In the book The Root of Chinese Chi Kung, Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming states, “Chi Kung is the science of cultivating the body’s internal energy”… “The correct definition of Chi Kung is any training or study dealing with Chi which takes a long time and a lot of effort.” Chi Kung also spelled as Qigong, has a long history with many variations. A student of Qigong should study more than one, to get a more rounded knowledge. Some lean more toward martial arts and others toward healing. That is the form to be discussed here.
Douglas Chung, Phd., in his book Qigong Therapies, explains how qigong is the integration of mind, body, and spirit. He says for healing; the body is relaxed, the mind is calm and the ego is set aside, so the individual can give full attention to the conscious self for holistic healing. Dr. Chung states, “Self-acceptance is the key and the starting point of energy and life transformation. If you cannot acknowledge and accept your weaknesses and limitations, you cannot accept your self and improve your self.”
He lists six major Qigong strategies:
1. Internalization… that includes energy internalization, energy management.
2. Body Posture… relaxation is critical. Various postures enhance the free flow of energy throughout the body.
3. Breathing… there are different breathing methods. Abdominal breathing is the most efficient and must be learned by most people.
4. Mental reframing… know your real self, believe in yourself, affirm yourself.
5. Spiritual Adjustment… this is an awareness of yourself–in the present moment… “your body, energy within and without, and on the flow of energy in whatever you do.”
6. Integration of mind, body, and spirit… where the body is relaxed, the mind is calm, and the ego is set aside.
By incorporating the breathing and relaxation practices of Qigong, you are developing preventative, therapeutic measures to cleanse your mind force energy and change your attitude toward life. The body has its own natural defenses toward disease, but it has to be maintained and kept strong. The immune system is weakened through stress and bad diet, bad habits. Qigong tries to undo the damage and restore what was lost. One good result is lower blood pressure through the use of breathing to control stress.
There is a formula for seeking Qi. It includes: Practice + Intention = Inner Harmony = Qi Flow = Health and Longevity. You must also believe. Often we start things with good intentions, but in the back of our mind… we harbor doubts about being able to accomplish our goals.
For success when practicing Qigong, one has to be in the present moment. This means our minds must be clear and ready to receive the Qi. You cannot let outside distractions interfere such as worries, the television or any other external happenings. Your body must be relaxed, yet not in a sloppy way. There are various postures that are commonly used when practicing Qigong. Some are standing and others are moving. So you may begin to try and experience the benefits of Qigong, several postures will be described.
A common standing posture is as follows. Position your feet; a little more than shoulder width apart and bend your knees slightly. Make sure the knees do not extend beyond the tip of your toes. Tilt your pelvis under just a bit. Keeping your shoulders relaxed, bring your hands out in front about heart height, rounded, as if you are holding a large beach ball. Your elbows will be lower then your hands. Your head is straight and relaxed, not tilting forward or backward.
In this position, you start to take deep abdominal breaths. Inhaling and then exhaling slowly, letting your exhale become longer than your inhale so you can remove any stale air in your lungs.
The hard part comes now for most people. Your mind is to become quiet, without any intrusive thoughts. This is not easy to do. At first you will be bombarded with thoughts. Let them come and just keep on moving. Do not acknowledge their presence or get upset over them. That is when the thoughts gain control of your mind. Over time you will learn to let them come and go without any reaction on your part. Just concentrate on your breathing.
We live in a very noisy world. I found some comments by Janet Luhrs, of the Simplicity Movement, about how to bring quietness into your life.
**Start the day with silence… stretch, read an inspirational message, before the coffee and news.
**Eat at a table without TV or reading… mindful eating is very beneficial.
**Drive in Silence… keeps us alert and more receptive to our own thoughts.
**Create a silence retreat at home… one evening a week, no TV, no phone and no talking.
**Practice silent exercise… no iPod, video, or other media, hopefully outdoors. Silence helps you pay attention to your body.
There are many moving postures. The three I will describe are part of a group of Qigong exercises put out on a CD by the National Qigong Association, called the Five Treasures. They also have a video you can see at this link.
Shaking the tree:
This is a good warm up movement, especially at the beginning of your day. It would also fit in during the middle of the day, when you start to get bogged down. Stand comfortably with your feet, a shoulder width apart, and start to gently shake your whole body. Let your spine and all joints are loose as you move and shake to awaken your inner Qi.
Again with your feet a shoulder width apart, bring your hands in front of you, almost touching. Next, while inhaling, open your arms out to the side with your palms facing up. On your exhale, lower your hands down in front of you once more and end in a squatting position. Watch that your knees do not go beyond your toes.
As you continue, each time you raise your hands out to the side, reach higher, like the growing swell of a wave. When you are coming to an end, let the reach of your hands become lower, again imitating the wave as it reaches the shore.
Draw down Qi:
With feet shoulder width apart, arms and hands in front, inhale and raise your arms our and over your head. Exhale, and bring the Qi down into your body as you bring your hands down in front of your body and letting it return to the earth as you bend your knees slightly. Once again rise and lift up your arms above your head as you inhale, repeating the cycle. Remember to keep your spine relatively straight, do not slouch, and your shoulders relaxed as you raise and lower your arms.
When doing any Qigong exercises, be aware of all changes in your body and thoughts. Listen to what your body is telling you at all times of the day. Your posture, your attitude, the stress in your life all affects your health. Practicing Qigong brings balance within, quietness to your mind and your spirit. You will develop an awareness of both yourself and the world around you that will be able to guide you as you move through life. Gaining control of your mind, being able stabilize stressful moments by deep breathing, better overall health are the end product of a daily Qigong practice.
Jwing-Ming, Dr. Yang. The Root of Chinese Chi Kung. Jamaica Plain, MA YMAA Publication Center 1989
Chung, Douglas K.. Qigong Therapies: A Self-Care Approach. Grand Rapids, MI: Chung Institute. 2000