Archive for Practices

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.

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Why Do We Go Slow in Qigong

14 Powerful Reasons for Slow Qigong

Many Qigong exercises are done slowly, sometimes very slowly. Why is this? There are many reasons that going slow is one of the best ways to get the most out of a Qigong practice. There is overlap between the many reasons given below, as every piece stated contributes to all of the other pieces. We are whole beings, not a conglomeration of separate parts. I speak of each reason separately for ease of personal exploration. There are more than 14 reasons for frequent, slow movement practice.

The Race to Slowness

Engage in the oft-missing luxury of unhurried movement. Life is so fast, especially modern life. We get out of balance with the speed, intensity, complexity. Slowness is something we miss, at a deep level, something we crave.

1.  Improve Lymph Flow

Going at slow speed activates the pulsing lymph flow in the entire body, because it resonates with the slow, rhythmic way lymph likes to move. An enormous flow of lymph fluid can move through your body. Optimizing your lymph flow will increase the many valuable tasks that the lymph does, such as clearing up cellular wastes, draining toxins, reducing inflammations, fighting infections, preventing illness and generally cleaning up the interstices of your body. Going at Tai chi speed activates the lymph flow in the entire body. Lymph likes to pump through the many nodes and vessels of the body at a slow rate: a six to 8 second pulse is ideal.

2.  Notice More

The more you can discern in a relaxed state, the more you empower yourself. Practicing any movement slowly allows you to notice more within the movement. You enhance awareness of sensations, your breath, where your mind is, and different aspects of your body. Going fast, you skip over things. There is so much to notice in your body that you never have before. The more you can, in a relaxed state, notice, the more you empower yourself. Take time to enjoy the scenery, to partake of the pleasures of movement. Learn and assimilate what you notice.

3.  Allow Time to Connect More of your Body Together

In Qigong and the internal martial arts you practice using all parts of the body. You don’t want any portions of your body languishing, lazing, hiding. You want complete movement everywhere. Slowness allows the ignored or left-out places a chance to engage in the movement. These shadow places are areas of pain, chronic problems, lowered function, and trauma. Getting them involved in the healing movement is quite empowering on many levels. Parts and places are better; and the whole is better

4.  Ground, Root and Center

Three of the most important principles of Qigong are Grounding, Rooting, and Centering. Each of these are easier to learn and enhance by going slowly. Grounding is when your body’s energy flow is equalized within and without (like the grounding you would do with an electrical wire.) Rooting is relaxing the tension downward to create physical stability. Centering is putting your mind into your lower abdomen (Lower Dantian.)

5.  Improve Your Breathing

It is easier to take deep, full, even, long and  relaxed breaths when you move slowly. In slowness, it is easier to integrate your breath with your movement. Improving your breathing is probably the most basic and most useful method of a long life of health. Qigong at it’s bedrock level is really breath training. Proper breath training can alleviate, improve or cure just about any chronic illness you can name. Chronic illnesses, whatever they are called, are, in a big way, a failure of whole body, healthy breathing.

6.  Switch from Fight/Flight to Relax/Heal

Our stressed out nervous systems are usually unbalanced in some kind of futile fight against the intensities of the modern world. The autonomic nervous system handles the various internal processes of the body like organ function, digestion, blood cell production and internal communications. The sympathetic part of this system is Yang—active and fast and easily overfed by stress. Slow Qigong practice releases the hole of the overworked sympathetic side and engages with the too-ignored parasympathetic side. It is the parasympathetic nervous system where most healing is enabled. The parasympathetic slows you down (think “parachute.”) The parasympathetic slows us down (think “parachute.”) This is the Yin aspect of the autonomic (automatic) nervous system of the body.

7.  Qi Moves like Water

Qi is a vast concept that basically means full, fluid, intelligent, enlivening flow. The Qi of your body connects distant parts of your body into one unit of movement. But it does it within certain rules of motion. “Qi,” it is said, “moves like water;” while consciousness moves as fast as light. One aspect of health, is the full flow of Qi throughout the body. Qi, like water, flows by going under, over, through, or around obstacles in it’s path. Whatever obstacles you may have in your body—whether through tension, injuries, congestion or compression—your Qi has to find a way through. Water and Qi are ever-changing. This takes a moment. With your thinking you can just be somewhere—poof, instantly. With Qi, which is the interconnecting flow of your body, it takes time. If you go too fast, you don’t give your Qi time enough to authentically flow. Going too fast is a mechanical approach dictated by your brain. Going slowly, you give your Qi time enough find its way and to strongly flow. Going too fast is a mechanical approach dictated by your brain.

8.  Coordinate Posture, Movement, Breath, Mind, and Qi

Aligning these five factors is Qigong. When all five aspects are engaged in synchronized, mutually-supporting, principle based concert, you are practicing Qigong. For instance, when you begin a move, you begin to inhale. Likewise, when you finish the move, you complete your exhale. All through, the movement is smooth and regular, as is the breathing.

The effects of Qigong can be felt very early in your training. Your body is not doing one thing while your mind is doing another. You are not exercising while thinking about the movie you watched last night. You are not haphazardly breathing while sending Qi to your toe and slumping your torso. Yet, it takes a long dedication to practice and refinement of principles to gain gobs from Qigong. (Remember: practice is fun.) When these five factors are all moving together, in a whole-body synchronization, you are engaging in great self-healing work. You will like what you feel and love not getting sick much (or at all.)

9.  Strengthen Muscles

Many of us use faster movements to propel our body into movement. We use momentum rather than strength. Throwing ourselves around with willpower, we drain our internal resources. (This is the story of my first 30 years on this planet.) Slow movement develops a full-muscle strength that is different than that unhealthy explosive power. By actively using more of each muscle in each moment of time within the full extent of a motion, we become more integrated. Your muscles become smarter, stronger, and gain greater endurance. More importantly, this kind of strength, this longer, slower, easier strength leads to more relaxation. The muscles of the thighs (the longevity muscles) are particularly important to strengthen and Qigong (and Taiji) are great at developing them.

10.  Relax the Heart and Blood Vessels

Cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart and strongly pushes blood through the blood vessels. Slow Qigong moves blood through the body by relaxing the heart and vessels. Qigong helps regulate a heart that is often too anxious and working too hard. Moderately vigorous exercise is important for long-term health. Overly vigorous exercise is usually an imbalanced behavior that, if continued, will eventually lead to serious health problems. Besides the physical health issues of heart and blood, over-work of the heart and over-energization leads to unhappy emotional issues. A tense heart is also a heart prone to anxiety.

11.  Increase Body Awareness in the Moment

Practicing slowly is moving meditation. It is meditation that doesn’t put you to sleep. You can better access the peace and promise of this moment. If  you have heard of the benefits of meditation but cannot seem to sit still for it, trying these slow Qigong approaches. The moving meditation of Qigong brings your focus to the present moment, the place of healing. Moving out of the past, we let go of the dragging hold that past has on us. We can let go of fears that were once valid for us, but are not more. We can release, day by day, the hold of our previous injuries, mental, physical, and emotional. We can better access the peace and promise this moment. For myself, I would much rather move to meditate than sit. Many people extol the benefits of sitting meditation, yet, we in the 21st century already sit so much. Our bodies stagnate and so do our minds. Get off the cushion, off the couch, off the chair and get your calming meditation in as you move your joints, pulse your lymph, massage your organs, and breathe with Qi.

13.  Develop Smoothness of Motion

Gaining smoother movement is both a method of and sign of healing. Herky Jerky motions are indications of blocks and rocks and dry spots in your inner environment. When you slow down, you notice the places that are not smooth and fluid. The clicks, and ratchets, and hatchets in our movements; the sticky, stagnant, and stuck places; the rickety, rackety, hacked places. Noticing, you can take measures to bring more fluidity to each spot.

14. Release Tension and Finally Relax

Slowness encourages release of tensions throughout your body, calmness in your emotions, clarity of your focus in the moment and superior whole body, whole being relaxation. Relaxation leads to the healing of stored traumas and a sense of well-being now.

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Practice Right Away to Remember

Learning new ways to move is fun and satisfying. In Qigong and Taiji learning new movements is a constant part of the training. I have found that many students have difficulty with remembering the moves from one class to the next. Here are a few tips to make the intake of new movements a natural, normal part of your life.

Commit to Self-Practice

Learning and remembering new movements takes conscious effort, constant renewal and a commitment to practice. It takes an active engagement with the process. Just receiving the lessons in class isn’t enough. You will most likely forget by the next class. If you repeat a movement often enough, it becomes a body memory.

Practice Does Not Need to be Perfect

I sometimes hear people say they didn’t practice their moves because they weren’t sure of the details. The old saying is that perfect practice makes perfect. Wanting perfection, they avoided practicing any of the new exercises at all. Don’t go for perfection when learning something new. Just get it down in rough form. Go for stick figure drawing, not renaissance painting. Getting the stick figure down is creating the skeleton for further details to be added upon later.

Learn them Digitally at First

Learn as basically as possible. Where does each arm go? If you are stepping, which foot are you stepping with? If you are turning the body, which way? Do rough run-throughs. e.g. for Part the Horses Main, my right hand goes forward and faces up. My left hand is down and back. My right leg is forward.

Repeat as Soon as Possible

Repeat while the material is fresh. Otherwise it quickly dematerializes in your memory, a ship quietly sailing away into the fog of time. It is soon gone, and you’ve lost something small but tangible to build further upon. Then you have to relearn it. I recommend practicing the moves a few times when you get to where you are going.

Repeat Repeatedly for a Few Days

Do quick reviews, just to get the basic physical sequence down.

Short Sessions

Stop what you are doing periodically through the day or three after learning these new moves to do brief and scanty run-throughs. These micro-practices don’t have to be any big production, just doing the moves one or more times. Whenever you think about it as you go about your day. Just do a run-through a few times.

Review in your mind

You can also visualize the movements at odd moments. Visualizing is nearly as good as doing to motions themselves

When you have something, even just a glimmer, nurture that glimmer by repeating it. If you have a base of movement that is even remotely close to the proper way to move, practice that base. By practicing it you are able to remember something. Then you can change it, correct it, improve it in later classes and personal practices. If you don’t try at all, you have to start over, which is frustrating and slows your progress.

In Review

Think about any new moves you have just learned in class as you go home. Keep these new moves fresh in your mind. As soon as you are able, physically go through them a few times again. I recommend to this as soon as you get to the next place you are going.

Make remembering and practicing priorities.

Example #1: On the Bus

I remember my Medical Qigong teacher Jerry Alan Johnson telling us how he learned a Chen Taiji form in Beijing (I think it was Beijing). He was in China learning more about Medical Qigong, so while he was there he also found a martial arts master in a park and took lessons in a form he didn’t know. After each lesson, riding the bus to the hospital he was studying at, he would go through the moves. Sitting on the bus he would move his hands and turn a little, reviewing while the material was fresh. He learned the full Taiji form. When I saw him perform it several years later, it inspired me to seek out and find  some Chen Taiji. And I did. When Bob Lau moved to Bellingham he was able to teach me the long form in the New Frame style.

Example #2: Practicing First Thing

An example of how to grasp movement lessons happened recently. I just began learning the Partner Form (San Shou) in Yang Style Taiji from Michael Gilman, who is a long drive and a ferry ride away from me. In the first workshop we learned 10 moves, all done with another person. After the workshop, my training partner and I practiced these new moves as soon as I dropped him off at his house. There in the yard, we reviewed. Then I drove home and practiced the moves again, in my living room, visualizing a partner. Several times each day I practiced. The moves stuck with me. I’m ready for the next workshop.

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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

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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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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Hot Hands

Qigong Will Warm Your Hands

If you have cold hands, Qigong can warm them up. Qigong increases the Qi and blood flow to the hands. The hands get pleasantly fat and full and the palms and fingers turn reddish. Sometimes there is a red and white mottling. Warm hands indicate many good things: Your internal organs are charging up, excess energy in the heart is distributed to the periphery, overall blood flow is better. Hot hands can also indicate that harmful excesses of heat in the head or heart are being safely shunted to the hands–a place much better for body heat to reside. Qigong can warm cold feet too, which means the Qi and blood flow through your legs is improved and the body is more rooted, balanced in energy, and infused with life force.

Five Pairs with a Loyal Flush

Qigong to warm hands

Five Pairs of Hands

Above is a photo of my hands and four of my students’ hands taken at a Qigong class with a heat camera. The heat camera is a special device designed for finding heat leaks in houses. It works great as a Qigong tool of exploration. My hands are the white ones ringed with red, which indicates a lot of heat in them. Notice the palms of the others, which tend toward a middle-heat yellow with some warmer orange-ish red. Also notice the blue in the fingers, indicating coolness.

This photo was taken at the beginning of a Qigong Practice, showing my Qi-charged hands which are habitually, healthily warm already. In 1995, after practicing Qigong regularly for about a year, my hands turned on. They get pleasantly warm almost every time I practice my healing methods on someone, or practice Qigong exercises. They are warm to start with and get warmer.

Qigong Will Balance the Energy of Your Hands

Many exercises of Qigong help equalize the Qi, blood, lymph, and neural energy between your hands. Balanced hands indicate a balanced body. The blood vessels on both upper limbs are equally open and strong. The divisions of the cerebral cortex–left and right, front and back– are in equilibrium. The nerves coming from the spine to the hands are engaging equally as they travel through the shoulder complex, arms, and into the hands.

Qigong to Balance Qi

One Cold and One Hot Hand

The heat photo of the above pair of hands shows an imbalance between left and right. The right is much hotter. Qigong can help balance the temperature of these hands.

The Good Hands Practice

Warm hands of Qigong

Robert's Hot Little Hands

These are my hands after 50 minutes of Qigong practice and teaching. Note that even the fingers are quite warm. An important part of my hands-on healing work involves using each finger, both independently and in conjunction with the rest of the fingers, the palm, and my whole body. I think that this engaged finger individuation also helps with keeping the Qi alive and warm in my hands.

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You Can Can Cure Hot Flashes

Hot flashes can sometimes be eliminated in a moment by the use of a simple healing sound from the Chinese Art of Qigong.  I have seen these amazing shifts happen on several occasions with different people.

A hot flash means you have too much heat being produced in the body. Usually the extra heat rises into the head, making you uncomfortable. It could arise for a number of reasons: sudden hormonal shifts, too much sunshine, a liver working too hard, or being drained of vitality so that your body has trouble keeping you cool.

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Healing Sounds to Clear Your Body

Part of the expansive collection of Qigong exercises is the art of healing sounds. Over many hundreds of years, Chinese Qigong practitioners discovered and refined particular sounds. The basic use of healing sounds in this discipline is for cleansing the body, mind, and emotions of stuck, stagnant or excessive energy. Sounds vibrate the tissues, releasing contracting-tension and shaking loose what is stuck.

“Sheeeee” Helps Hot Flashes

Here is the sound for excess, high heat in the body: “Sheeeeee.” It is pronounced and performed in a special way. You will simultaneously do these three actions:

  • Draw your hands from the top of your head down through your legs and into the earth. The eyes and head follow the hands down.
  • Imagine and visualize and sense that you are clearing your body of extra heat from head to feet. It is like your cells are being showered with cooling water, or the inner windows are being squeegeed clean.
  • It is a descending tone “Sheeeee.” This dropping sound starts in the high range and descends very low, like going from soprano to basso. The farther down your body you go with your hands and consciousness, the deeper becomes the sound.

Note: Do not bend over as you get closer to the ground. If you bend too much you will, via gravity, put energy in the head. With this exercise you want to get energy out of the head, not put more in.

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Qiqong Sequences

Continuing my discussion of the Three “S”s of Qigong practice: Single Exercises, Sets and Sequences:

Sequences

A Qigong sequence is a series of movements put together into an artistic form. I often call these forms, but many people use the word “form” for a single exercise or a set. I’m playing with the word “Sequence” as a more accurate, separate descriptor.

In a Sequence–or form–one exercises follows another in an arranged order. Sequences usually cover some ground with different types of steps, arm movements and torso movements. These patterned forms usually face all directions within the series of moves.

Forms are Artistic Patterns

Forms–or Sequences–can be seen as patterns performed on the ground, in time, and in the space around you.

Sequential forms are a more advanced way of practicing than Single Exercises or Sets (though not necessarily better.)

Sequences are like books or encyclopedias of skills and knowledge. Often Sets are created by taking and adapting movements from forms into successive drills. I have done this with the Primordial Qigong Sequence, creating the exercise Set I call the Delightful Dozen out of it.

Whereas the Delightful Dozen faces one direction and calls for about a dozen repetitions of each exercise; Primordial Qigong faces each of the cardinal directions eight times in a circling sequence and with varying numbers of repetitions for each sequential movement within the form.

In the formal sequence of Primordial Qigong, each exercise has it’s own number of reps to do—between 1 and 10 reps—before  flowing into the next exercise

Other examples of Sequences include much of the system of Wild Goose Qigong, including The First 64, The Second 64, Soft Palms, Spiral, etc…

Yang Style TaiJi (Tai Chi)

Every system of Tai Chi (at least 6 different major systems out there) has it’s short and long forms as a major part of their training. The Yang Style of Tai Chi Chuan, for instance, has a widely taught beginner form of 24 movements; the intermediate  20 minute (or so) long 108 movements form; and another, rarely seen, more complex, 108 move form.

New Frame Chen Style Tai Chi Form

In my Chen Style Tai Chi class with Bob Lau we practice something called the New Frame. This very long and complicated form (which I have a long way to go to really understand in a significant way) is made of 83 moves. However, most moves have several sequential components to them, so 83 is a but a method of naming. There seem to me to be about 250 separate moves. “Whew.” I’m currently learning a Sequence called Spiral Taiji from my internal arts teacher Bob Lau.

Advantage of Sequences

An advantage of working with Sequences is that they force you to be present and fully conscious as you are training. Spacing out and not paying attention leads to missing your next steps and getting lost. Sequences are a magnificent as moving meditations.

With the differing numbers done of exercises, the exact sequences, the steps being taken and directions to face, sequential forms are masterful ways of training your memory.

Sequences also encourage a the building of artful skill. Forms add a tapestry of artistic color and nuance to Qigong.

And they are fun!

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Three Types of Qigong Practice

Exercises Can be Done Singly, in Sets or in Patterned Sequences

There are a number of ways to look at Qigong in order to understand it better, methods of breaking down aspects of it into categories. In future posts I’ll talk about several different such ordering methods.

One way to look at Qigong in terms of how the exercises are organized: whether you are doing a single exercise repeated; a set of exercises drilled repeatedly and in order; or a sequence of exercises done in a flowing pattern.

For Simplicity, I Call These the Three “S”s

  • Singles
  • Sets
  • Sequences

Single Exercises

Single exercises are done by themselves, repeatedly. These are usually drills of foundational movements or meditations that help you gather a particular energy or develop a particular important skill.

These drills might also be taken out of a set or sequence and practiced alone. A single exercise might be a prescription for your condition. Two examples are doing lots of Shaking the Body to release tension, or performing many reps of the Inner Qi Shower to release and descend excess heat in the head.

Another example of this is building balanced energy in your hands for healing with the exercise Charging the Qi Ball.

The Golden Ball (also called 8 Actions of Qi) is an 8-movement single exercise I learned from my Medical Qigong teacher Jerry Alan Johnson. The Golden ball is particularly good at balancing your body’s Qi field.

Swimming Dragon is a sophisticated Single Exercise that is great for the spine and other joints of the body.

Reasons to Practice Single Exercises Include

  • to really deepen a skill,
  • to drill and drill for a particular need, such as an exercise prescription
  • to built a foundation necessary for later practice needs
  • because you are short of time

Get in a Groove

The best way to practice Single Exercises is to do them for a period of time, rather than a set number of repetitions. For instance you could decide to practice the exercise over and over for 5, 10 or 20 minutes. After a few minutes you will get into a groove. You’ll be riding a wave of a rhythm that takes you with it.

In my next post I will talk about Sets.

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Pay Attention to Your Feet

Right Now, Do a Little Awareness Experiment

Noticing both your feet and your head, how much of your awareness is in your feet and how much in your head, percentage-wise? In other words, are you balanced, top and bottom?

Most people I’ve talked to say they have anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of their awareness in their heads. This means, they are not balanced energetically, magnetically or consciously. They have much more awareness in the moment up top. They have more energy in their upper bodies than lower.

Whole Body Balance

It is a cardinal rule of Qigong that balance is a must for healthy, whole living.

50/50 is Nifty

It might sound obvious to pay attention to your feet, yet I find it common for people to be doing the opposite. Often people are so much in their heads, that their feet are afterthoughts, follow-alongs. They trip along on them, bidding them to get them from one place to another with hardly a parcel of awareness devoted to them. They become top-heavy energetically, emotionally, and physically. Read the rest of this entry »

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