Qigong Practice in the Cold

Travis practicing Qigong in January. 20 degrees F. 

Travis practicing Qigong in January. 20 degrees F. 

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.




Music and Qigong

For thousands of years music has been an integral part of the human experience. Starting with using our own vocal chords and using our hands to beat on resonant objects to the musical technological wizardry of today, music has been a medium of wide applications. It engages our brain and nervous system, our emotions, memories, ground us or expand us. It can facilitate our focus as well as expand our awareness.

For me I started using music and sound for meditation back in 1999. When I did qigong however, I did it silently. This is because many of the books on qigong talk about sitting in silence and performing movements in these quiet spaces. Focusing on the sound of the breath and so on. I think many of the authors elude to the qigong concepts of distractions of external sources (music could be considered that I suppose) as well as internal sources (mental or otherwise) that cause deviations of proper focus and training. The concept of minimizIng these distractions is generally good advise but I beg to differ with proper music as a distraction.

Music can act as a buffering layer for the auditory sense. In a way it can provide a stimulus that can keep the mind off other stimuli that may capture its attention. Music can help disengage the mind from "monkey mind activity" and facilitate focus to the qigong at hand. I have found this to be the case time and time again. White noise is another popular method in use that also serves this purpose and many people use such devices to get to sleep.

For my quiet qigong meditations such as the sitting Microcosmic Orbit, or Neiyanggong I like to use very quiet slow ambient music or some of the Hemi-Sync meditation music that can really get me in the zone. Music can help engender the states of quiet, calmness, centeredness, peacefulness and wholeness when applied to these type of meditations and qigong.

For active qigong exercises such as Tibetan Burning Palm, or Fire Dragon Meridian I go for bolder music, often with drums and a bit primal. I like the Nordic music like Wardruna, or shamanic drum music or the aboriginal music. I have even used some of the slower, evocative and epic movie scores as well. Many times with these qigong methods, you want to feel the Qi powerfully. There is a more yang component to these forms. To put it colorfully, when I'm doing a moving form to Wardruna, I want tear apart a mountain with my barehands, feel the strength to punch my fist through a wall of concrete, walk through a burning pit of fire, lift a heavy piece of iron and toss it as if it weighed nothing. I want to finish the set and feel invigorated, alive, refreshed, vibrant and ready. If your already a type 'A' personality, maybe less of this and more of the previous paragraph. Remember, one must keep balance

For those of you who just read the last paragraph and said to yourself "that doesn't sound like the qigong I was taught and I would never want to feel like that!", thats OK, qigong is a vast landscape of forms. Go play in another field, this is the one I like to play in. 

So, how to choose some music? I have some music on iTunes, some on CD and some are just favorites from Youtube. For anyone wanting to add this to their meditation , yoga , tai chi or qigong practice, just go to Youtube and start exploring. If you like the artist(s) you find, honor them and support them by purchasing their music.

So regardless of the training you may have recieved in qigong or meditation, experiment with music and sound and decide for yourself if it enhances, expands or deepens your practice and experiences. Feel free to reach out to me if you want some suggestions or what I am currently using.

All the best to you and your qigong practice,