by Lee Holden Exercise to Heal, 2007 Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D. on Jun 3rd 2008
This DVD from Exercise to Heal is part of a series of videos offered by Lee Holden, an instructor of both Qi Gong and Tai Chi who has appeared regularly on PBS. Qi Gong for Lower Back Pain is designed to promote core strength and to increase range of motion throughout the spine. Holden instructs via voiceover, but unlike his other videos in the Pacific Arts series, he does not mirror cue here (there are only a few exercisers where left-right is an issue). The workout is filmed outdoors in a tranquil pond setting, with Holden performing the exercises on a platform in the middle of the pond.
The Main Menu of the DVD offers options for Play All, Exercises, or Partner Massage. The Exercises submenu is broken down into four segments, Lying Face Up (11m), Lying Face Down (5m), Sitting (9m), and Standing (15m), and the DVD insert offers a list of the specific exercises included in each segment. The Lying series begins with some simple reclined stretches and twists that have a very yoga-ish feel; however, Holden moves on to more demanding core moves, including crunch variations and a challenging bicycle move to finish. The Face Down section continues with some strength work in the form of leg lifts and a cobra flow series. Holden moves on to more gentle stretches in the Seated segment, incorporating some of the same exercises from his Upper Back and Neck Pain DVD. This segment includes stretches for the upper back and shoulders as well as the lower back, hips, and hamstrings. The final segment, Standing, is the longest; the focus here is largely on increasing mobility and circulation through the low back and hips. Although this segment also contained moves reminiscent of yoga (e.g., standing forward bend), many of the exercises were unique to Qi Gong, such as "Knocking on the Door of Life" and " Between Heaven and Earth," both of which are intended to bring circulation to the lower back. The practice finishes with a brief centering move, "Bamboo in the Wind," for a total workout time of approximately 40 minutes.
The 5.5-minute Partner Massage segment features Holden demonstrating using a model. He begins kneeling behind this partner and using a palm pressing technique to gently stretch the lower back and hamstrings. He then has his model come into a lying face-down position and shows additional low back massage from either a side kneeling or a straddle position. Holden also has his partner bend her legs to demonstrate how the massager can gently sit on the feet for greater low back release. Finally, he finishes with soothing rocking for the lower back.
This DVD would certainly be appropriate for providing increased mobility and gentle strengthening to the lower back area. I think that the practice would be suitable for a wide audience, although the core exercises in the Lying segment might initially be quite difficult for new exercisers and/or others who are weak in this area. However, no prior experience with Qi Gong is necessary to complete this routine, and I would definitely recommend it, particularly for those wanting to target their lower back.