Saturday, December 24, 2011

Qigong - Strengthening Your Vital Energy

Qigong is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. One way to translate "qigong" is "exercises to promote the flow of vital energy." There are thousands of exercises and routines that have been used for centuries to promote wellness. This Qigong for Health routine has been developed as a healthy and fun way to revitalize after a stressful day.

I. Warmup

The exercises start by working with your hands. Walk in a small circle, opening and closing your hands, and smile. This gets the blood flowing and your energy moving. Smiling promotes good energy and good feelings.
Feel Your Qi
Start by crossing your arms in front of you with the inside of the wrists near each other, almost touching. Move your arms in slow circles with your wrists moving past each other. Pay attention to any feeling between your wrists. After about 15 or 20 slow circles, turn your hands so that your palms are facing each other. Move your hands very slowly in circles with your concentration on your palms. Pay attention to any feeling between your hands. This exercise activates qi flow through the center of the palm. You will probably start to feel some warmth or tingling between palms. Spend some time "playing" with the energy. Learn to push one hand with the energy from the other.

II. First Set

The first set loosens your joints to get the energy flowing. All exercises start in wu ji posture with your feet about hip’s distance apart. Relax your shoulders and let all the tension go. Center your weight on both feet. Stand with active knees to allow for slow, smooth movements. Use abdominal breathing to encourage deep breathing. This is where you expand your abdomen when inhaling and compress your abdomen when exhaling. Above all, work within your comfort zone.
Loosen the Neck
Head Down. Start with your chin down toward your chest. Inhale and slowly raise your hands in front of you with your palms down. Visualize a balloon lifting each hand. As your hands move, follow the movement with your chin. When your hands reach shoulder height, you should be facing straight ahead. Turn your hands so that your palms are toward your face. Bring in your hands toward your chin and move your chin backward, as if your hands were pushing it back, keeping your head upright. This straightens your spine. Exhale, turn your hands so the palms are forward, and push your palms forward and then down. Allow your chin to follow the hand movements by extending your head forward and bending it down.
Side to Side. Raise one hand to shoulder height in front of your shoulder with your palm facing in. Move your hand out in an arc to the side. Keep your hips still and turn at the waist. Follow the movement by turning your head. Return to center and switch hands. Repeat to the other side.
Loosen the Shoulders
Shoulder Roll. Roll your shoulders forward three times. Stretch your shoulders outward and maintain a small space in your armpit to open up the joint to promote the flow of qi. Then do it again by rolling them backward three times.
Press the Qi. Inhale and bring your hands around from the sides toward your body in a big circle, bending your knees slightly and gathering qi as you move. Exhale and press your hands down in front of you. Imagine gathering qi into your hands from the universe around you. Reach out to expand all the joints in your arms as your move. As you exhale, sink your qi to your dan tien.
Stretch the Spine
Separating Heaven and Earth. Slightly tuck in your chin to straighten your upper spine. Hold your hands in front of you with one hand about chest height and palm down and the other at your lower abdomen with the palm up, as if holding a ball. Separate your hands and inhale, moving one hand palm up over your head and one palm down at your hip. As you inhale, visualize that your spine is a string and you are gently pulling the string from both ends to stretch your spine. Feel your qi flowing up your spine to the top of your head. Pause briefly without moving and feel your spine stretching and the space between the vertebrae opening up. Imagine yourself growing taller. As you exhale, bring your hands back to the center and visualize that your qi is flowing down the front of your body. Repeat to the other side.
Moving the Qi Ball. Hold your hands in front of you, right palm down and left palm up, as if holding a ball. Rotate at the waist in the direction of the top hand. When you reach your limit, reverse your hands and rotate in the other direction. Try to separate the movement of your hips and your waist and keep your hips still. There is no need to turn more than about 45° each way.
Loosen the Hips
Forward & Back. Shift your weight to your right leg and bend your knees slightly. Lift your left leg and extend it forward, touching your heel down. Keep most of your weight on your right foot. At the same time, push your hands back from your sides toward the back. Lift your left leg, bring it back to where you started, and extend it behind you, touching down on the ball of the foot. At the same time, raise your hands in front to about shoulder height. Repeat for a total of three stretches. Repeat on the other side.
Side Stretch. Shift your weight to your right leg and bend your knees slightly. Extend your left leg out to the left and gently touch down. Raise your hands with the palms facing to the right, right hand above the left. Press your hands to the right as if against a wall on your right side. Repeat to the left side.
Strengthen the Legs
Brush Knee. Place them at your waist, palm down. Shift your weight to your right leg and bend your knees slightly. Slowly lift your left foot slightly, place it forward, touch down on your heel, and touch the rest of your foot down. At the same time, shift your weight forward and slowly press your right hand forward while exhaling. Bring your left hand down past your left knee. Keep your back heel flat on the floor so you don’t become overbalanced. Keep your feet apart so you are not “walking a tightrope”. Shift your weight back, pick up your left foot, bring it back, and touch down where you started. At the same time, bring your hand back to your waist while inhaling. Maintain an upright posture to keep your qi flowing properly. Make sure your movements are slow and continuous. Stretch your hip joint from within by keeping your crotch in an arch. Repeat to the other side.
Kick & Punch Forward. Make your hands into loose fists and place them at your waist. Shift your weight to your right leg and bend your knees slightly. Slowly lift your left leg until your thigh is horizontal. Slowly kick out with your left foot. At the same time, slowly punch forward with your right fist while exhaling. Bring your foot back in and touch down where you started. Bring your fist back while inhaling. Focus on slowly, gradually shifting your weight. Repeat to the other side.

III. Second Set

The second set of exercises moves your mind and body into the calming phase.
Balancing Your Qi. Bring your hands to the Dantien, palms up and fingers facing each other. Lift up your hands out and up to chest height while inhaling. Turn palms down, bend your knees slightly, and let your hands move in toward your chest and sink down to the Dantien while exhaling.
Seven Jolts Prevent All the Ailments. This stimulates six of the main qi meridians and balances the flow of qi. Start in Wu Ji. inhale and raise up on your toes, lifting your heels as high as you can. Draw your shoulders back and expand your chest. Exhale suddenly, drop your heels to the floor and relax your entire body. Come back to the beginning position. Optionally, clasp your hands behind your back as you raise your heels.
Open and Close. Feel your qi as in the first set.

IV. Meditation

Meditation is a mental practice used to get beyond the thinking mind into a deeper state of awareness. It is voluntary sensory deprivation. Part of the idea of meditation is to develop concentration so that you can control distractions. Try to keep your mind on a single point of focus. The point of focus could be a short repetitive prayer, one’s breath, a breath count, qi energy flows, or anything else.

© 2011 Eric Borreson

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