qìgōng (Chi Kung)

So, why qìgōng?

Put simply, if you wish to improve your painting the practice of qìgōng (energy moving exercises) can work wonders. Unsure? Then you need to give it a go…

Paul usually leads a group through some gentle qìgōng at the beginning of a workshop in order to get the blood (& creativity) flowing.

We have a wrapper around a qìgōng form which should be observed. This is explained below:

  1. Stand in the Ready Posture
  2. Take a mutual Bow and step out
  3. Massage the kidneys exactly 49 times
  4. Awaken the pelvis and waist
  5. Perform your chosen qìgōng form
  6. Closing – 3 circles with arms, Settling the qì
  7. Closing – Standing chán
  8. Closing – Step in and finally bow to each other

Ready Posture

Stand upright, collar bones down, back long, with feet brought gently together and knees relaxed.

Please note: although the movements mentioned here start from a standing position, they can all be adapted to a seated position.

Bow – Starting a Form

My first teacher taught me a very important starting posture which I have used every day since I started back in October 1996. It is this…

From the Ready Posture, slowly release the spine and breathe out as you literally fold in half to bow.

The teacher bows to the students and the students bow to the teacher. This expression of mutual respect is core to tai qì (chi) which is where qìgōng can ultimately lead if practiced diligently.

Following the bow, we transfer the weight of the body to one side of the body (without leaning) so that all the weight is falling through the sole of one foot. We then peel the foot with no weight slowly from the floor and step out slowly and gently so that the foot can be placed with precision your hip width apart from the other. Finally the weight is transferred to the centre of the body, so that it falls between the feet.

Massage the kidneys

Massaging the kidneys is important for many reasons and, therefore, should never be neglected. qì arises in the kidneys according to Chinese medicine. Therefore, in order to move energy, we need some to play with.

To massage the kidneys, the backs of the hands are placed at the base of the spine. They are then drawn up the back as high as is possible and then pushed back down. This is one movement. According to tai qì exponent, Cheng Man-ch’ing, the kidneys should be massaged exactly 49 times. This discipline is worth sticking with. If you miscount and count 50 by mistake then you aren’t paying attention and Cheng Man-ch’ing was quite clear that this now becomes the 1st of the next 49. In tai qì and qìgōng we need a healthy dose of relaxed attention rather than undisciplined tension…

See here for an article on Looking after the Kidneys which I wrote for the Universe Tai Chi Wu Shu Society back in 2009 with the help of The Donor magazine.

Awaken the pelvis

Once we have massaged the kidneys we transfer our attention to the dan tian (literally mid heaven) which is where we store energy. This we need to awaken so that we can store the energy we move during our exercise.

More later…

The qìgōng form

The main part of your exercise is what is known as a qìgōng form. There are a great many forms, the most famous of which is the 8 pieces of brocade (bā duàn jǐn). More of the forms later…

Closing the form

Once you have completed your form/s it is important to give due consideration to closing the form correctly as this sets your mind in the right place.

My go to for this is simply ‘Settling the qì’ which involves very gently turning three circles in the arms followed by ‘Standing chán’ where the palms rest lightly on the lower abdomen at dāntián and the breathing is acutely observed. Again, this is worth taking time over. Do not be tempted to rush as this will speed the breathing and hence the mind.

18 Therapies qigong - Settling the Breath
18 Therapies qigong – Settling the Breath illustration
(C) unknown

Bow – Closing the form

Finally we complete a qìgōng session with a mutual bow. This is performed with the same pacing and focus as bowing to start the form.

Following the bow, we transfer the weight of the body to one side of the body (without leaning) so that all the weight is falling through the sole of one foot. We then peel the foot with no weight slowly from the floor and step in slowly and gently so that the foot can be placed with precision next to the other. Finally the weight is transferred to the centre of the body, so that it falls between the feet.

Now you should be fully prepared for alert painting.

Any feedback will be gratefully received. Thank you

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