant energy and stuck emotions. In Part-One, I shared Dry Skin Brushing, Contrast Showers Vagus nerve Stimulation. In this post, I share Gratitude Practice and Qigong Shaking.
When I began this practice 5 years ago I had no idea what I was getting into. A teacher of mine suggested a simple practice of "Thanks" and asking for "Help". Each day, I began following my meditation practice with a verbal practice of "Thanks" and "Help"." Vocalizing opens the throat chakra and can allow one to dislodge stuck energy in that energy center which needs to move.
In doing the practice, I begin very simply with my "thank you's". It is not as if I am searching for something new each day to be thankful for- the object of my gratitude makes itself very apparent. My daily gratitude is typically for many of the same things- over and over. The more I consciously express my gratitude, I seem to develop ever-increasing awareness for all the gifts in my life. Every time I offer gratitude it is like I have voiced it for the very first time, experiencing new realizations and emotion connected to the feeling. I could go on for hours during my practice as there is so much to be grateful for.
Next, I ask for "Help". I verbally ask for help in great detail regarding my personal situation, for family, friends and painful situations on the planet. As I have developed my practice, the more it flows through with ease, connecting me to a deeply emotional place. In my experience, tears often flow and I have found it essential to fully allow for crying and sobbing; letting go of whatever needs to release. Keep a box of tissues nearby. Crying clears out old, stagnant emotions and energy, allowing for healing on the deepest of levels. After 5 years of this practice, I often still find myself deeply moved to tears and I have made friends with this aspect of my emotional self. I LOVE feeling my feelings. After crying, when I finish my practice, I feel peaceful, energized and ready to begin my day.
Soon after beginning this practice, I noticed a dramatic lift in my daily mood and experienced a powerful sense of well-being. Evidence-based research on gratitude practice demonstrates its powerful mood-lifting effect.
Throughout the day, the practice takes on a life of its own; showing up in every situation, conversation and interaction. When I experience difficult people or frustrating situations, I step into my place of "grateful heart-mind". Here I open my heart and stretch deeply and think, "I am so grateful you are here, on the planet; you have so much to teach me." When I do this, I can breathe; my Sympathetic Nervous System calms and imagined separation dissolves; my "grateful heart-mind" guides me to connection, understanding and acceptance of what is, as I let go of judgment- no matter how challenging the person or the situation. It is a sacred gift to move into this place of peace; remain present and do the work that so necessary to heal and repair what is broken, inside and out.
Ways to Cultivate Gratitude as a Practice
Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day.
Verbal Gratitude Practice. Verbalize all the things you are thankful for, followed by asking for help for yourself or for others. ( From Anne Lamott- "Help, Thanks, Wow- Three Essential Prayers"
Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Perhaps pick a number — such as three to five things — that you identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Try writing at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).
Qigong (pronounced chee gung) is a traditional Chinese energy medicine practice which combines breathing, movement, and meditation. The origins of Qigong in China go back over 4000 years. When in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, it is common to see people of all ages, especially many elderly, practicing early in the morning in the public parks.
I began practicing Qigong more than four years ago, eventually learning forms from three different lineages. Many forms of Qigong include a warm-up practice of "Shaking."
Shaking is a movement that almost everyone can do, anytime and anyplace. It costs no money and requires no special equipment. Shaking helps ease stress, anxiety and an overactive mind. It helps move your body's energy and prevents it from becoming stuck and stagnant in your physical as well as your energetic body. Qigong shaking also supports the movement of bodily fluids and detoxification.
Shaking can address stagnant energy which can contribute to many health issues, including: sore muscles, inflamed joints, digestive issues, anxiety, fluid retention, stress, mood imbalance and immune issues. qigong shaking is a simple and very powerful method to get energy flowing, calm your nervous system and to energize.
How to Shake
To begin, pull up onto your toes and as is comfortable for you, begin moving heels of feet up and down. Next, move your arms out and begin shaking your hands back and forth and allow the movement to travel up your arms into your shoulders, relaxing and loosening the muscles as you shake. Let the movement move down into your chest, waist hips and knees. Shake out any tightness and feel as if your skin and muscles are gliding over your organs and bones. As you shake, feel free to let out any vocal sounds that are wanting to release. Sense the feeling of energy moving through your moving body and vocalizations. Feel the release of tension, stuck thoughts and feelings. Remember to stay loose and relaxed as you shake. I typically shake for about 10 minutes each day, but initially you may want to shake for 3-6 minutes and gradually increase. Some people may only desire is 3-6 minutes at a time. Others prefer a good long shake of about 12-15 minutes to energize, move the body and release stuck energy. Remember to breathe with ease and vocalize as you desire.
The goal of qigong shaking is to move every part of your body to get energy moving. Once you get in the flow, shaking is quite invigorating and calming at the same time. If any area of your body feels painful or uncomfortable while shaking, slow down into a gentler shake. If you have mobility issues, shake the body parts that work for you.
To finish your shaking practice, come to a gentle stop; plant you feet on the ground (or floor) about shoulder width apart; let your arms hang; feel your breathing settle and your energy calm. Take notice how you are feeling after the practice as compared to before. Once you begin this daily practice, you may discover you don't ever want to stop.
Many Blessings for Happiness, Balanced Energy and Vitality- Sari