Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 254
Chi Kung (Qigong)
For the next several weeks I will be sharing some thoughts on chi kung – some general, some specific. I hope you enjoy this discussion. I will be focusing on its relationship to Tai Chi Chuan, as the topic of chi kung is immense.
Chi means energy. Kung means work or skill, so Chi Kung is the study of basically everything, since energy is the building block of the Universe.
There are four major categories of qigong study and practice for humans:
1. Maintaining health
2. Curing sickness
3. Martial skill
Of course, these all overlap, but we will focus on Martial Skill. In looking at chi kung and Tai Chi we have two basic ways of working with chi:
Wai Dan (External Elixir)
These exercises mostly focus on the limbs. The chi is built up in the limbs and, when released, this chi flows into all the channels, ending up in the deepest interior. From exterior to interior. Mostly developed by the Buddhist monks.
Nei Dan (Internal Elixir)
The concentration is on the three dantierns and the torso in general. The chi builds up there and it overflows into the limbs. This practice is more difficult as the interior is more hidden and many of these exercises, especially in the olden times, were secret. Mostly developed by the Taoists.
Let’s explore wai dan and nei dan and see if we can experience how chi flows using these two methods.
Wai Dan. External to internal – limbs to center.
1. Stand in horse stance (shoulder width with the knees slightly bent). Arms hanging to the sides of the legs. Breathing in and out through the nose. Don’t force the breath – a relaxed, easy breath.
2. Make a firm fist with both hands. Knuckles face forward.
3. As you inhale, squeeze the fists more firmly. As you exhale, keep the fists firmly held.
4. Take 8 breaths, squeezing more firmly each time. Can be any number, but 8 is a special number in Tai Chi.
5. At the end of 8 breaths, stand up and let the fists relax, slowly. Look inside at your torso (lower dantien) and feel what the result of the exercise is. I will not tell you what to experience. Look inside and feel the results for yourself.
Very good results can be achieved by having the arms hanging at the sides, knuckles face forward, and pull up the fingers with the fingers facing forward. It is like you are pressing down with the palms while pulling up with the fingers. With each inhale pull the fingers more upward, with each exhale, keep the pull up. After 8, relax and look inside and feel what happens.
Another variation is to have the arms out to the sides, parallel to the ground, and have the hands as if pressing outward with the palms to the sides. The fingers pull up and back towards your body. After 8, let the arms slowly relax down to the sides and feel the result.
For more information on this method, view my video posted on YouTube. It is called Ji Jin Jing
Nei Dan (Interior to exterior)
1. Horse Riding Stance. Hold the hands in front of the lower belly, like you are holding a ball. Feel the connection between the two palms. Use natural or reverse breathing.
2. As you inhale, the arms open slightly – feel like you are pulling something sticky apart. Let the breath into the lower belly open the hands. As you exhale, let the hands move slightly towards each other. Do not move the hands – let the breath into the belly move the hands. Take 8 breaths.
3. Next hold the hands in front of the middle of the chest. Do the same as step #2.
4. Next hold the hands at upper face level. Do the same as #2 and #3.
5. When finished with #4, allow the hands, still holding the ball, to slowly drop down the front of the body from head to chest with the idea you are connecting the upper dantien and middle dantien. Then continue the dropping from chest to belly, connecting the energy from middle to lower. And finally let the hands return to the sides of the body and take a few moments to feel how you feel.
I recommend my video – Holding the Ball – on YouTube to further explain this sequence.
Hope you are enjoying this little voyage into Qigong. More next week.
Starting in March, Stephanie will be sharing her extensive knowledge with partner sensitivity training, from 5 to 5:30 on Thursday evenings, followed by continuing study of the second section of the long form from 5:30 to 6:30. It will be an enlightening experience, I’m sure.
Also in March, John will be accepting new senior students into his Monday 9:15 AM and Wednesday 10:15 Short Form classes.
First Saturday Workshop on March 14 will continue working on the Sword form.