Some qigong exercises are designed to address specific organ systems and their needs. For example, flares of temper typically require attention to the Liver/Gall Bladder pair; negative manifestations of that system’s energies point to obstructions or excesses of qi in the organs’ meridians.
On the other hand, qigong also can tend to an overall need to revitalize and balance one’s physical and mental state. On this Silent Sunday, I provide a short session that will stimulate the flow of qi through the entire body, and that will smooth over any “bumps,” or blockages in all meridian pathways. No warm-up is necessary for the sequence, as the movements are gentle and slow; further, the routine could be used as a settling-in combination for longer practices of yoga, meditation, or your workout of choice.
To begin, take a moment to assess your physical and mental selves: Tired? Achy? Revved up? Stiff? This preliminary stock-taking helps you to hone in on which of the following exercises you may want to repeat throughout the day, or over the course of a few days. If you determine that you have been prone to a particular state of mind or coping with a specific physical need, you may decide to practice this sequence or one of the moves for a full 40-day practice.
The first movement is a classic exercise in Eastern movement traditions; Western cultures frequently adapt it in some form. This Bear Swing acts as an overall reliever of physical tension and low-back stiffness; additionally, the arms knock the area of the Liver and Gall Bladder, so that you begin to shed metabolic and emotional waste as you enter the routine.
Simply stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width, with the knees slightly bent, and the pelvis in a neutral, relaxed position. Gently turn your torso to the right, allowing the arms to swing naturally by your sides; then twist to the left as the arms begin to feed into the back-and-forth swing. Adjust your breath, so that you consciously breath in as you turn to one side, and out as you swing back to the other. Continue this grounded, yet breezy swing to the left and right for 2-5 minutes. Move to the point where your arms feel weightless, your spine feels free, and your legs feel rooted and steady.
Next, bring your feet closer together, so that the feet are aligned just under their respective hip joints. Inhale as you raise the arms to the side at shoulder level; exhale as you bend and round into a “quarter-forward bend.” Allow your spine to find its natural rounding in the mid-back: As you fold the spine, allow the arms to swing down and cross underneath your rounded torso. Inhale back up with the arms to the side at shoulder level; exhale forward and down, switching the swinging cross of the arms underneath you. Find a fluid rhythm that suits your body and breath: Continue for 3 minutes.
Now, stand tall. Inhale as the arms come all the way overhead and you rise onto the toes; exhale to drop the arms down as you drop onto the heels. Inhale up, exhale down: Complete a total of 26 rises and drops. This move acts as a total qi “cleanser”: The body sheds unnecessary, stagnant energy that may prevent the intake and flow of fresh, vibrant qi.
The next movement reflects a traditional qigong Fragrance exercise, and seems to have ties to the Energization Exercises of Self-Realization Fellowship (founded by Paramahansa Yogananda). As such, the move stimulates digestion and helps to open the lungs: Additionally, the alternate knee bending loosens the sacrum, which lends to easier overall movement. With the freeing of the sacrum, the First and Second chakras are awakened; one feels secure, positive, and creative in all areas of Life.
Bring the hands to the level of the chest, palms down, fingertips facing each other a few inches apart. As you bend the left knee, extend the right arm to the side; bend the right knee to hinge the right elbow, bringing the right hand back in toward the chest. Simultaneously, the left arm opens to the left. Continue to alternate the rhythmic knee bends: The same-side hand remains at the chest, while the arm opposite to the bent knee extends to the side at shoulder level. Again, find a steady, yet fairly rapid pace, accompanied by a breath that pairs naturally with each movement. Continue for 1-3 minutes.
Finally, in order to consolidate the energy you have newly supplied to your physical, mental, and emotional bodies, lie on your back. In traditional vaasana pose, eyes closed, inhale deeply and fully: Use the exhale to create the sound, “Heeeee.” This is the sound associated with the Triple Warmer in Traditional Chinese Medicine; this organ system regulates the entire metabolism, and ensures the smooth running of your body and mind.
Imagine the long, soft sound as an internal shower, or stream of water flowing from head to toes, Root Chakra to Crown. Continue the vocalization, inhaling deeply before sounding upon exhale, for 1 minute. Then, allow yourself to rest quietly for as long as you like.