It was noon and the perfect time for Tibetan Burning Palm Qigong which is done best at mid-day. The form is yang in nature as I am drawing in the the yang noon solar energy.
Despite the form’s yang nature, the moment was yin for me. I had completed a round of heavy bag and strike bag work, claw work and weight training. This moment was peaceful out in the Michigan Autumn cool air, the sunlight bright but also cool. My feet were grounding into the cool flagstone and I could smell grass, damp stone and rotting leaves in the woods.
Yin and Yang, never absolute. Always changing and their quality is always in relation to something else. Qigong, despite its various forms still follows the principles of Nature. The Daoists alwasy sought to be in tune with nature and today, especially during this meditation I was. My feet rooted into the cool stone, my breath mixed with the gentle breeze, my eyes rested on the dance of light and shadow upon the leaves of the slowly dancing trees in the dappled sunlight. The sky above, a canopy of clear blue.
My form and movements flowed with what my senses took in around me. The trees, the grasses, the stone, the wind and I all were dancing the same dance.
Breathe. Commune. Flow
There is debate about whether one should be warm, dry and comfortable doing Qigong. Some texts and I can also attest that my late Master T.K.Shih taught that one should be warm and comfortable when performing Qigong. The reason is based on opening the pores of the skin and the gates of the body in cold, windy or damp weather could predispose one to detrimental exogenous qi deviations. In his later years Master Shih practiced qigong only inside from what he told me. Chinese Traditional Medicine texts along with many Daoist practices would also back him up on that point. Calm mind, calm environment and comfortable loose clothing is the ideal.
I have talked with other practitioners, teachers and masters and there are those that would disagree and state it was just fine to practice in non-ideal settings and temperatures. I even know of one who likes to practice during thunderstorms. In his opinion, the qi is quite powerful in the air.
Now after practicing qigong for 18 years, I can tell you from my experience that if you enjoy doing it, the rest of the factors are almost irrelevant. Other masters and instructors may disagree with me but like the 'Dude' says "It's just your opinion, Man."
Now, personally I practice a lot indoors in my den, but on a nice day, I will certainly be outside. Every now and then I do break out of my comfort zone and foray into a cold day, during a snow fall, the bitter cold of a winter night under stars or the blazing, burn inducing rays of the sun (when that happens twice a year in Michigan ). Being out in the environment always seems to give me a better feel. Sun, sky, wind, outside air, smells or grass or wet cold wood to me are added layers to the experience.
Recent research is showing exposure to outside air bathes us in more negative ions that are in the environment vs. the positive charged particles we are overly exposed to. In the stagnant air of a house that is circulated by a furnace or air conditioner along with all the positive ions produced by our electrical appliances, TVs, phones and computers, getting outside may be the best thing for us, qigong or not. Feel free to google the healthy benefits of negative ions as it is better stated throughout the internet than I can provide space for here.
Further research into exposing ourselves to the cold can have beneficial effects upon our nervous and immune systems. I am not saying one has to go all 'Wim Hof Iceman' into deep cold exposure, but I think some cold built into ones health and fitness regimn might be quite beneficial.
So if you are a tai chi, kungfu or qigong practitioner, get outside and level up your game. If its in the cold, then step up and enjoy the challenge.
The Martial School of Qigong (Wu Gong)
Over the last year my own personal Qigong practice has shifted from the Medical and Daoist approaches towards more of the Wu Gong methods. The reason for this is I am now a student of Tibetan Burning Palm Kung Fu under the guidance of Sifu Garry Hearfield of Warrior Body Buddha Mind. The journey into this art requires the time and work (gung) to fully appreciate its depths.
I have found the qigong methods in Tibetan Burning Palm quite enjoyable and stimulating compared to some of the more sedate Medical or Daoist methods. It may be due to the fact I like a bit more dynamic movement. To each his own. One should do what one is passionate about. If you hate the practice, find something else. The following is just a brief introduction to Martial Qigong.
Qigong development has always been about the borrowing,synthesizing and further developing and modifying ideas and methods from other disciplines. Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian, Medical and Martial forms have all borrowed from one another and used each others methods to better themselves. For example, martial artists learned acupuncture points and meridian systems to understand the flow of qi, for both self healing and improve recovery as well as for striking specific points or cavities to further damage or kill an opponent by disrupting the qi. Classically these were called dian xue (pointing cavities) or dian mai (pointing vessels) or what many modern martial artists refer to as the darker arts of Dim Mak.
The Martial School of Qigong most popularly is traced back to Da Mo's arrival at the Shaolin Temple during the Liang Dynasty in China. He found the monks there had poor physical bodies and less than optimal health due to their sedate meditative practices. He wrote the Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic during this time and instituted mandatory physical and martial training in the monks. Soon they increased their health, built their bodies stronger and greatly enhanced their martial art power. Shaolin monks since that time have been known as legendary martial artists.
Martial qigong techniques continued to develop. This has even lead to the development of Kung Fu styles such as Tai Chi Chuan, Xing Yi and Ba Gua that use internal energy embedded within their movements.
The benefits of Martial Qigong are as follows:
- Greater physical conditioning leading to greater force and power development as well as to withstand physical stikes better. Iron Body/Iron Palm
- Develop "Spring Force" to maximize damage with strikes
- Improve health and healing capabilities. The same energy that can be used to devastate can also be used to heal. It is just a matter of Intent
- Improve vitality. Many of the methods emphasize the Kidneys.
- Facilitates better understanding of the vital points, cavities and meridians
Iron Shirt and Iron Palm are two popular methods that use both internal energy work and conditioning work to build a body that can better withstand blows and develop the strikes do deliver devastating damage. Other areas of the body such as head, groin and appendages also have similiar methods applied to them. The Iron Shirt and Iron palm methods require careful study and practice and should not be rushed to avoid serious injury.
Springy Force is another element to Martial Qigong. This is internal energy that couples with the physical interplay of tension and elasticity of the tissues. Combined they form 'springy force'. I think the image of a coiled rattle snake striking out encapsulates the idea. At the end point of this springy force is an impact strike that delivers greater than normal damage.
So this was just a quick summary of Martial Qigong. One of many elements that make up training for Kung Fu in all it's many branches. For those researching and practicing Qigong, explore the Martial Branch as well. You may find it holds many beneficial methods to incorporate in your own practices.
To your Health and Vitality,
For those interested in Warrior Body Buddha Mind. Here is the link: www.warriorbodybuddhamind.com
photo credit: bozzo2m <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/44703381@N06/4511504384">Shaolin</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/">(license)</a>
Just a quick couple sets of some of the meditations used in Tibetan Burning Palm Kung Fu. I am learning these under my Sifu Garry Hearfield who is the lineage holder of this beautiful, devastating and esoteric martial art. You can learn more about Tibetan Burning Palm from his site Warrior Body Buddha Mind. Here is the link http://www.warriorbodybuddhamind.com/wbbm/aboutus/
Cancer and Qi-Gong
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that targets the lining of a person’s internal organs. This form of cancer is often aggressive and can cause a great deal of pain and frustration for anyone that has it. There are a variety of treatments, but science has found no definite cure. Qi-Gong is the a powerful ancient Chinese practice that focuses on healing and energy using a series of gentle movements, meditation, and other relaxation techniques. It is a practice deemed to be “complementary medicine” because it does not take the place of traditional Western medical treatments. While these two things appear to be separate, cancer and Qi-Gong are often strongly connected.
Benefits of Qi-Gong for Cancer Patients
Qi-Gong is not a cure for cancer, however many scholars argue that Qi-Gong is a legitimate and effective treatment for an extensive array of cancer symptoms. The benefits of Qi-Gong in cancer include, but are not limited to:
Alleviation of Emotional Pain
Qi-Gong and cancer are so tightly associated with each other because individuals generally enjoy the way that they feel after a session. The emotional pain that is temporarily lifted during a session has been shown to have a significant impact on the severity and duration of troublesome symptoms.
Alleviation of Physical Pain
Cancer can leave an individual weak and exhausted. The traditional treatments received in a hospital can leave patients in a great deal of physical pain. Qi-Gong addresses physical pain in the form of meditation and gentle movements. These movements will keep the body mobile, flexible, and strong while undergoing traditional medical treatments. Many individuals even find that their perception of pain has been altered in their favor. Generally speaking, individuals tend to report feeling less pain or less intense pain associated with treatment.
Individuals Can Be Proactive
Many people find it nearly impossible to sit by and watch their health decline while feeling helplessly victim to the disease. Using this ancient Chinese technique as complementary medicine will give individuals a sense of purpose and strength in tackling this cancer.
There Is Nothing To Lose
Certain individuals are skeptical about ancient Chinese practices like Qi-Gong because they are unfamiliar or unsure of how it works. Because patients are not physically touched or sedated with medications during Qi-Gong sessions, there is nothing to lose. If patients decide that these sessions make them uncomfortable, then they can simply stop requesting them.
Mesothelioma is certainly a threat to any individual’s health. Cancer in any form can put a great deal of stress on the body and cause the individual to experience an excessive amount of anxiety, anger, and frustration. Qi-Gong is not an accepted cure for cancer, but the research outlined above certainly suggests that its role in reducing the emotional and physical effects of cancer are worth considering. Never rule out the mind’s ability to heal the body when in the proper mental state!
The article was written by Virgil Anderson who has been diagnosed with Mesothelioma which is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. He is now an advocate to inform people with asbestos diseases of all the different options for post-therapy treatment and wellness.
It's 3 AM and you woke up. Maybe you just got too hot and uncomfortable and your pillow is hot (on both sides!). Maybe you woke up with a lot on your mind - stress and worry about work, your relationships, a presentation you have to give, a problem you have been working on and NOW your brain decides its a great time to analyze and re-analyze it over and over..... or something stupid like a song stuck in your head "We can dance if we want to, we can leave your friends behind...." The Safety Dance Song! Are you friggin kidding me! I haven't heard that stupid song since 1983. I hate that song! And this leads to anger, leading to insomnia which leads to more anger, which leads eventually to the dark side which Yoda warned you about.
You could lay in bed but we all know you will just toss and turn for 2 hours and 45 minutes, then fall into the deepest sleepiest sleep you ever had for 7 minutes and 39 seconds before your alarm wakes you up for work. Or you could do something much better and give yourself an edge at falling back to sleep quicker and salvage what is left of your night from the effects of insomnia. I have listed two Qigong methods to do just that.
First, get up out of bed and go to another room. You do not want to be warm for this so leave your bathrobe off. Being on the cool side will help. Make sure the room is dark. No lights, no computer. Then try one or both of these methods:
Qigong Sleep Method #1. Cool the Blood through the Laogong
Sit in a chair with upright posture, knees and hips bent at 90 degrees, hands are resting on your thighs with palms up. Close your eyes. Tongue touches the roof of the mouth lightly just behind the front top teeth. Begin to breathe slowly and deeply, preferably through the nose. Also use your belly to breathe. Your belly should expand outward and relax inward on your inhale and exhales respectively. After a few moments of this focus your full attention to your Laogong points on the palms of your upturned palms. You can find this point by bending your middle finger and touching the tip to the center of your palm. Now spend several minutes breathing while keeping your full attention on these points. You could visualize these points glowing with each breath if you like. You may even begin to feel them change temperature or tingle after several minutes. The reason you are bringing the attention here is that the Laogong point as described in Chinese Traditional Medicine, calms the mind, clears Heart fire, and cools the blood.
Qigong Sleep Method #2. Draw Yang Qi to the Yongquan
Sit in a chair and use the posture and breathing pattern as described above in Method #1. After breathing for several moments bring your attention to the Yongquan points located on the soles of the feet between the metatarsals of the 2nd and 3rd toes at approximately one third the distance from the base of the 2nd toe and the heel. Place your full attention at each point and breathe calmly for several minutes, again you may visualize these points glowing softly. The Yonquan is the lowest point in the body and by pulling Yang energy here you can balance the body. The Yongquan point is useful for quieting an overactive mind, reduce high blood pressure, headaches and insomnia. Two additional techniques can be applied to this method to further enhance it. The first is press on or massage the Yonquan points for about a minute each before starting the meditation. This will stimulate this point like priming a pump and help also to kinesthetically feel the point better during the meditation. The second is a visualizing activity that can also engage the mind away from overactive thoughts. With each breath visualize energy in the head in any manner you wish being pulled down to the Yonquan point like water being pulled down a drain or water falling like a waterfall to a pool.
It may take several minutes, 20 minutes or even longer. However, the 20 minutes you put into this may save you the 2 to 3 hours of lying awake in bed. You know when done with the meditation because your mind will be calmer, your body much cooler and you should be sleepier.
If you generally have trouble getting to sleep each night, these methods can also be used just before going to bed.
Good luck with the methods above, and I wish you a good sound sleep. Hopefully you will not wake up to "Safety Dance" song. For those of you young enough never to have heard it, do not Google it, you cannot un-hear it, trust me.
Photo by Manidoons at Morguefile.com
We have all heard the phrase 'It's all down hill after 40.', 'After 40 you just start breaking down', 'Things don't work the same after 40'..............Hmmm, perhaps things do start to show after 40+ years of wear, tear and use. Okay I get it. As a man in his mid-40's I am experiencing or have experienced some of them. If you are around 40 or older, I do not need to read off the laundry list. You know what bothers you or what your dealing with. If your younger than 40-ish, keep reading anyway as perhaps you can learn a couple things sooner than later and get a head start.
First lets just be honest and say that for the first 20-30 years we were near invincible with little to no health issues outside of injuries and making sure we brushed and flossed our teeth. That's about it. I can tell you I drank soda with every meal, ate whole pizzas in one sitting, thought vegetables were grown in a garden, placed in the kitchen and then thrown out when they went bad. I never ate them. I take that back. Buttered corn is a vegetable, right? I also did little to no cardio exercise or stretching either. Result - Very passable physical scores. Yep, nailed it! And so do most normal healthy adults age 20-30. Our bodies operate so well at that age they need almost no maintenance.
Enter our 30's. OK, metabolism starts to slow, I guess I'll eat only half a pizza and just have soda with dinner. Maybe eat a carrot or a salad occasionally. Gym is getting harder to get to because of the kids. Gain 10-20 lbs and six pack vanishes. Still look good in clothes though. Doctor says some scores are borderline but still in healthy normal ranges. Pick up interests like 'craft beers', binge watching shows, on-line gaming and other sedentary pursuits. After all, we're beat from working all day and then coming home to take care of kids.
Fast forward. Lets choose age 43. Shit like this happens overnight - "I cant read my supplement bottle, the print is too small, I dont sleep well anymore, I gain weight just looking at a slice of pizza, I am NOT going to the public pool! Are you kidding me! Not with this paunch of a belly!" Then your scores do NOT look normal at the doctor - a bit of borderline high blood pressure or high cholesterol, triglycerides are a high and I might as well throw this whine in for good measure "My joints ache when I lift weights at them gym, actually they sometimes hurt for no damn reason!" - The 40's and beyond, lets all say the next word together, (rhymes with Truck!)
If your in your 40's, it took you a while to get to this state . Getting back to optimum health and fitness will not happen over night. It is my belief that with proper lifestyle and exercise changes many "age-related" signs and symptoms could be eliminated or greatly minimized allowing for more vibrant health and a high energy lifestyle. Middle age athletes are proving this all the time. Our expectation anymore is that our bodies should still perform at high level well into our later years. We can upgrade ourselves with healthier dietary changes, daily exercises (as in 60 minutes of vigorous exercise daily - as recently recommended by exercise science researchers), better sleep habits (6-8 hours per night), reduce our stress, and minimize toxic substances and exposure in our food water, clothing and environment.
Main Elements for upgrading the 40+ year old body
3. Daily Vigorous Physical Exercise
4. Stress Reduction
5. Minimize/ Remove Toxic substances
In addition to the above , Mind-Body methods are an excellent addition to improving one's health. Qigong helps to reduce stress, improve circulation, promote sleep, gently mobilize the joints and work the torso and limbs. Qigong opens up and dredges the channels for better energy flow and improve the functioning of the internal organs. Ultimately from a Chinese Medicine perspective, we are creating a Ying-Yang balance in the body to optimize the body's natural state of health.
Qigong can be that 'Extra Element' to your health and fitness program to give you an edge for higher performance, recovery, and radiant health. My recommendation for you is this; If you are in the 'Im 40 and falling apart' zone, start with just one element listed above, change only that and stick with it at least 100 days until it becomes a habit. For example, incorporate a method(s) strategies or tactics that promote 6-8 hours sleep a night on a consistent basis. Then after it is established add another element, say drinking 8 glasses of water a day and repeat. What you will be doing is stacking and compounding these healthy habits over time. Also, pick one, just one Qigong method or form. Learn it and drill it until it is habit. The effects of Qigong are holistic and will have beneficial effects throughout your whole physical and mental system. The beauty of Qigong is that almost all forms and methods have wide ranging benefits.
If you have stress and tension or perhaps sit at a desk all day, try Shamanic Tiger or Fire Dragon Qigong that gets you on your feet and moving your body. If you are busy and up all day, try a sitting, calm form like 3-Lines Meditation or Reverse Abdominal Breathing. If you are not sure, just contact me and I'll give you some suggestions, that's what I do.
Take away message is this; 40 is your 'wake up decade'. Time to wake up and put some time, care, energy and passion back into yourself. Refurbish and optimize who you are. You can allow yourself to fall apart and be miserable or make a conscious effort to live each day fully in vibrant health!
People new to Qigong will invariably ask, "What does Qi feel like?". It can only be answered indirectly and examples are given. The sensations of Qi are pretty much subjective regardless of their amplitude as powerful and strong or subtle and ephemeral. Generally Qi can be described as hot or cold, coolness, tingling, heaviness or lightness, rushing, tightness, openess, electrical or vibratory,
My Master, T.K. Shih spoke about the population as a whole in regards to who feels Qi.
10% of people feel Qi easily
40 % of people will feel Qi with a little bit of work
40% of people will not feel Qi right away but after a lot of work will eventually feel it
10% of people never feel Qi even with a lot of work. It still is present and flowing but they do not have sensation of it
One thing that is pretty much consistent across the wide and varied landscape or Qigong practice is that practitioners who practice frequently and who have practiced a long time feel Qi easier, more quickly and can detect the subtleties of the Qi itself. I myself feel it best in my palms, spine, forehead and kidneys. Often, just demonstrating a form or opening my palm and giving it my attention for a moment allows me to feel it there. My hands may be more sensitive as I often do massage as part of my work as a Physical Therapist.
I do remember a time starting out when I felt nothing at all except peaceful and relaxed doing the Eight Pieces of Brocade, and that is quite OK too. I really did not feel any strong Qi sensations until studying Medcial Qigong with Master T.K.Shih in 2001. For a time I strove to replicate those sensations and felt like I did not attain anything from a session if I didn't feel Qi. That of course is a typical newbie response. To paraphrase the old masters 'Take notice of the landscape but don't get lost in it, just keep practicing.'
Now days Qi sensations are a nice by-product of my training. I do feel it more now than I did starting out and it is because I work on deepening and relaxing into my forms instead of hinging my attention on 'what and when' I'm going to feel something.
Skeptics may say things like "Your just feeling increased blood flow or nerve sensations". My response to them is "Yes! exactly!" Why would I not? Qi and blood flow together in the body. Our bodies are built with biological material that has to interface with more subtle energies that are also part of us. The most noticeable and measurable effects are things like respiration, blood flow, cortisol levels, blood pressure, brain wave patterns and galvanic skin responses. The sensations of Qi cannot be measured with instruments. Our body IS the instrument . Qi sensations are sensations perceived by us through the holistic interface of our entire body to this movement of energy.
So for all you Qigong practitioners out there and I'm really talking to you newbies, continue practicing, enjoy but don't get stuck on the Qi sensations, and know that those sensation no matter how powerful or subtle are valid justification to your progress in Qigong.
All the best to you,
The one thing I like about Qigong is that are so many styles and forms. Each has its own history, benefits and applications. Some forms are more physical or technical, others more mentally engaging. They have for lack of a better description, their own 'flavors'. What I like best is how the form "feels". I enjoy the feelings of getting into the 'zone' where everything just flows. You get in that state of 'oneness' . That 'blending or disappearing with the surroundings'. I also like the feel of qi flowing through the body, the warmth in my hands, Dan Tian, or kidneys. I enjoy the tingling that travels in my spine or neck or that tingling pressure in my forehead at the Upper Dan Tian. After qigong I enjoy a greater calmness and mental clarity as well as a feeling centeredness and strength. I have listed below my favorite qigong forms and how I generally feel with them.
#1. Radiant Tiger Form
I love the warmth the develops in my hands, palms, arms and kidneys. Its like I have cinnamon poured in them.
#2 Tibetan Burning Palm Form
I get a warmth in the palms, hands, forearms and shoulders. This also can travel into my torso depending on the method. My fists feel like they could punch through a wall and my forearms feel like unbreakable steel
#3 Tibetan Burning Palm Health Exercises
Just love the feeling of warmth and limberness after. It really works out the kinks
#4 Microcosmic Orbit
Enjoy the vibration and tingling up and down the Du and Ren meridians. You know your getting the circulation on this one.
#5 Shamanic Tiger Form
I get a general sense of well-being and calmness. Its like my body just absorbed a health tonic
Feel free to send me your comments on your favorite forms and how you feel with them. I would love to hear from other practitioners out there.
To your vibrant health,
In 2015 I started learning the Tibetan Burning Palm System. The system requires a 108 day 'gong' for learning the techniques. A 'gong' is a set number of consecutive days one must train to embed the technique into the mind and body. Most systems typically use 100 days. The Tibetan Burning Palm System uses 108 days. If you miss a day, you have to start back to day 1 and repeat, so it is very important to stick with it. No matter what!
On August 23rd 2015 I started it and continued 111 days straight , finishing on December 20th 2015. Some days I was pressed for time but got the time in to do it. Some days I was tired and didn't feel like it - did it anyway. That is how a Gong is done. Sometimes you dig in and get it done. It is always worth it in the end. Like most qigong forms, after doing it for many days straight, deeper experiences and a better sense of qi flow and sensitivity occurs that would not otherwise reveal itself in inconsistent practice.
One to three times a year I pick up a new technique or form and after learning it, delve into a 100 day (or in the case of Tibetan Burning Palm 108 day) gong to embed the knowledge into me. All this while finding time to keep up on the other forms to maintain a sense of proficiency.
As 2016 starts up I will be investing more time into the Burning Palm System with its kung fu strikes, qigong and health exercises, and body conditioning. I look forward to more 108 day gongs to optimize their benefits.
"I do qi gong". That's like saying "I do exercise." It could mean almost anything. A person could mean they like weight training, or running, Pilates, CrossFit, or playing a sport such as tennis to work up a sweat. Describing qi gong is exactly like that. I briefly describe the major branches of qi gong in my website: Martial, Medical, Daoist, Confucian and Buddhist.
Within these large branches sprout many more. For example, within the martial branches are Shaolin, Wudang, Mount Ermei and many others. Even these break down into certain lineages. A lineage is a form of kung fu and qi gong that is directly passed down from lineage holder to lineage holder. They contain all the knowledge and mastery of that form. They hold the 'DNA' of that form.
To make matters even more confusing, there are many qi gong forms being taught that may have been part of a lineage and have been taught separately from the original comprehensive format. That doesn't make the qi gong form less effective in and of itself. It is still beneficial but the student may not know it is but a part of a greater style.
Many forms have taken different names and the movements changed somewhat to reflect the style it was taught under. Feel free to youtube "Eight Pieces of Brocade Qi gong" and you will quickly see dozens of pattern variations, speed of execution, sequencing, and even name changes.
For the beginner it all looks overwhelming. "Where do I possibly start?" Well, depending on what you want to do, research the big branches I listed above to see what resonates with you. Many of those branches will have very similar forms contained within them: standing forms, moving forms, sitting meditations, martial forms, physical conditioning or self massage.
My personal suggestion for a moving form is The Eight Pieces of Brocade. It is simple to learn, gentle on the body, encompasses medical and general health benefits and makes a good whole body exercise set. In just about any of it's incarnations, it is a great first form to introduce a novice into a larger qi gong and kung fu world.
Later on the novice can explore other forms depending on his or her interest. That is the beauty of qi gong. You can find the practices that best suit your needs. Use what works for you, discard that which doesn't. Ultimately qi gong is the applications you use to make your own path.