By David James Lees, Guest Writer
Pronounced ‘Chee Gong’, Chinese is difficult to translate directly into English so Qi roughly translated means air, breath of life or vital essence. I prefer life force, vibration or energy. Gong means work, self-discipline, achievement cultivation or mastery.
Qigong is a discipline whose practice allows us to gain control over the life force that courses throughout our bodies. It is a medical meditation that is practised by millions worldwide in some form. Chinese Taoists were early advocates of Qigong. They taught that Acupuncture, Chinese herbology and Qigong are three parts of a single entity and are as closely related as water is to steam and ice.
As well as cultivating Qi to aid your own health, through Qigong practice, Qi energy can be used to heal and help others. A person practising Qigong may appear to be sitting or standing quietly in a peaceful meditation, being aware of their body and the world around them. After a while a deep sense of well being and peace falls over the body, slowly building up so that they can move through the five stances (5 minutes in each stance) as inner strength, balance and the cultivation of Qi grows stronger.
There are numerous forms of Qigong practiced throughout the world; we practice a form known as ‘Zhan Zhuang’ (Standing Pole Qigong)
“A small movement is better than a big movement, No movement is better than a small movement, stillness is the mother of all movements. “
This beautiful and powerful form of Qigong is one of China’s treasures and gift to the world. Check out my Zhan Zhuang on YouTube.
More information on Zhan Zhuang Qigong
By definition, Zhan Zhuang means to stand like a tree, and it also sometimes called ‘Standing Pole’. Channel 4 ran a series called ‘Stand still, Keep Fit’ about this particular type of Qigong. It is both a Wai Dan and Nei Dan form of exercise.
Essentially, you stand still, with your legs slightly bent, and your arms in various positions. There are five stances, five minutes in each stance; initially you might only be able to hold the position for a minute or two; eventually, you should strive for the full twenty-five minutes of continual practice.
There are numerous postures that are common in this form of energy development, but I have found over many years of practice that the five stances that I teach to be generally the most beneficial. We do also look at other stances as the practice develops. One of the things you will notice as you begin practising this art is that your muscles will start to shake and maybe even briefly hurt a little. At first this can feel rather alarming, but it is important for you to try to ignore this discomfort and continue your training without lowering your trembling limbs. Work through the slight pain and shaking and within a few minutes you will discover that your secondary muscles will kick in and the exercise will seem easier. It is similar to getting your second wind when jogging.
BUT IF THE PAIN IS TOO MUCH EITHER STOP THE EXERCISE OR REVERT TO THE PREVIOUS STANCE.
Students also report a swaying, and/or heat in feet and/or hands; this is normal and can be the first signs of moving Qi.
Warm up with the ‘Eight Silken Brocade’ and practice every day, and you will notice a great improvement to your general health, spirit and vitality.
Zhan Zhuang is a powerful meditation used to develop internal power. Most Qigong masters use this “simple” method alone as their daily practice. It is fundamental to Qigong, as it opens the energy gates of the body and so allows the free movement of the Qi. Lessons cover the three essential areas Body posture, Energy and Internal dissolving.
· Your stance must be comfortable; feet are parallel and shoulder-width apart; keep your feet parallel to each other.
· Your tailbone should point to the ground; gently straighten your spine.
· Your head should float lightly above your neck, which is held straight.
· Eyes shut, tongue touches roof of mouth.
· Gently allow your chest to sink as it rounds, your chest should expand towards your navel and the sides of your ribs stay as soft as a baby’s.
· Give your organs an internal massage.
· Raise your spine and spread your shoulder blades.
· Slowly observe any energy imbalances in your body, take your time.
· Internal scanning is a feeling, NOT a visualisation exercise.
· Let your nerves come alive, keep the mind stable.
· The need for rapid perfection slows your progress.
· Ice to Water, Water to Gas (Steam).
· Dissolve downward through the entire body.
· Be gentle with yourself.
All safe Qi development practices are cumulative and progress slowly, developing strong links between the brain and Qi. This avoids burnout; a strong nervous system allows messages to be delivered between the brain and Qi without conscious will or effort. The development of Qi must of necessity be slow, careful and joyous.
Relaxation is without doubt the most vital element not only in the Zhan Zhuang practice, but also in any form of Qigong training. Only when the body is relaxed will the internal organs settle, the blood flow freely and the genuine co-ordination of the muscles take place, then the control of strength be possible. One must never exert brute force, for this will create tension, obstructing the blood flow and exhausting the body.
How can one bring about such relaxation?
Many parts of the body are unnecessarily tense a great deal of the time. Such tensions are not easily got rid of therefore, one must LEARN to relax. At the start of practice, one should use the mind consciously to relax the head, then face, neck, and shoulders, soon right down to the toes. During practice one may need to re-check oneself frequently, endeavouring to release any tensions which arise.
When standing in a fixed posture one cannot be as completely relaxed as when reclining; but better, “relaxed not slack, tense but not stiff”. It may feel as if you are floating in the air, with air pressing in on all sides, the skeletal frame so perfectly aligned that it remains in position without effort, the muscles just hanging off the bones like clothes on a clothes-horse. This improves your posture.
Entering a quiet state is also a common aim for all methods of Qigong practice. In general the deeper the state of quiet, the more effective the practice will be. The ideal state of mind is completely calmed, unruffled by random thoughts and the attention clear and concentrated. Such a state is clearly linked with the relaxation of the body, each enhancing the other. Your attention becomes extremely lucid and alert, acutely sensitive to one’s environment, but undisturbed. This is the most beneficial state for nurturing your health, increasing your inner strength, an aid to the prevention of serious illness. Through practice your body and mind will become more relaxed, comfortable and stronger.
‘DON’T FORGET THE INNER SMILE!’
About the Author
David James Lees is a spirituality and wellness author, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner,
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