Blog

COVID-19, Qigong, Relaxation, Self-care

Basic Qigong Series – Free During COVID-19

Anthony Corahais states on his web site that he began practicing qigong during a severe bout of depression, and it saved his life. He now offers online courses in qigong to share that power with others. So, if you’re stressed-out and looking to fight depression and boost your immune system, qigong could be a great practice to try!

I firmly believe that to get the most out of qigong or taiji, you need to be feeling and working with the energetic aspect. For most people, they will find that most readily working with a teacher in a live setting. However – needs must drive, and when you start out, you’ll likely be pretty busy just focusing on where your hands and feet are supposed to be. So, this free video series is a great place to start. If it resonates with you, get in touch with a great teacher in your area to continue your studies. (Here’s my teacher!)

Sifu Anthony Korahais – photo from his site https://flowingzen.com/

Access his COVID-19 Support Qigong page here.

COVID-19, Qigong, Relaxation, Self-care

Simple Qigong for Respiratory Health

If you are looking to move beyond self-soothing into some deeper self-care (learn the differences here), you might be interested in Qigong (also spelled chi kung, pronounce “chee-GUNG”). This is a practice related to taiji (t’ai chi) that uses repeated motions synched with breath to circulate blood, lymph, and energy through the body. Medical studies have shown that taiji improves immune system response, and it’s been used in China specifically to help people recover from COVID-19. If the idea of energy movement feels a little “woo-woo” to you, know that these practices also help you breathe deeply, limber you up (especially in the torso), and help you focus calmly on something that is not the dire news of the day.

I think qigong is an easier place to start than taiji, because instead of flowing from one move to the next in a choreographed form, qigong has you repeat one move several times before moving on to the next exercise. Ideally, you’d learn from a teacher, because there are things about the way it feels that are hard to convey via video alone – but even just following along the videos as best you can will be a help.

Today’s video is by Bruce Frantzen, who has studied several lineages from masters in China. He starts with a couple minutes of talk about how qigong can help against Coronavirus. The actual practice is only 3 moves that take 3-4 minutes. The key takeaway is not that qigong or taiji would help you avoid it forever (it won’t) but rather it will help your immune system respond rapidly and effectively.

I find this approach very calming philosophically – my goal is not to lock myself away and never, ever come in contact with the virus, but rather to accept that it is fairly likely I will catch it, but to have a body and mind resilient enough to overcome it. This approach may or may not be for you, especially if you have underlying conditions or lowered immunity. I have to say, it’s a leap of faith for me after my last bout of pneumonia in 2016. So, I’m isolating, washing well, AND doing qigong!

COVID-19, Relaxation, Self-care, Yoga

Jurian Hughes Let Your Yoga Dance Online Practice

If you’re looking for something more active, expressive, and exuberant than gentle yoga, take a look at Jurian Hughes’s Let Your Yoga Dance practice. This will get you moving in a much more active way, with some hints of yoga but also a lot of freeform movement. If your best self likes to dance through your days, but is getting bogged down in bad news and worry, this might be right up your street.

If you are interested in more of her classes, she’s offering streaming classes in several flavors throughout the week while so many of us are in lockdown (March/April 2020). They are only $5 each or $50 for an unlimited pass for the month of April, and she’s donating 10% to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

COVID-19, Relaxation, Self-care, Yoga

Jurian Hughes Gentle Yoga Online Practice

Let’s start this list of relaxation techniques with a classic: some simple, soothing yoga. This is not pretzel-yoga, hot-yoga, or booty-yoga (ye gods, why is that even a thing?) – just gentle stretches, a bit of breath work, and a short chant, which you can skip if you like. Yoga helps free your ribcage and breathe deliberately – both great things any time, but especially if you are trying to calm down and fight respiratory illness.

I’ve taken classes with Jurian Hughes in person, and in this, a recording of her first live-streamed yoga class ever, her personality shines through. She is kind and joyful, without being saccharine-sweet or fluffy. If you want a few minutes to focus on breath, body, and joy, you might really enjoy practicing with her.

30-minute gentle yoga with Jurian Hughes

If you are interested in more of her classes, she’s offering streaming yoga classes in several flavors throughout the week while so many of us are in lockdown (March/April 2020). They are only $5 each or $50 for an unlimited pass for the month of April, and she’s donating 10% to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

COVID-19, Relaxation, Self-care

De-stressing resources

Empty massage table

Hi. I miss y’all. It really bugs me that I can’t do bodywork right now, right when you need it the most. I know how good it is for calming anxiety, lowering cortisol levels, and relieving stress – and all of those things are good for boosting immunity.

So, since I can’t help you with my hands, I’m going to share some of my favorite online de-stressing and healing resources with you. Most of them are free, and you can do them anywhere you have a little space and your phone.

My hope is that you’ll try a few, and find something that’s a good fit for what you are looking for right now. I’ll post over the next few days, and keep a central list here, as well. Here’s one to get you started:

Practical tips for dealing with Coronavirus (Sifu Anthony)

In health,
Emily

Adrenal fatigue, Recovery

Using the Polar H10 and A360/370 for Recovery Training

Yesterday, I reviewed the Morpheus Recovery Band. Today, I’ll talk about a suite of Polar devices/apps.

I’ve been using the Polar H10 chest strap the longest, both for morning heart rate variability (HRV) readings and for tracking exercise. I started using the Polar A360 in October for wrist-based heart rate tracking. The A360 isn’t made anymore, but the A370 is very similar and has nice new features like all-day heart rate monitoring and GPS. Then I also need two free apps: Polar Beat (for the H10) and Polar Flow (for the A360 and bringing all the data together). I know it sounds kinda clunky, but in practice, it’s pretty simple. Here’s how I use all of this to guide my active recovery.

Goals

My current goal is to recondition after a long illness. One of the problems with adrenal fatigue is that if you overdo physical or emotional stress, you can knock your recovery back days or weeks. It took me a year to figure out that 20 minutes of gardening, sweeping the deck, or moderate exercises like a few pushups and situps constituted “entirely too much exercise.” I would wake up feeling good, overdo it, and get knocked back to the couch for several days. It was incredibly frustrating because I rarely felt good two days in a row. For, like, two years.

So I wanted a way to quantify how much work I was doing and have some data to help me understand how much was too much. The key data I needed were my morning heart rate variability (HRV) scores, and some way to measure how much energy I was actually expending not just during workouts, but during daily activities, chores, walking to meetings, etc.

Polar H10

For HRV

I’ve already talked about measuring my HRV. I largely did that with the H10, though Welltory also let me measure it with my finger on my phone. (I ended up abandoning Welltory – it seemed less accurate over time and didn’t give me much uniquely useful info.)

For exercise tracking

  • Use with the Polar Beats app. Start the app, tell it what kind of exercise you are doing, and press “Start.”
  • If you leave the app open, you can see your heart rate moment-to-moment on your phone – if you can put your phone someplace visible while you exercise.
  • Five “zones” are color-coded from 1-5 based on your maximum recommended heart rate (220 minus your age).
    • For me, Zone 1 (50-60% of max HR) is 88-105 bpm because my max HR should be 176.
    • Zone 5 is 90-100% of your max (158+ for me), and I avoid it like the plague at this stage of my reconditioning.
  • Building on what I learned from the Morpheus band, Polar Zones 1-3 are recovery, Zone 4 is conditioning, and Zone 5 is overreaching. In practice, I aim a little lower – I think my conditioning zone probably starts around 130 bmp, which is 75% max or “Zone 2.5” and I don’t like to go above 150/Zone 3.5/85% max right now.

Polar A360/370

polar-a370-white-600x600The 360 and 370 work basically the same way. You can use them as a wrist-based HR tracker for exercise, though it is not sensitive enough to track HRV (use the H10 for that). It is supposedly very accurate for walking and jogging, but less good for weightlifting and cycling. It also has an all-day activity monitor, and a sleep monitoring feature I’ve not used much at all.

The reason I got it is because I wanted to see my HR during exercise on my wrist, not my phone – I often use my phone to play workout videos and can’t see both apps at once. I also wanted to be able to track exercise on the fly during the day – e.g., walking to a meeting, or giving a presentation – because I suspected that many of my daily activities were more strenuous than I’d realized. It works great for this – I can see the same fitness zones on my wrist that I had been getting from the H10, and I regularly set it to record my activity while I’m at work.

You track day-long activity on the Polar Flow app. This will also take in info from Polar Beats, so if you do use the H10 for certain exercises, all the data gets collected into one place and count toward your daily activity. What’s slightly confusing is that “activity” is broken into different “zones” than training. Here’s a table…

Polar Training Zone

Morpheus Recovery Zone

HR range (BPM are for age 44)

Polar Flow Activity Level

0

Total rest

<88bpm

·        Resting + sitting

1

Recovery

50-60% max

88-104bpm

·        Low

2

Recovery

60-70% max
105-122

·      Low-Medium intensity (breakpoint around 65%)

3

Recovery

70-80% max
123-139

·      Medium-High intensity (breakpoint around 75%)

4

Conditioning

80-90% max
140-157

·    High intensity

5

Overreaching

90-100% max
158-176

·    Very high intensity

Danger

Galloping heart

177+

·    Dangerous during recovery from adrenal fatigue

Polar_Flow_Analyze-1_0_0To keep things simple, I mostly just look at the Polar Activity chart during the day. On “good” days, when my morning HRV reading is 8-10 on Elite HRV and 7.5 or above on HRV4Training, I go for 15 minutes of “high intensity” activity (HR above about 130). On days my HRV reading is around 6.5-7.5, I avoid high-intensity activity entirely but generally try to get in some low-medium intensity activity around Zone 2/HR 105-120. On days when my HRV says I’m overtaxed, I really try to rest as much as possible, including having my husband drop me off in front of my building at work, always taking the elevator, and going to bed an hour early.

I improved steadily through 2018, and I am MUCH better able to handle physical activity now! In Feb. 2018, I was pleased that that my edge was to do 20 minutes of gardening on Saturday AND Sunday, and feel fine on Monday. In September 2018, my edge was 3.5 hours a day of vigorous t’ai chi, on a Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, and though I was a little tired the following week, it wasn’t a real setback. I don’t think I’ve come close to pushing past my physical boundaries since then (3 months), though I am learning the toll stress and allergies take on my HRV scores. But that’s another post. 🙂