What is Qigong?
Qigong exercises or Chi Kung exercises are an ancient Chinese exercise that integrates individual Qigong Exercises postures with breathing techniques with the aim to harmonise the chi of the body so it is balanced.
The Chinese dictionary defines chi as breath, air or a gas deriving from the character signifying the dawn mist rising off a mountain, symbolising it as a manifestation of the eternal creative spirit. This science of inner breath was named Chi Kung, in Pinyin Chinese it is romanized as qigong, the word kung or gong signifying the working or practice of chi or qi. There are many types of Qigong which fall into two categories, the inner, ‘nei’, or outer ‘wài’ forms.
The world is made up of and ordered by opposite tendencies such as hot-cold, push-pull, young-old, tall-short, rich-poor, neutron-electron, inner-outer and so forth, which is evident but not usually recognised. These opposites happen at every level from the formation of a galaxy right down to the atom. The Taoist sages in ancient China adopted this law of opposites into their philosophy, science and medicine. They considered that their Universe was made of a life force which in its expanding phase was called ‘yang’ and when it reached its limit it changed into a contracting force, entitled ‘yin’.
This principle of opposites evolved into discovering that if there is an outer breath, there must be an inner human microcosmic version. This internal life force was also called chi or qi.
The most effective and superior are the internal Qigong exercises, collated and passed down by the Tai Chi masters of the Yang Family. These nei kung breathing exercises have been practised for three thousand years and were perfected by the Taoists of Wudang Mountain monastery in central China near Xían, an ancient capital of China famous for the tombs of the terracotta warriors. The Yang family hermetically improved the potential of these disciplines in both the martial and health spheres.
The aim of Qigong is to harmonise the chi into homeostasis because if the chi is either too yin or yang it causes dis’ease’. All the organs, immune function, the senses, the central and sympathetic nervous systems, brain and body functions are supported by this internal energy.
When to perform Qigong exercises?
Qigong is more beneficial when carried out early mornings, in a natural familiar and harmonious situation. It is acceptable to perform in the early evening, but not too late because the body’s chi becomes steadily more yin after midday. This is a natural mechanism which permits the system to rest and refresh itself during its nightly yin phase. Yin rests and dilates whereas yang contracts and excites, this the reason for the general custom for people to sleep at night and work during the day. If Qigong Exercises are carried out sensibly for twenty minutes or so, between the hours of 3.00 p.m. and 7.00 p.m. (UK/GMT or local solar time) when cyclical chi is charging the bladder and kidney meridians, it will also nourish the habitual and pre-birth chi of these organs.
Yin and Yang and Qigong
Here follows a practical guide to building and conserving the internal energy, the ‘chi’ of the body, in order to stimulate, circulate, balance, build and store this life force in a practical ‘Western’ manner; to promote, maintain and extend a healthy centred life.
Standing or seated Qigong exercises must adopt the appropriate aspects of a Tai Chi term known as Central Equilibrium, which ensures the correct posture alignment of the necessary energy gates and channels. The principles of Central Equilibrium encourage chi to flow unimpeded through the various aspects of the meridians and organs. Central Equilibrium is a term coined by the Tai Chi Masters, specifically attributed to Yang Cheng Fu, at the turn of the nineteenth century, who laid out the following principles to aid the transformation of jing into chi:
a) One should never ‘double weight’ when practicing qigong exercises, implying that 70% of the weight should always be on one foot or the other. Double weighting causes the chi to stagnate in the lower limbs effecting the distribution of chi throughout the whole body, in the same way a building is as secure as its foundations.
Also 70% of the weight of each foot must be positioned over the ‘Bubbling Well Point’, Yongquan, the spot on the pad of the foot (K.1) (fig.15) with the other 30% on the heel acting as a stabilizer. This 70-30 ratio applies to both the ‘weighted’ yang foot and the accompanying yin foot.
It also applies to the yang foot of both a front and a back stance (fig.15). This distribution of weight uses natural law being the root of the entire Qigong and Tai Chi stances. If this part securely adheres to the Earth and intermixes with the chi of the Earth, it helps safeguard Central Equilibrium. The Tai Chi classics refer to this loss of adhesion as floating. It is not by coincidence that this point is the start of the Kidney channel which is the home of pre-birth chi and when K1.is stimulated, it will engender more chi, therefore increasing stability.
The outer, convex part of a circle is yang and the inner concave aspect, yin. This law is evident in the humble, but essential inflated tyre of a vehicle. The outer yang side supported by the inner yin arc which holds the air. The same law of dynamics applies to chi, therefore a convex aspect will assist yang chi to flow in yang channels and the concave or hollow shape will encourage yin energy to run in yin channels. Therefore the feet should arc and cup the ground with the outer top sides of the foot making a convex yang curve, with the soles making a yin concave, always ensuring that K.1. is rooted. The toes must be kept relaxed and as straight as possible as many meridians terminate and begin at the ends of the feet.
Chi rises up the body naturally as we age, the higher the centre of gravity the nearer death. Therefore if chi rises prematurely it indicates an unhealthy condition, this why the Tai Chi classics prescribe that one breaths with one’s feet. Meaning one must keep the center of gravity in the middle of the body at the Tan Tien, with the feet yang and the head yin. Figuratively keeping the human centered between the forces of heaven and earth. In Complementary Medicine, there are observational techniques of where and how chi relates to a person, acting as an accurate visual method of instant diagnosis.
b) Front stances are measured by the width of one’s own shoulders. A back stance aligns both feet within a parallel corridor structured on the inside by the heel of the weighted, yang, back foot and by the outer edge of the hip of the yin leg (fig.15). The feet of a front stance should trace the edge of an imagined Tai Chi Tu , that encloses every stance. The diameter should be equal to the width of one’s own shoulders. (fig.15) with the toes of each foot being slightly turned in.
The knee of the yang, weighted, leg must be over the toes of the yang foot and the knee of the yin leg must be aligned with the toes of the yin foot. The knees of the legs should be subtly turned out with the toes gently pointing in, creating an inner concave and outer convex to the shape of the legs. An exaggerated version of this can be seen in the bowed legs of a cowboy. These parameters will encourage chi to flow in the yang outer sides of each leg and foot, returning up the inner, yin aspect of the leg. Diseases of the lower limbs, where chi flow has been inhibited by accident or illness brings about a yinnising of the legs, causing the knees to buckle in towards each other. This can be seen in so called motor nerve diseases like Multiple Sclerosis etc.. If a person naturally has feet that turn in, it indicates a yang constitution whereas if the feet turn out, it shows the person to be more yin. This is noticeable in very young children even before they walk, determining the type of constitution inherited from the parents.
Sacrum Plumb – Mingmen – Shenzou – Jamen
c) The hips and the pelvis must be kept in an horizontal plane which will prevent any scoliosis which is a lateral curvature of the spine. This is usually caused by a yin diet, bad comportment or one leg being longer than the other. This complaint can be helped in time with perseverance by Chi Kung and a balanced yin yang diet.
The Tai Chi classics state that ‘Chi is stored in the spine’ which means that the spine although kept vertical should have a gentle convex bow shape, accentuating the three main gates of chi amplification on the Dumo. The first is the Mingmen which stimulates kidney chi (GV.4) (fig.15), the next is the Shenzu (GV.12) located between the shoulder blades where the chi is fed to the arms and lastly the Jamen (GV.15) at the base of the hairline at the middle of the neck controlling the medulla oblongata and all its nerve and brain functions. The human Medulla Oblongata is the only example of any species on Earth to be directly over the spine and under the brain. The Tai Chi dictum ‘the head must be kept light and sensitive’ refers to the cranium summit point, the Baihui (GV.20), acting as though it was being pulled up vertically. This ethereal point is the bridge between the upward flow and descending arc of chi in the microcosmic orbit, invigorating the brain including the hypothalamus, the pituitary and the pineal glands. The Baihui is considered a point equated with Niewan or Nirvana, enlightenment. If the Yongquan (K.1) of the foot is well rooted and the Baihui is light and sensitive the body will be in harmony with the chi of Heaven and Earth.
Renmo and Dumo
d) The tongue is curled up to lightly touch the roof of the mouth, linking the Dumo and Renmo channels. The chin is kept in and the chest concave, at point Shanzong (CV.17) (2) on the sternum. This will balance the Fire and Water chi of the mind and body which is essential for health. The spine must be kept in a vertical line, with the sacrum vertically aligned with the spine. This helps connect the lower orbit of body chi at the gate of the Huiyin (CV.1).
Elbow and Shoulders
e) The arms must be relaxed and circular at all times. The elbows and shoulders must be kept low and loose, which helps to keep the chi centered at the Tan Tien, the frontal aspect being, the Chihoi (CV.6). If the shoulders are raised, the chi will float out of the body by way of the lung. This ‘negative chi’ raising of the shoulders can be seen in the disturbed chi of asthmatics or when people are frightened.
One should point the elbows downwards, in a rounded fashion, slightly away from the body to prevent any restriction of chi flow, ensuring the arms are not too close to the body. If the elbows are directed towards the knees in this way, it protects the floating ribs as well as helping to prevent the chi rising. When the shoulders and elbows are loose, relaxed and gently held in their sockets, the chi is more readily held at the Tan Tien preventing the energy from ‘floating’ besides preventing damage to the joints of the shoulders and the arms.
The Six Thieves
f) The wrists, ankles, knees, elbows, hips and shoulders must be kept relaxed and rounded, never held at acute, chi blocking angles. If these joints are tense or have sharp angles the chi is wasted or blocked.
g) Chi follows the mind and as the mind intent becomes stronger, the chi will become more powerful. The mind’s eye is always focused at the Tan Tien. Every exercise being governed by the maxim, the mind moves the chi that moves the body. This seemingly impossible task is started by imagining or visualising that the chi is streaming in the desired manner through the body in specific ways. With practice, this inner ideation process of chi projection will pave the way to more involved patterns of chi circulation. After a while depending on the relative effort, as the thought chi becomes clearer, it will follow intent of the mind more easily. One must remain ‘Sung’ which loosely translated means to keep relaxed while maintaining all of the controlling parameters of Tai Chi’s Central Equilibrium.
Supple Waist, Supple Chi
h) The Grand Master Yang Cheng Fu, declared ‘Relax the waist. The waist rules the body’. Here he means if the waist is rigidly held and not supple there will be no connection between upper and lower and the front and back. If the feet are not well rooted, the posture is insecure, preventing the waist from acting like the center of a wheel, being the central pivot which controls the chi between the upper and lower areas. This is accomplished firstly in a physical manner by ensuring that the Chi Kung adopts ‘Chan Shu Jian from Tai Chi, the silk cocoon reeling’ technique. This is where the body and the weighted leg turns inward, in a screw like fashion, down the relevant weighted leg driving the K.1 point of the foot into a sure footed stance. For example if the weight is forward in a front right stance, the waist should turn slightly towards the right foot without angling the hip out of its horizontal plane.
This process is then internalised by ideation where the chi does the ‘turning’ instead of the body which makes the outer twist almost imperceptible. The chi is directed outwards to the upper limbs and simultaneously down to K1. in two complimentary, spiralling actions, with the waist being the center of each twist of chi.
The relative success of developing chi will depend on the amount and quality of pre-birth chi available. The initial training of ‘thought chi’ is the inception of the legendary ability of the Yang Clan to levitate as well as being responsible for the unusual feats that these determined specialists were able to accomplish, perhaps exaggerated over time, but who knows. The Yang Family had a very private joke of duping the despotic Ching Rulers for two centuries. This was only made possible by these hidden secrets of mind intent which is how they retained their prowess and their necks intact for so long.
Movement Within Stillness and Stillness Within Movement
The ideal of Chi Kung is to achieve movement in stillness where the body is kept still permitting one to activate the jing into chi, fuse it with the mind then circulate it around the body, helped by adopting Central Equilibrium in a total intrinsic blend. The principles becoming second nature without having to focus on them at all, arriving at the point of an innate movement within stillness.
It is advisable to commence by doing Chi Kung rooted on the left leg first, and balance the exercise by doing the same amount on each leg, for example, start with ten minutes on the left leg then finish with ten minutes on the right leg, building up to one hour on each leg. The eyes should never be closed and should be kept slightly open without any particular focus, with the gaze lightly looking down the angle of the nose with the tongue resting gently on the soft palette, thus joining the Water and Fire channels of the back and front.
Qigong Exercises with Tai Chi Videos
See Qigong exercises with Tai Chi Short Form Video Preview below…
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Qigong with the Tai Chi Short Form is based on the Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan is only 24 moves and only takes 5 minutes to perform.
The video includes The Tai Chi Chuan Yang Style Short Form which is based move for move on the traditional Tai Chi Chuan Yang style Long Form.
This demonstration video totals 35 minutes of expert and clear to follow instruction that also includes breathing techniques along with Chi Kung, Yin Yang Breathing Form, Chi Form, The Open and Close Form and Bonus footage of The Individual 24 postures masterfully demonstrated and easy to follow.
Perfect Tai Chi Yang Style for Beginners and also ideal for Experts looking to master their form.
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Graham Horwood demonstrates and explains Qigong with the Original Tai Chi Chuan Yang Style Family form that was taught to him by his Tai Chi Teacher Chu King Hung who remains one of the world’s leading authorities on Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan.
This Standard Definition Original Video is appropriately priced with a total of 60 mins of expert instruction.
Tai Chi helps enable the unconscious energies of the body turn conscious. The foundation of Tai Chi and key to a good posture is in feet and Graham Horwood also shows in this Tai Chi Chuan Original Yang Style video download how to position the feet correctly to balance out the rest of the body.
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Graham Horwood demonstrates Qigiong with the Original Yang Style Tai Chi Chan Shu Jian form as laid out by Yang Cheng Fu.
The Chan Shu Jian ‘Silk Weaving Form’ refers to the spiralling inner or chi breathing techniques perfected by the Yang family over the centuries.
Chi in its usual course flows in lines along the meridians near blood vessels, daily nourishing the muscles, tendons & body tissue. Whereas Chan Shu Jian encourages the chi to spiral into the bone as well, harmonising & storing chi in the marrow for healing or martial purposes, creating a ‘chi battery’. Hence the Tai Chi maxim that a Master has bones as hard as steel yet as if wrapped in cotton wool.
In this Original Yang Style Tai Chi Video download Graham firstly shows the general posture for Tai Chi Beginners to this method of the Yang Style.