What is Qi Gong?
It all began 20 years ago when I retired at the age of 53. I still had lots of energy, and I decided to join the local YMCA and give exercise a try. As I was looking over the calendar of events, I noticed a “Qi Gong” class was being offered weekly on a Thursday morning between 10 and 11 a.m. I had never heard of Qi Gong before, so I asked the person at the service desk what it was. I was told that it was a class about health, science, meditation, and exercise. That sounded like the right thing for me, so I signed up.
The following Thursday, I arrived early for Qi Gong, and I was ready and enthusiastic about beginning an exercise programme, as well as learning something new. I brought my new running shoes in hand, and my bottle of water. I wasn’t sure what to wear, so I chose a comfortable pair of track pants and a light t-shirt. The Qi Gong class was being held in a small gym with very high ceilings and large windows. The natural light made me feel wonderful, and everything seemed perfect. There were about two other people lingering about the room waiting for the instructor to arrive. I was surprised when an older gentleman walked through the door dressed in a martial arts outfit. He wasn’t wearing any shoes, or socks, for that matter.
The class began with a series of exercises that were very foreign to me. I think there were about 15 exercises, and we ended with a self-massage technique. The whole thing lasted about 60 minutes. For some of the exercises, we were either standing, or sitting, or even lying down on a mat. Oh, I should mention that most of the people were older than I was. None of them, including the instructor, looked like athletes.
I really liked the instructor. He had a calmness about him … like someone with absolutely no stress in his body. The instructor mentioned that his goal for our class was to create a positive energy within us, by eliminating negative energy in our bodies. He said that we would experience various sensations of internal “Qi” or energy such as swelling, tingling, numbing, heat, and various feelings of heaviness. The instructor also mentioned that the exercises were designed to improve the function of the internal organs as well as the meridian channels connecting the lungs, liver, and stomach. When our instructor said that the Chinese had been practising this form of exercise for over 4000 years, I was sold.
Watch this video showing some preparation exercises for doing Qi Gong.
Qi Gong Levels
The instructor talked about 3 levels, or dimensions, that we would navigate through depending on the health of our body at the time. My first session with him and the other older people was the elementary level. This consisted of the 15 exercises and a self-massage at the end. We were told to perform this routine 2 times per day, for up to 100 days, before we even thought about moving to the intermediate level. Most of the exercises were similar to Tai Chi movements – slow and gentle, side to side mobility, with breathing properly throughout. One of my favourite exercises was called, “Golden Dragon Wags Tail”.
This exercise was meant to improve lung capacity and strengthen the rib cage. I definitely needed help with that. I was told to be ready for a lot of belching, sweating, yawning, crying, and passing gas. “Oh, goody!”
The elementary level exercises were to prepare your body for the intermediate level exercises. These Qi Gong exercises would produce positive energy to keep your internal organs in great shape. Your body would become stronger inside and out.
As a Qi Gong exerciser, who has advanced to the intermediate exercises, be prepared to be standing upright. There are 15 different exercises at this level as well. If you’re at this level, you should be filled with lots of positive energy. It is time to move it around to all parts of your body. That is the “Gong” part. The Qi is the energy and the Gong refers to what you do with that energy. Your hand movements will help with opening the meridians in the legs and feet, and gently massage the joints in your lower extremities. Your lymphatic system, all internal organs, and your reproductive organs will be stimulated.
It took me a long time to get through the elementary exercises. I enjoyed that level of Qi Gong very much. Most of my classmates, are still attending classes at that level. At the intermediate level, I really enjoy the gentle tapping motion exercise called, “Arhat Subdues Tiger”. I do this exercise every day without failure. I love the different postures at this level as well.
The advanced level is only taught to the rare few. You could end up like me – a Qi Gong practitioner who loves the world of level one exercises, and sometimes thinks of himself as a level 2 master.
Qi Gong Energy
Qi Gong is all about the energy that is found inside your body, and how it flows along the meridians, and what it does to you. Hopefully, it will be positive energy, and that energy will keep you young, and you will live a long and happy life.
Think about your form as you generate energy in level 1. Once you move into level 2, the breath is the focus for harnessing the energy. All the exercises are done much more slowly. You should become very proficient at breathing properly. No more of that shallow breathing for you. You are now wild and free! You are at the dynamic level. In level 3, you will be using the mind to generate the energy. The form is more static than the other two levels. Your breath is coordinated with visualization of energy moving throughout your body. For example, doing the “Big Universe” exercise, you would be standing in the “cosmos stance”, and as you breathe out, the energy travels down the arms to the hands. Then, as you breathe in, the energy moves back up the outside of the arms, finally ending up at the “Bai Hei” at the top of your head.
Qi Gong Summary
Some people think of Qi Gong as a combination of yoga poses and tai chi movements. As long as we are focused on cultivating and preserving our health, it doesn’t matter what our definition is. Qi Gong plays an integral part in a person’s journey to wellness, along with all the other disciplines. I suggest that you follow the path that is best for you.
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