The Basics of Qi Gong
Qi Gong is an ancient form of Chinese exercise developed to enhance health and awareness. Qi Gong is a general term that includes various energetic practices such as Tai Chi Chuan, Ba Gua Zhang, and Taoist Meditation. While there are thousands of styles of Qi Gong, each style is based upon the same key principles: rooted balance, correct posture, deep breathing, and a relaxed mind and body.
Qi Gong Foundational Concepts
To begin to understand Qi Gong, you need to learn a few foundational concepts used in the practice of this art. Qi Gong can be literally translated as energy work, meaning a method to develop and use one’s energy. Qi, or energy, has many forms in the body but it is most simply the function and vitality of your mind and body. Qi flows through the body within channels, called meridians, to connect each internal organ, limb, and every other system of the body. This network of connections relies on the abundance and flow of Qi in the body to maintain health.
There is a primary reservoir of Qi in the body called the Dan Tian. This energy center is approximately 1.3 inches below your naval and fills the pelvic cavity. When practicing Qi Gong, focus your mind on the Dan Tian to lead the Qi back to this reservoir. When performing moving Qi Gong exercises, you move from the Dan Tian. Interestingly, the Dan Tian is also the physical center-of-gravity of the body.
Rooted Balance in Qi Gong
When practicing Qi Gong, it is important to have rooted balance. This is needed in both standing and moving Qi Gong practice. This concept means that you create a strong connection with the feet to the ground beneath you. As you practice, feel this connection increase as the breath leads the Qi up from your heels.
Correct Qi Gong Postures
In Qi Gong practice, a vertical spinal alignment is always maintained. This proper alignment is needed for the Qi to flow properly up your spinal channel from the coccyx to the skull. In order to align your body, you must be relaxed; forcing the body into alignment will never be correct and could block the flow of Qi in the body.
Proper Qi Gong posture would include the following:
- Feet spaced shoulder-width apart
- Legs are slightly bent, straight but not locked
- Hips are relaxed with the tailbone tucked under
- Torso is upright, with a slight sinking of the chest and lifting of back
- Arms should float relaxed at your sides or coordinated with movement
- Neck is slightly tucked under
- Crown of head is lifted slightly, as if suspended from above
Qi Gong Deep Breathing
Qi Gong exercises included many different breathing techniques. The most common and first to master is called natural breathing. This Qi Gong breathing method is designed to return to the way you breathed during the first years of life. Your belly expands with each inhaled breath, and relaxes naturally during exhalation. Your mind guides the Qi and the breath down into the Dan Tian. Your lower abdomen and lower back expand in all directions evenly with each breath. With practice, the slow rhythmic Qi Gong breathing will deepen allowing fuller and more expansive breaths.
Relaxed Mind and Body
The mind is the most important part of a Qi Gong practice. Without a correct frame of mind, the practice cannot progress. It is common to have some form of inner dialogue commenting on in the mind. While you should not suppress this inner chatter, the idea is to release you from listening to it. Overtime, the dialogue will decrease allowing your awareness to focus more fully on the breath and the circulation of Qi in the body.
Scan the body with the mind to seek and release areas of tension. Your body should feel a sensation of relaxed fullness. Float effortlessly, securely rooted by the soles of your feet and gently lifted by the crown of your head. Breath fills your body, spreading outward from the Dan Tian. Your eyes see everything, yet focus on nothing. The mind is still and empty.
Length of Qi Gong Practice and Closing
When you are first starting Qi Gong, try to complete five minutes of practice each day. Every week, increase your daily practice by five minutes until you can do twenty to forty minutes each time. With daily practice, you can have greater mentally clarity and energy all day.
Here is a simple method to close your Qi Gong practice. First, rub your hands together for several moments. Then, use the warmed hands to rub your low back in the kidney area. This will energize the kidneys and enhance your longevity. If you have any other areas that require healing, use your hands to massage those areas. It is traditional to bow slightly at the completion of the Qi Gong practice.