By Hilde and John Kearney
OUR LOVE FOR QIGONG
You do not wake up at 7 in the morning every day (except Saturday at 9 and Sundays at 10), come rain or shine, gales, snow, or summer dew, getting dressed in outside clothes, and hiking up into the forest nearby before work – without having a passion for something! Life can lead you onto weird and wonderful paths, and this is yet another of our peculiar stories of weird and wonderful, it leads us to commitment, dedication, and passion for qigong, and just so much more that we could never have foreseen. Because -yes, we do get up at 7, and we do get ready and hike up the hill to the forest, and all of those things mentioned over, and -here is the twist, -so does a lot of our dearest friends! Soul family does that for each other, and for oneself, collectively. Qigong brought us enhanced health, but also closeness and loving friendships. Still, there is another ally in all of this wonderful weirdness that has been the biggest surprise, and which still remains clothed in mystery. Apart from our loving friendships with soul family, our tree soul family presented itself! -YES, the trees, our wooden friends. Apparently, they are soul family too! We are surrounded by the same trees in the same spot every morning, and this has become a beautiful, symbiotic relationship already, where we all weave in and out of each other’s lives. In all fairness, we must admit to the intuitive feeling that it has been the trees working silently behind the scenes all the time, drawing us close, the trees made sure we all gravitated towards each other, and to them ultimately. Maybe it was written in the stars. The trees are such powerful and wise soulful beings. Too many weird and wonderful things have happened to claim it to be a coincidence since our morning sessions started in the forest. It seems to be preordained for reasons that are only tangibly visible to us. We heal the trees, and they heal us right back. For our love of qigong, and practicing qigong between the trees, we have come up with a new term, -Tree-gong. This week will be all about trees, qigong and tree gong, so watch out for the topics in the slider also.
WHAT IS QIGONG?
Qigong (pronounced chee-gong, or chee-gung) is an ancient Chinese exercise that combines controlled breathing, movement, and meditation. You may have heard of Tai Chi. Tai Chi is the most well-known form of qigong, but the type of Qigong we practice is much easier to perform. The movements are simple and easy to remember, unlike in Tai Chi. There is evidence that Qigong predates the Chinese culture and it may be 10,000 years old, or older. It is known as a form of standing meditation. A famous set of ancient instructions stated of Qigong that it was possible to: “Mind the body and the breath, and then clear the mind to distill the Heavenly elixir within.”
Qigong is also one of the planks of traditional Chinese Medicine –where it is often referred to as external Qigong or medical Qigong to distinguish it from the exercises — and functions as a form of energy healing similar to Reiki. The word Qigong is not easily translated. Qi is the equivalent to “Ki” in Reiki, “Chi” in Tai Chi, and prana used in yoga. Qi has been interpreted to mean “vital energy, information, breath, or spirit.” Many sources also indicate that it means “life-force,” as in a life-force that connects all living things. The word Gong can be translated as “cultivation or mastery.” Thus, Qigong has been interpreted to mean “vital energy cultivation” or “mastery of your energy.”
QIGONG IS FOR EVERYONE
It is believed that early Qigong practices were learned from ancient
shamans and that the Qigong healing methods predate the written Chinese
Culture, so determining an exact source or age of Qigong is difficult. The
earliest evidence of Qigong practice is believed to be 5000-7000 years old
and found on pottery of the Majiayao culture of the Neolithic period in
Northwest China’s, Qinghai Province. The exercises that we practice today were also performed by ancient Qigong healers as a means to heal themselves and to improve their ability to heal others. Qigong utilizes subtle movements, breathing techniques, and focused intention to open blockages in the body through the use of the same meridian system used in acupuncture. Recent research has indicated that regular practice of Qigong can offer relief for people suffering from stress and depression and that it can provide positive health benefits in the following areas: hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritic disease, stroke rehabilitation, improved balance, and to reduce falls, and bone mineral density. The movements are simple to learn and can be performed by everyone. To start to see the benefits from Qigong you do not have to be flexible, in good physical condition, or even have to get on the floor like in yoga because it is performed standing or sitting. You just need to start doing it. We feel that Qigong is easier than yoga and gets better and faster results. Part of the reason may be that many of the yoga positions are strenuous and you can not achieve a deep state of meditation if you are training to balance upsidedown on your head, or with all the blood rushing to your head in Downward Facing Dog. Qigong is a form of moving meditation and it gets healing results. Check out this link for the scientific studies to prove it.
AMAZING BENEFITS FROM A DAILY QIGONG PRACTICE
Due to its potential for health benefits, The Harvard Medical School called Tai-Chi “Medication in Motion.” Here is a list of some of the health benefits attributed to Qigong.
- Loosens Muscles
- Builds Power
- Strengthens Organs
- Slows Respiration
- Strengthens Nerves
- Builds Bone Density
- Prevents Joint Injury
- Strengthens Ligaments
- Destroys Free Radicals
- Increases Injury Recovery
- Decreases Stress
- Balances Emotions
- Improves Circulation
- Prevents Muscular Spasms
- Reduces Pain
- Lowers Heart Rate
- Normalizes EKG
- Lowers Blood Pressure
- Improves Asthma
- Relieves Bronchitis
- Builds Immune System
- Relieves Migraines
- Decreases Stroke Risk
- Improves Skin Elasticity
- Improves Posture
- Improves Flexibility
- Increases Balance
- Improves Memory
- Aids in Digestion
- Improves Kidney Function
QIGONG MAY CHANGE YOUR LIFE
That is correct, Qigong may change your life. John is convinced it changed his. It has helped him get his life back. He has started jogging again — something he had not been able to do for over 20 years due to knee pain –and he is feeling better than he has in years. This is just part of the reason why we so want to share this miracle exercise with you. The internet is full of similar stories about how Qigong has changed the lives of the people practicing it. The following link is the story of Anthony Korahais, a Qigong instructor who offers online Qigong courses. You should check it out, it is a very inspiring story about how Qigong SAVED HIS LIFE, not just changed it. You also may want to check out some of his online courses. This is not a paid endorsement for Anthony Korahais, or anything, but we just love his story and passion for Qigong — it is similar to the passion we feel for it.
THE ULTIMATE WAY TO START YOUR MORNING
It comes highly recommended from us at Tuntrelife to start your morning routine now. And to make it so much fun for you we will follow up with a post on how to set up your own qigong group, so please watch out for that! We will also bring another qigong surprise, coming soon. But to get you started already today we will present you with this very simple exercise, that you can do anywhere, at the office, on the sofa, on the beach. Just do it! Below are some instructions from John on how to do a simple Qigong exercise. It is one we do every morning. We love how it opens the heart chakra.
A SIMPLE QIGONG EXERCISE
This exercise is good for relaxation, but also directing the Qi to a specific location. For example, when we practice this every morning I normally use it to send fresh and healthy, healing Qi to a specific organ — liver, kidney, spleen, and etc. — as a form of detoxification. The ancient Taoist (Daoist) felt that the organs were connected to the Qi and need this life force energy to thrive.
As we said above, Qigong is all about proper posture, meditation, and breath. I will explain how to get into the proper posture and do the breath and movements for this exercise. But as I always explain to anyone doing Qigong for the first time — it is more important to relax and not worry about whether you are doing the movements correctly. The meditation portion and getting into a flow where you can experience and feel the flowing Qi is probably the most important part. However, this exercise is very simple and easy to get correct. That is the beauty of most of the Qigong exercises we do. They have simple and very subtle movements that can be quickly memorized so that you can do them while in deep meditation.
This exercise can be done sitting or standing. If you do it sitting, sit with your spine straight, stretching upward with your lower back, shoulders relaxed and slightly down as if you have just let out a big breath. Your chest is relaxed and tucked, not pushed out. Your head is suspended out and the chin is tucked. To get your head and chin aligned before you start performing the routine you can imagine the Qi pulling upwards from your crown chakra and then take two fingers and push on your chin, tucking it inwards so that your chin moves back slightly. This act of tucking the chin actually straightens and relaxes the neck muscles and is a relaxation technique all in itself.
If you are standing for this exercise, do all of the above adding the following instructions for the lower body. The goal is to stack the Chakras on top of each other in a straight line. Stand with your feet flat where the weight of your spine should press into the heels and the weight of the pubic bone should press into the balls of the feet; most of the weight and pressure will be felt in the center part of the feet. Your feet are parallel to the outside of your shoulders so that your feet are a little wider than shoulder-width apart and toes facing straight forward (in the pictures my toes are facing outwards a little. It is better if you can keep them straight, but being comfortable is most important). Bend your knees slightly extending them forward no further than the tips of the middle toes (if you have any knee pain the knees can be kept straight, or try doing some with knees bent and some straight; see what works for you). Your knee caps should be straight facing your feet, not pointing or twisting inward or facing slightly out. Bending the knees in this manner allows the knee joint to relax increasing the flow of Qi and blood through the legs and making it easier to relax your hips.
We are only working and moving the arms for this exercise and everything remains as described above throughout this entire exercise. Stand or sit feeling very relaxed. You can close your eyes, leave them open, or slightly squint the eyes (there is a huge debate on this amongst Qigong folks). I prefer to close my eyes. The intent is to feel completely relaxed and to enter a meditative state, I feel that is a little easier for me to do with my eyes closed. But you should experiment and find what is right for you.
The breath I recommend for this exercise is simple and if you have done any yoga you may be familiar with this breath. On the in-breath, you push your tummy out, filling your abdomen and then pulling the air up into your chest and lungs letting it fill with air. The out-breath is slowly releasing the air, letting your tummy collapse back down. You can practice breathing in an out letting your tummy rise with the in-breath and fall with the out-breath by placing your hands on your tummy and feeling the rise and fall as you breathe. The breath is relaxed and easy, trying to make the out-breath longer than your in-breath.
You start the movement by simply raising your arms up with arms bent up at the elbows, fingers pointing towards the sky. You can see the starting position here in this picture above.
You then slowly move your hands and elbows to meet in the center directly in front of you, as seen in this set of pictures. Your elbows touch and your hands meet in the prayer position. You can hold this position for one or two seconds letting the Qi flow in through the palms of your hands. Then slowly move the hands back to the starting position. As you go back to the starting position take a big stretch of your back and stretching and opening your heart chakra.
It is easier to start the breathing from the center position out, taking an in-breath as you stretch your arms out (back to what I called the staring position, as seen in the first picture and as seen in this picture above). You then let your breath out the entire time you are slowly squeezing the arms back together, back towards where the hands meet in prayer position. You breathe in as you open your arms and breath out as you bring them together. And that is all there is to the exercise. If you have ever used the butterfly pectoral machine at the gym, it is the same movement as that (I will include here a video of that machine being used because the movement is the same; just in case you don’t understand my instructions).
For the meditation, you can pick an internal organ; we will use the kidneys for this demonstration (chakras, endocrine glands, sore joints also work well) and imagine the Qi flowing towards your kidneys while you are doing the in-breath. So, imagine the Qi flowing up from the earth, entering your body through a chakra in the souls of your feet. Try to feel the Qi moving up your legs. Imagine a tingling or warm sensation and try to feel it flowing up to your kidneys. Do this while taking in the in-breath. For the out-breath, imagine the Qi rushing into your kidney’s cleansing, healing, and detoxing each kidney as they fill with Qi. Then repeat. Try to focus on the flow of Qi, feeling it flow. If you want, until you can actually start to feel the Qi — through lots of practice — you can imagine the Qi flowing like a white light instead. Imagine this white light coming in through the souls of your feet, up through your legs, passing through your torso, and filling your kidneys. Thinking of this moving light can help quiet your monkey mind while you do the movements, helping you meditate. You DO NOT focus on, am I doing it right, does this really work, the one-million tasks at work you should be doing instead of practicing Qigong, etc. To help quiet your mind and focus only on the subtle movements of the Qi, you can also add in a mindful type meditation technique and repeat over and over one word as you are feeling the Qi flow or imagining the warm white light moving throughout your body. You can repeat the word “heal” or “love” for example. I hope you try it and it inspires you to want to learn more about Qigong and that you want to start doing it every day, as we do. I hope it changes your life as it did for Hilde and me. It may even save your life.