Qigong For Beginners: Getting Started
Students of Qi Gong practicing a sitting form of Qi Gong.
Qigong For Beginners: Getting Started
Qigong is an ancient Chinese form of exercise. We say exercise, but actually qigong fits into many different categories. It is a form of meditation, called moving meditation. It is a form of exercise. It is a form of preventative healthcare as it is beneficial for stress reduction and immunity boosting. Qigong is practiced throughout the world, although perhaps most assiduously in China.
Qigong is an incredibly ancient practice. Neolithic vessels that are nearly 7000 years old depict early qigong postures. The form used today differs substantially from its Neolithic ancestry, of course. Modern qigong traditionally dates from closer to 5000 years in the past, when early Chinese medicine books were created. Scholar qigong, or qigong with a meditative focus, was developed by Confucius. The forms used today combine the circulation of qi with gymnastic breathing exercises as developed in the I Ching and input from other aspects of Chinese medicine and yogic and meditative traditions and practices.
There are three fundamental aspects of qigong, often referred to as the three intentful corrections. The first is mindful adjustment. This means that as you go through the exercises, you must maintain proper body posture and alignment. Beginning students benefit from having an instructor for this intentful correction, as it is sometimes difficult to find the correct posture by yourself.
The second intentful correction is breathing. In qigong, the breath is deep and regular and is centered on the abdomen. By focusing on the breathing and making sure that the breath is deep, regular and based from the abdominal area instead of the ribcage or chest, you can get the most out of your qigong practice.
The third and final intentful correction is mental state. While engaging in qigong, the mental state should be focused on the present moment and the actions of the body. It can be hard for beginners to let go of the thoughts and concerns of their daily lives. However, part of the benefit of qigong is the meditative aspect of the practice. Mindfulness meditation practices are recommended for beginners to allow them to experience the moment and detach themselves from the cares of the day.
There are many simple qigong postures that are appropriate for beginners and can help serve as an introduction to a vibrant and robust qigong practice. One of these is called flowing motion. In this posture you stand with your feet hip width apart. Turning your hands so the palms are facing upwards, you push the air up towards the sky as you slowly raise onto the balls of your feet. You then reverse the movement and turn your palms downward and push the air towards the ground as you come back to a standing position with the knees slightly bent. It is essential that this and all other qigong exercises be done incredibly slowly. Western exercise trains us to move quickly, and if that is the kind of exercise you are accustomed to you will need to go much more slowly than will feel comfortable at first. Allow yourself to feel that discomfort and impatience and stay with the breathing and mindfulness techniques. In time, the pace will seem more comfortable.
Another simple and common posture is called rolling the ball. There are several variations of this posture but the basic posture involves starting, as you did in the previous posture, by standing with your feet hip distance apart. You then hold your hands out in front of your waist, parallel to each other and about a foot apart. Visualize a large ball in between your hands, like you are holding onto the top and bottom of a ball. This ball is full and light, like a beach ball or a child’s inflatable ball, but the air and the resistance are real.
Holding the ball, carry it in front of your body, back and forth and from side to side. Eventually, you should settle into a figure eight pattern, where the ball goes from the left shoulder to the right hip and from the right hip to the right shoulder, and from the right shoulder to the left hip. As you move the ball, allow your knees to bend slightly when the ball is in the lower part of the figure eight. Allow yourself to twist from side to side.
Another common posture with many variations is called waving hands in the clouds. Standing with your feet hip width apart, place one hand on your hip and the other hand extended in front of you at chest level. Move the free hand in a circle, with the palm facing down when the hand is high in the air, and the palm facing up when the hand is lower. Twist side to side, making large circles with your hand. When you feel ready, switch hands and repeat the process.
If you are interested in pursuing a qigong practice and would like to seek instruction to get started, contact us at Middle Kingdom Traditional Kung Fu School. We have beginning Qigong classes that will allow you to learn the postures that you need to make qigong a part of your life. Our instructors will help you develop the proper posture and breathing and assist with mental awareness and mindfulness, so you can get the most out of your qigong practice.