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Thread: Qigong with animals

  1. #1
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    Qigong with animals

    Many qigong practitioners comment on how when qigong is practiced properly, animals respond. I have noticed that in my own personal practice, pets will attend, cats in particular. I've only had limited experiences like this in the wild.



    Managing stress with Equine-imity


    Beverly Kane, M.D.Beverley Kane, MD, is adjunct clinical assistant professor of medicine at Stanford Medical School, the instructor for Medical Tai Chi, and the program director for Stanford Medicine and Horsemanship. Dr. Kane’s private practice is Horsensei Equine-Assisted Learning and Therapy (HEALTH). One of her programs, Equine-imity Somatic Horsemanship, offered through the Stanford Health Improvement Program, teaches “moving meditation” based upon the ancient Chinese practice of qigong (“chee goong"). Equine-imity uses the qigong method of regulating posture, breathing, and muscle tension in partnership with horses. BeWell spoke with Dr. Kane to learn more about how equine-imity can relieve stress and heighten mental and emotional composure.

    Can you tell us a little bit about Equine-imity Somatic Horsemanship as a stress management technique?

    Equine-imity is a play on “equanimity,” which means mental and emotional composure, especially in stressful circumstances. All stress management techniques have in common the attempt to regulate potentially pathological somatic (bodily) responses to stress. Physiologically, our bodies tend to over-respond to stress. We are wired to perceive life or death threats in minor disturbances. The human nervous system has failed to completely evolve out of the fight, flight, or faint responses from our cave days. A minor event, like a fender-bender, can cause the adrenal glands to respond as if the body is being attacked by a saber-toothed tiger. An exaggerated stress reaction results in overproduction of adrenalin and stress hormones, causing high blood pressure, angina (cardiac-based chest pains), and arrhythmias — including racing heart (tachycardia). Stress also causes increased secretion of stomach acid, headaches, skin rashes, and impaired immunity to viruses and other infections.

    Equine-imity is unique in combining the stress-relieving abilities of horses with techniques from medical qigong ("chee-goong”) to regulate posture, breathing, and muscle tension. Qigong is an ancient Chinese practice for maintaining health through circulating qi using the breath. Qi, older spelling chi, has been translated as energy, although it is not a measurable energy like calories, pressure, and volts. Anyone who has done yoga will be familiar with the concept of “prana,” which is qi in Sanskrit. Qigong is similar to tai ji (less accurately spelled tai chi), but more gentle. Archeological evidence suggests that the origins of qigong lie in ancient shamanic dances depicted in the pottery of the Yangshao and Majiayao Cultures of Northern China (5,000-3,000 BCE). In 2005, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, one of 27 agencies that make up the U.S. National Institutes of Health, validated qigong as a modality of energy medicine.

    Equine-imity also draws on the growing field of ecotherapy, or nature-based therapy. As part of stress reduction, the class also emphasizes emotional self-regulation and recovery from episodic extremes of emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness.

    … but you haven’t mentioned the horses yet!
    How are the horses incorporated into the process?

    Equine-imity group classes and appointments are conducted at a 300-acre ranch 10 minutes from campus. Coming into the ranch is itself an ecotherapeutic experience. Being outdoors on the land is a radical departure from indoor office environments of steel, glass, computers and stale or recirculated air. Equine-imity partners with a herd of 10–14 horses who are gentle and well-socialized, but not overly conditioned to human expectations (like pet cats and dogs).

    After touch-in, in which the person can talk about his or her stress in as much or as little detail as s/he cares to, we do our qigong exercises in preparation for going out among the horses. The exercises begin with awareness of what is going on in the body in that moment. Awareness without judgment is the first step. Then we perform simple breathing, grounding, and centering exercises, using principles from medical qigong.

    The remainder of the class is devoted to observing, meeting, touching, and breathing with the various horses who volunteer for the relationship on any given day. This will vary from day to day, horse to horse, and person to person. The horses have their own moods and rhythms and most have a sixth sense for whom to relate to and how.

    Is there something special about horses that make them an especially useful aid for reducing stress?

    Horses are ideal for teaching us how to live in our bodies. They are social creatures who readily and honestly respond to the challenges inherent in forming and sustaining relationships. Their survival as individuals and as a species has depended on their living in a constant state of heightened awareness while not holding on to emotions and tension after the immediate disturbance has subsided. Unlike our family cats and dogs, who evolved as predators and are now highly domesticated, horses evolved as prey animals and remain characteristically feral1 even in the captivity of our barns and pastures.

    Two characteristics of horses stand out as contributing to the core teaching of Equine-imity. Most importantly, when a perceived threat, often just a fluttering plastic bag, is removed, horses go back to grazing contentedly. “Back to grazing” — letting go of stress quickly — is a key principle of Equine-imity and discussed at length in the syllabus. One of the qigong techniques we teach, a somatic exercise derived from equine-assisted EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), is specifically designed to help participants go back to grazing.

    Secondly, the horse’s physiology can directly affect the human body. Whereas an anxious human can have a heart rate of up to 100 or more, the resting heart rate of the horse is 40. In exercises called the dan tien (energy center, core) press and the dan tien hug, participants in physical contact with, or even just close proximity to, the horse can entrain to the horse’s lower heart rate. In the dan tien hug, the participant is also taught to breathe with the horse, who naturally breathes into her belly (dan tien, or diaphragmatic, breathing) and not high (forward) in her chest.
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
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  2. #2
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    Continued from previous post

    What kinds of results can a person expect from practicing the technique?

    The American Psychological Association cites data showing that stress costs American businesses almost $300 billion per year from absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity, and medical, legal, and insurance costs. Thus, there is a great deal to be gained by stress management skills and practices.

    Stress reduction interventions have been proven to prevent and alleviate physical and mental illness. Following the 1975 publication of Harvard physician Herbert Benson’s classic, The Relaxation Response, which examined Transcendental Meditation, medical research has established the stress-relieving and disease prevention capabilities of several forms of meditation and relaxation. The 2013 book, The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi, extensively documents research proving the health benefits of tai ji and qigong. Results include lowered blood pressure, decreased cortisol (a stress hormone), and improved scores on mental health measures of anxiety, depression, and cognitive function.

    Anecdotally, students who have taken Equine-imity report relief from stress that carries over from the ranch to work and domestic life. They are also able to re-establish balance during times of emotional distress.

    Is this technique better for some people than others, or can anyone benefit from it?

    Qigong is a moving meditation. It has special appeal for those who have difficulty becoming motionless and clearing their minds as required in traditional forms of sitting meditation. Those with exceptionally active minds and jobs that rely primarily on intellectual skills, as is typical of Stanford and other Silicon Valley employees, often prefer moving meditation. Qigong uses the mind to direct coordinated breathing and muscle activity in smooth, gentle, flowing motions. So rather than still the “monkey mind,” as it’s called in Zen philosophy, the mind is given a more complex motor task to do.

    Using the mind-body connection in this way is identical to training an overexcited, restless, or distracted horse. We cannot calm such a large animal by confining him or by trying to pull him to a stop. Instead, we redirect his mind and his energy into a task, such as controlled running in circles or trotting over poles, that provides a focus and a goal. Qigong provides a focus and a goal by using mind and body in disciplined yet fluid movements — just like the horse.

    Qigong is also preferred as a gentler, less contorted activity for those who have difficulty with yoga poses and stretches. It is also a good adjunct activity to yoga, Mindfulness Based Stress reduction, and sports.

    Should this technique be avoided by people who have a fear of horses, or can it be used to help them get over their fears?

    Many people who come to Equine-imity are intimidated by horses or have had a traumatic experience with horses in the past. Even seasoned horse professionals retain a healthy respect for these imposing animals. However, the purpose of Equine-imity is not to get over fear of horses. If a person is afraid to the point of being phobic, the stress reduction benefits of Equine-imity will probably be lost. Now, having said that, we have had a few people who were fearful of horses and who, by approaching the activities gradually, were able to shed their fears by the end of class.

    Unfortunately, not everyone will have access to horses. Can similar effects be derived from other animals?

    There is a larger, umbrella field of animal-assisted therapy that includes, for instance, bringing cats and dogs into nursing homes. Many animals, even household pets such as hamsters and goldfish, produce a relaxing effect on their human companions. Some people are endeared to snakes and rats. However, cats and dogs are predators, with a different psychology from horses. And they are generally socialized around human schedules, city ordinances like leash laws, and human aesthetics for where and when they are allowed to eat and eliminate. Horses that live in pastures, like the Equine-imity herds, are as close to a feral, natural herd as one can encounter. They relate honestly and on their own terms.

    The availability of horses is more universal than one would think. With 9.2 million non-feral horses in the United States, and 45 states with at least 20,000 each, most people (even in New York City) live within 30 minutes of a backyard horse, a horse boarding facility, or an equine-assisted learning and psychotherapy center.

    … any final thoughts?

    I would like to see us establish a medical qigong program at Stanford, such as has been done at other major medical centers such as the University of Maryland, the Mayo Clinic Health System, and UCSF’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. Qigong research performed in three major medical centers in Beijing, especially as integrative therapy for various cancers, has also been promising and would justify such an endeavor. Anyone with the skills and interest in creating such a program should contact me: bkane1@stanford.edu or 650-868-3379.

    _________________
    1 There are technically no “wild” horses in the Western Hemisphere. All equines in the New World descended from those introduced by, and escaped, from the 15th and 16th century explorers and missionaries such as Columbus, Cortez, Ponce de Leon, and Coronado. The correct term for these horses is “feral.” The last remaining species of true wild horse is the Przewalkski (sha-vahl’-skee) horse of Mongolia.
    This is happening right across the bay at Stanford.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  3. #3
    I've done qigong surrounded by grazing wild boar and by fallow deer. The latter were already pretty tame, but boar usually stay far away from people unless they've mixed genes with domestic pigs.

    Dogs on the other hand (and some people) think it looks freaky. They react like they just saw a giant lizard.

    I also got attacked by a hornet while doing qigong. The rest of the nest were nearby but only one hornet dive bombed me like a kamikaze.


    If animals see you in the same place every day and you never bother them... they go about their business like you weren't there. Sometimes anyhow.
    Last edited by rett2; 04-08-2016 at 10:07 AM.

  4. #4
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    I practice a modality called Reconnective Healing, which is different from qigong, but I've noticed that many animals respond to it in interesting ways. A friend/mentor of mine, along with another practitioner, used to visit the zoo and surreptitiously direct healing energy towards various animals. It does not matter if there is a wall, safety glass, or distance between them. Quite often, even if the animals were initially hidden from view, after a short time they'd often pop their heads up, staring right towards them, then amble right on over and stare at them through the glass. They either remain immobile except for an occasional twitch, or lie down right there. When the animals have had enough, they simply turn and walk away. She's worked with all types of animals, but used to lead a special program dealing with formerly abused horses.

    As far as animals go, I've only really had experience with a friend's cats. They often respond dramatically to it.

    Once while working on a client at my home, a crow slammed hard into a window right behind me. The blinds were closed. Luckily the bird flew away uninjured. I never work on clients in my home except for that one exception. No crow had ever hit that big window before or since; plus, the blinds were completely closed. It wasn't as if the crow couldn't have seen the barrier there. The client himself later mentioned he thought it was related to the session; he felt the crow had been drawn to the energy.
    Last edited by Jimbo; 04-08-2016 at 11:20 AM.

  5. #5
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    Animals do prefer a human being when they are vibrating at a steady frequency.

    We think them still, the know us to be chaotic and when we aren't, they're like "finally, the human is chill".

    Kung Fu is good for you.

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    Wow, great thread. I did notice that pets, such as cats like to attend during qigong sessions. the cat likes to sit by my feet when I do qigong. dogs seem to appreciate it too but more at a distance.

    I have had deer walk up to me several times in nature for instance if I am sitting on a rock. even happened one time when I was walking. coyotes will leer from a distance, maybe sniff and look, **** their heads and go about their business. I think animals know how to "read" people's energetic intention and will act accordingly. they know if you are a bad person or a good person if they cross your path, get wind of you, etc. it would be nice to get more in touch with what the animals are saying, though, such as when a coyote stops and looks at you. I still need to learn that part.

    I suppose I have even had birds such as robbins swoop from branch to branch on shrubs on the side of trails while walking- they seemed to be playfully enjoying my company. they would wait for me to catch up and swoop up to the next branch to perch themselves. years ago-- up in the hills in one area these large turkey vultures (they are the size of hawks/ eagles) would swoop down at me. after many encounters like that I eventually tracked down where their nest was, maybe half a mile away. I found one of their feathers at the base of the tree. I took it. Next time the turkey vultures harassed me I held up the feather so they could see it and they flew away. this was some years ago, maybe even almost 10 years ago. I still see them in that area today, except that they leave me alone. if they fly overhead they do not harass me anymore.

  7. #7
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    continued...

    Quote Originally Posted by MarathonTmatt View Post
    Wow, great thread. I did notice that pets, such as cats like to attend during qigong sessions. the cat likes to sit by my feet when I do qigong. dogs seem to appreciate it too but more at a distance.

    I have had deer walk up to me several times in nature for instance if I am sitting on a rock. even happened one time when I was walking. coyotes will leer from a distance, maybe sniff and look, **** their heads and go about their business. I think animals know how to "read" people's energetic intention and will act accordingly. they know if you are a bad person or a good person if they cross your path, get wind of you, etc. it would be nice to get more in touch with what the animals are saying, though, such as when a coyote stops and looks at you. I still need to learn that part.

    I suppose I have even had birds such as robbins swoop from branch to branch on shrubs on the side of trails while walking- they seemed to be playfully enjoying my company. they would wait for me to catch up and swoop up to the next branch to perch themselves. years ago-- up in the hills in one area these large turkey vultures (they are the size of hawks/ eagles) would swoop down at me. after many encounters like that I eventually tracked down where their nest was, maybe half a mile away. I found one of their feathers at the base of the tree. I took it. Next time the turkey vultures harassed me I held up the feather so they could see it and they flew away. this was some years ago, maybe even almost 10 years ago. I still see them in that area today, except that they leave me alone. if they fly overhead they do not harass me anymore.
    Also, the turkey vultures are good to have around. they do like to swoop down not just at other animals but at people as well (to harass them or in hopes of an easy meal). I thought about it and since coming to an mutual understanding with these birds, they are a good resource to tip me off if anyone else may be in the area up in the hills. I even found a bird-stone next to an old quarry pit and placed it in a rock cairn I made. There is a beautiful hawk in that area as well, although I see less of this bird.

    One time at a Powwow when an elder was speaking (like this: "I am the sun, I am the gust of wind, I am the shade that gives shelter in the trees...") two eagles flew overhead. That's how you know someone is talking from a very high place. And not everyone noticed the birds.

    Another time at another ceremonial grounds during a powwow I noticed an eagle flying overhead. I informed an elder that "we have a visitor." My elder got the ceremonies, such as the drum group, to temporarily stop the ceremonies. Everybody got up from what they were doing to watch (and pray) as the Eagle flew overhead, blessing the grounds until it disappeared.

    Furthermore, as I said above, it would be nice to have a better idea of what the coyote's are saying when they make an appearance. The only time I recall actually communicating and holding a conversation with an animal was way back when I was in high school. I had a conversation with the family cat. He was using telepathy or something similar- he was speaking some kind of universal language yet I was able to understand him in English (my primary language.) I only remember bits and pieces of the conversation but he was reading my thoughts and responding to them (I had stopped in to see how he was doing.) All I can say is treat a cat well and they are very loyal animals to have around. The vibrations they emit when purring are also beneficial to humans if they are lying over your chest, for instance. I think there is a good reason why the Egyptians bred them. They even found a mummified bobcat in a mississipian mound in the united states.

    Being able to communicate with these animals such as coyotes, bears, birds, etc. and understanding what they are telling us is important but will be a lot of work. to do so I would have to live out in the bush 24/7 probably, which just isn't the reality of my situation right now.

  8. #8
    It's not always peaceful vibes... Training yesterday I heard a sound like hefty pieces of dried bamboo being clonked together. Two fallow deer were locking antlers a bit too close by, really close actually. A larger buck stood alongside and watched. It seemed like playful sparring between youngsters; at least at first. The next time I looked one of the young bucks' legs had given way and he was skidding along the ground on his belly, being pushed backwards through the fallen leaves. He extricated himself dodging a lunge while wobbling up. They locked antlers a few more times but his opponent wasn't about to leave it a draw, and kept testing ways to go around to the left and right. He finally got around the weaker animal from the side and scooped him up under the abdomen with his antlers, actually lifting him. I thought a prong in the antlers might gut him. Finally the stronger buck flung the weaker one over a large mossy rock. The loser ran off. Even now the winner wasn't content with making him flee (as they usually are) but pursued him as far as I could see. Okay, I thought, back to training form
    Last edited by rett2; 10-31-2017 at 06:20 AM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by rett2 View Post
    It's not always peaceful vibes... Training yesterday I heard a sound like hefty pieces of dried bamboo being clonked together. Two fallow deer were locking antlers a bit too close by, really close actually. A larger buck stood alongside and watched. It seemed like playful sparring between youngsters; at least at first. The next time I looked one of the young bucks' legs had given way and he was skidding along the ground on his belly, being pushed backwards through the fallen leaves. He extricated himself dodging a lunge while wobbling up. They locked antlers a few more times but his opponent wasn't about to leave it a draw, and kept testing ways to go around to the left and right. He finally got around the weaker animal from the side and scooped him up under the abdomen with his antlers, actually lifting him. I thought a prong in the antlers might gut him. Finally the stronger buck flung the weaker one over a large mossy rock. The loser ran off. Even now the winner wasn't content with making him flee (as they usually are) but pursued him as far as I could see. Okay, I thought, back to training form
    Ah... cool story. Right now is the mating season for deers. They will get very competitive. It is amazing how much abuse an animal can take and have the ability to just shake it off.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by MarathonTmatt View Post
    Ah... cool story. Right now is the mating season for deers. They will get very competitive. It is amazing how much abuse an animal can take and have the ability to just shake it off.
    They are amazing to see and be around while training for all kinds of reasons. Even when the bucks are too close for comfort this time of year it oddly helps make a good frame of mind for training form.

    Carl Jung writing of animals...

    Because they are so closely akin to us and share our unknowingness, I loved all warm-blooded animals who have souls like ourselves and with whom, so I thought, we have an instinctive understanding. We experience joy and sorry, love and hate, hunger and thirst, fear and trust in common -- all the essential features of existence with the exception of speech, sharpened consciousness and science. And although I admired science in the conventional way, I also saw it giving rise to alienation and aberration from God's world, as leading to a degeneration which animals were not capable of. Animals were dear and faithful, unchanging and trustworthy. People I now distrusted more than ever.

  11. #11
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    Slightly OT

    This one has little to do with qigong and animals specifically but I felt it was worth posting here somewhere.

    University of Calgary senior instructor killed in suspected bear attack near Waiparous
    Dave Dormer
    CTVNewsCalgary.ca Digital Producer
    @dave_dormer Contact

    Published Wednesday, May 5, 2021 8:45AM MDT
    Last Updated Thursday, May 6, 2021 9:22AM MDT

    CALGARY -- The University of Calgary community is mourning the loss of a senior instructor called "a friend to all, and brother to many."

    Dr. David Lertzman was killed Tuesday in a suspected bear attack while out jogging near his home in Waiparous, Alta., northwest of Calgary.

    Cochrane RCMP was notified of a missing person just before midnight Tuesday when Lertzman's wife called to say he had gone for a run about 6 p.m. and not returned. A search was then launched involving a helicopter and a police dog.

    Just after 2 a.m. Wednesday, he was found deceased just off Moss Trail, which has been closed while officials investigate.

    Lertzman was a senior instuctor at the University of Calgary and talked about his love for the outdoors in a video posted online April 21.

    "I'm greeting you from the eastern slopes of Canada's Rocky Mountains in southern Alberta," says the bearded Letzman, who is wearing a tuque and standing in a snow-covered forest.

    He says he works in the field of "sustainability, leadership development and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples."

    "I'm also a long-term martial arts practitioner, Qigong, and meditation instructor," he said.

    "This is my temple, it's the dojo," he added, motioning to the trees around him. "Folks, if you have a dream, if you have the drive, the determination, sincere questing spirit, fierceness and the humility, this is the place to do it. You can achieve just about anything."

    Dr. Jim Dewald, dean of the Haskane School of Business, called Lertzman "a friend to all, and a brother to many."

    "David was a valued senior instructor who had worked with Haskayne since 2000, but truly he was so much more. He was our spiritual leader, our Indigenous connection and our sustainability hero," he said.

    Lertzman had led a wilderness retreat since 2004, described as "a week-long leadership immersive experience in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains that has been transformational for many Haskayne School of Business students."

    He was so dedicated to the retreat that Lertzman spent around 100 hours creating an experience that could be shared over Zoom during the pandemic.

    "At the wilderness retreat, Lertzman focused on leadership topics in the larger context of sustainability, helping students clarify their core values, sense of purpose and call to service as leader," read a statement from the university.

    "He was deeply committed to ii’ taa’poh’to'p, UCalgary’s Indigenous Strategy. He brought to the forefront the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, particularly resolution 92 — the role that business has to play in healing the past. Haskayne students learned in his classroom from the survivors of the residential school system and UCalgary benefited from his close relationships with local elders."

    The UCalgary flag is being lowered on campus on Thursday to honour Lertzman.


    Alberta Fish and Wildlife is working with RCMP and the medical examiner's office to determine the cause of death. Wildlife officers are also searching for the bear.

    Kyle Juneau, a fish and wildlife inspector, said this can be a dangerous time of year in terms of human-wildlife conflict.

    "It's springtime and we all know in this area bears are plentiful, grizzly bears, black bears, the spring is especially dangerous, they're hungry, they're out of the den," he said.

    "They're wandering to where they had food last fall."

    Should the bear be captured, Juneau said a decision will be made about its fate.

    "Capturing the bear, relocating, euthanizing, all the options will be weighed out but it's too early to tell what we're dealing with," he said.

    "Is it a male bear? Is it a female bear with cubs? All of those things we refer back to our matrix and consult with our biologists and make the appropriate decisions then."

    Waiparous Creek is about 70 kilometres northwest of Calgary.

    Dangerous wildlife can be reported through the 24-hour Report-A-Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800.

    With files from CTV Calgary's Kevin Fleming


    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by GeneChing View Post
    This one has little to do with qigong and animals specifically but I felt it was worth posting here somewhere.
    That's why I bring my kung fu spear when there's a problem-bear in the area. The thing is on that side of the border you risk a $10000 fine if you kill the bear, so you have them them play with the tassel a bit to see if they are serious. Probably not what the tassel was ever intended for...

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