I’m David Lee…
I have more energy, vitality, and greater mobility at age 70 than I had when I was 40.
I began practicing yoga, martial arts, meditation, and qigong more than thirty years ago. Although I practiced with a number of distinguished and famous teachers, some of them for several years, no matter how much I practiced I was unable to break through the tension and stiffness that made me feel like I was a prisoner in my own body. Tension and stiffness that were a result of the bad postural habits of my youth, which had deep roots in my psyche (I will spare you the melodrama of my personal story, most of us have one). In this time, my flexibility did improve. I thought I was “just not very flexible” and that some people were just more flexible than others. I was stubborn though, I kept at it and worked hard, determined that if there was a way to do it, I would find it. I tried to will myself to become more flexible. As it turns out that was part of the problem.
In the beginning my primary focus was yoga, because I wanted so badly to change my relationship with my body and I thought that stretching and sweating were necessary to accomplish that. Initially, my qigong practice involved meditation and visualization. I don’t blame my teachers, Erich Schiffman, Maty Ezraty, and Chuck Miller, they were brilliant. I know now that they were telling me things that I just wasn’t ready to comprehend. Part of the problem though was that like most yoga teachers, to this day, they just couldn’t relate to just how shut down my body was. I was filled with aches and pains, in a state of constant discomfort. My job as a film editor did not help because it meant that I had to spend long hours sitting and working in a high pressure situation.
Then one day not too many years ago, I realized that I just couldn’t do that anymore. My wife had passed away. My only daughter graduated from college. I was suddenly free. I sold everything I owned, packed a bag, and went to Asia, on a spiritual journey and a quest to stop feeling like a prisoner in my body.
It was in India, where I was practicing yoga for hours everyday that I met a martial arts teacher who caused me to wake up and rethink everything I was doing and the way that I was approaching it. He taught me a new way of looking at my body, my flexibility, and my mind. He introduced me to qigong as exercise and taught me to relax and release the tension in my body. He introduced me to working somatically. He taught me the difference between flexibility and mobility. He taught me that softness had nothing to do with weakness. He was extremely soft with no muscle definition, but he was incredibly strong. I wasn’t around him for very long but he planted the seed.
All this time, my focus had been external, like most people of the people I encounter in my classes. I was practicing the way I had approached other physical exercises, like martial arts or cycling or going to the gym and lifting weights. It was completely ineffective. I just kept doing the same thing, and I kept getting the same, really limited results.
It turns out, To release the tension and stiffness, the body has to relax. This creates space. It is impossible to increase flexibility/mobility through the force of will. In other words, you can’t force yourself to relax/release. As Lao Tzu says, “Nothing can be accomplished by force.”
My new understanding and practice of qigong, allowed me apply the same principles of softness to my yoga practice and my body began to open. I was in my 60’s and I was becoming more flexible and more “connected”. My sense of somatic sensitivity increased as I slowed down and began to really feel what was happening from the inside out. I began to realize why none of these things had been so effective before. My meditation got better and became much deeper and more enjoyable. It wasn’t that teachers hadn’t told me to relax in the past, (well a few of them did), I just didn’t know how. I had so much tension in my body, genuine relaxation was totally foreign to me. It made me understand why I was so bad at the martial arts I trained in, especially Tai Chi. I had spent more than 20 years, just going through the motions.
When I met my wife and moved to Bali a few years ago, I met Rusty Davis, a woderful teacher of yoga, breath work, somatic movement, and myofascial release. I didn’t really know about the fascia system before, but Rusty spent a lot of time with me, explaining how the body was connected from head to toe in layers of tissue called the fascia that hold our body together like a web. Suddenly I understood that the shoulders are connected to the hips. The bottoms of the feet are connected to the neck. It was revolutionary to me. In this connective tissue that wraps around virtually all the structures and organs of our body is where our stiffness and tension are stored. The fascia is a tissue that has the same tensile strength as steel. No wonder I felt like my body was a prison. When we repeatedly have bad posture or experience a severe trauma, the fascia holds on to that shape. The more we reinforce that shape by the way we habitually sit or stand, the harder it is to change it.
A few years ago, I met my current teacher, Sifu Liu, Deming. With him I was able to put together all of the pieces that I had been collecting over the years in a very short time. I had a lot of knowledge and finally some ability to feel inside my body. I had gathered all the pieces and he was able to show me, in a very short time how the energetic connections really worked in the body, in a way that I could actually feel the energy moving. It was no longer subtle or imagined. It was real. He was the first qigong teacher I’d ever met who stressed the alignment of the body, and it was like plugging into a wall socket. He taught me really how to draw upon the universal energy from Heaven and Earth, and create dynamic, yet completely effortless movement. I now had more comfort in my body, no more aches and pains, more mobility, flexibility and strength and almost endless energy. I wake up early and don’t stop or need to rest until I go to bed at night. He remains the primary inspiration in my life and I’ve never met another teacher like him.
I knew that I needed to share this, because I could see people struggling with stress and tension all around me. I had been one of them, but I learned how to relax, really relax. I developed Dance of the Dragon Qigong, based on all of the different modalities I have studied this last 30 years and finally putting all of the pieces together, Qigong, Tai Chi, Meditation, Yoga; grounded in my own experience, and with the intention of helping people have more connection and expend less energy in their lives. My focus is in creating practices for the stressful times that we live in, grounded in tradition, but designed for a stressed out, distracted, and disconnected population, to help then become acquainted with themselves from the inside out, have more energy, expend less effort, and be more comfortable with themselves, at any age.