What is Qi Gong?
The foundation of Qi Gong is the Standing Posture it's through this posture you develop correct alignments, learn to sink your chi, breath whilst maintaining the posture and begin the process of relaxing and then releasing any tight soft tissues of the body. You further this process by maintaining the alignments whilst in movement, still sinking your chi and relaxing then releasing bodily tension.
The Process of learning and benefits of Qi Gong
Your body will become less constricted and closed when you :
develop correct posture;
relax and release held nervous tension;
enhance the conscious breath.
If one of these is unstable the other two will be affected and as all three become more stable you become more sensitive to your chi development. Chi unifies your posture, nervous system and breath.
Maintaining a correct posture in movement will start to inter- connect your body and develop the concept of ‘one part moves all parts move’. Your body becomes toned as the natural elasticity of your body returns. In addition the arm and leg joints open - there is less constriction in the body - and the process of revitalising the internal organs occurs. Movement will become more efficient, joints become more aligned, the bodily fluids flow more evenly throughout the body.
Inefficient movement occurs due to misalignment. For example when walking you’re looking for a wave form of pressure to pass through your body with every step but misalignment creates angles of pressure which can be focused into one spot. The cumulative effect of this pressure over a period of time can create health problems with your joints, spine and organs.
a) Joints, Spine and Organs
Synovial joints are freely moveable and comprise most of the joints in the body and are predominantly located in the limbs. Such joints have ligamental attachments; the ligaments support, align, restrict the range of movement of the joints and when centrally aligned in combination with the synovial fluid acts as a shock absorber when moving. Synovial fluid lies in-between the joint and if evenly spread within the joint can absorb the impact of movement, but only if the ligaments are being efficiently used and the joint is aligned centrally. When your ligaments become misaligned this in turn will misalign the joint, if there is misalignment then the force of physical movement is directed into the joint, it doesn't pass through the joint and ultimately through the body. This results over a period of time in wear and tear and inefficient functioning of the joint. The less your ligaments are used to align your joints the more your muscles perform this function.
Muscles are attached to bone by tendons, the latter being stronger than muscles. Joints behave as buffers. Muscles do not. They become tense and atrophied if they have to perform this task. The more the tension is in the muscles the more this accentuates misalignment.
Misalignment, for example, of the knee joint can wear out the meniscus, cartilage and the cruciate ligaments. This will bring about physical discomfort closing the knee joint, creating tension that can feed throughout the body affecting negatively other joints and starting the process of contracting and closing the body down. Once it starts to close down it can take a long time to re-open the body and regain flexibility. This contraction is more likely as the cumulative effect of pressure is applied over time into misaligned joints. So the key is to engage your tendons and ligaments not your muscles. When your joints cannot absorb the pressure this gets directed into the spine, the organs and glands.
As your body becomes realigned your legs and arms become reconnected to your spine. Your spine has numerous neurological connections feeding off into the body. Correct alignments prevent the spine compressing allowing neural signals to spread smoothly throughout the body. There are a number of reasons for back pain but one cause is the vertebrae becoming compacted which leads to physical stress. The tightening and tensing of the back muscles is a cause of vertebral compaction. The muscles need to become looser and softer by releasing the held nervous tension of the muscles. This will allow the spinal ligaments to become more engaged and perform the function of allowing the spine to be more flexible.
By increasing the overall energetic motility and mobility of your organs and intestines, your general health is enhanced. Motility is the movement of chi and blood through the organs, mobility, in this context refers to the spatial movement of the organs. Your organs do not want to be physically compressed and this is achieved by opening the joints and lengthening the spinal ligaments of the spine.
Correct alignments allows the even spread of the synovial fluids in the joints, the even flow of the cerebral spinal fluid, the lymphatic fluids and blood throughout the body. A tense, tight body will constrict the spread or flow of fluids. As the body becomes softer, the ligaments and tendons lengthen and the general process of opening the body occurs. The body becomes ‘moister’, softer. Blood in particular carries the nutrients and warmth around the body aiding the process of softening the body.
Unlike blood, which flows throughout the body in a continual loop, lymph flows in only one direction within its own system. This flow is only upward toward the neck. Since the lymphatic system does not have a heart to pump it, its upward movement depends on the motions of the muscle and joint pumps. The human body is very cleverly designed as the major lymph nodes are situated where most physical movement occurs. For example at the base of the arm, at the elbow, the base of the leg and the back of the knee, also around the neck and jaw. So whenever you walk or move your arms, your lymphatic fluids get moved around your body. The design of the human body is efficient and Qi Gong taps into this efficiency, this evolutionary design, which enhances the movement of fluid throughout the body and thus enhances a persons health.
As an exercise Qi Gong moves away from the muscles as being the primary movers of the body but accesses the 15 litres of fluid in the body to move it. This is a very different concept from the western view of exercise where having a six pack, looking muscular and having the muscles drive your movement is considered healthy and relaxing.
Qi Gong involves the process of your mind becoming aware of your body. A tight body is a tense body which can also lead to a tense mind. By reconnecting mind and body the nervous system can start to relax and release held nervous tension, the root of all stress.
Stress, another word for tension, is a major disease of the western world. It comes about when a person repetitively pushes themselves beyond their 100% potential, creating a stress cycle which leads to burnout. High levels of stress will increase the activity of your glands; a side effect of this is you cannot sleep due to the glands over secreting. Your body and mind can maintain exercise/concentration 10 times longer when relaxed than with tension, thus you can increase your stamina through relaxing. Pushing yourself constantly to your limit is not good, but you have to get a sense of how much your system can handle. Know your boundaries and always go to the point where it is comfortable and relaxed.
This is achieved by applying yourself to just 70% of your potential creating a stable foundation. Your mind does not push your body beyond its current potential, as a consequence you prevent the development of any stress cycle. This in turn reciprocates the process of softening, relaxing and opening the body with the aim of increasing overall health, strength, flexibility, vitality and mental clarity.
A linear movement, due to the stop start qualities, encourages physical tension. In comparison circular movements, which are continuous and unbroken, actually encourages everything in the body to move without getting temporarily or permanently stuck. Doing circular movements will further and deepen the process of releasing a tight nervous system and will create more chi flow. Chi moves through the body in a circular, not linear, manner. This movement of chi will also promote the circulation of blood and other fluids.
With no complicated physical movements to learn, conscious breathing allows a quick and easy way to feel internally. By gaining control and developing the spring-like nature of the diaphragm, breathing becomes a form of internal massage with changes in pressure gradually aiding the process of opening up your body. The reciprocal effect is to increase the blood flow throughout your body; it is easier to control your breath than your heartbeat.
Breathing also allows the calming and strengthening of your nervous system which in turn gets your muscles to relax; if your breath tenses by becoming shorter and uneven, your body will also tense. By being aware of your breath during stressful periods in life, breathing can become a tool for overcoming and ultimately preventing the damaging side effects of stress, anxiety and neurosis. This is primarily achieved by releasing and softening restricted movement in the diaphragm and the soft tissue attached around the organs. This furthers the process of enhancing the motility and mobility of your organs. By gaining control over the diaphragm through breathing the diaphragm can be used to create pressure into the belly. This massages the organs, they become softer, function more efficiently as the flow of fluids through them becomes even.
In modern society there is neurological overload, due to computers, TV, advertising and the general craving for knowledge. With the constant churning over of thoughts, people get disconnected from feeling their bodies. The mind can have infinite perceptions creating a mental motion, you need to change the nature of that motion by focusing on your breathing, posture and nervous system. The mind needs to settle, become quieter enabling you to reconnect with your body and recognise the energy flows within. Letting your nervous system relax allows you to attain calmness. The aim is to become relaxed but initially a relaxed state is difficult as you become aware of the stresses and strains within. Benefit only comes once stability has been attained and as you become comfortable with your postures, as your breath and nervous system become smoother they enable your awareness of chi to increase.
Developing correct posture, releasing the nervous system and using breathing techniques, will allow safe energetic development to occur. Chi will flow in a smooth and balanced way throughout the body. Physical movement is for dance and athletics, a combination of physical movement and chi is Qi Gong.
Physical movement allows the chi to flow evenly through your system, if you don’t have the physical movement then your chi becomes stagnant. The decreasing use of muscles (strength) increases chi flow but when you cease having the flow of chi you have to contract your muscles to do the movement. This is inefficient. The movement of chi through your body whilst doing specific movements develops the art that is Qi Gong.
During your first few years of practicing Qi Gong you are aiming to stretch and open the body. After this initial period you then move into more intermediate practices of using the internal body space that this has created. Thus you start to move from more external movement and less internal movement into more internal movement and less external movement. Qi Gong aims to create a balanced body and mind. A balanced person is alive, has mental clarity and compassion. The process of body contraction that comes with daily living and the general ageing process can be influenced by practising Qi Gong. Qi Gong is thus a system of health maintenance.