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by Lee Holden
Sounds True, 2010
Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D. on Aug 13th 2013
Lee Holden is a highly respected instructor of several Eastern modalities, including Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and meditation. In this DVD, Holden offers two 40-minute Qi Gong practices intended for use in the morning and in the evening. The exercises in these workouts are designed to release qi (energy) in the body and thus to produce both increased energy and decreased stress.
The Main Menu of the DVD offers the options of Play All -- AM Workout -- PM Workout -- Behind the Scenes. For both workouts, Holden is featured alone in an indoor studio, exercising barefoot and teaching via voiceover. Sometimes Holden provides names for the exercise, with the names appearing on screen, sometimes not. No props are necessary for these workouts, which I have described in greater detail below.
AM WORKOUT (42 minutes)
In his 2.5 minute Introduction, Holden states that the purpose of this all-standing practice is to start the day with energy as well as to calm the mind. He also notes that the exercises include build a calm foundation and increase power and strength in the lower body. Holden begins with about 7-8 minutes of focus on the breath; this section includes Knocking on the Doors of Heaven. The first flowing stretch is Moon Over Lake; continued flowing stretches center more on the lower body. Holden also incorporates self-massage, first by rubbing and tapping the palms and later by incorporating larger areas of the body. Other flowing movements include Fountain and Fireworks. This practice ends with Embracing the Tree, Centering, and gently rocking and swaying to feel the qi throughout the body.
PM WORKOUT (41.5 minutes)
In his short (2 minute) Introduction to this practice, Holden explains that this routine is intended to help end the day free from stress and to prepare the body for sleep. To do this, the practice starts with deep breathing, moves into deeper stretches, and then continues with mindful flowing movements. As promised, Holden starts the routine with deep breaths and spinal breathing, allowing this breathwork to move through the entire body. Water Waves continues the gentle opening, but then Holden begins the stretching with Dog Wagging the Body (a side stretch), neck circles, and wrist circles. He performs both massage and tapping on the hamstrings and calves from a standing forward bend position and then rises up for a long sequence of neck stretches. At this point, Holden moves into more flowing movements to gather qi, starting with a series of wave flows and continuing with several variations of swimming dragon. After shaking out the body, Holden performs another flow with sounding ("haa") and then continues the upper body qi flows, ending with Pushing the Clouds, Baby Bird Learning to Fly, and Pulling Down the Sky. He concludes with one additional sounding move ("hee") to foster a good night's sleep and then ends the practice with Centering and Bamboo in the Wind.
I have previously used some of the Qi Gong workouts in Holden's "Exercise to Heal" collection, but I found him a bit more difficult to follow in these practices. Although he mirror cues, his cuing was not always in sync with his on screen demonstration. Furthermore, I would have appreciated more detail about how to perform some of the movements--instead, I frequently found myself straining to look at the screen in a vain attempt to copy the unfamiliar exercises. Finally, although I liked the idea of having practices designed for morning and night, the 40-minute length seemed too long for this purpose. I did prefer the PM practice, as I found the more intense stretches in the first half of that routine to be more relaxing.
This DVD might work best for those who are pre-existing Lee Holden fans and/or those who use Qi Gong for their primary source of exercise. I believe that others might be somewhat disappointed for the reasons I have noted above.
© 2013 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.