Qi Gong at the end of the day, is a quick way to release the stress and tension and get centered after a long day at work. Whether you have children to watch, dinner to prepare, or evening activities, this routine will help refresh and relax you as the day comes to a close. We don’t usually have time for a bubble bath and a massage at the end of each day, but we do have a few minutes that will take us to a similar place of tranquility and balance so that we can enjoy our evening.
The goal of this article is to give you something truly relaxing that you can do in a short amount of time—no matter what other pressures and commitments you might have in your life. This will help you end the day joyfully, clear stress and tension, and be able to truly let go and unwind for a better night’s sleep.
This evening routine helps get you in tune with the natural rhythm of night. Allowing the stress and challenges of the day to be released is vitally important to a clear mind and healthy body. Stress becomes detrimental when it stays with us day after day. Think of a sun setting into the ocean, the peace and tranquility of day transforming into night. This is the quality of energy we want to cultivate with our evening routine.
Stress is a buzz word. It shows up everywhere; magazines, newspapers, doctors offices, at work, and on TV. You probably can’t make it through a single day without seeing or hearing the word stress.
In our modern world, life has become ever more fast-paced and is increasingly complex, in a word, stressful. Even with our advances in technology, our bodies are still the same. Lights turn night into day, stores make it easy to get whatever we want at any time, yet our bodies still operate on the same cycles and rhythms as they have for thousands of years. It’s no wonder that balance is so difficult to achieve when we push ourselves in so many unnatural ways.
This type of lifestyle leaves millions too depleted to get sufficient exercise, relaxation, play, or even to spend quality time with their families. This energy-depleting way of life and chronic stress lead to anxiety, fatigue, depression, a weakened immune system, and a host of serious physical and psychological ailments.
It isn’t always possible to remove an outer problem. You can’t always quit your job, make your child behave, get out of a traffic jam, or heal a serious injury. But you can change your response and your inner state of consciousness. Dealing effectively with the stresses and problems in your life is a choice. When you have more energy and vitality, stress and problems don’t seem so overwhelming. By taking time for yourself, you will cultivate the energy you need to handle your problems more skillfully and effectively.
From muscle tension to headaches, from irritable bowel syndrome to acid indigestion, from heart disease to cancer, the steady rise in stress-related illness reflects our inability to cope with our lifestyle. This gives birth to a billion-dollar healthcare industry that at times masks the deeper problems of the roots of stress. The numerous medical studies on the Eastern practices discussed in this book like Qi Gong, Yoga, Tai Chi, exercise and meditation have shown to reverse the bombardment of many stress-related ailments.
Signs and Symptoms of Stress on the Body:
- Tight muscles and body aches
- Fatigue, lethargy
- Shallow, short breathing
- Chest tightness, rapid pulse
- Heartburn, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation,
- Dry mouth, and throat
- Excessive sweating, clammy hands, cold hands/feet
- Skin irritations, eczema
- Nail-biting, fidgeting, hair-twirling
- Lowered libido
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Insomnia, excessive dreaming
- Increased use of alcohol and drugs
Psychological Signs of Stress:
- Frustration, irritability, anger
- Worry and anxiety
- Sadness, depression
- Insecurity, fear
- Panic attacks
- Moodiness, emotional instability
- Intrusive and racing thoughts
- Memory lapses, difficulty concentrating
- Loss of a sense of humor
Stress robs people of many of life’s pleasures and deprives them of life’s many satisfactions—including laughter. Stress can take many forms – work pressure, financial concerns, health issues, relationship challenges, being single, a new baby, a new mortgage, or having too little time for oneself.
The following facts begin to reveal the problems so many of us face:
- Stress and Daily Life: 89% of adults describe experiencing “high levels of stress.”
- Stress and Medical Visits: 75-90% of adult visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems.
- Stress and Work: 1 million employees are absent on an average workday because of stress related problems.
- Stress Can Be Deadly: More people have heart attacks on Monday morning at 9:00 am than at any other time of the week.
- Stress Can Cause Illness: Stress is linked to the following diseases –hypertension, heart attacks, diabetes, asthma, chronic pain, allergies, headache, backache, various skins disorders, cancer, immune system weakness, and a decrease in the number of white blood cells.
- Stress and Sex: Stress can affect sexual performance and rob you of your libido. Disturbed sexual performance may appear in the form of premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction and other forms of difficulty in reaching orgasm.
- Stress and Cholesterol: Stress is more powerful than diet in influencing cholesterol levels. Several studies, including one of medical students around exam time, and another of accountants during tax season, have shown significant increases in cholesterol levels during stressful events, when there was little change in diet.
- Stress and Heart Disease: Stress is now considered a major risk factor in heart disease, right up there with smoking, being overweight, and lack of exercise.
- Stress and Digestion: Stress can affect the secretion of acid in your stomach and can speed up or slow down the process of peristalsis. Constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome and weight gain can be stress-related.
- Stress and Muscle Tension: Your muscles are prime targets for stress. Under stress, your muscles contract and tense. This muscle tension affects the nerves, blood vessels, organs, skin and bones. Chronically tenses muscles can result in a variety of conditions and disorders, including muscle spasms, pain, and teeth grinding.
- Stress and the Immune System: Stress hampers the immune system. Four hundred people were intentionally exposed to common-cold viruses. Those who scored highest on a test of stressful life events were more than twice as likely to develop colds after exposure than people who scored lowest.
- Stress and Risk of Stroke: Severe stress is one of the most potent risk factors for stroke –more so than high blood pressure-even 50 years after the initial trauma. In a study of 556 veterans of WWII, the rate of stroke among those who had been prisoners of war was 8 times higher than among those not captured.
Regardless of whether you are working from an Eastern or Western approach, there is a fundamental question that health practitioners have puzzled over for years. Why does one person catch a virus while someone else does not? Increasingly the evidence is leading us to look at energy levels, vitality and response to stress. One such study took four hundred people and intentionally exposed them to the common-cold viruses. Those who scored highest on a test of stressful life events were more than twice as likely to develop colds after exposure as people who scored lowest.
The good news is that stress can be alleviated with the right exercises, movements, stretches and relaxation techniques. This is exactly what this Seven Minutes of Magic program is designed to do. It’s about tapping into your resources so that the inevitable stress and tensions of life makes you more productive, rather than becoming self-destructive. These seven minute sequences give you the ability to transform stress into a catalyst for creativity and manifesting what you want out of life.
Stretching is important to the body because it clears residual tension as it builds up in the muscles. When the muscles get tight and tense, this impedes circulation creating stagnation in the body’s energy system. Anything in nature that is full of youthful life force is supple. A tree that is healthy is resilient; if you bend a branch down, it springs back. If the tree is old or stiff, when you pull it, the branch breaks. This same idea applies to our bodies; if we want to cultivate youthful vitality, becoming supple and flexible is a necessity. As the Taoist sage Lao Tzu says in the Tao Te Ching, “Those that are supple are disciples of life. Those that are brittle are disciples of death.”
Health is an ongoing process, not a goal that is ever reached. It is a daily journey; you are either taking steps toward health or away from it everyday. That is the beauty of this program; you only need seven minutes a day to increase your energy, vitality and overall health. I hope after these flowing exercise routines have become a part of your life that you too will use the word “magic” to describe the changes that you experience in your body and mind.
Upper Back and Neck Flow
The Upper Back and Neck Flow clears tension from the muscles in the neck and shoulder area. As we go through our day, we collect tension in this area of the body. With stress, work, and a hurried life-style, tension accumulates and our shoulders slowly start to grow toward our ears. These muscles get shorter, spasm, and contract causing pain and stiffness. Holding tension in our neck and shoulders takes a lot of energy. Think of contracting the muscles in your arms all day; you would be pretty tired after a few hours. Well, this is what is happening in the neck and shoulders – we are unconsciously contracting these muscles. As you go through this sequence feel the tension melting like ice in the hot sun.
Magic for the Neck
- Shoulder Stretch. Take both hands out to sides and press your palms downward, as if you were trying to reach the floor.
- Spread your fingers and flex wrists upward. Consciously bring your shoulders down as you press through the palms as well.
- Next, gently lean your head over to your right shoulder. Relax the head over, don’t use force. Feel the stretch in the neck, shoulders, upper back, and forearms.
- Take seven deep breaths.
- Bring your head gently to the other side. Lean the head over to the left. Remember to bring your shoulders down as you press through the palms.
- Relax the head over to the left. Feel the stretch in the neck, shoulders, upper back, and forearms.
- Take seven deep breaths.
This is an excellent stretch to release the lines of tension that accumulate in the neck and shoulders. Through repetitive motion, stress and poor posture the area in the upper back, neck and between the shoulders gets locked up with tightness. This stretch lengthens these lines of tensions and creates better alignment through the upper body. This is also an excellent exercise to prevent or relieve tension in the forearms and wrists.
Return to the Mountain
Return to the Mountain is another flowing movement to bring more energy into the body, while also balancing your emotions and calming your mind. The name of the movement signifies a return to a place of inner tranquility and relaxation. You can use the movement as a way to clear stress, nervous tension, anxiety or any negative emotional energy.
- Start by bringing the hands upward from the hips and crossing your wrists with the palms facing toward you.
- Bring the arms up to the shoulders with the wrists still crossed.
- Next, slowly let the hands and arms spread apart and gently bring the arms back down.
- As you bring the arms down feel any old or negative energy leaving the body and mind.
- Inhale as you bring the arms up with the wrists crossed.
- Exhale as you bring the hands down.
- Bring the legs into this movement by bending the knees as the hands come down and standing straighter as the arms come up. Bend the knees as deep as you feel comfortable. The deeper you bend the knees the more you will work the muscles in the legs.
- Repeat this movement seven times.
By Lee Holden