Want to take your Qigong practice up a notch in the New Year? In this article Alex outlines 12 rules to help you finesse and improve.
I thought it might be fun to have a qigong sister piece to Suzanne’s 12 Yoga Practices of Christmas. As Tai Chi Qigong is first and foremost a martial art, I’ve gone for the 12 “Rules” of Christmas that you can try to incorporate into your own practice.
1/ Fall down seven times, get up eight
This is actually a Japanese proverb, when I was a younger man studying Shotokan Karate, my Sensei at the time would make us say it over and over. I felt that it applies so well to Qigong that I am putting it at the top because it’s so important. Everyone struggles with willpower, when you don’t feel like attending a session that is probably the most important time to do so. Trust me, the habit will form and before you know it you will have the discipline and willpower to see you through anything. You will “fall down” whether that’s breaking a New Year resolution or dodging a class. Get “back up”!
2/ Less is more
Some of my novice students are so enthusiastic that they will practice for 2 or 3 hours a day, constantly asking for more movements or philosophy to learn. Of course, they burn out within a few weeks and I either don’t see them again or only sporadically. With my qigong sessions as those who have attended will tell you we focus more on working gently for between 45 and 50 minutes concentrating on only the moves we are doing. This is more than enough time to attempt each day in your own practice.
3/ Make mistakes
As you have heard me say in almost every session, the visible form is the least important thing when it comes to healing with qigong. Worrying about something that doesn’t matter is silly. What makes this even more important is that worry blocks the flow of qi (or energy). Stop it!! You’re human, make mistakes, laugh about them and don’t try to do the form “perfectly”. If such a thing exists then it is only in some ego filled competition or spectacle; an impressive display of choreography likely not containing the essence of the movements and more akin to line dancing in silk pyjamas!!
4/ Don’t overthink
This overlaps with rule 3 above. If you are constantly thinking things like, “is my left index finger pointing to the heavens” or “do I breathe in 50%, or 65%?” then you are overthinking. Stop it. By all means try to hold form and breathe the way I explain but if you are not able to or forget what I said then who cares? Just copy as best you can, breathe and the rest will follow.
5/Don’t breathe hard. Breathe gently.
Although there are some forceful breathing methods in qigong (Warrior Breath etc), start with gentle breathing. “How gentle is gentle?” I hear you ask, well, if you have to ask that question, then breathe more gently!
6/ In through Nose, Out through Nose
Whilst we are talking about breath unless the movement calls for a forceful out breath then it is always better to breath in and out via the nose. Apart from the benefits of breathing in through the nose in terms of stopping bugs getting into the system, the nasal cavity floods the incoming air with Nitric Oxide produced in the para nasal sinuses. This is a vaso-dilator helping greatly the flow of blood round the body. Exhaling via the nose prevents you from dumping too much CO2 and also stops you losing a lot of heat and moisture from within.
7/ Avoid messy or unclean spaces
The energy chaotic or very unclean space is negative for humans. This isn’t “woo woo” (Those who know me know I don’t subscribe to any of that). It’s common sense. Going to these places in a normal state is fine but going into a meditative state to cultivate energy in these places is not. If you have several messy kids running about etc and literally don’t have an inch in the house of “sacred” clean space where you can practice comfortably, then put on a coat and go outside.
8/ Keep the eyes mostly closed
In Rule 3 I mentioned that we are all human, as such we are all easily distracted by shiny or novel “things”. Even beautiful scenery can distract us from our meditation. Try to keep your eyes gently closed while you bring the practice within, using a variety of visual imagery that helps with the movements such as in Flying Wild Goose. Make your own scenery in your head rather than reading the shopping list pinned to the fridge door.
9/ Practice somewhere safe
With the above in mind make sure the space around you is safe. Don’t stumble over a child’s toy, loose rug or even the dog! In addition, make sure that you have the space to freely move your arms all around you without knocking anything over or hurting yourself by banging your hand against something.
10/ Be comfortable
When I was in the military many moons ago (cue Suzanne calling me Uncle Albert and yawning!) I was learning to be a Combat Survival Instructor and my teacher at the time said to us that “any fool can be uncomfortable”. He was directly referencing the incorrect idea amongst many that one has to “rough it” when in the field. Your approach to your own learning should be the same. You do not have to practice barely clothed on a block of ice while balancing above spikes. Your clothing should be loose, comfortable and warm. And if going barefoot make sure the surface you are on is not too cold and free of loose stones etc.
11/ If it hurts, stop!
Those who attend my sessions will know this is one of my “Golden Rules”. If at any time you feel any discomfort or pain listen to your body and stop doing the thing that hurts. If with an instructor then bring it to their attention; any good one should have several modified versions of the movement you can try. If they don’t leave their class and come join mine!
12/ Enjoy yourself!
If you follow just one rule, follow this one. Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt, come back to this rule. Simply by enjoying your qigong practice you will solve many more problems than any other rule I’ve ever found. In fact I should have made this article really short and just put this one at the start as you don’t even need to read the other rules because this is the one that really matters.
That’s it for 2021 from me. The “in person” sessions at Woolmer Green will hopefully start again mid to late January to allow everyone time to get their vaccination or booster jabs. So we can ensure that the threat to health can be mitigated, no matter what Boris says, we will maintain social distancing and other sensible precautions.
Stay safe and healthy and I wish you all a very merry festive season and a great 2022, Alex