Archive for May, 2010

Front-Load Your Qigong

To front-load your Qigong means to do lots of Qigong ahead of time, in the days or weeks before some upcoming need. You may or may not know what this future need is.

Prepare for Anything

There are two ideas here: Prepare for the unexpected and the expected. Practice enough Qigong so that you can handle whatever unexpected splats or splashes may come at you in life. Also prepare for anticipated times of busyness.

Pre-Manage Your Qi

In a conversation about this topic the other day, a student of mine reflected that “a challenge is just Qi to be managed.” This makes sense to me. When you can, manage that Qi ahead of time, that is to the good.

Qi in the Courtyard

Stay in places with lots of Qi

Prepare for the Unexpected

Qigong can help you deal with the requirements of life, but sometimes life asks much of you. It makes sense to front-load your Qigong: Do more than you usually do so you have plenty of energy for those busier or boggier times that sometimes descend upon you. Front-load your Qigong so you can deal with the stress and activities of your life with strength. If strained, busy or traumatic times come into your life, it is difficult then to step back and do a bunch of Qigong. When heavy events and hefty emotions take up your time and energy and focus, it is best to have a full reserve of Qi—a full tank. But if your tank is empty, strong responses are harder to come by.

Prepare for the Expected

You can plan ahead also. If a big project, busy time, or problem looms in the near future—step up your Qigong practice in advance.

Front-Load Before Traveling

Recently I front-loaded some Qigong before a trip. I was on my way to Florida—an all-day long air journey from Washington State. I didn’t know if I would be able to complete a Qigong practice that I am trying to do every day for a while. Besides various other Qigong, Taiji and Xin Yi exercises I tend to do, I was in the midst of a 100-day practice of three Wild Goose Qigong sequences (Bagua Palms, Soft Palms, and The Second 64.) 100-day practices are a great method for deepening the understanding and ability of the chosen form or exercise, and a good way to ensure the benefits are accrued.

Space Enough, Time, and Courage

These Wild Goose Sequences—especially the long form known as the Second 64—take considerable space to perform. I didn’t know how easy it would be to run through them as I would mostly be in cars, airports and airplanes on the travel day. Maybe I’m a little chicken about practicing such involved, unusual moves in public airport spaces.

A Special Rule

Wanting to continue my 100-days in a row process, I made a new rule for myself: If I could go through my required sequences four additional times the day before the trip, my daily string of success still held. The extra reps would catapult me past the inactive day. Or, to use another metaphor, the one plus four repetitions would be a bridge of Qi that connected the practice days. Or perhaps more of a running jump over a chasm to land on the feet, and keep walking.

Two plus Two is Too Much

I read once that at one point in his life, the famous Aikido master Koichi Tohei disciplined himself to two hours of breathing practice everyday. If he missed a day, he made all of it up the next day, doing four hours of breathing. This is a great idea if you can make it happen.

Front-Load Before Meetings

I once met a British Columbia man at a Qigong retreat who had a business harvesting shellfish. He said that fairly frequently he had stress-inducing meetings with suppliers, governmental authorities, fellow fishermen, and customers. He found that by practicing Qigong breathing practices on the way to these meetings he was able to get through these verbal sparring matches still relaxed.

Three Hours Reading, “Everyday”

Chiropractor and success teacher John Demartini’s most important daily practice is to read non-fiction books for three hours. Sometimes on an especially busy day he doesn’t get his 3 hours in. He finds time for catching up on his requisite reading later, such as when air-traveling. Airports and airplanes are ideal opportunities for reading.

Catching Up Adds Up

These are examples of catching up that display great commitment and discipline. I haven’t had much success with catching up on dropped tasks or late projects. That is one reason I like to get more Qigong done ahead of time.

Always Overestimate Travel Time

My travel time to Florida was longer than expected. One of the flights I was on was delayed one and half hours because of an electrical problem. The heater in one of the cargo bays would not work, which meant that the two pets sitting in that compartment would have gotten very, very cold at 30,000 feet. While that problem was worked out, I read and studied the workbook of the seminar I was going to (I was repeating it.) I touched down in West Palm Beach later than I had anticipated.

A Long Day and a Successful One

After a long day that began at 3:20 a.m.—and the disorientation of settling into a new locale—I could have done my 100-day Qigong practice. I could have found a flat, open space to practice in. But it was dark now, and dinner beckoned. I didn’t know my way around. The little motel area I was staying in didn’t appear to have a big enough area to practice these forms in. I was satisfied though. I felt at ease about it because I had front-loaded the day before. I had managed some breathing and stretching along the airways and planned to get back on track the next day with my full practice . Which I did.

Progress, Not Perfection

Qigong is not about perfection, for there is always more to work on, play with, go for. Qigong is about the process. Progress is made in health and life clarity by engaging in the process in a regular, and (I believe) gentle, disciplined practice. By my special-case front-load rules, I am still making progress on this particular 100-day practice configuration. If I don’t miss any more days, I complete it on June 30. I’m already thinking about and getting excited about what my next 100-day focus will be. Maybe the complex sequence Plum Blossom Stepping.

The path of Qi

The Last Day

Incidentally, on the last evening and morning of my trip there was a magnificent thunderstorm. The skies poured and poured–as they will in some tropical places. I was not able, in this terrific downpour, to go outside and practice in the park on the last morning.

So I moved all of the furniture our of the apartment living room to create enough space to get my Wild Goose Qigong discipline in. The glass table was an especially heavy and awkward piece of furniture. It took some clever manipulating to transport without scratching the floor. With the space open, I managed to get my practice done; though it took some scrunching of steps and intermediate shifting of positioning within the Second 64 form.  

A Note on Terminology

The term “front-load” doesn’t seem to be listed as recognized term in any discipline but finance, but I like it for this Qigong usage. “Preload” is a more widespread term, with a wide variety of meanings, including to stretch the heart’s ventricle, to drink booze before going out to drink more booze, and to have already included software in some gizmo. Since I was calming my heart down, doing it soberly, and performing naturally, “pre-load” didn’t fit.

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Breathing Workshop

Awaken the Breath

When:         Saturday, June 5, 2010

Time:         10:00 to 2:00

Cost:          Only $40

Location:    Robert’s beautiful healing studio at

                  1095 East Axton Road, North of Bellingham.

Sign Up:     (360) 398-7466, or rbbatesdc@comcast.net

 

Breathe Bigger, Better and Easier

Breath Practices are some of the most powerful healing exercises you can do. You can insert conscious breathing into just about any part of your day and be better off for it. You can benefit from conscious breathing practices virtually your entire life. Any amount of good breathing you do adds to your health.

With These Breathing Practices You Will

  •  Massage the internal organs for greater all around health
  •  Keep the head clear and promote mental clarity
  •  Help move the lymph throughout the body, increasing immunity function
  •  Increase your energy
  •  Calm your emotions
  •  Increase your lifespan
  •  Decrease tension
  •  Sleep deeper
  •  And much, much more

 What We Will Cover in This Workshop

  • Qigong breathing practices, each with different health goals
  • Simple tests to assess how well you are breathing
  • Easy ways to integrate vastly more quality breathing into your   everyday life
  • The Framingham Study: How your breath capacity can accurately predict your lifespan; and how to definitely increase your lifespan with breathing practices

 Breathing Exercises We Will Practice

Follow the Breath. Just watch. Notice how you are actually breathing. You can learn a lot about yourself this way.

Graduated Quiet Breathing Meditation. Build awareness and sink into a relaxed, healing mode of being as you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, coordinate your consciousness and balance your brain

Abdominal Breathing. The foundation of proper breathing. Breathe into and out of your abdomen, letting it expand with the inhale and flatten with exhaling.

Belly Book Breathing. Re-teach yourself how to use your diaphragm to pull air into your body by expanding your abdomen, instead of lifting your shoulders to bring air in.

Pelvic Breathing. Sometimes breathe low into your pelvis to build power and prevent many problems.

Low Back and Kidney Breathing. Drawing the air into the lower back to expand that area and fill the Kidney’s with Qi.

Filling the Vase. Fill your torso with breath like pouring water into a vase; the water fills up the lower parts first before working up. Empty your breath in reverse.

Gentle Breath Holding. Holding the breath for a short time—repeatedly—to help relax tensions in the breathing apparatus.

Plus

The Remembering Breath. Put up green dot stickers. Every time you see the dot, take a deep breath. This will give you many deep breaths each day.

10 Percent More. Add just a little to the size or seconds of each breath.

Breathing Awareness Set (to take home.) Begin to take more control of your daily breathing habits.

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Relax Your Shoulders, Descend Your Qi

Refine Your Qigong

Refine Your Qigong Posture

Qigong Posture Relaxation

A crucial principle of Qigong practice is to refine your skill. An example of refining comes from a Qigong practitioner I once advised who had been having trouble sleeping. I had an exercise prescription for insomnia in mind that I wanted to teach her, but first I asked to see the Qigong she regularly practiced. She showed me several static postures. Each posture was to be held for 100 breaths. The primary posture looked something like the following photo.

Shoulder tension

Shoulder Tension

Notice how much force and tension I am bringing up into my shoulders, neck, upper arms and upper chest. Not only is there a great deal of effort going into the pose, but everything in the upper chest, shoulder and neck is getting squished. Holding such posture for very long will create energy but allow it no place to go. The Qi will be trapped by the contractions of the muscles and the compressions of the joints. Compression builds Qi; but then a release of the holding is needed. An open, easy flowing can then happen.

Relax the Shoulders Down

One of the important points taught in Qigong and the internal martial arts is to relax the shoulders–let them sink down. Likewise, relax all of the body. Unless you are specifically performing a strength-building exercise, always take it easy. Be vital and involved, but easily. If you perform a dynamic tension, Charles Atlas-style exercise, you need the soft Yin of letting go to follow the hard Yang of holding. Follow tension with relaxation. Follow harder training with nourishing training.

Drop Deep into your Body to Sleep

One of the keys to sleeping well is to let the extra energy of the day trickle down and settle into your body. You want to reverse the focus of consciousness from forward, up, and out to inward, down, and back. If your consciousness is high, tight and agitated, sleep is difficult to drop into. If you are building and exciting energy higher up in your body, you are training yourself to excess and imbalance.

Here is how I suggest refining the pose from above:

Qigong Relaxed Shoulders

Let the Shoulders Down

Now my arms are lower and everything is more open. I want to hold this pose and relax the muscles as much as possible to build the Qi. I want to smooth my breathing and soften my attitude.

Yet I can let down more. With an exhale I release more holding, and come to this:

Qigong Relaxation

Relax even more

So let those shoulders stay down. If they rise up, let them down again. Down, down, down. Let the undersides of the arms and elbows be heavy and let those shoulder and back muscles release.

Spaciousness Allows Flow

Now you have more space in your shoulders and chest. Blood, Qi, and lymph can flow easily and fully. And your Qi can drop. A high-shoulder, tension pose holds the Qi in, frozen in place. Little can flow up, and more importantly, mere trickles of Qi can flow down. Too much energy gets stuck in the head. It is hard to relax and difficult to sleep well if, you cannot allow the busy energy of the day waft and be drawn downward.

Sink the Qi

The Qi should sink to the lower abdomen. This is a real experience you can learn to access and allow, an experience that feels nourishing and truly stabilizing. Qigong and Taiji teach you how to do this–and it is more than worth the training.

Our Shoulder Tension Society

What I find most intriguing about the shoulder-tension pose above is that it emulates what most Americans and those in the rest of the modernized world are doing anyway. We are societies of rising shoulders. We raise and hold our shoulders up as protection from perceived social danger, as a way to avoid breathing deeply, as a method to force the completion of tasks, and as a way to avoid relaxing into our being and our true and essential connection to the Earth.

Here is a photo of another holding pose:

Arm and Shoulder Tension

If you hold the above pose for 100 breaths you are sure to build a tremendous amount of energy. The compression of the muscles, bones, and soft tissues will create what is known as piezoelectricity. You will create energy, but the tension held for so long gives it no where to go, and it also fosters an imbalance in the body. You will have more energy up high, than lower. If you want a nightly repose that is deep and long, this kind of exercise will probably prevent that. If you want to toss and turn for hours and have wild and fantastical visions in fitful sleep, such poses would be a good way to create that.

It would be better to do more intense kinds of exercise in the morning, as you are fully in the Yang, rising, energy-building part of the day.

Hold Poses with Ultimate Relaxation

Usually, at least as I have always seen in Qigong training, such long-held postures are held with ultimate relaxation, not maximal tension. In other words, you hold the pose with as good as posture as you can—upright, expanded, and relaxed as much as you can at the same time. This will calm your Qi, calm your mind, settle your heart energy. Your muscles will let go, yet the energy will somehow become more full. Most importantly, all the extra tension and energy will sink and accumulate in the lower abdominal center (the Dantian.) You want this to happen.

Relax the Shoulders

Heavy elbows to relax the shoulders

Looking at this photo, I could probably relax down much more yet, another level or two or three of letting go. But this is a good start.

Holding tension-types of poses looks much like a Yi Jin Jing exercise, translated as a Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic. The purpose of Yi Jin Jing practices are to strengthen the tissues of the whole body to build resilience and strength. The Yi Jin Jing exercises are said to have been developed about 1500 years ago at the original Shaolin monastery.

Here is an old drawing showing some Yi Jin Jing.

However, Most of these posture–maybe due to the artist’s ability–show too much shoulder tension. Over the almost one and half millennia since these drawings were executed, the understanding of the principle of “heavy weight underside” has permeated the teaching of internal martial arts and Qigong.

In the Yi Jin Jing I’ve seen, the postures are held for at most a few breaths. Then a purposeful relaxation follows. This leads to a sudden increase of blood through the tissues and a release of blocked energy, which has been built up by the holding. This energy is then circulated through the body.

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