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Qigong - Balance Your "Intrinsic Life Energy"

As Sakaralites, love for the self is high on our priority list. That said, January and February can do a number on our ambition levels and yoga and exercise classes can seem like a major undertaking some days. This inactivity can leave some feeling cranky, stiff, and blocked with all that stale, imbalanced energy we may feel residing in our beautiful bodies. Despite that, crawling back into bed may seem much more attractive than putting on 20 layers to fight the cold on the way to your local gym. Look no further - Qigong can be a revitalizing, unique alternative - and can be done right at home. Rooted in Chinese medicine, martial arts, and philosophy, the takeaway of a Qigong practice is to cultivate and balance qi, your "intrinsic life energy," which affects your mind, body and spirit. Qigong's main principles of intentional movement, rhythmic breathing, awareness, and visualization are used to gain equanimity, tranquility, and stillness throughout your whole being. An unbalanced or blocked qi equals bad health which can diminish your self-love. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, in a study published last year, scientists and researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston found reduced depression in participants who took five weekly classes of Qigong, compared with a control group that didn't take the classes. Among those depressed at the start of the trial, fatigue was lessened and overall quality of life improved. Building on that research and these chilly, sometimes dreary days, it may be the perfect time to explore this exercise and rebuild your life energy. Sometimes some gentle exercise and a moving meditation is just what your body's asking for! Here's a simple exercise called "Lifting the Sky" to try at home that will leave you feeling calm in body as well as mind:

 

Posture 1. Your feet are close together with toes pointing forward. Your mouth is gently open, nose forward and hands are relaxed by your sides. Your posture is upright but relaxed.Your chest is soft and open.

Posture 2. Your palms face down toward the ground with fingers pointed toward each other. There's some space between them. Your arms are as straight as comfortably possible. Your neck tilts down, as if looking at the hands and body remains upright. Your shoulders and jaw are still relaxed.

 

Posture 3. Your arms arc up smoothly to the top with you nose following the movement of the hands. At the top, you lift up gently from your heels to your hands and your arms remain comfortably straight. Keep breathing in through the nose as you arc upward.

 

Posture 4. Your arms drop smoothly down and wrists are no longer bent. Breathe out slowly through the mouth as your arms are dropping. The neck gradually returns to normal with the nose pointing forward. Finish in Posture 1. Repeat.

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Ever since Kate was little, she's led an active lifestyle. Playing multiple sports in school, family vacations jam-packed with hiking excursions, and keeping up with two super-charged brothers helped instill the importance of maintaining her fitness level early on. Living in NYC these days, Kate also knows the value of taking a holistic approach. She's a pescatarian, active through yoga and running, and makes time to nurture her meditation practice. She brings this approach into her job as community relations manager at PowerPlay NYC, a nonprofit that empowers girls through play. Kate's a curious athlete and believes in her body, always up for a grueling spin class or a playful session of capoeira.

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