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Rising Above Depression, Anxiety, Chronic Fatigue, & Pain via Qi Gong with Anthony Korahais

For today’s episode we will be exploring the ancient healing art of Qigong and why learning to manage our own Chi energy can make us stronger, healthier and more powerful, with Anthony Korahais.

Anthony is a world renowned teacher and master of both Qigong and Tai Chi. His unique perspective in teaching style make these ancient tools accessible to our modern hearts, minds and bodies. Anthony himself rose above clinical depression, lower back pain, anxiety attacks and chronic fatigue. Today he teaches thousands worldwide how to do the same in their own lives.

Visit him: http://flowingzen.com/

CONVERSATION HIGHLIGHTS:

  • “There are many ways to magnify the innate self-healing power of the human body. In my experience, Qigong and Tai Chi, are by far the most effective. That’s why these arts saved my life and that’s why I decided to dedicate my life to practicing and teaching them.”
  • “Most people don’t know that Qigong is actually a legitimate and old branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine, one of the oldest medicines. Other branches would be acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine and Chinese massage.

    So, it really is viewed as a form of medicine, so it follows the same principles of those other medicines of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The chi is the fundamental … the chi or the energy, is the fundamental ingredient in all of these arts and it’s what we are working with, cultivating, and all of that.

  • “There is Chi flow through the body and when there are blockages that is when they manifest in the physical realm as disease of any sort whether it be mental, physical, or emotional.”
  • “Sometimes people just think it’s about building energy — that’s not it. We just want the flow of energy to get going smoothly. We can build as well and sometimes that’s part of the process, but fundamentally we need to smooth out and get that energy flowing and clear those blockages and then when we do, the body just starts to naturally heal itself, very on its own.”
  • “Qigong is actually much older, we could call it the grandmother of Tai Chi.”
  • “Chinese medicine is a great solution for this because never in the history of Chinese medicine have they separated mind and body; it just never happened, whereas in the west it clearly did. So, it’s kind of putting those pieces back together now, but Chinese medicine for it’s thousands of years … it’s funny because it never developed a branch of psychology for example, or psychiatry because it didn’t need it. It doesn’t make sense from a Chinese medicine perspective to not look at your emotions and your mental emotional state for those things, especially if there’s pain.”
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Transcript

OSMARA: Welcome to Calm With Yoga.

For today’s episode we will be exploring the ancient healing art of Qigong and why learning to manage our own Chi energy can make us stronger, healthier and more powerful, with Anthony Korahais.

Anthony is a world-renowned teacher and master of both Qigong and Tai Chi. His unique perspective in teaching style makes these ancient tools accessible to our modern hearts, minds, and bodies. His students call him Sifu, which is Cantonese for teacher and it is through these two processes, Qigong and Tai Chi, that Anthony himself rose above clinical depression, lower back pain, anxiety attacks, and chronic fatigue. Today he teaches thousands worldwide how to do the same in their own lives. He runs one of the most popular websites on Qigong and Tai Chi and has published over 100 articles on the subject.

His international organization, Flowing Zen, has certified 25 instructors and offers retreats, workshops, and a variety of in depth discussions.

Now, let’s talk Chi…

“There are many ways to magnify the innate self-healing power of the

human body. In my experience, Qigong and Tai Chi, are by far the most

effective. That’s why these arts saved my life and that’s why I decided to

dedicate my life to practicing and teaching them.”

Those are your words, Anthony, and thank you for being on the show.

ANTHONY: Thank you for having me.

 

OSMARA: I’m really inspired by your story because Qigong and Chi energy management really did indeed save your life so, tell us the story about how that came to be.

ANTHONY: It’s an interesting position I am in. I teach these arts full-time and I often say, these arts saved my life and people that know my story know that what I’m talking about is clinical depression.

You know, it’s an interesting position because people think that I’m being melodramatic or that I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. It’s really just a matter of people not understanding how serious clinical depression is and how often it kills people.

Once they understand those numbers and the statistics and how bad it is then … it’s funny because then it’s like I have to earn my right to that statement that these arts saved my life, but then once I think that people understand it they really appreciate it and they appreciate that I’m sincere when I say it that these arts got me off a path which, with clinical depression leads to suicide and it’s a very serious problem.

It kills lots of people, lots of people, lots more than people realize. I was on that path and, you know, very simply discovering and practicing Qigong and Tai Chi is what got me off that path.

OSMARA: So, where were you in your life? Can you give us a little preamble of the Anthony of then?

ANTHONY: Sure. So, this … my awareness of my own depression, my own clinical depression, was a process of discovery. This was the 1990’s, so although there was more and more understanding about depression, it still wasn’t that much … I certainly didn’t know that much even though I had a few friends diagnosed with clinical depression.

It was after college, although in retrospect I can see the seeds of it happening in college. I had previously been very successful, I graduated from Columbia University. I had studied violin at Juilliard. I was, I was on this path of sort of being successful, and I don’t know … it just all fell apart after college.

I just started becoming less and less functional and that was when I started to realize that something was wrong, but I still didn’t identify with clinical depression or anxiety, which I was wrestling with that too and I had no vocabulary for it.

I knew that I had back pain… that’s where I started. I had very severe back pain. I was pretty young, this was 21-22, and that was a problem because I was training … at the time I was training very seriously and that was interfering with my training. It was a big problem … I was in a lot of pain. So, I just started looking for solutions for my back pain and because I was in the world of martial arts and because I am a reader, I naturally started reading books on the subject of martial arts.

I think one of the first books I discovered was a Tai Chi book on the martial arts shelves of the bookstores, back in the day when we had bookstores, and I started reading that book about Tai Chi and from there they started mentioning this art that I really didn’t know anything about, which was called Qigong … there are a few spellings for that and I was fascinated and I started reading more and more and more.

That was really the beginning of my journey to discover both Qigong and Tai Chi and to go find teachers.

OSMARA: I think sometimes, for most of us who don’t have a background in traditional Chinese medicine or haven’t really ever taken a Tai Chi or Qigong class, it’s kind of hard to wrap our head around what really are the benefits and what really is going on and what does it involve when we are practicing this ancient healing art of Qigong.

Can you expand a little on that and on basic principles of Chi energy and how they relate?

ANTHONY: Yeah, absolutely. So a few clarifications if people don’t know, and most people don’t know that Qigong is actually a legitimate and old branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine, one of the oldest medicines. Other branches would be acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine and Chinese massage.

So, it really is viewed as a form of medicine, so it follows the same principles of those other medicines of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The chi is the fundamental … the chi or the energy, is the fundamental ingredient in all of these arts and it’s what we are working with, cultivating, and all of that.

OSMARA: How would you define Chi?

ANTHONY: Yeah, so it’s, it’s tricky. Traditionally the word can be translated as energy, sometimes as breath and it really becomes both a literal and metaphoric definition of various functions in the body. So, absolutely we can feel with the method that I teach which just for some reason helps people feel the energy more easily. I can very clearly feel and I absolutely feel there is a bioenergy in the body.

OSMARA: Mhm, there is.

ANTHONY: For sure. For sure. You know, even the skeptics, I have fun teaching them how to … they just need a good method so that they can feel it.

OSMARA: Yeah, and then also there’s so many studies now, thank goodness.

ANTHONY: And, the additional senses as well … this is a big one that I blogged about. We have more than five senses and that’s where people get wrapped up. They get so caught up in their over thinking of the process and, “Well how can I feel this with the five traditional senses?” Well, you probably can’t, but there’s lots of other senses, particularly the vestibular system and …

OSMARA: What is the vestibular system?

ANTHONY: So, the vestibular system … we’ve known about it for a long time… it’s in charge of your balance, your inner ear and it’s how your orient yourself in 3D space, but the latest research is really showing that it does a lot more than we really thought It’s a really fascinating field to study that I’m not an expert in, but I enjoy reading the stuff. What my students here study, the vestibular study … I teach a lot of people in the healthcare industry, in the medical field and researchers too and what they tell me is that it really is … they’re really starting to connect the dots that would connect western medicine to eastern medicine and the vestibular system is one of the many dots that would connect the two medicines.

OSMARA: Okay, okay. So, back to the original point, there are so many other senses that we’re not traditionally taught about?

ANTHONY: Yeah and that’s … when you have for quieting the mind and then tuning into stuff that you wouldn’t normally tune into, you can absolutely start to feel the energy. Even so, I’m not one of those people … although my method really helps people feel the energy … that’s not what we are doing it for … that’s not what we are after.

I always tell my students, “Well, what would you rather– would you rather be able to really feel the energy and feel these powerful sensations and not get any real health results or vice versa, would you rather … you don’t really feel much in terms of energy or sensations, but you’re just getting these awesome health benefits and these awesome results over time?”

And, clearly the answer is for most people that they rather get the results.

OSMARA: Right.

ANTHONY: The sensation is a nice compass to help us navigate the world of Qigong and Tai Chi and figure out if we are practicing correctly, but a better compass is results.

OSMARA: Yeah, in the physical realm, but of course there’s a gamut — there’s a range right? For some people they would be more sensitive to those sensations, they would be … it’s not an and/or right? It could be both, as well?

ANTHONY: Absolutely. No and it will be both eventually, but I’m talking more to skeptics who are not sure if they believe in energy — well fine, you don’t need to believe  in it, but you need to practice. These arts are participatory — you need to practice.

You do need a good method. So, if you practice my method, for example, when you practice it consistently for even just 30 days. I tell my student, “Practice it consistently every day for 30 days and you’ll be able to see results that are measurable — you can measure those results using modern medicine.

For example, your blood pressure. Some of them will be physical, some of them can be mental and emotional — so those are more subjective, like your mood or your energy levels or you know, my area, depression and anxiety. Are your anxiety levels dropping? Are your panic attacks becoming more infrequent? Are your depressive episodes becoming more infrequent?

Those are good measures and all of those are signs of the Chi. Those are signs that the Chi is becoming unblocked, that the Chi… the natural energy, the natural healing processes and functions are flowing better and those are very good navigation points on whether or not you are actually cultivating energy or not.

OSMARA: So, is it safe to say then that there is Chi flow through the body and when there are blockages that is when they manifest in the physical realm as disease of any sort whether it be mental, physical, or emotional?

ANTHONY: That is kind of a perfect and beautiful summary of traditional Chinese medicine. You kind of hit the nail on the head and I find that summary to be the most useful thing.

So I studied. I went to acupuncture college and I did about 2,000 hours of training in Chinese medicine, so I know a lot about it and my wife was an acupuncturist as well — we met in acupuncture college, but I actually find that it’s useful for me, I’m glad that I did that training, but for students that are just trying to get those results, a simplified theory is actually more useful.

OSMARA: Definitely.

ANTHONY: I’ve even taught at acupunture colleges, I’ve taught a lot of acupuncturists over the years and they can sort of trip themselves up overthinking the medicine. The simple philosophy, you just basically said it, is whatever is wrong with you, whatever the pathology is, whatever the illness or disease is, we can simplify it by saying there is a blockage of energy somewhere and if we get the Chi flowing more smoothly …

Sometimes people just think it’s about building energy — that’s not it. We just want the flow of energy to get going smoothly. We can build as well and

sometimes that’s part of the process, but fundamentally we need to smooth out and get that energy flowing and clear those blockages and then when we do, the body just starts to naturally heal itself, very on its own.

OSMARA: Yeah it’s amazing the wisdom that our body and our cells have. So, there’s a lot of stuff going on. There’s a lot of connectivity happening in the different levels of the body through the organs, through the cells, through the tissues, through the connective tissues, the muscles … I mean, you name it, right?

ANTHONY: Absolutely.

OSMARA: So, back to what we were talking about about the Chi energy and the flow, let’s go back to your story. So, here you are. You are pretty freaking young to be having chronic back pain and fatigue and anxiety and depression. So you start studying — you deepen your martial arts practice and you come across Qigong. So, then what happened?

ANTHONY: So, you have to understand that karate and Tai Chi are actually opposite ends of the spectrum. So, karate is as about as hard and fighting oriented as it comes in martial arts and then Tai Chi is really the other end of the spectrum.

So, I’m exploring this new world and that involved a paradigm shift because I have to simultaneous accept that while I have got this severe back pain and  I have to do something about it, but I don’t know if I believe in this Tai Chi and Qigong stuff and I don’t know what they’re doing and why are they moving slowly? I’m young, I’m a young athletic, enthusiastic guy and I didn’t know that I wanted to move slowly.

As often the case with depression… you know, I’ve taught hundreds and hundreds of people with depression and I run a support group for my students and things like that. What I’ve found is for most of us, depressives, when it gets bad enough, we will try anything. We don’t care what it is. A lot of people, you know, then end up taking antidepressants because they will just try anything. Unfortunately, antidepressants  don’t work for half the people that they are prescribed to — so that’s a problem.

So, that was it for me … I said, “You know what” … I took an online, this is back in the early days of the internet, and I took an online depression test and my girlfriend at the time had suggested it, she said, “You know, I think you may be depressed and I found this quiz online, why don’t you take it?”

So, I took it, right and I failed it miserably. I can’t remember what it said, this was maybe 1998 – 1997ish, and I took the test and it just say like you should just get medical help as soon as possible. I said, “Wow, well let me find another one”.

So, I did some searching and I found another one and I took it and failed it miserably as well. I think I took three or four that I could find and I failed them all and I was like, “Oh, there might be something to this, maybe there is something wrong. I might actually be clinically depressed. Maybe that explains a lot of my problems.”

OSMARA: So, what were your problems? Can you tell us a little about what … you said your functioning was affected and stuff like that? What did that look like?

ANTHONY: Yeah, it’s hard to describe to non-depressives. So, for me it was especially apparent because sometimes people would say, “Oh, you’re just going through a low.” People have interesting things to say to depressives, but for me it was so clear because I was so functional.

I had practiced violin for three hours a day for many years and that I went to Columbia, and studied, and graduated Dean’s List and I graduated and I got a black belt in karate and I had all these … and really, please understand this is not coming from a place of ego … this is quite the opposite for depressives. It’s more of me convincing myself that sometime was wrong and realizing, “Wait a second, I was functional — remember when you did this or remember when getting up and doing something in the day wasn’t such a…”

When you’re falling into a depressive episode, nothing happens. I couldn’t hold down a job. I could barely get myself out of my bed for certain phases there. If I did manage to get myself a job, consequences become less meaningful. Like if you get fired or something like that. And I certainly was not living up to …

I was a graduate of Columbia University and at one point all I could do was manage to hold down a job at Starbucks … nothing wrong with Starbucks, I actually enjoyed my time there, but I … there was no way that I could even begin to apply for jobs that were more of my interest or more of my potential, or anything like that.

I was just treading water, I was just trying to stay afloat.

I think, you know, when you’re talking about clinical depression it’s like that and then it gets so bad, it’s on a spectrum, it gets so bad and worse and worse and worse and a lot of people can’t function on any level. But, it is … it sound exactly like that. I was definitely on autopilot, for sure and I was on autopilot headed to a crash. It wasn’t a  good autopilot.

For me, what switched me off autopilot, was being suicidal and making a decision at one point where I was really going down that dark path. It’s actually much  more common than people realize. I was headed down that dark path and I’ve looked at the statistic a lot and at that age that I was at and more so for men was not so much an attempted suicide, but an actual suicide by the end of my 20s.

You know, I started to get serious about suicide … it was something that I was actually contemplating. Something that people don’t like to talk about and people don’t like to hear it either, but that’s the truth … that’s where I was headed. Which is so great that you’re talking about it here … sorry to interrupt.

ANTHONY: Yeah, I’ve changed over the years. I use to shy away from talking about it. I guess now I’m in my 40’s and people’s mild-discomfort is not … is okay.

OSMARA: Well, the service that we’re doing is way more important than the mild-discomfort of not talking about something that really does needs to be talking about.

ANTHONY: It does need to be. That’s exactly what I was going to say is that your mild-discomfort … I care more about the lives that I could save. That’s not just theoretical. Like I know … I’ve had people tell me that I’ve saved their life. If not me, it’s learning these arts.

OSMARA: Having the tools …

ANTHONY: The tools … having good tools, whatever they are. Having some hope that you can reclaim a normal life or even a better than normal life, is especially what depressives need. That wake up moment for me was when I got very serious about depression and I made a decision that, you know what, I’m not sure that I can do it, but I’m going to give this staying alive thing another try, I’m going to give it my best shot, whatever that is, I’m going to throw whatever I’ve got, my tools.

At the time… so, for example, my tools were … I actually already knew, but I had fallen so deep into a depression that I wasn’t practicing which is very common, not just with depressives. We all, you know, it’s so hard to make a daily habit of things that are good for you. So, with Qigong and Tai Chi, it’s the same.

What I did was, I started … I got some therapy, which I didn’t find terribly helpful, but I got my official diagnosis and all of that which was helpful for me to have some else say to me that I had something wrong with me and it was called clinical depression, it’s called major depression disorder. That was helpful.

Then, I got acupuncture. My mother had actually broken her wrist playing tennis, she’s an avid tennis player. She had broken her wrist and someone recommended acupuncture to her and she went to see this acupuncturist and it really helped and she said, “Why don’t you go see this guy?” So, I did.

The combination of Qigong and acupuncture… it’s funny at the time I didn’t realize that they’re both branches of the same medicine, but the one, two punch of those two medicines… I actually also used herbal medicine, so it was actually three branches: Qigong, acupuncture, and herbal medicine and it was, I swear it was only eight weeks, but I went whole hog, which was very hard for me at the time meaning I took my medicine everyday, I practiced my Chi Gong, it was … I didn’t practice very much, but it was something, and I went for my acupuncture appointments.

Eight weeks later, I won’t say that I was cured of my depression or anything like that, but I felt in control again. I felt like I could have some control over my life and I could continue to build good habits and control myself and get back on my feet.

OSMARA: You felt a shift?

ANTHONY: There was absolutely a shift and it was so palpable. It happened so fast. Eight weeks is not a long period of time when you feel like that, so just to be able to feel that shift in just eight weeks, it’s miraculous.

OSMARA: And what happened then?

ANTHONY: So, then I started to basically piece my life back together. I had been wandering around in sort of a daze, I don’t know if that’s the same as your auto pilot thing, for many years after graduating college and I started to piece things together.

I went to Asia to learn these arts more deeply, actually traveled all over the country too to learn Qigong and Tai Chi. I got a better job. I found that I knew something’s about computers so I started working in computer industry just because it was about all I could do, I had not worked for a couple years so I wasn’t really the most qualified applicant for a lot of things. I looked into some computer jobs, better and better, and I just started to, you know, function again.

Long story short, after probably about probably about five years of working in the computer industry and building a good life and a cushioned job, and I was actually working at my Alma Mater, at Columbia, for the school of Architecture, we were running the digital design lab there, I decided I wanted to do more.

I started to be aware of my own stories. People asked me, they were saying, what happened with that depression thing? What is that stuff that you keep practicing, that you keep mentioning? I kept having more and more conversations. I took on a few students here and there and I don’t know how to describe it.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience in your life where you feel this, I guess some people call it a calling. To me, it felt like an obligation, not a burden, but an obligation.

OSMARA: Like a duty?

ANTHONY: Yes, exactly, yes. It was a duty that I felt like, well I need to do something here. I can’t just sit in this. I joked because, you know, the past ten years have been me teaching full-time and going to acupuncture school. It’s really a hard life to run your own business. I talk about the days of my cushy job when I was living in New York City, my commuter job — vacation days and dental insurance and great stuff.

I really did just give it all up to go to acupuncture school. At the time how I thought I’d help people was a combination of acupuncture and teaching Qigong to my patients and then while I was at acupuncture school, the students at the acupuncture college wanted to learn more and more and kept asking me to teach and I did. I saw the results and one thing lead to another.

I eventually dropped out of acupuncture school and opened up a Tai Chi studio in the same college town as the acupuncture college which is Gainsville, Florida, teaching full-time.

My plan, it didn’t go as planned. I didn’t end up as an acupuncturist, but I ended up in the world of Traditional Chinese Medicine in teaching this stuff full-time.

OSMARA: Yeah, well that tends to happen especially when you have the courage … it’s the hero’s journey, right?

Many times it’s not how we think it is, but if we surrender and allow, you end up exactly where you need to be. So, you were teaching Tai Chi and Qigong, let me ask you for those that are listening that might have this question, what is the difference between Tai Chi and Chi Gong?

ANTHONY: Good, yeah. It’s a good question and I get it all the time. It’s amazing to me how much confusion there is still out there. There’s actually a very simple answer. Qigong is actually much older, we could call it the grandmother of Tai Chi. Tai Chi is actually a mispronunciation of what should be, Tai Chi Chuan, there should actually be another word in there, and that extra word, Chuan in Chinese means kung fu, basically.

So, Tai Chi is really just a form of kung fu, it’s a martial art and that’s great. I mean I’m a martial artist, that’s how I found it, but not everyone wants that. What a lot of people are looking for and they find Tai Chi, and what they think Tai Chi actually is, is Qigong.

The two get mixed up. For example, I read a lot of the scientific research on these arts and very often in these studies, the study will say Tai Chi in the title than when I look at the study and sometimes I know the teacher and when I look into what they’re doing, it’s not really Tai Chi, what they’re really doing is Qigong, but the terminology is all mixed up.

So, I teach both, but I make it clear because I have so many awesome … I’m sort of lucky that I learned a lot of Qigong exercises and I have a really good recall for the exercises so I remember every exercises that I’ve ever learned so I have so many tools that I can offer that I don’t  need to teach people Tai Chi if they don’t want to and unfortunately or a lot of people, their experience with Tai Chi is if they go out there and then try to learn some Tai Chi, it’s very stressful which is the opposite of what it should be. It’s learning a sequence of moves, patterns, and forms and not a lot of energy work like you and I talked about.

So, Qigong is a better fit. It’s like what I taught you in that workshop when we first met which was just simple streamlined efficient exercises for working on energy and building health and vitality.

OSMARA: Right, and what that looks like if you haven’t ever seen that, it’s the combination of breath work, mindfulness, and the movement of subtle body movements, correct?

ANTHONY: Yeah. That’s a perfect description. Usually flowing movements. The first exercise I always teach people, I’m sure it’s what I taught you, is Lifting the Sky. It’s a very simple movement, but you do that 20 or 30 times in a row so you don’t worry about what the next movement is. You can just go into a flowing meditation with that exercise.

OSMARA: That’s it. Beautiful. Flowing meditation, that’s exactly what it is.

ANTHONY: Well that’s the name of my (company.)

OSMARA: Flowing Zen.

ANTHONY: That’s the idea. It was a bit of a joke, which I have to explain now, zen, traditionally just means meditation so it really describes what we do, flowing zen or flowing meditation is an aspect of everything that I teach.

OSMARA: Something else that I would like to add to that is the movement with breathwork with dropping into the present moment does smooth out and calm our nervous system. It does regulate the heartbeat. It does get the brain waves in alpha and theta state which are all conducive to having the body reach that state of homeostasis, of balance, of strengthening the immune system and what not.

So, those are like the outward effects of practicing Qigong, right? Which leads me to my next question because I’m sure you get this alot as well, how does Qigong relate to Yoga and are the benefits the same or similar? What are the differences because they both involve those three elements right, of the breathwork, the mind movement of the body and dropping into the moment to be present.

ANTHONY: So, the caveat here is that I am not an expert at yoga, but I have taught a lot of people who practice yoga including a surprising amount of yoga instructors, you’re one of them. A lot of the feedback that I get … I’ve taken yoga classes, but you know, I don’t consider myself anywhere near an expert.

What people tell me is that they find something in Qigong that they didn’t find in yoga and I’ve really tried to figure out what that is for years. First of all, what happened to yoga, because it got to America sooner, it got to the west really sooner.

What happened to yoga is what is now also happening in the world of Qigong and Tai Chi. I am a bit of a, I don’t know, I’m a bit of a maven in the world of Qigong and Tai Chi because I basically question people for what they’re doing in the world of Qigong and Tai Chi and whether they’re actually meditating and working on energy or are they just doing the moves?

OSMARA: Yeah, yeah.

ANTHONY: Which I am sure is familiar in the yoga world. There’s a lot of people who they just, it’s not so much an energy art anymore, they’re just doing the moves. So I just had some interesting conversations with a classmate of mine who I met in Malaysia when I was studying Qigong and he had done a lot of serious yoga.

In fact, he had lived with Pattabhi Jois, if you know him he’s a famous yoga teacher of Ashtanga Yoga. He said that he switched to Qigong because he really found that it was more streamlined for him and it worked better for him, but the way he always practiced yoga was, it was closer to Qigong than what most people practice yoga, if that makes sense.

So, it’s not my position to judge what people do out there, but I see this happening in the world of Qigong and Tai Chi. All the time people practice the moves, they get wrapped up in the moves, they think it’s a physical art and that’s missing the whole point.

OSMARA: Totally. I will back you up 100% on that because I say that to, to my students. Yoga is not about getting on your head or turning your body into a pretzel. Yoga is not about getting to the mat and, you know, it ends the minute you get off the mat.

The timeless Yoga wisdom that I teach is the yogic philosophy of the Eight Limbs of yoga and many people don’t know that the asanas, or the poses, are only one-eighth of the big picture. There are seven other components to that, that really, for the serious yogic warrior, it would behoove them to check those out.

It’s not just about the body wellness. It’s not about getting the yoga arms or the yoga ass, which hey, I love it. I love my yoga arms, it’s awesome.

ANTHONY: It’s a nice perk, but it’s not what we are after.

OSMARA: Yes. Bless chaturanga, but exactly. It’s so much more than that and there are so many other levels, so I totally back you up on that.

ANTHONY: Yeah, for me it was very clear because that was the difference between life and death, for me and it’s actually that case for my students which is why I actually spend a lot of time blogging and talking and teaching on this subject of the two different paths basically.

It’s more of the form based/physical based path versus the mindfulness/energetic path and for a lot of my students, as it was for me, understanding the difference can be the difference between life and death. It’s the difference between getting these deep healing benefits of these arts and not.

You know, it’s like you said … you can for example, a lot of the more athletic Qigong exercises, you can build muscle and stretch if that’s your goals. I don’t think that’s a term yet, but your Tai Chi or Qigong arms, but you know what I mean.

But, that’s not going to cure your depression. It’s not going to give you the medicine that you may need to really make a big dent in that, you know, that depression that’s been plaguing you for a long time. You might need something more powerful. Yeah, it is a message that I do end up, you know, talking a lot about because it’s so, so important.

OSMARA: So you were talking about, you can stay on the surface of Qigong, or you can deepen your practice. Get the benefits, what the tangibles would be in the outer world, would be boost in mood management, or help to gain the reigns of your mood oscillations, and your stress and anxiety oscillations. Like you said, you had chronic back pain.

So, you teach your students techniques to help them alleviate the chronic pains and the aches and you also mentioned fatigue, right? So, how can Qigong help us raise our energy levels?

ANTHONY: Well, on the pain subject it’s funny because I am totally guilty. I was that person back when I had my back pain in my 20’s that never connected it to my mental-emotional state.

OSMARA: I think we all have gone through that at some point.

ANTHONY: Now, I am in the opposite position where I am constantly… it’s an uphill battle of convincing students that their back pain is not just a physical thing. I’ve blogged about this a lot and it’s a subject that I’ve done a lot of research with and talked with a lot of medical professionals and it’s, you know, it’s funny because the western physicians, nurses, and the health care practitioners that I work with, they all agree with me that it’s basically understood that, for example, back pain is not just physical; very often, it’s not physical at all. The two examples that highlight that are: you can have a herniated disk with no pain and you can have pain with no herniation. So, it’s not like it’s so clear that herniation equals pain, that’s not how it works.

Chinese medicine is a great solution for this because never in the history of Chinese medicine have they separated mind and body; it just never happened, whereas in the west it clearly did. So, it’s kind of putting those pieces back together now, but Chinese medicine for it’s thousands of years … it’s funny because it never developed a branch of psychology for example, or psychiatry because it didn’t need it. It doesn’t make sense from a Chinese medicine perspective to not look at your emotions and your mental-emotional state for those things, especially if there’s pain.

So, it’s a fun conversation. It’s fun being on the other side trying to convince students that like, no really this back pain that you’re experiencing … if you want to get rid of this pain … you’ve already tried everything … you’ve already been to the Mayo Clinic and you’re still in the pain … the only thing that works is these opioids, which are terrible for you and you want to get off of… well, we are going to have to take a look at your emotional state.

OSMARA: Yeah, it is … it is a big picture. You know, to quote Brene Brown, she said, don’t quote me verbatim, but it’s something along the lines of “We are the most in debt, obese, heavily medicated adult cohort in US history.” And that’s, in a nutshell those are the tell-tale signs of autopilot epidemic or being in that haze or whatever. Essentially is being a product of our environment instead of taking the reigns and becoming sovereign in that way.

ANTHONY: Ooh, that’s a nice word. I like that.

OSMARA: We can’t just, we can’t disown one part and try to get to another and I think that’s what’s got us, like she said, depressed and in debt overweight, eating our emotions, which I think I’m guilty of, shopping your emotions, which I’ve been guilty of, you know doing all these things.

It’s human nature, I get it. When we are in … when we are reactive slaves chances are that our brains are in high beta, chances are that part of our brain … that reptilian primitive brain is activated and so we are in this flight or fight survival mode, right? So, we are reacting. It’s a knee-jerk reaction.

ANTHONY: Sympathetic nervous system.

OSMARA: Exactly and so what happens is we immediately try to go towards the outer, you know, fix it in the outer. Of course society has conditioned us to think that is the way to go. ‘You need more of this, more of that, you’ve got to look like this, you’ve got to that,’ and that’s what the west, or what the east has been so wise about and timeless whether it be the Hindu traditions, the Daoist traditions, the Chinese traditions. It’s all the same in the sense that it starts within. It’s the inner journey. Subjective transformation precedes outward transformation.

ANTHONY: I absolutely agree with that. It’s an inside job.

OSMARA: It’s an inside job completely. And so, Qigong helps us to bring ourselves back to center, right, to kind of go inward.

ANTHONY: Yeah, absolutely and the Chinese classics, the Qigong and Tai Chi classics, I mean, it’s very clear that Qigong is an internal art and some of the exercises completely still. There’s no movement. They can be done, some of them are standing, some of them are sitting, but it’s widely recognized that it’s an internal art.

It’s funny that so many people are missing that these days. They’re practicing it as an external art. What I love about it and why I love that word sovereign that you keep using… I’m just naturally stubborn and I like to take care of things myself … I like to have, I mean I guess you could call me a control freak, but I like to have some say in my own health.

While I’m a big proponent, you know my wife and I for the past eight years have been running a combined … her clinic is half the building and my Tai Chi studio is the other half and we are big proponents in collaborative care. You know, to get these results that you might need, you may need to combination of Qigong/Acupuncture/Chiropractic/Yoga. Whatever that combination is for you, you might need to find that out, but I like the participate.

What I do these days is I should go and get more acupuncture and chiropractic, but I’m so stubborn that I just try Qigong and Tai Chi first. I try it until like it’s absolutely clear you know I need a little more help. I may need a massage, a release. I may need something, some more help.

I love that sovereignty … that ability to sort of have some control over my own faith rather than just always putting it in the hands of healthcare practitioners and there’s something beautiful about that and I’m sure that’s what attracts a lot of people to yoga as well.

A lot of people may know that they need to do some inside work or work on that realm, but they don’t know how.

OSMARA: They don’t know how.

ANTHONY: And they don’t have the tools.

OSMARA: Or, it’s scary, it’s scary to do that, to go in.

ANTHONY: Yeah, it is. For sure. No question about that.

OSMARA: Yeah, so that’s why it’s important to have a teacher, such as yourself, especially when you’re: Oh I’m starting an ancient Chinese healing practice, what the hell do I know about that? That’s why, your teaching style, you just have a way of bringing back to the basics and making things understandable.

So, for those of you that want to know more about Sifu Anthony, and want to check out more about his writings and his teaching style and more about the online global workshops and Qigong classes, go to flowingzen.com. Is that correct?

ANTHONY: Correct.

OSMARA: And they can find you on Facebook under Flowing Zen Community.

ANTHONY: Mm-hmm.

OSMARA: We’re just about coming to the end of our time, but I wanted to ask you one question. So, we’ve talked about your own journey from early 20’s and your own path of being a reactive slave, so to speak, now you’ve become and are still becoming (because the journey is never done for any of us), the sovereign creator.

If the old you could see the new you, what would the old you say?

ANTHONY: That’s an interesting question. It’s funny, I’m not sure there’s anything… you know we talk about the hero’s journey, but I don’t know that there is anything that I could say to 22-year-old Anthony that would make a difference. Maybe there is something that I could have said.

OSMARA: If you had … if both the 22-year-old Anthony and the Anthony of today here what would they say to each other, actually? What would the old say to the new and the new say to the old?

ANTHONY: The younger me would be very surprised. I think honestly I would be surprised that I was still alive. That would be a shock and I would just be very compassionate towards the younger me. I struggled so much without knowing and without, you know, I had no self-awareness.

It’s so amazing how it took me so long to accept that I was depressive. I just didn’t … you think it’s something that happens to other people and I would have a lot of compassion towards him and really, you know, encourage him to go through this process.

It’s funny because I don’t know why that question made me realize that I wouldn’t change anything. I guess that’s why I’m trying to say. I wouldn’t necessarily change anything because I actually am grateful for the process. I don’t want to do it again. I’ve been through so much in my life. I’ve been through so much struggle and that internal work that you talked about that was so scary. I’ve been through so much of that and you know, I’ve been through the school of life many times and I don’t want to repeat some of those lessons.

I’m so grateful for them. I’m so grateful that I’ve been through that process because it’s what got me to where I am now, to this level of awareness and understanding and compassion and aliveness that I am at now. So, I guess I would just go back and tell myself to hang on … maybe to practice my Chi Gong a little bit more because I was a little bit of a … I could have used a little pep talk back then.

OSMARA: Absolutely. Well, and I’m sure that that 22-year-old Anthony would be like, “Holy crap man, look at all the people we’ve helped!”

ANTHONY: He wouldn’t believe it. He was just trying to help himself. He wouldn’t believe that now, if I told him that I’ve taught over 3,000 people now, I think he wouldn’t believe it. He’d be like, “What are you talking about dude, you’re just like struggling to stay afloat?”

OSMARA: Yeah. I think that’s … there’s a scene in Interstellar, if you haven’t watched it…

ANTHONY: Yeah, I saw it, yeah.

OSMARA: Where it’s the future and the past having this moment and I just thought that was so powerful because it’s because of the past that we become who we are and then the past having this moment of, wow we did this — we created this.

ANTHONY: Yeah, that’s nice. That’s a nice way … that’s a nice way to frame it. I like that.

OSMARA: Awesome. Well Anthony, thank you so much for coming on board and having a chat with me today.

ANTHONY: Thank you for having me. This was great. I really appreciate it.

OSMARA: Yeah, it’s been lots of fun and to everyone out there, catch you on the next episode and keep going. Namaste and In Lakech.

 

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