New Series – Relax and Release with Longevity Yoga

20111011_031Would you like to open and breath more fully, increase circulation, reduce tension and connect with deep relaxation?

Join us in learning this accessible and deeply effective practice to reach you goals for better health and well-being!

This series is an in-depth exploration of the Longevity Yoga practice. In these sessions we will learn all of the postures of the basic practice set in detail. Beginners will be introduced to the core principles of LY, including proper positioning, working without strain, how to open breathing, how to release physical tension, and more.

More experienced students will have an opportunity to get individual feedback and dive more deeply into core principles including positional and transitional circularity, deeper physical alignments, and hallmarks of connective tissue/nervous system release.

Questions? email

When:      Tuesdays, 7:30 – 8:30, November 8 – December 20, 2016

Where:    Cambridge Health Associates, 335 Broadway, Cambridge (parking lot avail)

Cost:        $105 for 7 week series, register here

Smooth Sailing for the Summer

Summer Series20111011_166

We’re continuing our series of classes exploring Longevity Yoga and Qigong fundamentals to promote healthy breathing patterns, and to stretch and open the body for your own personal optimal circulation and flexibility. We will learn exercises and postures that are accessible and efficient for feeling internally, developing energy in the body, and for clearing blockages that impede its flow. Learn skills that leave you feeling progressively more relaxed, renewed and calm, and empower you internally to achieve better health!

Classes held at Cambridge Health Associates, 335 Broadway, Cambridge

Contact for more info

*Spring Class Series*

Breathe, Expand and Energize

Move into Spring..IMG_0125

Increase health and vitality with Longevity Yoga & Qigong fundamentals. In this class we learn simple and accessible postures and exercises that open and stretch the body, and result in better breathing, circulation, stress relief and energy. Beginners will be introduced to foundation principles of body positioning, Longevity Breathing and movement. More advanced practitioners will have an opportunity delve more deeply into core principles including alignments, internal coordination and nervous system release.

Classes held at Cambridge Health Associates, 335 Broadway, Cambridge

Mondays:  7:45 – 9:00 PM , April 11 – May 23, 2016

Cost:  $110.00 for seven week series, register below:

For more information email


New Class! Refresh and Restore Your Chi

Craig-DT-3-199x300We are excited to host senior Energy Arts instructor Craig Barnes to kick off our new series of classes!

Click here for details In this 7 week series, the first class, taught by Craig, will cover essential principles using standing qigong and circling hands;  subsequent classes, taught by Katie, will continue to explore these principles through standing qigong, circling hands, and Longevity Yoga postures.

This session is open to students at all levels, and is especially relevant to human service workers – bodyworkers, acupuncturists, nurses, psychotherapists, physical therapists, spa and salon workers, teachers etc –  looking for self-care tools to stay grounded and refreshed throughout the workday.

Tuesdays, April 28 – June 9, 2015 at Cambridge Health Associates, 335 Broadway, Cambridge

Pre-registration is required, click here for more information and to register

Energetic and Spiritual Fitness

Over the last six months, we’ve seen a lot of press about mindfulness and meditation (most recently TIME Magazine’s cover story, The Mindful Revolution). From school children to athletes to military personnel, mindful meditation has become a popular practice in society today. Meditation, in its many forms, is a vast territory to explore in terms of level of skill, technique and result. We benefit from the ancient traditions that developed a profound understanding of the mind and spirit, and how to transform the individual. The Taoists in particular recognized the importance of developing a strong foundation to seriously enter the path of meditation. The Taoist practice of yoga was essential to building this foundation.

20111011_151 - Version 2“If you want to develop the spiritual side of yourself, the Taoists consider that energetic fitness is paramount in providing the necessary foundation. They point out that you don’t construct a building from the top down; you start at the ground and work your way up.First you must become healthy and have a stable, coherent mind and emotions. Then you are ready to advance to deeper aspects, or spiritual fitness through Taoist meditation. Before you can get to the core of your soul, you need to have cleared away enough blockages in your physical, emotional and mental bodies. This is the key to having strong and balanced chi running through your system, which is the purpose of Longevity Breathing yoga. If you embark on a spiritual path before this, you can get stuck in some mental or emotional processes that can unravel and confuse your energy system for a long time. You could end up metaphorically spending thousands of hours trying to mentally process an energetic jumble running amok inside you. In most cases instead you could do Longevity Breathing yoga exercises for 100 hours and save yourself a lot of wasted time and unnecessary grief.”  -Bruce Frantzis, Longevity Breathing Yoga, Mediation from the Inside Out

Neigong, Taoist Yoga and The Importance of Finding a Good Teacher

What is Neigong?

Neigong is the most complete version of the Taoist approach to working with chi in the body and is at the core of qigong, tai chi and Taoist yoga practices. In this 16-part system that moves from the simple to the complex, students learn to become aware of, and directly affect, all of the subtle energy flows that power an individual’s physical body, emotions and thought patterns.

This detailed system is usually not taught to beginning students. While some aspects of neigong may be accessible to beginners, most aspects are more complex and may take many years to develop. Any stage of learning neigong is very rewarding, as well as extremely beneficial for increasing physical health and well-being. (Bruce Frantzis, Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body)

How does this fit in with Taoist Longevity Yoga?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn Taoist Longevity Yoga we use Longevity Breathing exercises to access the breath, feel our insides and connect the breath within the body, an early aspect of the neigong system. In this process we pay attention to the nuances of our own particular breathing pattern and learn how to relax and open the breath more deeply in the body. Longevity Breathing in and of itself becomes an ever more complex practice for advanced students to create longer and more precise breathing patterns.

In Taoist Longevity Yoga, we also work with specific postures to relax and open the body. Longevity Breathing exercises bring us in tune with how our body feels, and in the postures of Taoist Longevity Yoga, we work with that awareness to feel obvious and subtle aspects of the physical body. Advanced study of Taoist Longevity Yoga provides students the opportunity to delve into neigong in detail.

The study of Neigong

The neigong system is not necessarily, linear, and is more accurately described as circular. Beginning students touch upon aspects of  neigong, more advanced students visit and re-visit these same aspects with an increasing depth of understanding and skill. (Frantzis, Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body). Most Westerners are accustomed to “linear” learning, and as a result we may attach significance to reaching particular points of external achievement, and there is often a distinct separation between individuals who have and have not reached these milestones. In the Taoist approach, students are encouraged to move at their own pace, take responsibility for themselves, and gauge their internal process, and it is possible that students in a class will have a mix of depth of skill in various aspects of neigong.

The importance of finding a good teacher

If you decide to explore neigong within the practice of Taoist yoga, tai chi or qigong , it is essential to work with a well-trained instructor. Reading and audio-visual material are an excellent aid to your practice, but it’s important to keep in mind that they do not take the place of a teacher. Bruce Frantzis discusses the importance of a good teacher in his book “Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body” :

“Generally, the components of neigong are not casually taught, especially for beginning and intermediate students. The techniques should be learned from a skilled instructor and the student’s practice should be monitored and guided carefully….the danger with incomplete learning is that you can become unbalanced.

The job of your instructor is to make sure that you do not.

Instructors must do their best to make sure:

    • Students’ energy remains smooth and does not become hyperactive
    • Students avoid dangerous practices
    • Students avoid addiction to over-stimulation
    • Students abide by the 70% rule
    • Students maintain clarity of mind

(Bruce Frantzis, “Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body“, pp.240-241)

In addition to tai chi, qigong and Taoist yoga instruction, these guidelines are helpful to keep in mind when looking for a teacher of yoga, meditation, or any other in-depth body/mind system.

The study of Taoist arts, including Taoist Longevity Yoga, at even the very beginning stages, is extremely beneficial in creating better health and vitality. Engaging in the process is also fun and relaxing, and provides the opportunity to get to know others of like interest.



Hatha vs Taoist yoga

“Most people in the west just know about Hatha yoga-very few are aware that China actually had an entire Yoga system. As Indian Hatha yoga was classically a bridge to meditation, Taoist yoga or what we call Longevity Breathing Yoga was a preliminary practice for other Taoist energy arts, including Qigong and the three internal martial arts of Tai Chi, Ba gua and Hsing-i as well as Taoist meditation.”   Bruce Frantzis

Feeling Internally with the Breath

20111011_151 - Version 2There is so much to feeling our internal landscape – tissues, organs, fluids, and the space in between – In TLY, learning to feel inside is foundational, and we start this process with the breath.

Breath is the most useful bridge to the inside of the body and the nervous system. Even though this is something we do every day, most of us don’t use our breathing to its full potential. Chronic pain and emotional stress have a direct connection to the quality of our breathing – conversely, breathing is directly connected to physical ease and deep relaxation on an ongoing basis.

Here’s a simple and interesting exercise you can use to begin exploring your breath. Sit comfortably someplace where you won’t have distractions. See if you can pay attention to the physical feeling of your breath, without forcing it – in other words, let your breathing happen naturally, don’t make it happen – and just observe.

How does it feel? Is it difficult/easy to “find” your breathing? Do you feel tension/relaxation in your breath? What parts of your body move when you breathe? Do you find that you get distracted from feeling the physical movement of your breath? How big does your breath feel? Is the inhale the same length as the exhale? Do you hold your breath in between inhaling and exhaling or vice versa?

When doing this exercise it is common to feel any of the qualities mentioned above, as well as many other subtle or more pronounced sensations. When working with your breathing, it is extremely important to spend time with this exercise, really getting to know the quality of your particular breathing pattern.

Care for the Kidneys

Winter is nearly here, a time of shorter days and focusing inward. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is the season of the element water, and the corresponding organs, the kidneys.  Taoist master Bruce Frantzis recently offered this advice:

“December is coming, do anything you can to build up your kidneys during the winter season and get a lot of rest. The winter is the time of the regeneration of your body for the rest of the year. And I hope the forces of universe bring this opportunity into your life.”

We can use Longevity Breathing Yoga to relax and open our breathing so that each breath provides a gentle massage to the kidneys.  Taking  even a few a few minutes daily to practice the following simple warm-ups and posture can provide significant benefit.

1. Relax the body and “warm up” the breath

Sit comfortably. Let your  whole body, especially the chest and diaphragm, relax and let go. Feel how the front and sides of the belly begin to gently expand as you inhale and relax back as you exhale.  Don’t push your breath, Do let go and let your breath happen naturally. Lay your hands on you belly – see if they move slightly forward as you inhale, and slightly back as you exhale. You can also place your hands on your sides and feel for the same expanding-out and relaxing- in movement.

If you are unfamiliar with Taoist breathing or belly breathing, see the DVD Longevity Breathing and the section on breathing in Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body, both by Bruce Frantzis, for instructions on opening the breath in the front and sides of the belly.

2. Find the kidneys

The kidneys are located in the mid-low back area of the body. Sit comfortably and bring your hands to the area of the kidneys. Gently rub and/or pat this area to awaken the sensation in this part of your body.

3. Warm-up the back

Have  small pillow and a rolled blanket or towel close-by. Lay on your back, with the pillow under your head. Silde the rolled blanket under your lower pelvis so that the pelvis tips back and up slightly as pictured. Adjust the size and placement of your props so that your feel completely comfortable bringing the knees in toward the chest.

Rest in this position allowing the whole back to relax and sink into the floor, letting the back of your body gently open and stretch like a hammock. Spend at least a few minutes here.

4. Open the breath in the kidneys

Roll onto your side to come out of the back warm-up position. Now that we’ve warmed up the breath and the body, we will focus on postures for kidney breathing. Try one or both of these options depending on how comfortable your body feels in each.

Laying down

Lay on your back with your knees in the air and your feet on the floor. Now bring your attention specifically to the kidneys, and this part of the back. As you inhale, feel this part of the body gently pressing into the floor, and a gentle release of pressure as you exhale. Remember to keep relaxing to feel the breath here, as opposed to pushing the breath – let your breath breathe you.

Sitting up

Sit with your legs straight ahead. Keeping your torso aligned and your spine straight lean back slightly, about 15 – 20 degrees; place your hands behind you with the fingers pointing toward your body (or in a fist if this is uncomfortable). Let the shoulders and arms relax as much as possible (if you have too much weight on the arms, or if the shoulders are very tense, make the amount you are leaning back smaller).

Now, as you breathe, focus on the kidney area, letting the breath open and expand as you inhale, and relax back toward the center on the exhale. Do this for a few moments.

Remember to relax into your breathing rather than forcefully inhaling/exhaling.

Wrap up

Spend a few moments sitting comfortably in a chair or cross-legged. Feel your breath expanding through the front, sides and back (kidney area) of the belly and see if you can relax and let go your whole back. You may even begin to feel your breathing in your upper back. Remember to let the chest be relaxed and still as you breath.

Finally, spend a last few moments just simply relaxing and letting go…


Taoist Yoga Through the Ages

Recently I was visiting the Sackler Museum in Cambridge, MA and I came upon these beautiful sculptures… Longevity Breathing Yoga postures!  We know this style of  Chinese yoga has been around for thousands of years, and it’s exciting to see it depicted in this ancient artwork.

Sackler yoga pose 2

This first statue, “Kneeling Bodhisattva”, dates back to the late 7th century Tang dynasty. It is one of many statues found at the Mogao Caves in the southeast of the center of Dunhuang, an oasis strategically located at a religious and cultural crossroads on the Silk Road, in Gansu province, China, where  influences of Buddhist and Taoist cultures likely intersected. Here is a depiction of the kneeling with one leg up posture of the Longevity Breathing Yoga routine.


Sackler yoga pose 1 

The second statue, “Buddha Shakyamuni with Flaming Shoulders”, dates back to the Chinese Northern and Southern Dynasties period in the 3rd and 4th centuries. This figure is in the “forward folded” cross-legged seated position that we practice in the LB Yoga routine. It’s interesting to see the flames on the shoulders which represent the body heat associated with meditation,  according to the description under the statue. This is a familiar experience practicing Longevity Breathing Yoga as the combination of the breath and postures increase circulation.

10 Basic Principes of Longevity Breathing Yoga

  • Maintain the 70% rule
  • Put your mind into yourself-your body, breath and energy channels
  • All stretches are done with circular movement only
  • Stretches open the body to enable better, more complete breathing
  • Internal release causes external stretch
  • Release internally first, externally stretch next
  • Releasing the nerves of the body is the origin of the stretch
  • Use the breath to open the body’s energy channels
  • Deliberate activation of physical, mental or emotional tension and contraction is avoided
  • All physical postures derive from physical, mental and emotional relaxation

Getting Started – Breathing

tao-yoga_20090401_106-crop-flipStudents beginning with Longevity Breathing Yoga often ask about working with their breathing. The breath is central in LB Yoga as well as other arts we teach at Brookline Tai Chi.

Initially, it is helpful to simply notice your breathing, whether it’s happening, how it’s happening. In learning LB Yoga, we first get familiar with the poses. At the same time we are getting familiar with feeling inside the body and noticing how breathing is happening (or not happening) for us individually, without actively trying to change anything. It’s important to spend some time with this first phase before moving on, especially as a beginner. It will help your practice in the long run if you start with learning very clearly to feel your insides and breath, to be able to feel what’s really happening inside.

As we progress in class, we pay closer attention to feeling breath in specific areas of the body. After you feel that you can keep a steady feeling awareness in your body and breath, you may want to move on to understanding breathing in greater depth. Longevity Breathing will be most helpful in this phase, as it is a perfect compliment to Longevity Breathing Yoga practice. Longevity Breathing is a technique developed by Bruce Frantzis and is detailed in two resources – one, in the book Opening The Energy Gates of Your Body (Chapter 5), and the other, the DVD entitled Longevity Breathing (also available through the school). Both take you through a step-by-step process that teaches you how to breath fully, deeply and effectively in your whole body.

Bringing the Mind into the Body with Alignments

In Longevity Yoga class,  we talk about bringing the mind into the body. Basically, this is an instruction to bring your attention inside and feel what’s happening in your body. In this culture where so much emphasis is placed on thinking and accomplishing externally, this is not always an easy task. We may feel some parts or our insides vividly, while other areas are totally elusive.

katie-slack.jpgHere’s a suggestion to make the process easier. As you get into your alignments, pay particular attention to the balance of lifting and dropping – lifting through the kwa (at the crease where the leg meets the torso), the mid and upper spine and the juncture where the spine meets the occiput – and dropping through the lower spine, relaxing the chest downward toward the belly, relaxing the face. In so doing you may get a feel that you are “taking the slack out” of the whole body. Be sure to do this without creating tension.

Borrowing a descriptive image from Zero Balancing (bodywork), consider the sail of sailboat that is slack and loose in the winds – in this case, the boat is buffeted by random forces; however, by taking out the slack of the sail just a bit, the sailor feels the winds around her clearly and can work with them usefully.

Similarly, having too much looseness in the body when we practice, our minds can be buffeted, so to speak, by random thoughts and sensations, and it is more difficult to feel what’s happening inside clearly. Using alignments to “take out the slack” , our minds will tend to focus more easily and we can feel more specifically what’s happening inside.

Using props to get into the flow

Moving from pose to pose can be a challenge. For example, transitioning within the Japanese style sitting poses, props are often necessary, and in moving from one pose to the next, you may feel unsteady as you navigate a new bodypostion and rearrange the props under and around you legs. Until these poses feel more natural and steady, it can be helpful to have two chairs on either side of you.


Using the chairs for support, you can practice transitioning from one pose to the next, and rearranging pillows and props, with more stability – gradually you can experiment with using the chairs less as you become more stable in the flow of the poses.

Focus on a Pose – Lying Down

Lying down is easy and relaxing – it’s also a pose where the mind can wander or we might doze. In Tao Yoga we practice keeping a relaxed and alert awareness in this pose by paying attention to alignments. The feet and the knees are hip-width apart;the pelvis and the torso are relaxed, the legs should have a sense of growing out of the torso; the midriff lengthens from the pelvis the the bottom of the ribs, the spine lengthens toward the head, and there is still a sense of lift of the skull from the top of the spine, the face, the front of the throat and chest relax.

Next you can place your hands on your belly and feel the rhythm of your breathing, as the belly rises slightly on the inhale, and relaxes back down on the exhale. It is helpful to spend a few minutes just feeling and watching your breath.

When you move to the next stage of lifting the pelvis, first press your feet gently into the floor – feel how this action naturally begins to lift the tailbone up and toward the feet; maintaining as much relaxation in the body and breath as you can, continue the lift of the pelvis, allowing the back of the body to lengthen as you lift, almost as though your back body is like a hammock stretching and lifting you up.

Focus on breathing

As we learn new poses, much attention is on remembering what to do, getting any necessary props situated and getting comfortable. Once in the pose, sometimes we still feel mental distraction from the process of getting there, and usually the breath is affected – it may have stopped altogether, or become more shallow, or it may be that we have lost awareness of what the breath is doing altogether.

alan-japanese-sitting.jpgNo problem – just noticing and gently bringing your attention into your body allows you to feel your breath . Often just noticing your breath with relaxed attention helps it to become more full and deep in the body. And, as you notice what’s happening with your breathing, you can work with relaxing your whole body just a bit more. This greater relaxation allows for fuller breathing in the whole belly, front sides and back.

Focusing on the breath in this way will help you feel more ease in the poses and will allow for a deeper sense of energized and relaxed awareness.

What does it feel like to be aligned?

In Longevity Breathing Yoga we begin most classes going through specific areas of the body to feel and, when necessary, adjust alignments. Getting into alignment is an essential foundation for gaining the most benefit from the yoga postures. Working with someone else to get external feedback about your alignments is very useful, especially for those new to LB Yoga.

But how about when you are on your own…what does it feel like to be aligned?

This is a question that’s interesting to explore. Sometimes it’s helpful to briefly get into an obvious “unaligned” position and notice what you feel – usually there is a noticeable increase in physical discomfort, possibly vivid/agitated sensations in your body or mind, or, conversely, a sense of dullness, numbness or spacing out.

Next, get into a more aligned position based on the alignments we use in class – how does what was previously uncomfortable now feel? What has changed? How has it changed? How do you feel physically? While probably you will feel more comfortable, every individual will have their own experience of being more aligned.

Working with and feeling your alignments is an excellent way to develop a routine for home practice. Even just 10 or 15 minutes a day will help you feel more ease and clarity as you learn and practice the Longevity Breathing Yoga routine.

Bruce Frantzis’ new recording Ancient Songs of the Tao includes a thorough focus on body alignments – another helpful resource is the book Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body (see These are both excellent aids in developing and exploring your own internal sense of alignment.

Start with What’s Easy

You may recognize the BTC mascot in this photo, demonstrating a good attitude for getting into your LB Yoga practice – start with what’s easy.

It’s much more enjoyable and useful to start in your poses with enough propping, whether on the floor or in a chair, and to have what you need close by (props, chairs) to make transitioning from one pose to the next as smooth as possible. This will also allow you to be more relaxed into yourself as you practice.

Once you have the physical basics of each pose, you can play with focusing on one aspect of Tao Yoga as you practice. A good start may be to take one of the principles listed on the prior post and pay attention to this principle as you go. Anoher idea is to choose one area of your body that you will especially pay attention to as you practice, noticing as much as you can about that area through each pose.

Most importantly, it’s best to first stay with what feels easy and enjoyable, then play with the practice from there.

What if it hurts just to sit?

In Longevity Breathing Yoga, one of the basic principles is that all the postures derive from physical, mental and emotional relaxation – we talk about practicing without strain – but what if it hurts just to sit?

This question is a common one. Many of us feel pain or strain just sitting in a neutral beginning posture. Here are some suggestions if you find yourself in this predicament:

  • In the cross-legged posture, try adding pillows under your knees, and/or under your rear-end; often just a bit more propping provides relief of back tension, or tension in the legs and hips
  • in the sitting position, close your eyes and see if you can “let-go” and relax your whole body just a bit more before you begin
  • spend a little time before you practice laying on the floor with your knees up and pay attention to your breathing; let your whole body relax as much as it can in that moment, then move into the sitting cross-legged position
  • If sitting cross-legged on the floor feels too difficult, try sitting in a chair with your pelvis toward the front end of the chair and your ankles crossed
  • as you sit and feel your breathing, see if you can let your breath soak into the areas of tension like water soaks into the soil as you water a potted plant

Remember that it’s important not to push through tension, or push yourself to get into a position that’s too difficult. Try playing with these suggestions and see if you notice a difference.

Longevity Breathing Yoga Begins

We’re very excited to launch this new program at Brookline Tai Chi which will complement the tai chi and chi gung we already teach as a quiet breathing and gentle stretching practice. To kick off the course we are hosting our teacher Bruce Frantzis for a weekend workshop on Longevity Breathing Yoga from October 26-28. You don’t have to attend the workshop to start the course, but it’s a great way to immerse yourself in this new practice!