#9: Streaming the Fountains
Recommended Repetitions: 6 to 12 reps, or more; in each direction Movement: Bring Earth energy up the inside column of the body and down the outside orb of your energy field in a fountain. Reverse the directions for Heaven energy.
Purpose: Energizes and balances your body between Earth and Heaven.
Main Qigong Principle: Keep hips, knees and ankles centered and lined up.
Description of the Physical Movements
Begin: Slightly bend at the knees, hips and waist to scoop from the earth with your arms.
Inhale: Stand up, drawing the hands up past the legs, waist, chest, head, and finally, overhead. The hands face the body as they travel upward.
Exhale: Lower the arms down the sides and slightly bend at the knees, hips and waist to again scoop of the earth with your arms.
After the last Earth Movement, where the arms lower down the sides, rise from the squat and draw the arms up the chest, crossing them at the forearms.
Lower the arms as you squat back down, uncrossing the arms. Raise the arms up the sides until the are above the head.
This is essentially the reverse of the Earth Movement.
Exhale: Lower the hands to pass the head, neck, chest, abdomen, pelvis, legs into the earth. The hands face the body as they travel downward.
Inhale: Draw the hands up the sides until they come again to being above the head.
Modifying the Exercise
If it hurts the knees to bend them, bend them less. If your back hurts when you bend over to scoop Earth Qi or Release Heaven Qi, bend less.
On the Earth Movement: Connect your mind to the varied treasures below your feet in the earth; the energies and colors and nourishment of rocks, dirt, water, magma. Feel the solidity and the rooting gravity of the earth.
On the Heaven Movement: Connect your mind to the orbiting planets, twinkling stars, and spiraling galaxies. Feel the expansion and space of the levitational heavens.
Streaming the Fountains teaches how to connect the flowing energy of the body with flowing energies outside of the body, and healthfully blend them all. When rising with the Earth Movement, the Qi of the earth, courses through the your body like water through a pipe. When lowering the arms, the Qi spreads all around in a 360 degree fountain. This fountaining Qi, as it reaches the ground, then joins the rising Qi that courses back up your body. (I’m not sure fountaining is actually a word, but it works for me.) With the Heaven movement you are showering in a reverse fountain.
Improving Leg Configuration and Coordination
It is important to keep the hips, knees, and ankles all be lined up and in tune with each other as you squat down and rise again. Wiggly legs lead to less strength and more joint problems. Move straight up and down with your squatting and you’ll strengthen your joints, build muscle, smooth out your Qi flow, and improve coordination.
Lower Back Fitness
Back pain is a national epidemic in the USA. Millions and millions of people have back trouble. If you haven’t had back problems, chances are you will eventually. Back health is something valuable and to be sought. (And that’s not just me the Chiropractor talking.) Bending at the waist is good for the low back and should not be avoided. It must, however, be executed to a degree that is within your safe limits. If you avoid bending at the waist, eventually you won’t be able to and the slightest twist and misstep could cause painful impingement. Lubricating the back through repeated, appropriate bending and unbending will probably lead to greater ability to bend farther and to lead to fewer back pain episodes in your future.
It is important not to let the knee caps (patellae bones) protrude farther than the front of the toes. When you bend the knees with all of your weight on them, keep within the limit of the front of the toes. If you look down and cannot see your feet because your knees are in the way, you have bent too far forward. This is hard on the knees and could and probably will cause pain and problems you don’t want.
Building Leg Strength
Squatting lower (safely) builds greater leg strength, particularly of the muscles on the front of the thighs. These muscles are called the quadriceps and are designed to be extremely strong. I call them the longevity muscles because when they get weak, it becomes more and more difficult to walk and get around. This leads to weakening of all the body, inside and out, making the body more susceptible to illness, accidents, and premature old age. It is common for Tai Chi masters to have strong legs—and robust health—into their 80’s and 90’s.