The Delightful Dozen: New DVD

I am excited to announce the completion of my new Qigong DVD.

You can pay through Paypal, or with a credit card. I will send the DVD right out to you. This would make a great Christmas gift, a way to encourage yourself or loved ones to get a Qigong practice going in their life for the new year. It is just $19.95 plus $3.99 shipping and handling.

Delightful Dozen DVD

Gentle Qigong for Health and Wellness


The Delightful Dozen

• Consists of 12 exercises.

• Teaches many Qigong principles you can apply to your life.

• Is accessible, doable, and useful for people at all levels of health

• Fosters internal relaxation and coordination of body, mind, breath, and energy.

• Is easy to learn. It is not confusingly philosophical, or super-serious.

• Helps all parts of your body become equal with the full flow of energy, information and awareness: left and right, palms and feet, arms and legs, head and feet, torso and legs, front and back, inside and out.

Developed from Primordial Qigong

Each of the 12 exercises is found in the flowing body of a gentle exercise form called Primordial Qigong. The word primordial here, refers to your original vitality. The Primordial Qigong form is a flowing, connected sequence of the movements, much like Taiji (Tai Chi) is a slow stream Qigong sequence.

I first developed the Delightful Dozen Set as a way to teach the moves of Primordial Qigong. Eventually I realized it was a marvelous practice in itself, and an ideal teaching tool for the principles of Qigong. It is a beautiful Qigong on its own.

After you master the Delightful Dozen, you may want to go on to learn Primordial Qigong, which I also teach.

Deepen and Expand Your Self-Healing Skill

If you have learned the Five Flows Qigong, which is the first video in this series, The Delightful Dozen will expand and deepen your skill. If you haven’t learned the Five Flows, you might want to go back and learn it first.

• For this new video I again take out mysteriousness and make Qigong as accessible as it truly can be. With principles taught on the DVD, you can gain great benefits from a regular Qigong practice.

• The Delightful Dozen is slightly more advanced than the Five Flows, but you can learn it as a first set if you choose. It is also an introductory set for Qigong.

• In terms of the flows of Qi as defined on my Fun With Qigong: Five Flows DVD, the Delightful 12 is mostly balancing, with some charging and some centering.

• I hope you gain rich rewards from your learning, practice and eventual mastery of the Delightful Dozen.

The video is divided into several sections

• An introductory section covers the basics of Qigong training.

• In section two I present and explain the moves of each exercise,.

• Section three is where you deepen your experience and magnify beneficial results by focusing on specific principles in turn. In order and over time learn and practice the Structure Principle; then, get the Movement Principle, Qi Principle, and Consciousness Principle.

• Once you have learned each of the exercises, you can go ahead in the DVD to follow along with the Full Set Practice in Section four.

• Once you are completely familiar with the set, you can practice it on your own.

It’s fun, easy to begin and helps you feel great. The Delightful Dozen can boost your immune system and could protect against illnesses…from colds and flu to far more serious diseases.

The Delightful Dozen trains you to be natural, at ease and empowered in your own body. By incrementally improving how you move, stand, breathe, and think, you improve your state of body, mind and emotions.

The Progression of Learning the Delightful Dozen

This Qigong is simple to begin to learn and most people begin noticing results right away.

Yet, the Delightful Dozen, like most Qigong, has layers and aspects more that add depth, breadth, sophistication that, as you learn them, increase the effectiveness of the practices and magnify results.

1. Basic Idea. First get just the basic idea down—a rough sense of what you are doing with your arms, legs and waist.

2. Structure and Movement. As you get better with a new exercise you begin paying more attention to structural details and movement precision. You also get more able to align the movements with your breathing rhythm.

3. Energy and Consciousness. After a span weeks practicing a move, the exercise becomes more familiar. Now you can begin adding focus on what the Qi flow is doing, how your energy is, and where your mind is. By this time you are attaining a complete exercise, one that is replete with benefits.

The Delightful Dozen

1.     Earth’s Breath Rises/Heaven’s Breath Sinks

2.     Separating Yin from Yang

3.     Holding the Qi Ball at the Dantian

4.     Circling the Qi Ball Along the Microcosmic Orbit

5.     Moving the Heart Through Time and Space

6.     Blending Fire and Water

7.     Rooting Left and Right

8.     Scooping Energy From Nature

9.     Dragon Washes its Face

10.   Stirring the Cosmos

11.   Drinking the Earth

12.   Collecting the Qi



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Master List of Articles

Here is a List of the Principle Articles and Videos on this Qigong Website

Note: These listed articles come from the Blog section of this website. There is also a section of Pages, which contains much information as well. The links to the Pages can be found to the right on any page.

Fun with Qigong Homepage

How to use this site.

Welcome to Fun with Qigong

My first post.

Introduction to Qigong

A video explaining the basics of Qigong.

A Simple Explanation of Qigong

What exactly is Qigong?

Audio Interview

A 55 minute overview of Qigong, along with a sample of the Six Healing Sounds.

The First Principle of Qigong

Practice. Preferably daily.

My First DVD: Fun with Qigong

A video guide to learning the gentle, powerful, principle-based Qigong set called The Five Flows.

Moderation and Fasting

All endeavors seeking health should not be excessive. Excess kills. Moderation heals.

Healing the Heart

Simple approaches to heart health.

Reducing High Blood Pressure

Video detailing some Qigong ideas for lowering pressure.

Breast Health

Exercises and resources from a non-invasive, vitalistic, self-empowering approach. Every woman should learn about these methods.

Inexpensive Acupuncture

Social justice through heartful needles.

Sudden Inhalation Syndrome

Shock breathing is normal but not natural. Learn how to breathe with ease.

Qigong and Fibromyalgia

Decrease pain with Qigong.

Simple Taiji Video

An introductory form to practice the principles and basic movements of Taiji (Tai chi).


Insomnia Article

Thoughts and exercises for working on that night-stealer insomnia.

Insomnia Video 1

Overview of Qigong exercises for overcoming insomnia.

Insomnia Video 2

Charge the Kidneys and connect the Kidneys to the Lower Dantian.

Insomnia Video 3

Warm the feet.

Insomnia Video 4

Draw Qi from the Lower Dantian to the feet. 

Front-loading Qigong

Practice extra amounts of Qigong before travel, expected stressful events, or busy times to come.

Hot Hands of Qi

Qigong will warm and balance your hands.

Qigong and Warm Hands: Part 1

A second class with the heat camera shows some fascinating photos.

Relax Your Shoulders, Descend Your Qi

Sink your Qi to relax your being.

Qigong and the Upside Down Snowman

Get out of your head and center in the lower abdomen. Health and joy await you. Let go of tension and sink your Qi to feel much, much better. [with a video]

You Can Cure Hot Flashes

Make hot flashes a thing of the past with this simple, powerful technique. [with a video]

Qigong, Vitality and “Limitations”

Work within your limits, but don’t let them define you.

Four-Part Protection Process

A Meditation and Medical Qigong Method for staying sane and clear in an insane world.

Alleviating Depression and Other Traumatic Emotions 1

The overview video of the “Old Man…” exercise.

Alleviating Depression and Other Traumatic Emotions 2

The second video of the “Old Man…” exercise. Lungs and sadness.

Alleviating Depression and Other Traumatic Emotions 3

The third video of the “Old Man…” exercise. Open the heart and release armoring.

Alleviating Depression and Other Traumatic Emotions 4

The fourth video of the “Old Man…” exercise. Clear worry, excess emotions, and anger from the middle burner.

Alleviating Depression and Other Traumatic Emotions 5

The fifth video of the “Old Man…” exercise. Putting it all together.

Three Types of Qigong Practice: Singles, Sets, and Sequences

Three ways you might practice: Focused, expanded, or sophisticated ways.

Qigong Sets

Understanding what Qigong sets are and how to utilize them.

Qigong Sequences

Understanding what Qigong forms are and how to utilize them.

Five Flows in a Single Exercise

One exercise can take you through all of the flows, if  you stick with it.

Preventing Colds and Flu with Qigong

These gentle, immunity-enhancing exercises truly work.

More on Preventing Colds and Flu with Qigong

Use healing sounds and slow, gentle, movements.

Qigong Strategies for Illness

How, when, and when not to do Qigong when illness is in the picture.

Qigong Workshops

A baker’s dozen of Qigong workshops your group may want to host.

The World-Famous First 64 Form

From Wild Goose Qigong, there is much healing in the intracies of these fun movements.

Reduce Stress with the Super Powerful Method of Belly Breathing

So much of a person’s stress arises from the backward, upside down, unnatural, but entirely common practice of chest breathing.

Pay Attention to Your Feet

With so much heady focus in our world, we lose connection to the whole of our bodies and the sustenance of the earth. Become more whole and balanced by paying attention to your feet as much as to your brain.

Save Yourself from a Lightning Strike

Crouch and survive.

Simplified Exercise Set

Sometimes an entire set is too much.

Open and Move from the Gate of Life

The Gate of Life is so important and so practical and so unknown.

Can Qigong Save America (and the World?)

We desperately need inexpensive, effective healthcare. Qigong is one of the answers to this urgent need.

Slap Yourself Healthy

Gentle tapping methods for wellness.

The Three Intentional Corrections

How to reframe and refocus your experience in the moment with Qigong.

Healing Knee Pain 1

Using the wall sitting exercise.

Healing Knee Pain 2

Success with the wall sitting exercise.

Change Your Life in Two Minutes a Day

Getting a daily Qigong practice started can reward you with big health dividends later on.

Bend Your Knees for Health’s Sake

Bending your knees helps alleviate many chronic pain symptoms.

When in Doubt, Shake

Use the Shaking the Body exercise to release fear, uncertainty, and tension.

Exercise with Ease

Be gentle and moderate with your Qigong to get the most out of it.

Qigong Will Soon Be a Common Sight

“People just have to get used to it.”

Spend a Billion Dollars to Save a Trillion

Qigong could save huge amounts of money, nationally.

Qigong is a Medical Bargain

It is downright cheap. It is gold that takes put pennies on the dollar.

Three Little Words Can Change your Life

The first three principles of Qigong: Practice, Modify, and Refine.

I Healed My Smashed Toe with Qigong

Using the gentleness and gentility of Qigong for giant gains.

Stay Centered or Suffer the Consequences

Multi-tasking leads to injury.

Breathe When You Type

Qigong is cheap medicine, easily accessible.

Train Your Qigong in Calmness

Qigong practice cautions.

The Secret Practice of True Wealth

Invest in Qigong and reap the lifelong rewards.

The Half-Half Rule

At least do some Qigong. You will be happy you did.

The Baby Bowl

Healing babies instead of watching the Superbowl.

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Qigong and Coronavirus Part 1

Now is the time to increase your Qigong practice.

If you don’t have a Qigong practice yet, I recommend starting with Super Gentle Qigong.

You will grow your sense of moving and filling Qi with slow, rhythmic movements. Do it often, throughout the day, even if it is just one move out of the eight.

The number of repetitions is not as important as getting a physiological shift of some sort. Do an exercise until you feel some kind of relaxation in your body or mind or breathing; or some sense of easier internal movement. If you aren’t sure about these sensations, 20 to 24 reps is a goodly amount for most people. You will be coming back for more, later.

Super Gentle Qigong can be done if you are starting to get punky feeling, sickish, fatigued. It can be done in a chair; or even lying down. It can also be done if you are in recovery from illness.

If you aren’t feeling quite right, start some gentle Qigong right away. Try to get 10 to 15 minutes practice in every hour-and-a-half to two hours.



Note: The first video teaches the moves and the first part of the follow-along section.


Be well,

Robert Bates

Robert Bates is a Chiropractor, Craniosacral Therapist, Lymph Drainage Therapist and Qigong teacher. He teaches Self Healing Qigong, Medical Qigong (for healing others); and Lymph Drainage Therapy and Fluid Articular Release for the Chikly Health Institute.


Ritual for Beginning Each Qigong Class or Practice

Qigong Self-Healers

Just in time for my Qigong teaching Sabbatical (starting the last week in February and going until the end of 2017), here is the new ritual for beginning a class. It is intended as a way to get more focused and prepared in order to receive the most from a Qigong class, practice or workshop.

Starting with a Stronger Focus

It has often been my way to lollygag my way into focus as the class progresses, following the meandering pathways that present themselves in the process of teaching, listening, watching, following and leading. It is an improvisational, Taoistical method. This is a good method for me; yet it sometimes takes a while for the shape of each class to form out of the fog of beginnings and the sloppiness of drawing a group of people into a unified, health empowerment dynamic. Bringing a number of people together—grounded, open, heart-centered—deepens the class experience and improves individual healing results. And it is more fun to learn and practice together this way. So I am looking at ways to more strongly start, to begin with a multi-aspect energetic and intention that defines our macro-soft outlook and stance; and propels us forward more surely and more fully.

Being in the Heart to Heal

I was inspired in part to put this ritual together by the Heart Centered Therapy course I just took  in Sacramento with the Chikly Health Institute. This was my fourth HCT course. Each time I am re-enthused about being more from the heart in my healing, teaching, and private life (which are all the same, really). HCT is one of many sources I have gone to for healing philosophy and practice principles over the last 30 years (I began Chiropractic College in Los Angeles in January of 1987). It is a worthwhile forever quest.

A Secular Prayer

You will notice that the Class Starting Ritual (which doesn’t have a snappy name yet) is somewhat like a prayer. However, as in all my Qigong, it is meant to be secular. I want all to be welcome in my Qigong teaching, regardless of religious beliefs or lack thereof. If you have a particular spiritual tradition, you can—in your private Qigong practice—add that to this beginning prayer.


I hope you find this ritual as inspiring as I do,
Dr. Robert B. Bates, DC
Near Bellingham in Washington State, Earth


The baseline measurement of a good Qigong practice is in improvement of physical health. If you are more healthy with Qigong than you are without it, then it is a beneficial, proven Qigong. Keep doing it to keep being more healthy than not, and maybe lots more healthy for a long time.

And, there are many other aspects of health that Qigong can help with, including psychological, social, spiritual, sense of gratitude and abundance, intelligence, intellect, clear thinking, applied creativity, familial strengthening, connection to nature and its rhythms, vocational clarity and empowerment.


Qigong Starting Ritual

First version: February 4, 2017

Let’s get into our body, breath, and heart.


I let go of the outside world and outside concerns to focus on Qigong.

Breathing deeply I open my abdomen and feel my Dantian.

Breathing fully I feel all the cells of my body become more alive.

Breathing slowly I engage all of my body.

Relaxing down I let go of tension to root into the ground.

Waves of life force rise through me from the Earth.

Standing tall I enter and center in my true spine.

Relaxing upward, light and intelligence from the stars shower downward through my body.

I feel the energy paths throughout my body open and flowing.

I feel the fluids, tissues, and spaces engaged and enlivened.

I connect to my heart and feel compassion and gratitude while being inspired to have a great practice.


A Sabbatical in 2017 and for a while

Happy New Year

Reflecting on the upcoming year always gives us a chance to align with our vision and priorities. As I make progress in my long-time desire to become a teacher in the Lymph Drainage Therapy system of healing it has become clear to me that I need to take a break from regular Qigong teaching. After much contemplation and discussion with, I have made the difficult decision to put Qigong teaching aside for a while.

I am planning a sabbatical from teaching Qigong and Tai Chi classes. This time off will begin at the end of the current series of weekly classes, the last one being February 23, 2017. Thus, beginning in late February, and extending for the entire year of 2017, I won’t be teaching any Qigong or Tai Chi classes at Axton Gardens (my studio) or at the Body in Balance Studio in Lynden.

Update: Actually I am extending my Qigong Teaching Sabbatical for an unknown period into the future. Iwill be focusing on some personal Qigong training for a while, mainly in Wild Goose Qigong.

I had considered teaching a few workshops over the year, but, even though that is a good idea, it isn’t the right idea for me now. I believe it will be sometime in the future. But a teaching sabbatical is a teaching sabbatical. It is time to refresh the pond waters, and train lymph and travel a little.

As much as I love teaching Qigong, and as much as I even more value my teaching times, it is time to step back on teaching my beloved Qigong. With the schedule I have committed to for training, travel and workshops in the coming year, I couldn’t see a way to maintain a regular schedule of classes.

I have been teaching Qigong continuously for 20 years, from one to five times a week, except for short breaks in between courses. Now is the time for me to step back from regular teaching. A change can be good for recharging and reconfiguring.

I will continue to offer treatment sessions and private lessons for Qigong and Taiji. This will work around my travel schedule, but will largely be much as I have been offering it, Mondays through Thursdays.

I love teaching Qigong; I envision teaching it for the rest of my life, in one form or another, just not for the rest of 2017.

I want to remind everyone that Qigong is a wonder. Whether there is a class or not, practicing Qigong confers a multitude of benefits. The time spent practicing is always worth it. You may want to join with others in Qigong practice groups to keep the momentum flowing.


With a grateful heart,

Robert Bates

January 9, 2017




Choose One Simple Movement

A short time ago I was pondering a regular client of mine and my continuing inability to persuade him to take up a Qigong practice. My client and friend admitted the usefulness of Qigong, but had difficulty getting to it, even after classes with me now and then. I am, I admit, adamant about the usefulness of Qigong in health, healing and personal growth. Yet I want to encourage people without being pushy.

I encourage my healing clients to learn and practice some form of Qigong in order to support their healing process, to give them tools and some power over their own health.
In my ongoing search to find ways to get people to practice this great and graceful self-healing art I keep searching for the code that will crack their resistance to practice.

For my friend I realized that it just seemed like too much, too complicated, to add to an already busy life. If he–and so many other clients–can’t be persuaded to immerse themselves in a Qigong practice, I wondered, how can I shrink the idea down to something pure and small and possible, something that is at last graspable.

The idea that came to me was to get him to find one basic Qigong exercise and commit to practicing just that one exercise.

Choose Your Movement

To successfully integrate Qigong into your life, pick one simple exercise and do it every day for many repetitions. Select just one move or one basic exercise, something that is easy to remember and easy to do. Say, Qi Rocking from Five Flowers Set, Waking the Breath from Five Flows Set, Swimming Dragon, The Marriage of Heaven and Earth, Golden Ball (8 Actions of Qi), or Awakening the Qi (Taiji Start) from Shibashi. There are many, many other possibilities. If you already have learned some Qigong, you might have a movement just right for this strategy.


Key Aspects
The chosen one should offer the following key aspects:
• It is easy to get started on. If it is too complex you may decide to forgo practice on tired days.
• It is easy to continue.
• Uses whole body engagement.
• Has slow, rhythmic motion.
• Has gentle motions aligned with inhaling and exhaling.

Make sure you get your basic practice in before doing other practices. You can do more Qigong or Taiji or anything else, after you get your requisite number of reps in.

Commit to Every Day

Find a minimum amount that you believe you can do, and that you will be able to feel being effective in your body. Even five minutes of focused Qigong can make a positive difference in your health. More than this is better if you can swing it.

You can choose to practice for a certain number of minutes or a minimum number of repetitions, depending upon the exercise. Counting reps by time is a smart way to practice. If you want to perform many reps it is easiest to count how many reps you can do per minute. Then just multiply the minutes. If you do a movement six times a minute, then 10 minutes of practice will get you sixty repetitions. As you are practicing, glance at the clock once in a while to keep track (or have a gentle alarm tell you when to finish).

Commit to a Length of Days

Commit to a month, or 100 days, or even a full year.

Mark It on your Calendar

For each successful day of practice, mark it on a calendar of some sort. Give yourself a check for each win.

Go for Big Qi

Moving very slowly, sense and feel with your body. Notice the spaces and the flows. Feel the Qi as you drop into the pattern of motion. Find just the right speed to feel the most. It is probably pretty slow. If you go just kind-of-slow you are probably too fast. You are probably thinking more than feeling. Being mental in Qigong prevents the big Qi. It only gives small Qi. A particular level of slowness synchs with the moves and sensations and creates the big flows of Qi. The big flows of Qi, which you can learn to feel within a short time, have maximal healing potential. Practicing in a little Qi way might not do you much good.

Own It

Practice the heck, hell, and heaven out of it. Enjoy that one beautiful movement: repeated, resolved, refined and deepened. Make that movement your movement, learned from the outside in, from the bottom up, and from the physical to the energetic. Let it lead you to feeling better, thinking better, and being better.

The Separating Yin from Yang Movement

Here for example is one exercise you can repeat and repeat daily.


Separating Yin From Yang

The following is one of my favorite Qigong exercises. It has multitudes of benefits, especially if you put in multitudes of reps. Get in a slow, silky groove and feel the Qi expand and compress; get smoother and smoother; and get bigger and bigger and better. As you get into high repetitions (50 to 500), the movement will become second nature. It will feel like a pleasant zephyr blowing away your cares as the Qi gently blows and flows through and around you. Ultimately you will feel full with flowing Energy in our body and a calm pleasantness in your spirit.

Separating Yin from Yang comes from the Delightful Dozen Set and Primordial Qigong form. Separating the Yin From Yang movement spreads Qi to all parts of your body and balances left and right, up and down, abdomen and chest, in close to the torso and far away to the sides.


Basic Directions

Do all of the following in a flowing, unceasing motion

Embrace the Ball.

Create a big ball with your arms in front of your torso, 12 to 18 inches in diameter. Your right arm and hand are curled on top at the chest, palm down. The left arm is close to the lower belly, palm up, also curled. Your hands or arms do not touch the torso.

Separate Arms.

Simultaneously draw the right hand down and to the right side and the left hand up and to the left side. Follow the rising hand with your eyes by twisting your waist to look at it. (Do not twist your knees.) The right hand comes to face palm-down to the right of the right hip. The left hand comes to face palm up to the left of the head. Look at the left hand. The arms are slightly extended (somewhat bent elbows) and along a diagonal line that starts high on the left and descends to the right.

Embrace the Ball Opposite.

Draw the two arms and your torso back to the center to create another whole-arm energy ball, this time with the left hand on top.

Separate the Yin and the Yang once more, now with the left hand sliding low to the left and the right hand reaching up and out to your right. Follow the higher, outstretched hand with your head and gaze. Notice how the side-extended arms actually form a wave-like shape.

Practice with One Arm First

Practice slowly to learn the alternating arm motions. One way to remember the sequence: the arm that is outstretched and higher, will roll in to become the top hand that holds the big ball. Then, the top hand holding the ball, slides out and down like an umpire indicating a runner is “safe.” This low hand curls under to hold the big ball. Then it expands out and higher to the side. The runner is “out”.








Main Principles to Practice

Structure Principle: Keep knees facing forward.

Trains you to turn without damaging your knees.


Movement Principle: Balanced opposite arm motions.

Move both arms at equal speed in opposite directions.

Both arms are equally engaged, though doing different motions. In Qigong, when one arm does something, the other must do something of equal quality and quantity, some expressing counterbalance. Otherwise, one-sided movements lead to physical and neurological imbalances.

In Qigong we want to practice being equally balance in all directions, even if various body parts are engaged in different types of motions.


Qi Principle: Magnetic taffy.

Feel the Qi between the hands stretch and stay connected like magnetic taffy. This builds Qi in your hands, helps balance your hands with each other, and grows your ability to sense Qi. It can activate “healers hands.”


Consciousness Principle: Pay attention to both hands equally at all times

This expands your body awareness to more than just what you happen to be looking at.


More Principles

Intermediate Consciousness Principles:

a) Absorb Heaven and Earth Qi into the hands in the hands outstretched position. The lower palm faces downward to absorb Earth Qi. The upper palm faces up to absorb from the vast universe above.

b) Feel the energetic Qi ball between the arms and in the torso, bringing balance and Qi to the internal organs.

c) Blend the Heaven and Earth Qi in the big Qi ball.


Advanced Consciousness Principles

a)  Pay attention to the feet as much as the hands. Feel all four equally.

b)  Go from a medium-sphere in the body to a large one around the body; which energizes your entire personal space.


More Keys to the Movements

The ball-holding position is done with the whole arm, not just the hands.

In the ball position: The shoulders are relaxed; the upper elbow is lower than shoulder; and the wrists are soft and curved.

Pelvic tilt in the ball holding position (which makes the lower back flatten.)

Feel the Qi ball before going into the separation.

Be sure when you have “separated the yin and the yang” and the arms are out to the sides that the elbows are still somewhat bent.

Turn only your waist when you look at the top hand; don’t turn your hips or knees. This is important for maintaining knee integrity (avoiding repetitive knee strain injury.)

Open the arms mainly with the back muscles. This means relaxing—as much as  you can—the muscles of your shoulders.

Relax the shoulders. If you feel them raised up, let them down. Hold the arms out with the muscles of your back.

When extending the arms, feel the Qi spread wide to the tips of the fingers and toes.


More Benefits

Helps relax tense shoulders and necks.

Builds the magnetic fluid aspect of Qi in your hands and entire body, an important indicator of immune system strengthening.

Brings your body’s energy field into a state of spherical unity, of wholeness inside and out and all around.


Mistake: Twisting knees when you turn.

Do not twist your knees



What is Qi?

Below I describe what Qi is. Using multiple descriptions, I give an overview of the flavor of Qi. I hope that this is an aid for you in reaching for the river flow of Qi. The best way to know Qi is to practice Qigong is to with educated awareness. Over time, it tells you what it is, for you.


Simple Definitions

Qi is flowing life-force energy.

Gong is to practice diligently and skillfully.

Qigong is the regular, skilled practice of working with vital energy.



The Oriental healing arts talk a lot about Qi. It’s Qi this, and Qi that and Qi everything else under the Sun and Moon and Milky Way. Qi is ubiquitous in the cultural context of China: Few Chinese doubt it’s existence, nor importance. To them, Qi is an essential fact of the universe, especially for practitioners of the Qi-based arts like Qigong, Chinese medicine or Tai Chi Chuan. They see Qi as being everywhere, connecting all parts of reality, animating life and movement. Qi is thought of as flowing everywhere all the time.


Qi is Like Santa Claus

As far as I am able to tell, almost all of the Chinese have known and worked with it all of his or her life. Its like Santa Claus in the USA. All kids know about Santa Clause and the presents he brings and puts under the tree. Except the presents of Qi can come every day, not just one day a year. Santa is pretty much omnipresent during one night a year, bringing energy to untold millions of households and joy to kids. Omnipresent Qi can bring joy and energy every day and every night.


Qi is Ki

Ideas similar to Qi are found in many cultures and many periods. This animating energy has been called names. The Japanese concept of Qi is the same as the Chinese (the Japanese got it from them), and is called Ki (“kee”). Ki is an integral aspect of all of the Japanese martial arts and traditional healing arts such as Karate, Aikido and Reiki.


In the book When Healing Waters Meet Clyde Ford lists dozens alternate names from many different cultures and life-force explorers for this energy source, including Qi

The Life Energy Encyclopedia: by Swedish author Stefan Stenudd lists and describes many of these sort-of-synonyms of Qi, ideas both ancient and modern.


Science Explains Much

A scientific, mathematical, or medical explanation of a process has some uses. It is best to understand it functionally, with your body. This is where the health value is. The scientific approach only describes only part of the whole. It may describe a slice of reality, may fit in an accepted framework of knowledge, may support one’s modernistic beliefs, but it doesn’t speak to the deeper, older parts of a human. These are metaphorical or poetic depths; sensing, intuiting, and feeling, the need for graceful animal movement; and the need for even more graceful heavenly experiences.


“Studies on the effects of Qi projection conducted by Chinese scientists concluded that energy released by a Qigong doctor into a patient carries the properties of infrasound, electromagnetics, static electricity, infrared radiation, gamma rays, particle and wave flows, organic ion flows, and light.”

            Jerry Alan Johnson, Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy (1st ed.), pg 589


There are many scientific studies dealing with Qi. These studies shine light on different aspects of the mega-phenomenon of Qi. Though science tends to describe Qi in a limited, partitioned way—in bits and parcels—science is extending and underpinning the ancient, medieval and modern Chinese descriptions of it.


Qi in the Body and Qi outside the Body

Theories of Qi state that everything that exists has Qi, in more or less amounts, more or less speed and in more or less clarity. Furthermore, all the space between all things has Qi as well, with the same principles of quantity, speed and clarity. Qi is full, smooth, integrated movements at every level of life.


No Really, What is Qi?

Qi is the optimization and integration of natural processes. Qi is a functional description of how movement works: The better the movement, the better the Qi; The better the Qi, the better the movement. Qi is the body working better, with more ease, less stress and greater coordination. Qi is the artful, expression of wholeness and health. Qi is a catch-all term describing an aligned unification of many different function of the body. Qi is the energy for feeling good. Qi is the expression of natural laws in full flower. Qi is the expression of life. Qi is the animating force of Life. Qi is naturally enlivened beauty.


Looking at Qi

Each of the processes below can be either considered Qi, or the results of Qi flow. When blended and befriended together, each of these results support and magnify the benefits of the other healing results and felt effects. Dividing up descriptions of Qi (itself thought of as undivided as an Ocean’s water is) is but a way to get at describing it. Here are some looks at what Qi is.


Qi is Motion

I like this definition of Qi very much because it encompasses movement at any level. Good Qi is good motion. Anything moving well—be it an electron, a blood cell, lymph fluid, an athlete at play, a river, the ocean, the planet, the solar system, or a galaxy—has good Qi, and life-promoting. Anything that is stuck, stagnant, crashing, or exploding is bad Qi, and disease and death promoting.


Qi is Rhythm

Moving at a smooth, equalized rhythm balances the nervous system. Moving in a jerky, chaotic way destabilizes the nervous system. Many disease states are associated with erratic motions. Smoothing the Qi flow with Qigong eases erratic motions and enables flowing stability. There are a great many rhythms in the body, including the heartbeat, breath, sleep/wake cycle, moon cycles, and lymph pulsations. Qi and Qigong work with all of them.


Qi is Breath

Breathing with an easy, smooth, slow, full, long, low breath—with balanced inhale and exhale—results in many benefits. This style of breathing clears cellular debris, oxygenates red blood cells, calms down the fight/flight nervous system, brings and builds energy, and does many more wonderful things. In some sense, oxygen is Qi. One of the older ideas and translations of Qigong describes it as breath practice or breathing exercises. Much of Qigong is much involved with how you breathe. How you breathe is an important indicator of how healthy you are and how long you will live.


Qi is Energy

This is the most common Western definition of Qi. Energy here is meant as active vitality, the means for getting thing done with joyful verve. If you have a lot of Qi, you have the joy and vitality and desire to do much.


Qi is Coordination of Movement

Qi is smooth, full, integrated movements at every level and layer and area of life, moving the musculo-skeletal system in synchronized togetherness. This results in beneficial shifts toward being more balanced. Areas that have been blocked get more attention. Areas of excess attention, get less. When your Qi is strongly flowing through open pathways in your body (blood, nervous system, lymph, tissues all open where they need to be), everything works better and feels better. Everything you do is more fun, full, and satisfying.


Qi is a Balanced Nervous System

Coordinating Breath with Movement Qi gets the brain, peripheral nervous system, sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system all working together in synchronicity.


Qi is Flow

Qi is correct flow. Qi is flowing life force that is liquid, electric, plastic, osmotic. Qi is any flow that is full, healthy and correct for the highest needs of your body.


Qi is Flowing Lymph

Lymph is the whitish fluid that clears the body of pathogens and other unhealthy particles. Stuck lymph flow is a disease state waiting to happen. Empowered, regular lymph flow is the expression of health with every pump through the lymph tubules and nodes. Qigong vastly increases the healthy flow of lymph through the body, increasing immunity to sickness. According to Kumar Frantzis, great amounts of Qi flow is called “making the body wet” in the Orient. This is a great description of heightened lymph flow.


Qi is a Calm, Quiet Mind

Too much concentration creates head tension, eye strain, neck and shoulder tension, anxiety, and stupidity. Settle the mind and learn what it means to think with the whole body. This is not mystical notion but an observable, attainable state that can be learned. It is a state of great intrapersonal unity with a natural way of being, which brings health and wisdom. You still have to accrue education and experience, but now you are not obsessively overworking the brain.


Qi is the Fascia

Fascia is pronounced “FA shuh”—fa as in fabulous. The fascia in the body is one of the missing links in much healing (along with other missing links such as breathing practice, the lymph system, and the functional movement state of the organs.) The whole body is a single fascial system. It exists throughout us in sheets, layers, sheaths and tubes. It is found from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet; from just under the skin, down to the bones. It wraps around organs, bones nerves, blood vessels, the brain and spinal cord. Every part of the body is interconnected by fascia. The fascia unifies in a balance of elasticity and support. Fascia is like a multi-compartment, internal body stocking that holds you together. It is involved in: allowing appropriate mobility of internal organs, non-neural conduction of electricity, protection, relaxed strength (half of the muscles in the body are attached to fascia). The fascia is said to be the passageway through which acupuncture meridians flow. The cells of the body are actually interconnected by fascia. Tiny tendrils of fascia enter every structural cell. All of the structural cells are connected by these lines of fascia.


“Qi is the Bridge Between Matter and Spirit”

This is the definition given by my Medical Qigong teacher Jerry Alan Johnson. According to this notion, Qi is the invested movement that connects consciousness and inclination with dumb matter. Matter must be acted upon to do something. Conversely thought must have something to do something upon, or nothing happens in material reality.


Qi is the Electromagnetic Spectrum

In this paradigm, Qi is every frequency you would find on a chart of the electromagnetic spectrum. In other words, Qi is the organized collection of many different ranges of waves of information, all existing simultaneously and interweaving. Organized waveforms are healthy Qi. Disorganized waveforms lead to chaos and noise. The physical body is, to some extent, sustained and informed by these wave forms.


Qi is Coherence and Connectedness

To me, the wholeness of Qi is the result of an aggregation of improved body functions working together. Qi is a collective of interacting, synchronized natural energies.


“On the basis of what is now know about the roles of electrical, magnetic, elastic, acoustic, thermal, gravitational, and photonic energies in living systems, it appears that there is no single ‘life force’ or healing energy in living systems. There are many energetic systems. Health are all of these systems, both known, and unknown, functioning collectively, cooperatively. The debate about whether there is such a thing as a healing energy or life force is being replaced with study of the interactions between biological energy fields, structures, and functions.”

Energy Healing, Oschman, page 219


Qi is Ease

Qi is ease of internal and external actions, finding the least forceful ways to be and do. Water is often used as metaphor for Qi because it finds the easiest way to flow toward its objective. Water flows down, seeking the sea, wending it’s way over, around, and under obstacles. In fact, the phrase “Qi flows like water” can help you understand Qi because Qi acts like water. It takes time for Qi to move form one spot to another in the body. In distinction to Qi is consciousness. Consciousness moves like light. You can think about your toe in an instant. But it may take a second or ten for the Qi flow to reach it.


Qi is Relaxed Muscles and Other Tissues

How is this Qi? Because blood, lymph, electricity, cellular fluid etc can move better through the tissues.


Qi is Emanata

Emanata are those sun-like rays that comes out of cartoon characters and other drawings. Emanata show vitality, vibrancy, force of nature, health, energized power. Emanata are an expression of strong, clear Qi. Emanata are fun and attractive.


Good Qi and Bad Qi

Sometimes Qigong teachers talk of Qi being good or bad. In reality, there is no good or back Qi, per se. Good Qi is fresh, appropriate and flowing Qi. Bad Qi is stuck, stagnant or old Qi that needs to move along. Good Qi leads to health and the flowering of appropriate personal power. Bad Qi leads to ill-health and feeling stuck in the muck.


I am a Qi Agnostic

Despite my many years of Qigong training and study, I can’t accurately say what Qi is. I have my thoughts about Qi, and my experiences. I can gather, release, refine, and store Qi—or do processes that seem to have those things happening (and results indicate are happening), but I don’t actually know what Qi is. I don’t know how it exists, or if it does. I don’t know if it is a complex of natural mechanisms, an all-connecting energy, a motive power source, or motion itself. Honestly, I can’t even say I am a believer in the numinous idea of Qi, as many of my teachers, colleagues and students and pretty much all books on Qigong are. I am a Qi agnostic. I find that working with Qi—whatever it is—is absolutely valuable.


Qi as a Functional Concept

For me, Qi is functional concept rather than an intellectual one. For myself, wracking my brain around the abstract philosophy of what Qi might be isn’t useful. Feeling Qi in my body shift in various ways as I practice is helpful, pleasurable, and reproducible. Qi might be some invisible, omni-connected life force that animates all movement. Or it could be that all I am experiencing in my Qigong is a complex of natural rhythms and processes. This is the biology and physics approach to understanding Qi. It doesn’t actually matter, what the ultimate reality of Qi is. It is a highly valuable and usable concept. You can learn feel Qi—whatever it is— and you can feel how it works with Qigong.




Waves of Art, Art of Waves

There are many good reasons to travel. One reason is to refine your views of life by seeing the new and seeing anew. Another is to get re-inspired; to go home with renewed vigor for creation and living well. Refreshment and relaxation are important aspects of vacations, though not always as prominent as they could be. Another good reason to travel to new places is to be reminded of what you know but haven’t thought about enough or lived enough lately.

Visiting places of beauty— whether natural or manmade—are on the top of my list of places to visit. Being around the beautiful and bountiful speaks to deep parts of myself, ancient wisdoms, subtle whispering that I do well to listen to.

In the Allerton Garden in Kauai is a water feature I recommend visiting. I was just there on a tour of these gardens on the island’s southern coast. It is situated in a magnificent little valley opening into the ocean. There are many lovely outdoor garden rooms, sculptures, trees, plants, waterfalls, pools, flowers, and vistas. For instance there are some stupendous ficus trees that were used in the movie Jurassic Park.

Pulsing Flow Water Feature

Pulsing Flow Water Feature

My favorite portion of the garden is the wave form water feature. This water sculpture is a long line of a structure that has an inner and outer shape of double undulations. The water flows through these wave shapes via a barely perceptible slope from a circular pool on one end to a circular catchment pool on the other end. Because of the beaded shape, the water pulses through, rather than rushing straight down. The set of double undulations that contain the water, manage its flow. When water comes to the end of the 127-foot long stream, the pulsations of the water pour into a basin in discrete amounts, creating audible beats. This slow, regular pulse is about 52 beats per minute. To be near it is mesmerizing, relaxing, wonderful. It entrances. It quiets the mind, soothes the spirit, and strengthens the inner senses.

It is a water massage of the body, mind and spirit.

There at the garden, I wondered how I could get one of these in my backyard.

To see a photo of this feature, go to Google images and enter “Allerton Garden Mermaid Fountain”.

In such blendings of art and nature, of science and spirit, of flow and directionality that we can access what it means to be more fully in tune with the power, presence and potential of our reality.

Being near the waveform sculpture reminds of Qigong and Taiji movements with their slow, wavelike rhythms of movements and breathing. These movements are the structure that entrain and train your physiology and psychology. They balance the flows of nerve pathways, lymph pathways, blood circulation. The fluid flows become strongly entwined, whole, regular, pulsating. This brings about a delightful inner peace, satisfaction, quiet joy.

In your own backyard, so to speak (your body), you have such water features. You have organic metronomes that can bring you home. The focused focused, slow movement expands the production and interconnectedness of your cells, systems, waters, electricity, magnetism. You can connect to the resonance and microcosm of nature’s power. Through the constructed and evolved arts of Qigong or Taiji you can open to the great river flows of possibility that already flow through you, informing and impassioning you.

I think that the 52 beats a minute rhythm connects to some ideal, at-ease, heart beat within a person. This brings a calmness and connection to many parts of the body at different speeds. It just starts with that one slow heart speed. It is one doorway to the great collections of rhythms that make up your being. Opening that one door, other rooms become affected.

Qigong can be thought of as the Art of Waves. You move in slow frequencies that tune you into the natures rhythms.

Repeated waves of movement wash away the stones, smooth out the rough spots, move and endlessly continue to move all in its repeated path. Thus the rough and jagged becomes smooth and soft. Thus life flows better.




The Profound Principle of Modifying

A Little Exercise Can Go a Long Way

Take it Easy

One of the great things about Qigong is that it is adaptable for just about any person who wants to practice it. The basic rule with Qigong is to take it easy, to practice in a way and at a pace that is appropriate for you. Undo the modern demand of the Western world to overdo. Practice in a manner that is free and easy.

Modify to Make it Doable

The first principle of Qigong is to practice, preferably daily. The second principle of Qigong is to modify the exercises as needed. Never force a movement in your practice. Don’t take it to the edge of your ability. Don’t stretch or reach or bend or step farther than is comfortable. Learn to do the practices as effortlessly as you can. Make it work for where you are on any given day without adding strain, pain, or stress to your body. This is an approach of smallness and ease, rather than largeness and push. It is a foundation of relaxation. This is how you set in motion the healing of your body, inside and out. When you push too hard, your body tenses up. Workout tension is the antithesis of wellness. It leads to hellness, instead of wellness.

Make it Smaller and Make it Easier

The principle of modifying is both amazing and effective. By using this principle you can practice Qigong and make progress in your current health, no matter what owies you have going on in your body. Qigong can thus be practiced by people of all ages and of all manner of health levels.

It is Effective

It works likes this: If you are unable to perform a particular move because it takes more strength than you have; or you don’t quite have the breath for it; or it causes you pain to do it; just shrink the parameters of the movement. Put simply, make it smaller and make it easier. Simply by putting your body, mind and breath into motion, you improve your health because life is about movement. Life is motion, health is movement, and any gentle moving helps.

Dial Up Your Healing

By moving gently, you turn up the dial on your healing. As you would turn up the thermostat in your house to get warmer, you turn up your healo-stat by practicing Qigong. With gentle Qigong so many healing parameters are activated and enhanced. Your many internal systems function better to clear, engage, balance and enliven all aspects of your being.

Examples of Modifying

  • If standing hurts, or you cannot stand, practice while sitting down.
  • If bending the knees causes wincing, bend them less.
  • If raising the arms above the head hurts, raise the arms only as high as you can do so with ease.
  • If you are tired, do less exercise itself and get some rest.
  • If a fast move hurts, slow it down.
  • If a stretch causes alarm, don’t stretch so far.
  • If a practice leaves you sore, do less next time.
  • If a long step causes you to wince, take a shorter step.

Practice Easily to Relax Maximally

The pragmatic principle here is that by practicing within your limits with the relaxing, body-balancing exercises of Qigong, you will begin to heal and strengthen from the inside out. Move within your outer limit of easy motion. You will, after practicing this way, begin to expand that circumference. The outer limit will expand and you will be able to do more, still at ease.

Gain More by Doing Less

The principle of modifying means this art of Qigong is one of the safest practices you can engage in. On any day, by practicing Qigong with awareness and appropriateness, you will almost always be better off than you otherwise were. You get more out of it by doing less. To meet current abilities (current to that day) means you can almost always practice and get some benefit from it




Teaching Qigong is Learning Qigong

One of the beautiful results of teaching Qigong and Taiji classes is that the classes themselves teach me. Every week I am learning new aspects of these seemingly boundless arts with new secrets being presented to me. In the very teaching of them, ideas and new understandings arise. This happens as a natural process of fully engaging with the movements, the philosophies, and especially the students, teachers, and colleagues I practice with. Day, by day and week by week, I am learning just by doing with focus, presence and openness.
This week I have a new understanding of rooting Heart Qi into the Lower Dantian. This is something I have long been familiar with, but, in the exercise Blending Fire and Water, I got a subtler sense of working it, of the gentle pressing of the lowering hand to take the heat out of the Heart and center it lower, within the blending.
I also got a better sense this week of how sinking Qi into the earth opens a flow that can help draw in Qi from the outside deeper into the body. This vacuum effect take less effort than just pushing or pressing or grabbing Qi alone.
I used to believe I could mass-absorb information to gain skills. Now I know that the path to mastery is a day-by-day unfolding that cannot be forced, cannot be hastened with over-eagerness, super-earnestness, or manic enthusiasm. Learning and growing are natural processes that follow natural cycles. And it is the step-by-step of it that is so enjoyable. The rewards are in the doing, not in the eventual getting there on some mountaintop of mastery, some pivotal point of personal power.
I have also learned that it is the interactions I have, and the relationships I build, that add the most value to my life. Gaining skill and knowledge is important, and important to me. Having shared experiences and gaining good friends to play with are even better. The skills and knowledge of Qigong and Taiji are a great pathway of growth; but even more, they are a medium for learning, growth, and relating.


Balancing Tai Chi

For older people falling is one of the more frequent causes of trauma. Tai Chi (Taiji) is a classical Chinese movement method for being more stable in your body (and emotions, mind, and spirit). In its full flower it is a potent martial art, but most people practice it for health purposes today.

Tai Chi Decreases Falling

Tai Chi is a practice that is proven to decrease the number of falls that senior citizens take. By extension, probably everybody who learns some Tai Chi becomes less prone to falling. There have been a number of studies that look at Tai Chi practice and vertical stability. I remember first reading about such a study one in the mid-nineties. A group of senior citizens were taught a simplified Tai Chi form 2 times a week for 10 weeks. Their number of falls decreased significantly. Other exercise programs tested did not give that kind of physical stability. Even months after the end of the class the number of falls amongst them stayed at the lower levels. There have been several such studies about the efficacy of Tai Chi. The one I am referring to is known as the Emory Study. It can be found (among other places) in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in the May 3, 1995 issue.



You Can Learn to be More Balanced

Taiji (Tai Chi) is, among other aspects, a precise method of developing body awareness, physical relaxation, structural alignment and body unity. If you are not too stable now, Taiji can teach and train you to become more physically stable, more dynamically able. Balance in your body, in this world, is not set in stone, but can be greatly improved. If you are like most people, when you were learning how to walk—and then growing up—you got little or no express guidance in the best way to stand, walk, stride, jog, run, or change directions with skill and safety. Few people have. You probably just scrambled and ambled as best as you could figure out at the time. This probably left some less-than-optimal habits that still influence you today, habits that lead to more or less instability. These can be changed with Tai Chi training.

Taiji wardoff 2d

How Tai Chi Improves Balance

Slow Movement: Slow and deliberate movement builds strength, body awareness and presence of mind. You can pay attention to motions that were tripping you up when you went at normal or fast speed.

Rooting: Rooting means learning to sink your weight into the earth. This makes you less tippy. You learn to step by sinking the power of the standing leg into the earth and slowly rolling your other foot onto the ground in front of you. You don’t go all out, all-now with the step, but rather commit in a steady, forward and down continuum.

Smooth Movement: Taiji smoothes the rough spots. Taiji polishes ratchety movements and crotchety joints.

Soft Stepping: Instead of plodding and plopping down you practice placing each foot gently. It is a foot “fall” only in the sense that feather falls to the ground on a breath of wind.

Kiss the ground with your foot: Don’t stomp it.

Relaxation: Tension leads to instability, vertical uncertainty and wobbliness. The relaxation training of Taiji naturally brings more ease and space to rigid muscle fibers and compressed joints.

Breathing: By making your breath more full, low into the belly, even and smooth you gain an automatic improvement of stability.

Getting out of Your Head: Being overly heady as you walk is dangerous. By not paying attention to your surroundings you could trip over any little thing. Tai Chi practice helps you become aware of the ground in the present moment.

Tai Chi Secrets: Learning such Tai Chi “secrets” as the Loading the Kua, Turning from the Gate of Life, Separation of Yin and Yang, Song, and Peng helps you greatly in your movement strength and abilities.

For instance, practicing the Separation of Yin and Yang; instead of being all balled up in one congealed mass, you differentiate the parts that are the stable from those in motion. Envision a panther stroking the ground in its majestic walk, flexibly reaching then bringing back—always stable, always soft, always in full control.

Find a Tai Chi Teacher

The form I am teaching this Autumn is based on the 10-movement form taught to those study participants. If you are not in my geographical area I encourage you to seek out Tai Chi where you are. There are more and more experienced practitioners and teachers out there. The sooner you learn it the sooner you will start to reap the benefits. A little Tai Chi practice can make an outsized contribution to your life. It is best to begin your balance training before you are a senior citizen, when you are likely to have more falls. If you have already reached that golden plateau, there is even more reason to seek out the practice.

The Balancing Tai Chi Form

The ten movements of the compact form mentioned above, as I am teaching it, are:

This short Tai Chi form is performed on a line, rather in circles like the Simple Taiji Forms. The line goes from right to left. It is easy to learn and fun to practice. Later we will perform the mirror version, stepping on a right-handed line. 

Left Line

1. Opening Tai Chi (Face North):

     – Feet-Together

      – Step out to the Left to Shoulder Width

      – Raise, Press, Receive and Lower Hands (Peng, Ji, Lu, An)

2. Ward Off Left (Face West)

3. Rollback (Turn Waist North)

4. Press (Face West)

5. Push (Face West)

6. Cloud Hands Left (Face North, Move West)

7. Single Whip Left (Face West)

8. Left Kick (to Southwest)

9. Right Kick (to Northwest)

10. Conclusion (Face North)

      – Step to Shoulder Width with Right Leg

      – Gather Qi, Press Crossed Wrists Down

     – Bring Left Leg to Feet-Together




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