|Qigong (Ch’i Gong) is an internal exercise system that coordinates the four flows of the body which allows the body to make the best use of its built in healing systems to alleviate bad health and sickness. The four flows consist of air, blood, Lymph and Electricity (the nerve transport system). The activity consists of exercises similar to low impact calisthenics but with the emphasis on the use of little muscle force and much mental concentration.
Anyone can join a class regardless of their physical state. All exercises are customized to the individual. Actions cover standing, sitting and walking activities. Each class consists of a combination of practice, lecture and meditation. Clothing should be loose fitting and flat shoes are preferred for stability. Light weights can be used in some exercise but are not required. A set of heavy hands or a water bottle or two are all that is needed.
Draft more coming!
The qigong exercise Eight Brocades, Baduanjin qigong goes back to the early martial arts of China. History is mixed on the beginnings most stating 1100 as the first written information. The set is well known and very popular due to its ease of use and the benefits the player obtains. Eight Brocades can be done by just about anyone either sitting or standing. I have seen either the full form or partial sections of it from many teachers. My focus on this discussion will be from the teachings of B.P. Chan.
There are many varieties of this qigong practice with most sets having similar postures with minor variations. All the focus on Eight Brocades is to generate energy and move it through the body in a smooth manner. There is no focus on acupuncture points or channels but on the flow of energy through the body to organs and nerve centers.
In the following discussion I will focus on the postures as I practice them and discuss the energy movement. Standing as well as sitting postures will be explored.
The movements of Eight Brocades are done in a slow manner with relaxed muscles. Breathing is important to the exercise but has to be done in a manner that is best for the player. Some people may be able to do a breathe cycle for an entire movement but it is important to teach the player that multiple breathes are also beneficial and can prevent issues for the beginning or less energetic player. For the senior players it is important to keep the support chair available for balance and for any dizziness or light headedness.
Starting posture is to stand equally weighted with the feet parallel to each other and just inside the point of the shoulders. This is the middle energy posture of the form. There are three postures that can be used. Each has its own energy potential. If the feet are greater than shoulder width apart the focus will become external and the energy will be in the form of endurance and external strength building. Maintaining the middle posture – the feet inside the shoulders and lined up with the front meridians that pass through the nipples is used as a standard posture that will energize the body and provide endurance but will not be to rigorous for the majority of the players. The third posture is with the feet together. This is for use as a healing posture but is very powerful and should not be used without supervision. Think of it in the electrical context. The middle posture is using 110 volts which is used for most home appliances with no issues. The feet together combines the energy and results in 240 volts that will burn out most appliances. It is the same with the body. Using the closed position can generate too much energy and cause issues with the channels of the body. It is very useful but must be used only with supervision.
All the postures are done with a soft hand and relaxed muscles. Start with the hands at your side with the arms relaxed and palms facing the legs.
Visualization is important in each exercise to increase the flow of energy. The thought should be of allowing an increased flow of energy to arise as the hands move over the body. This should be done in a calm and gentle manner not with effort and muscular force. I have seen people grunting and groaning to get energy to move and all this does is stress the body and shut down the energy flows. It is move like creating a vacuum and allowing the natural flow of energy fill up the vacuum. This way the body can heal itself. The energies flowing in the body pass through channels. If a channel is injured or blocked excess energy can cause more issues and also can force a breakage of sour chi to flow in the body. The sour chi not only has injured the location it was at but can the poison other organs and vessels. More on this issue in the energy section.
The hands start at the side of the body and form a cup in each palm facing into the body. The hands come up the side of the body at the hips by opening the elbows outward. The fingers are pointing into the body and come up over the hip bone and around to the back of the body as the shoulders close up. The elbows open more to pull the hands up to the kidneys. Follow the rib cage around to the front with the fingers meeting at the solar plexus. Raise the hands up together to the nipples and turning the fingers out and away from the body as if holding a ball. The hands roll over the ball with the elbows flipping the hands over and away from the body. Lift the imaginary ball up stating with the expansion of the elbows until they engage the shoulders which lifts the rib cage. The extension will end when the hands are over the head with the elbows still bent but the shoulders raised and separated and the rib raised up. At this point let the ball go with the hands spreading outward in line with the body and arms extended palms going downward. Let the arms lower until the hands are at the side in the starting position.
From the beginning posture the opening beginning posture the right hand forms a cup just inside of the right hip. Hte left hand turns palm down inside of the left hip. The left arm is slightly bent. It will not have far to go but should be moving throughout the movement so its speed will be very slow. The right hand moves upwards palm up following the right channel. When it reaches the nipple the hand revolves fingers outward toward the shoulder until they point inward toward the chest all the time keeping the cup of the palm. The right hand pushes up with the expansion of the elbow joint until it is slightly more than 90 degrees open and then the shoulder opens and expands upward until the hand is directly over the front of the head with a roundness in the arm. At the same time the left hand is pushing downward into the center line of the body using the elbow expansion and the should as is the right hand. Ending posture has the right hand over the head and the left hand just below the crotch of the legs with one shoulder up and one shoulder down. The other side starts with each hand turning over so the the upper hand is facing down and the lower hand is cupped up. The upward hand goes up the center of the body until it reaches the navel and then follows the center channel to the nipple where the hand circles and continues the upward movement. The upper hand pushes downward through the side channel until the navel and then to the crotch. A right and left movement equals one cycle. To close the exercise the top hand comes down to the navel and meets the bottom hand which also moves to the navel. Both hands hold that position for a moment.
From the previous position the hands come up through the center line to the chest. The left hand arcs out in line with the side of the body pivoting on the elbow joint until it is extended and makes a soft fist as if holdign a bow. Hte elbow remains slightly bend. The right hand which has remained at the chest now reaches out across the body just before the left wrist and grabs an imaginary bow string. The right shoulder opens outward to allow the reach. The right hand pulls the imaginary string back to the chin and then continues pulling to the ear. This is down with the right shoulder closing back into the spine. The right hand opens and releases the string. If repetitions are to be done with this movement this side should be done all at once on this side before moving to the opposite side.
The left side is done with a simple change of sides. The left arm arcs inward to the center line and the right hand arcs out to the extension. The right hand makes a fist to grab the bow and the left hand then reaches for the string.
Closing the form can be done in one of two ways. Either drop the hand holding the bow in an arc to the center and drop the other hand straight down or drop the bow hand in the arc and arc the string hand outward and then arc down to the center. Then hold the position for a moment.
The hands are in the center position from the previous exercise. They remain in this position through this move. Turn the body to the left using the hip as the pivot point. Turning to the left side first pivot of the left hip. This allows the release of the right hip which comes slightly forward with the turning. As you continue turning the pivot point goes up from the hip into the spine and into the shoulders. Do not strain this movement should only go as far as is comfortable for each part of the body. When the body is turned the neck turns and look over your shoulder as the chin comes towards the shoulder. Remember the 70% rule and do not turn anywhere where it takes effort. Hte continued practice will increase the range. Turn back starting with the head and going back through the body until you are facing forward. Do the same turn to the right side. Ending posture is the middle stop.
This exercise has two exertion levels – one for the player that has no balance or stretching issues and the other for the general player. I will describe them separately.
Starting from the center position for the hands into the triangle. Thumbs extended and touching fingers extending and index finger tips touching. This creates a triangle which allows a focused gaze. Raise the triangle from a position of the palms facing the body flipping it over with the arms outward and back to a position a foot away from the eyes. Bend backwards which will bring the triangle to a upward position. Start bending from the lower back but only slightly bend the spine backwards. The hips are thrust outward to get the bend and the knees go forward. Your head should be in line with you heels. Turn the body to the keeping the elbows in line with the body but using the elbows to guide the movement.
Starting from the center position the hands separate towards the hips with a slight clenching of the fingers into an open fist. When the fists reach the point of the hips the shoulders raise upward on both sides drawing the fists straight up the side of the body to a position ending at the top of the free ribs with the fingers facing upward and the fist hollow. This spot can be found by following the ribs from the solar plexus towards the spine until you feel the floating ribs. The elbows go backwards and slightly inward causing a slight flexing of the chest. The eyes look into the distance with a stare. The right fist is then slowly stretched out to the front not locking the elbow reversing the fist so that the fingers are on the bottom – a reverse punch. After the punch is completed the left hand begins the same punch with the right hand retreating back to its original position. The speed should be the same on both the extension and retraction so the punches are coordinated. The shoulders are held square with the body using the rotor muscles but not throwing the shoulder forward. A right and left punch is one cycle of this form. Ending the process is to bring the left punch back without punching the right fist. Fingers open straight ahead and the hands slide down the stomach into the center position.
From the center position slide downward flowing the kua to the inside of the thighs. The hands turn over with the palms facing the inside of the thighs. As the hands start the movement to the thighs the head begins to start a spinal bend. The head bends with the chin going to the chest. The spine continues bending as the hands move down the inside of the thigh. When the hands are just above the knees the bend of the spine is complete and the hips continue the bend as the hands pass the knees, The players bends as far as comfortable looking for the hands to reach the ankles. At this point the player can continue or hold this position for a breath cycle. Next the hands go around the outside of the ankles to the backside of the foot. The bend then starts as an opposite movement with the hips starting the upward movement and then the spine with the hands following the outside of the leg to the point of the hip where the spine will be erect. The hands continue upward with the elbows pointed outward and closing to draw the hands up with the tiger mouth following up the side of the body until the kidneys wrists turning to the front and hands following down the front until they reach the center position. This is one complete cycle. Breathe is important in this cycle but in no way should someone try to down a complete cycle on one breathe if they do not have that capacity. Beginners can be taught to do this in a series of breaths. Starting with a in breath letting it out slowly until the knees. A relaxation and in breath is taken at the knees and let out until the ankles. At this point a rest can be taken with a in and out breath. The movement should commence with an exhaled breath and be an in breath until the knees. A release and start can then begin and continue to in take breath until the kidneys. It is an out breath to the center position and then normal breathing. When a player is ready they can go to an out breath all the way to the ankles with a resetting breath and then an in breath to the kidneys. A accomplished player should perform this movement as one out breath to the ankles, and in breath to the kidneys and an out breath to the center position.
18 Muscle Change Classics
Lifting the Sky
Carrying the Moon
Three Levels to Ground
Deep Knee Bending
The Four Flows
The body is a working engine and requires that its parts are all functioning correctly for best performance. The four major systems which can be easily managed through the use of exercises, breathing techniques and mental visualization are:
These systems all provide the main vitality sources for the body. No matter what you do without all of these systems functioning well you will encounter impediments to your health and vitality.
Each of these systems can be considered as a flow through the piping of the body. There are two main requirements for these flows to provide the best performance – the proper pumping mechanism and no impedance to the flow. Think of your arm when it has gone “asleep”. What has caused this to happen? The blood supply has been reduced and the nerve conduction has been “pinched”. Within a period of time your cells will run out of oxygen and the body will have no defense from bacterial and viral attacks from the reduction in lymph flow.
How do we enhance these flows
Internal Art exercises and relaxation techniques use these four enhancements to tune the body and enable the proper flow of energy. Slow and deep breathing practices are used with movement of muscles and joints to remove blockages and increase the flows. Muscle movement is one of the main factors in proper blood movement and lymph flow. These exercises are used in a whole body manner to enhance the movement of blood and lymph which provides for the oxygenation and nourishment of the body and the discharge of waste products and gases.