Treating Qi Stagnation with Exercise

Posted by Nicole Fillion-Robin on Thu, Jul 18, 2019 @ 12:05 PM

Qi stagnation is a common diagnosis in any modern clinic, with the stressors of daily life making us all a little more stressed, achy from hour-long commutes, and irritable to be around.


waves and a sunset


An easy way to visually think of qi stagnation, is as the movement of water in a stream. If you think of a stream that stops flowing or of an eddy, the water might start to get cloudy. It might smell a little muddled - that “old water smell.” Algae might grow more abundantly. Sticks and litter may collect there. When you have a stream that is full and moving continuously, there’s no time for the water to get cloudy. Any disturbances from hiking through or an animal digging something up, will be easily be carried downriver.

"Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy." (Legally Blonde)


Qi stagnation can manifest both emotionally and physically. Emotionally, people may feel like there are emotions stuck that they are unable or unwilling to express. Ever feel like you are wound up, or bottling emotions up? Then you already know what Liver qi stagnation feels like.

Physically, a common way qi stagnation can show up as pain. A classic Chinese saying is:

Where there is free flow there is no pain. Where there is pain there is no free flow.”

While it might not be pleasant to start moving your body in ways it’s not used to, it’s often a sign of your body waking up. Pay attention to where things are creaky and achy. That might be ok and get better with more use (think of it as WD-40-ing your joints). Sharp pain? Probably your body telling you to back off (and to consult with a practitioner!).

Ease back into movement with light exercises or stretches. Yoga, qigong, taiji, swimming at the greenbelt, and walks are all ways to invite movement back into your life if you are feeling ready. Hate lifting weights? Then that gym membership is probably not for you. Choose something you love and you will want to do it more often. Start moving that qi and both your mind and body will thank you.

Need some inspiration?

  • We have free mindbody classes on campus during every quarter - qigong and yoga this coming term.
  • Set an alarm on your phone to take a walk around the block every hour or so. If you are a student, go with friends over break.
  • Take your pup for an early morning or bedtime walk (make sure the pavement is cool enough by walking around barefoot yourself and that it’s below 90 degrees).
  • South Austin Roller Rink has $7 adult skate night on Sundays and Wednesday, skate rental included! DJ and some fantastic people watching to be had.
  • Stretch on breaks! @joetherpy is one of my favorite resources.
  • Barton Springs Pool is free to the public before 8 AM and after 9 PM, and a great way to beat the summer heat. 
  • Reminder: many yoga studios are donation based - I have had some tough financial weeks and given $4 for a class. The only person who felt awkward was me.
  • Yoga-Yoga offers a 20% discount for AOMA employees and students.
  • If you are more of a homebody yogi, the youtube channel Yoga with Adriene (an Austinite!) is fantastic and hilarious.
  • The FITT Finder app is a local startup that shows you free fitness classes all around Austin.

Topics: stress relief, medical qigong, tai chi, stress management, aoma students

World Tai Chi and Qigong Day – Day of Healing Qi

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 @ 08:35 AM

Every year on the last Saturday of April, tens of thousands of people in more than 70 countries come together, to practice tai chi and qigong and to provide a healing vision for our world. World Tai Chi & Qigong Day is Saturday, April 27 at 10am, in every time zone, creating a wave of healing qi (energy) around the world. Please see the location update below. Check out the Facebook page for World Tai Chi & Qigong Day in Central Texas to find out about the official Austin gathering.

AOMA and Sheng Zhen Austin are co-sponsoring a free Qi “Tasting” in the afternoon from 2-5pm. Find out more details here. This event is suitable for all ages and abilities. Participants may come and go or stay from the entire program. Here’s the schedule of events.

2:00pm Welcome and Openinghealing qigong

2:15pm Practice movements from Heaven Nature Gong

2:45 pm Learn the form Awakening the Soul Gong

3:15 pm Practice movements from Return to Spring

3:45 pm Practice movements from Sheng Zhen Healing Gong

4:15 Master Li Junfeng will discuss Sheng Zhen philosophy


What is Qigong?

Qigong is an ancient Chinese health care system practiced for health maintenance, healing and increasing vitality. It is practiced through an integration of physical postures, breathing techniques, and focused intention.

what is qigongThe word Qigong (chi kung or chi gung) is made up of two Chinese words. Qi (pronounced chee) is usually translated to mean the life force or vital-energy that flows through all things in the universe. The second word, Gong (pronounced gung) means work or cultivation. Together, Qigong means life energy cultivation.

Widely practiced in Asia, qigong has recently become popular in the West as an approach to overall health and well-being. Practicing qigong induces a relaxation response that can positively impact your body’s natural healing ability and increase your sense of balance in our stressful society.

Visit the National Qigong Association website for more resources about qigong.

yang style tai chiWhat is Tai Chi?

T'ai chi ch'uan or Taijiquan, often shortened to t'ai chi, taiji or tai chi in English usage, is an internal Chinese martial art originally practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. Today, it is primarily practiced to maintain good health, both physical and mental. Tai Chi has been recommended as an adjunct therapy for chronic pain, arthritis, insomnia, asthma, high blood pressure, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and many psychosomatic illnesses.

Here are some recognized benefits of practicing tai chi and qigong:

  • reduces stress responses, lowering the incidence of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and general mood disturbance

  • minimizes the effects of chronic conditions such as allergies and asthma T'ai Chi improves breathing capacity

  • regular practice can lower high blood pressure

  • improves balance and coordination TWICE as effectively as other balance training

  • improves postural control, while stretching, toning and relaxing the body in a cumulative way that no other exercise can achieve

AOMA offers informal classes in taiji and qigong in south Austin. You can search for classes worldwide on the World Tai Chi Day website.

Learn more about Acupuncture  & Herbal Medicine

Topics: medical qigong, qigong, master li junfeng, tai chi

Insights for Practitioners: Medical Qigong and Reiki

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Wed, Apr 03, 2013 @ 10:43 AM


In my previous blog post “Energy Medicine: Medical Qigong and Reiki” I talked about the basics of Reiki and medical qigong and my experiences studying both and experimenting with energy medicine for more than 20 years. I wanted to share some more insights for students and practitioners of medical qigong and Reiki, so, here you go in no particular order.

Keep Practicing!

Reiki says once you are attuned you never lose the ability to flow Reiki to someone or something else even if you don’t use what you learned for 40 years. But like anything, the more you use it the more powerful the flow and the more effective you are in directing it. Use your energetic healing chops as frequently as you can. Even when I am in my kitchen I try to still my mind and let Qi/Reiki flow through me and into the food I am preparing. Everything is Reiki, everything is Qi. When I approach life like this everything becomes healing and I get stronger and stronger in my ability to let if flow through me. All things become healing practice.

Combining what I’ve learned:
Acupuncture + Reiki + Medical Qigong

Dr. Qianzhi Wu said very quietly and quickly in Foundations of Chinese Medicine class one dayjamie wu medical qigong that you don’t need the acupuncture needles – they are just a convenience. Anything you can do with an acupuncture needle can be accomplished just as well with energy. It was one four second moment in a single lecture, but I’ve never forgotten it. It might be the one of the most profound moments of my education. I think of every treatment I give as a Reiki/Medical Qigong treatment. Acupuncture needles are just very convenient antennae which focus and transmit Universal Qi. It has made a huge difference in how I treat patients.


The Importance of Teachers

You can read out of a book and learn a thing or two, but being in the presence of great teachers has benefits you can’t get from a printed page. The energetic exchange between teacher and student is vital and has proven impossible to document. It does something to your Qi just to be in their presence. If you’re interested in learning from my two main teachers, Barbara Biro teaches classes in Austin, Texas and Master Li literally teaches around the world, including in Austin.

Being Present

Just as it is vital to be in the presence of a teacher, being in the presence of a healer can have benefits that are hard to explain. As a healer, being completely present for clients/patients creates a much stronger healing experience than a session in which the practitioner is distracted. It takes discipline and practice to learn to quiet the mind and keep it from wandering to either the past or the present. Patients don’t often get this gift from their practitioners. The last stat I read said that on average patients get about three minutes of face time with their health care practitioners. Most of this time is spent with the doctor poring over or making notes in a chart. In energetic medicine, as well as in acupuncture, we spend much more time with the patient. If our minds are still, our hearts are filled with gratitude for the Qi, which we bring to the session and to life, and we are led by our own intuition and training, then our patient has all of our attention and all of our skills focused on them. This dynamic alone gives them a gift of Qi that they may not get anywhere else in their lives.

Just as our own energies are changed and cleansed when we come into the presence of amazing teachers, our clients’ energies are changed and cleansed by coming into our presence when we are in this state of mind. Toward this end, at the end of any healing session I recommend changing your table linens and doing a brief cleansing of your space (I use a tuning fork, some people use a singing bowl, etc.).


Integrate healing information, but let your intuition guide you during a healing session of any kind. Being present and connecting to the Universe (Medical Qigong terminology) or being led by Spirit (Reiki terminology) opens the healer to all of the resources that are available within the stream of Universal Love/Qi/Ki. AOMA trains us well in our healing arts. When you have been practicing a while these become second nature (as opposed to that struggle to recall what you experience during a test!). If you allow your intuition to guide you then the built-in skills and wisdom flow naturally and seamlessly to the benefit of the clients.

No Attachment

We are not healers, we are conduits. I read about a practitioner who would bow to his clients at the end of every session and say, “I release you to your life.” Our job is not to heal anyone, but to present the gift of healing Qi to clients. Detachment from results of our efforts is vital. We cannot take responsibility for another person’s path – our own is responsibility enough! Hoping for a good outcome is kind of like having a hook in someone – we want them to feel better so that we feel better about ourselves as practitioners. There are other motivations of course, but none of them are whole or healthy. Attaching to the results of your efforts is similar to planting a seed and then continually digging it up to see how it’s going. It is counter productive to everyone involved. Let them go. The Universe will care for them better than we could anyway.

About the author:

As the owner of Calhoun Acupuncture & Wellness in Austin, TX, Catherine Calhoun maintains cat calhoun reikian active clinical practice treating patients with conditions such as pain, allergies & respiratory infections, and substance addiction, as well as chronic disorders like arthritis, diabetes, neurological disorders, endocrine disorders, and cardio/circulatory disorders. A certified Usui Reiki practitioner and trainer, she also specializes in relaxation and meditation therapies such as reiki, medical qigong, and guided meditation. Ms. Calhoun is committed to implementing affordable healthcare options using oriental medicine and manages an on-site corporate wellness practice in addition to her private clinical practice. She is the owner and creator of and has instructed at AOMA since 2012.

Download Introduction to  Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine

Topics: acupuncture school, medical qigong, master li junfeng, Dr. Qianzhi Wu, reiki

Energy Medicine: Medical Qigong and Reiki

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Wed, Mar 27, 2013 @ 10:25 AM

I started studying energetic healing almost 20 years ago now. When I first began all of my learning was self-study and experimentation. I got great results on many occasions, but healing sessions always left me tired and in some cases exhausted. It took me a long time to realize this was not normal and that I was giving away my own personal Qi (energy or life force). I quit doing healing work after one particularly draining session that left me so exhausted I didn't recover for several weeks. I knew without being told that this was the wrong way to approach it and that I needed more hands-on guidance. 

When the student is ready the teachers appear.

Evidently it took me some time to be ready because the span between my last exhausting master li junfenghealing session and meeting my teachers was more than 10 years. I enrolled in the master’s program AOMA and started taking Master Li Junfeng's Medical Qigong 1 class. I have to be honest: I hated that first term learning Return to Spring Qigong. I whined, I complained, I griped about how this wasn't learning to heal and was a general pain in the butt for several months. I vowed I was never coming back to his classes, but something kept tugging at my heart and I knew I needed to sign up for Medical Qigong 2. 

I honestly believe Medical Qigong 2 saved my life. My mother-in-law came to live with us that term and she was gravely ill. It took several months to establish home care for her so during that time my girlfriend and I were watching her around the clock. I was extremely sleep deprived and my stress level was a 12 out of 10. Sitting down during that once per week 3-hour class to do the Heart Spirit as One Qigong form was the only time that was just mine and I treasured it. The meditations we did in class opened my heart and my eyes. I went on to Medical Qigong 3 and then audited all of the classes over again several times. 

At some point during the Medical Qigong classes I met Barbara Biro who invited me to her Reiki 1 class. I found that the Reiki principles were very similar to what I was learning in Medical Qigong and that the two reinforced and enhanced each other. 

Reiki versus Medical Qigong

Reiki ('rei' meaning universal and 'ki' which is the Japanese pronunciation of 'Qi') and Medical Qigong have the same root philosophies - the concept that the Qi which animates and enervates everything in this Universe can be directed through the practitioner in such a way that the Qi which flows to the patient can to effect a healing and balancing response in the patient’s body. Master Li emphasized that you let the Qi flow through you so that you are both a recipient of healing and a channel for it. Reiki teaches the same concept, highlighting the need to let Qi flow through the Crown chakra, into the heart and out through the minor chakras in the palms. This profound yet subtle tidbit of information was vital to my own progression as a provider of healing energy and was the piece I had been missing early on in my studies. This is also why it is vital to have a teacher to help you open your own channels so that the Qi of the Universe flows through you: there are things you just can't learn from publications or from the internet. 

The differences between the two are small in many ways and yet significant. 

Medical Qigong 

medical qigongMedical Qigong is one of the oldest branches of traditional Chinese medicine, predating acupuncture by thousands of years. Medical Qigong includes specific physical movements, breathing techniques, and mental imagery that direct the Qi within the body. Ultimately, the practitioner can control the Qi externally to heal others. In China medical qigong is used in hospitals to treat many ailments including tumors, cysts, paraplegia and hemiplegia, muscular atrophy, stress and insomnia, immune deficiency disorders, migraine headaches, and pain.

There are hundreds of forms of qigong and many ways to teach medical qigong, so let me say a few words about Master Li and my training. Before teaching qigong and medical qigong, Master Li was a world-renowned martial arts coach in China and the Philippines. After practicing and teaching wushu for many years he gave up his prestigious career to devote his time to teaching Sheng Zhen Wuji Yuan Gong, the qigong of unconditional love, around the world. So, to say the least, he brings a unique perspective to his teachings.

Master Li emphasizes the need to work on moving your own Qi for quite some time before you can even talk about moving someone else's. It was for this reason that he took us through Return to Spring Qigong in Medical Qigong 1: the physical movements help you learn to move the Qi of your own body. 

Medical Qigong 2 was 50% meditation and 50% subtle movement. This is the beginning of learning to move the Qi of your own body with the mind, heart, and intent. We learned Heart Spirit as One Qigong, which helped me learn to move the Qi with my heart and mind with smaller movements. I also learned stamina, how to expand the Qi in my body with my mind and intentions, and how to connect the Universal Qi. 

Medical Qigong 3 focused on Nine Turns, a form of Qigong that is all about moving the Qi with intent, directing it without moving a muscle. When you can control Qi in this manner with a quiet heart that reaches out to connect to the Universe, you are then ready to use this Universal Qi to help facilitate healing for someone else.


Reiki as compared to Medical Qigong is a strange blend of less stringent, yet more structured training. Reiki training is packaged to appeal to U.S. audience with little time and patience and has that “do it yourself” attitude in many cases. A Reiki Master, who has been through all 3 levels of Reiki, offers the training, often in 1-2 day classes then turns the new practitioners loose on the world. There is no intense training in meditation or in moving the Qi prior to beginning healing sessions and yet it is still a very effective form of healing even in the hands of a neophyte. That said, I see terrific benefits in Reiki.


Reiki has an initiation process called the attunements. The power of these attunements is unmistakable. Once you feel them you know something profound has happened to you even if you don't understand the full implications of them at the time. A Reiki Master gives four attunements during the course of a Reiki training level.

During an attunement the Reiki Master opens the initiate’s Crown chakra and embeds healing symbols into the energetic fields. These act like filters through which the Universal Ki flows during a healing session. I think of them sort of as a stencil or lens, which focuses the Universal Ki into a certain pattern which promotes healing for the recipient. 

Opening to Spirit

Another Reiki emphasis is that we are *instruments* of healing, but we are not the healers. We have no abilities to heal - our job is to be a good conduit for healing energy and to be available to Spirit. We are, before anything else, faithful servants to the Universal Ki. This is very similar to Medical Qigong and reaching to connect with the Universal Love. When you do this, you really can't go wrong. Qi is filtered through you on a one-way street. You never feel depleted because it isn’t your own Qi you are giving away. You are also in far less danger of feeling the effects of someone’s “bad energy” because Qi only flows one way – from the Universe to the practitioner then out from the practitioner to the patient. An additional benefit to this is that the practitioner also gets a dose of healing. I feel energized and balanced after I give a Reiki or Medical Qigong session for this reason.

Structured patterns for treatment

This is something I really appreciate about Reiki that I didn't get from Medical Qigong. Reiki offers the new practitioner very structured patterns to follow during a healing session. I used them very faithfully at first, then found, as I got more familiar with my own intuition that my healing sessions became much more free form. But that initial "safety blanket" was extremely comforting and gave me something solid to lean on until I was able to stand on my own. 


Master Li spoke of Masters such as Quan Yin, Lao Tsu, Jesus, Hanuman, and Mohammed coming to him to give him new forms of Qigong to bring to humanity. Dude gets the big guns for sure! Reiki speaks of meeting your own guides. During my Reiki training sessions I was taken through a guided meditation in which I met my non-corporeal Reiki Master to whom I still go for guidance. I was taught how to find this Master and how to approach “him” (“he” doesn’t really have a gender, but has a definite masculine energy). I met my Reiki guides as well, many of whom will rotate in and out of my healing sessions depending on the abilities and energies needed by my patient at that moment.

Reiki levels and symbols

There are distinct levels of Reiki. Reiki 1 emphasizes hands-on healing and requires light physical touch or very, very near proximity to the patient to send healing energy. Reiki 2 teaches practitioners the art of distance healing and greatly boosts the level of Qi that can be channeled by the practitioner. Reiki students in the 2nd level learn to use specific symbols to boost focus the flow of Qi and to send Reiki over distances great and small. Reiki 3 is the Master/Teacher level. Students at this level learn the attunement process as well as the Master symbol which is used to attune/initiate others into the various levels of Reiki.

Once the symbols are embedded in a practitioner’s energy field they are there for life (maybe longer since certain types of energy carry over from incarnation to incarnation), even if the recipient doesn’t use them for a very long time.


Reiki places a strong emphasis on gratitude for those who came before us – our energetic ancestors. Part of the Reiki training is learning and reciting the lineage as much as possible, thanking these ancestors for passing the gift of Reiki on to us. This has shaped my thinking about healing quite a lot. I begin each day by saying thank you to Mikio Usui Sensei, the man who brought Reiki to us, to Masters Hayashi, Takata, and Furomoto. I thank Barbara Biro for taking the time to teach me even when I was skeptical and rolling my eyes over the seemingly new agey-ness of it all. Over time I have found I was including Master Li, Dr. Yuxia Qiu, Dr. Qianzhi Wu, and Dr. Yan He (and most recently Dr. Mikio Sankey) who have taught me things about Qi and transmitting Qi that I could not have learned without them. My heart is filled with gratitude to my teachers every day and I send them healing and blessing often.

Doing this puts me in a terrific mood and has the side effect of making me a better practitioner and conduit for Universal Ki/Love. It’s a great Qi cleanser!


cat calhoun medical qigongAbout the author:

As the owner of Calhoun Acupuncture & Wellness in Austin, TX, Catherine Calhoun maintains an active clinical practice treating patients with conditions such as pain, allergies & respiratory infections, and substance addiction, as well as chronic disorders like arthritis, diabetes, neurological disorders, endocrine disorders, and cardio/circulatory disorders. A certified Usui Reiki practitioner and trainer, she also specializes in relaxation and meditation therapies such as reiki, medical qigong, and guided meditation. Ms. Calhoun is committed to implementing affordable healthcare options using oriental medicine and manages an on-site corporate wellness practice in addition to her private clinical practice. She is the owner and creator of and has instructed at AOMA since 2012.

Download Introduction to  Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine

Topics: medical qigong, qigong, master li junfeng, reiki

Sheng Zhen Qigong with Master Li Junfeng

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Tue, Dec 18, 2012 @ 10:59 AM

Master Li Junfeng is the founder and principal teacher of Sheng Zhen Wuji Yuan Gong, knownMaster Li Junfeng as the qigong of unconditional love. Master Li tours the US, Canada, Asia, and Europe throughout the year sharing his wisdom, his understanding, his love. He has taught in more than 20 countries and has been teaching medical qigong at AOMA since 2002.


In this video, Master Li Junfeng demonstrates the first qigong technique of this series, a movement that begins every Sheng Zhen Qigong practice. You can follow along at home. In addition to the physical fitness benefits of most exercise routines (improved circulation, weight loss, etc.) Sheng Zhen Qigong also offers mental and spiritual benefits such as stress relief, a calm mind, and an ability to handle stressful or painful situations.

Topics: medical qigong, qigong, master li junfeng

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