Qi Gong is the ancient Chinese system of self-cultivation. Developed over 3,000 years ago, it was used specifically as a means by which individuals may take full responsibility of their own health and vitality. In fact, Qi Gong was used in conjunction with other medical practices like acupressure, acupuncture, and herbology as the chief forms of medicine at the time.
Qi Gong is known as "the method for preventing disease and prolonging life." The best offense is a good defense, and the best defense is a strong and well-balanced energy system. Based on the principles of nature, Qi Gong is simple and practical. The practitioner learns how to harness his/her own internal energy and feel a sense of connection with nature and the universe.
Qi (also spelled Chi) means "energy" or "life-force," and by extension also denotes "vitality," "life-breath" and "air." Kung (also spelled Gong) is a general term meaning "work" and is used to describe skill that requires time, effort, patience, and practice to perfect. So the term "Chi gung" may be translated as "energy work" or "breathing exercise." By putting these two words together, Qi Gong implies "an expertise at working with life force energy." Working with the breath while holding postures or synchronizing the breath with flowing movements is the key to cultivating energy in the body, mind, and spirit.
In today's highly competitive, stressful world, Qi Gong's versatile utility as a personal tool – for promoting productivity, preventing disease, balancing emotions, and calming the mind – has greater potential for the individual than it ever has before.
Qi Gong Flows
Qi Gong is called the "art of effortless power." It mirrors the movement of nature. Try these flowing stretches and movements to increase your vitality, boost the lung energy and immune system, and bring your body to a place of inner balance.
Spinal Flow: Open the Du and Ren Meridians
The Spinal Flow is a great exercise to clear stress and tension out of the back. It also activates the central nervous system. To clear the physical and mental tension of the day, the spinal cord is the portal. How do you unwind the mental tension out of your mind? By distributing it through the nervous system and out through the body.
Spinal Cord Breathing. Begin by bringing your hands up in front of your shoulders. Arch your back and look up.
Next, round your back and tuck your tailbone under. To do this, you can squeeze your buttocks as the tailbone comes under. (A)
Inhale, open the chest, and look up. (B)
Exhale, round the back and tuck the tailbone under again.
Go back and forth, feeling all the joints in the spine moving and tension releasing through the central nervous system.
Holding Up the Sky: To Tonify the Lungs
This flow will strengthen the lungs and increase the power of your breath. It will train your body to breathe more deeply throughout the day. By taking more oxygen into the body with each breath, you will increase the body's vitality and energy.
The quality and depth of our breath is fundamental to the health of our body. Breath is also the key to clearing stress and balancing negative emotions. Our breathing always reflects how we feel. Think of someone who is sad or crying, the breath comes in spasms and gasps. When we are under stress, the breath becomes shallow and locked in the chest. When we are feeling good, the breath becomes deeper, calmer, and slower. In all meditation traditions, the breath is used to calm the mind. Think of this next flow as a moving meditation, bringing precious energy to the body, clearing stress, and calming the mind.
Holding Up the Sky. Standing with your feet shoulder width, bring your arms in front of your abdomen with your palms face up
Inhale and slowly bring your arms up, palms face the chest (C), and then rise up over the head turning the palms to face the sky (D)
Exhale and allow the arms to come back down – again, the palms face the chest (E)–and rotate back to starting position.
Repeat. Inhale and float the arms up over the head. Pause at the top of the inhale.
When the breath is still the mind will be still.
Exhale, gently float the arms down and pause at the bottom of the exhale.
At those moments when the breath is paused and silent, let your mind be silent and clear as well.
Take seven long deep breaths, floating the arms up on the inhale, and floating the arms down on the exhale.
About Lee Holden:
A licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and master Qi Gong instructor, Lee Holden incorporates the principles of Chinese medicine in the treatment of his patients at the Pacific Healing Arts clinic in Santa Cruz, Calif. Lee has traveled throughout Asia (Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, China) studying Qi Gong, meditation, and Chinese medicine and has worked with Mantak Chia, the world's foremost expert on Qi Gong, and with self-improvement leader Deepak Chopra in facilitating seminars, teaching, and writing books. Visit his website at www.pacifichealingarts.com.