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BEGINNING STEPS OF QIGONG

By Ken Charron (Xian Tian Taijiquan & Qigong Center)
MAIN WARRIOR • BEGINNING QIGONG

Qigong is the ancient Chinese art of meditation and physical exercise to promote health, mental well being, martial arts skills and spiritual development. There are thousands of different types of Qigong systems. Most Qigong systems consist mainly of breathing techniques, moving exercises, massage techniques, still postures and mental training. Qigong is most known for promoting internal energy, healing, stress reduction and extending longevity.

Qigong is very much a technique driven art. One must have discipline and quality instruction in order to maximize results. Qigong must be practiced daily in order to experience benefits. The effects of Qigong are accumulative and one can quickly regress without practicing. One can realize substantial benefits from practicing 20 to 40 minutes a day. However, higher levels of development require much more dedication and effort.

The core skills of Qigong are:

  1. Breathing
    1. Breathing is by far the most important.
    2. When one executes proper breathing techniques all the other skills required for Qigong come together more easily.
  2. Relaxation
    1. Relaxation is the heart of Qigong.
    2. Through proper and complete relaxation the Qi can circulate freely resulting in enhanced health and mental well being.
  3. Posture and Progression -
    1. Posture is the ballast of Qigong and when moving the progression is the rudder.
    2. With the proper posture and progressions the Qi can be induced to balance and flow in the most natural and beneficial fashion.
  4. Mental Silence
    1. The silent mind is the pinnacle of Qigong.
    2. Improper thought processes create turbulence in the Qi.
    3. The internal conversations we have with ourselves rob us of clarity and discernment.
    4. Calmness of mind brings harmony.
  5. Intent
    1. Intent is the governor of Qigong.
    2. Intent is what replace mental chatter.
    3. Intent is not an internal conversation.
    4. Intent establishes what we want to achieve from the practice of Qigong.

BREATHING TECHNIQUES

Watch a little baby breathe. Notice how their abdomen moves. This is how we want to breathe when practicing Qigong, like a little baby. When inhaling allow the diaphragm muscle to drop fully thereby creating room for the expanding lungs. When exhaling draw the diaphragm muscle upward thereby compressing the lungs. It is very important that you isolate and use only the diaphragm muscles. Do not force the breathing by using the external muscles of the abdomen. The outer movement of the abdomen is an allowing process and not a direct volition. Always breathe through the nose. The breathing should be soft, gentle, even, long, deep, full, light and balanced. Take the same amount of time to inhale as exhale. When exhaling never force the air out. We are not blowing out candles.

EXERCISE ONE

Sit on a stool or edge of a chair. Have only the buttocks in contact with the seat and have the back of the legs exposed. The thighs should be parallel with the floor and the calves should be perpendicular. The back should be straight up and down with the head held high. The chin should be lowered just a bit in order to flatten the back of the neck. Gently touch the tip of the tong to the roof of the mouth. Interlace the thumbs with the back of one hand inside the palm of the other. Lightly place the hands flatly against the area just below the navel. Now practice your deep breathing. Tune into the abdomen. Become aware of its movement when you breathe.

EXERCISE TWO

Remain sitting as in step one. Pull the hands apart and slide them around to the back over the kidney area below the rib cage. Spread the finger with the thumbs pointed downward and the fingertips pointing toward or touching the spine. Open the hands wide and have all the surface of the palms and fingers touching the lower back. Lean forwards a few inches. Now deep breath. Tune into the movement of the lower back. Imagine your hands are on a balloon while it is being filled with air. As the balloon expands it stretches across your hand. When the air is released from the balloon it contracts across the hands. This is what you should feel as the skin of your back moves across the hands.

EXERCISE THREE

Sit as described in exercise one. Slide one hand up to the area of the sternum. Leave the other hand at the area just below the navel. Palms flat against torso. Start deep breathing with the breath starting low in the abdomen and expanding upward. At the start of the inhalation allow the area of the abdomen to expand and continue to expand the whole chest cavity. The expansion should move like a wave starting low and rising upward. With your hands, tune into the expansion of the chest cavity. When exhaling contract starting high in the chest and continuing downward to the area just below the navel.

EXERCISE FOUR

Remain sitting as previously described. Place hands flat on the upper chest area with the fingertips on the sternum. Start deep breathing low in the abdomen and expand up to the chest area. Exhale contracting at the top of the chest and continuing downward. With the hands, tune into the expansion and contraction of the chest.

EXERCISE FIVE

This is the most advance exercise. Do not spend time on this one until you have succeeded in expanding the whole chest area while deep breathing. Remain sitting as previously described. Bring both hands up and place the palms pressed flat over the ears. Place the fingertips on the muscle just below the occipital bone of the cranium. Begin deep breathing as taught earlier. You should be able to hear your breathing much more loudly. There are thirteen moveable joints in the cranium. Those joints should move slightly with every breath cycle. With the hands, tune into the expansion and contraction of the cranium.