by Zhang Mingliang & Cheng Yunhua
When people begin to learn Health Qigong，many people may wonder that why the movements of Health Qigong is always slower than other exercises. Many exercisers who have practiced for many years may come to realize that why they feel comfortable when they exercise slowly. In fact, Practicing Health Qigong is a process which is marked by “slowness, pause, flexibility and observation”. We may discuss it hereon in four aspects as well.
Visually, the slowness in practicing Health Qigong Is mainly refers to moving slowly, which is the outstanding feature that Health Qigong is different from other exercises. Traditional Chinese Health Qigong and the theories of life nourishing of TCM believes that the human body is a single whole. It is composed of three parts, one of which is the visible body and the other two are invisible Qi and mind. The body is visual and QI can also be experienced by breathing. Mind may understand by insight only and be difficult to express, but everyone can sense its existence. If we experience the motion speed of the body, Qi and Mind, we can easily find that mind is the fastest (having one’s head in the clouds, which may change quickly), the body is faster (the movements is controlled by the mind and they can be fast and be slow), Qi is the slowest (Qi moves in the meridians of the body at an inherent speed).
As we all know, the goal of practice is to “three regulations”: regulating the body, regulating of breathing and regulating the mind. The high level of practice is the unity of the three. The motion speed of the three should be about the same to achieve the unity. Because the speed of breath cannot be changed, then we can only change the speed of the body and mind. Hence, the exercisers should find a way to slow down the mind (calm down) and the movements (be relaxed). So slowness is an important means of practice. Therefore, judging from the nine sets of Health Qigong which is promoted successively by the Health Qigong Management Center of the State Sports General Administration, the “slowness” is their common feature and the moving speed of the recent five sets of exercises are much slower than that of the previous four sets. Leading the students, I have performed Health Qigong•Da Wu with the music “See steppe with you”, which is praise for its grace, stretch and presence of mind.
When people practice the nine sets of Qigong, a lot of movements should be exercised slowly or even pause. The most obvious one is the Health Qigong `Liu Zi Jue, in which there are short pauses after almost every action set. In general, the action is always faster than the breath. The ancients said: when people Breathe out breathe in, Qi goes six inches (equal with the height of a person). And the range is much greater when people move and exercise. So sometimes we need pause slightly and wait for the intersection of the breath. For example: there are many short pauses that have been marked in Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing, Ba Duan Jin, Shi Er Duan Jin, Da Wu etc. Although the pauses are not specified in some stances, there also are short pauses after every action set in general. If the exercisers do not understand the mysteries in them and move fast and versatilely, it would come to naught. Therefore, no matter what exercises we practice, we had better know that where we should pause, what changes of breath after pause in practice and what kind of effect it has achieved after a long time.
Maybe the beginners are too late to comprehend because they are eager to be familiar with the routine, then if the skilled exercisers are not good at summing up the experience, or even always imitate others. It is really a waste of time to exercise.
What should be indicated hereby is that the pause is just a short time pause of movement, but the breath did not stop. Thus “be continuous” that we demand in the practice, mainly refers to the breath. Although the routine is paused, the breath is still continuous.
The so-called “flexibility” mainly refers to that the movements should be stretch and flexible, but not stiff. After standing up, the human brain is smarter, but it has also paid a price and the spinal column did bending deformation. So many movements in the routines of Qigong are intended to stretch the tendons and pull the bones to facilitate the flow of blood and Qi. Sometimes reverse movements are needed distinguishingly to be corrected.
“Two points stretching method” will be introduced here. For example: When standing, you can imagine that the head stand up to the heaven and the feet grab the earth, then head and feet are the two furthest apart reverse stretching endpoint; Another example: When both hands flat on the formation of a Chinese character “Da”, you can imagine the left and right hands are toward the most distant places, then the middle finger of the right hand and left hand are the two furthest apart reverse stretching endpoint; Another example is the stretch waist stance in Health Qigong•Da Wu, the body bend forward about 45 degrees, put the palms together and stretch out forward and upward until the inner sides of the upper arm is near the ears. Meanwhile, coordinating with inhale, the heels go backward and downward, then the middle fingertips of the palms and the heels are the two furthest apart reverse stretching endpoint. Next, the arms continue to move to the top of the extension, the heels lift and the soles grip the earth, then the middle fingertips of the palms and the soles are also the two furthest apart reverse stretching endpoint. There are many similar movements in the nine sets of Qigong exercises and we will not list all of them here.
What should be noted is that not all movements require the “two points stretching method”. We stress that alternating tension with relaxation in practice and the tension is just in the short time pause, the followed relaxation can facilitate the flow of blood and Qi better. In the state of relaxation, the arms stretched as cylindrical arc and the moving route is also cylindrical arc, which embodies the feature of the stance e.g. loose, round, soft, flexible, graceful and stretch. “Exercises practice in a flexible way and achieve success finally.” Therefore, the range of movements is very large, which includes not only “straight” but also” round”.
Just as its name suggests, the notes of “observation“ in Xinhua Dictionary is view (observation, sightseeing); the scene (spectacle, spectacularity) people viewed; the understanding and views (viewpoints, ideas) of things; abbey (Taoist temple). The “concept” we discuss in this text only means “observation”, and “looking on” with imposing conditions.
After we practice for a long time and with proper methods, we will experience the feelings: “air-feeling” and “insight” etc. The more obvious and common feeling is “air-feeling”, and sometimes the exercisers feel throbbing, sore, numb and ache in the points that Qi flows in the meridian. At this time, if the practitioners did not have enough skill to regulate, they can simply look on and let these feelings in the body sweep over quickly. Heart is like a mirror. Just let the feelings go away and the exercisers need not bother to worry or command. Otherwise, people may deviate and possessed by the Devil. However, having feelings is better than no feeling. An important reward resulted from the progress of practice is that exercisers are more sensitive to their bodies and are able to observe the blood flow of their own, in order to facilitate us to adjust the method in practice.
“Observation” means observing the inside of the body. The practitioners who have been practicing for a long time can experience a sense of quiet. For example: there are movements, such as holding upward and falling, in the closing forms of most of the stances. While holding upward, hold both hands with both arms in the shape of arc and coordinate with the breath, exercisers can observe that the fresh air that we breathe in meet the Qi from cinnabar field of the human body in the chest. . While falling, then just breath and both hands free fall effortlessly. Coordinating with omphaloskepsis, the gas in the chest also comes down to the cinnabar field.
What should be noted is that the beginners had better practice in the order of “three regulations” first, namely regulating the body (doing body movements), regulating of breathing (coordinating with breath), then regulating the minds (considering appropriate ideas), and finally achieve the unity of the three.
In fact, the beginners just practice it under the correct guidance of teaching books and CD-ROM or the masters and eliminate the distractions, rather than thinking over too much. Practice must be harvested.
In conclusion, “slowness, Pause, flexibility and observation” is the effective routine in practicing the Health Qigong. As long as we practice and digest constantly, the skill that we practice will be improved a lot.