IGONG ARE TRADITIONAL Chinese healing exercises that harnesses Qi - vital energy, or the life force - through breathing techniques, movements, postures and meditation. Practising Qigong helps you to balance passive and active forces (Yin and Yang), allowing Qi to flow freely and harmoniously. If you are a complete newcomer to Qigong, vou'll find a full explanation of it in Chapter 1.
Healthy Living Gong is a set of Qigong exercises that 1 began to develop in 1996, based upon over 30 years of my Qigong Taijiquan, Wing Chun and Northern Shaolin (Chun Yuen) experience as well as knowledge gained from healing people through Qigong therapy, Chinese philosophy, Yijing (Book of Changes) and Chinese medicine theory.
There are three parts to the Healthy Living Gong exercises. Each set has nine single movements and one walking exercise, which is a variation on one of the standing movements. Although called 'standing movements', actually they involve moving your waist, moving your body backwards, forwards and up and down. The walking movement is for developing coordination and orientation and creating more energy. Each movement is individual and should be repeated a number of times - in contrast to forms where you do each movement once in a series.
I began to develop Healthy Living Gong because I had been aware for some time that most people beginning Qigong were unable to learn the more complicated forms that I taught, like Wild Goose Qigong or Jade
Pillar Gong, especially if they were ill or did not have much experience in movement. I saw the opportunity to introduce some of the movements from the first set of Healthy Living Gong at a workshop I was teaching in London in late 1996.
My students and 1 had just given a demonstration of skills they had learned, but these were all quite advanced Qigong forms. I began, with the workshop participants, the first six movements I had created, called Collecting Qi to the Dantian, Separating the Fog to Look for the Clouds, Catching Fish by the Side of the Lake, Golden Dragon Stretches Its Claws, Old Tree with Winding Roots and Jade Ladder Climbing to the Sky.
1 found that the people liked the movements very much, and they picked them up easily. As each movement was individual and was for helping a particular part of the body or health problem, they could concentrate on whichever movement was the most relevant for them.
Today, I regularly use the Healthy Living Gong exercises in my Qigong healing practise, rather than showing my patients a Qigong form to do. This is because a single movement will focus on a particular health problem more deeply than doing a Qigong form. A Qigong form is more about making the Qi smooth in the body. For instance, if someone has a back problem, I will show them Looking for Treasure at the Bottom of the Chest, as this movement works with the kidneys, back and waist. For someone who has breathing problems or asthma, I will maybe show them Holding the Beautiful Ball or Separating the Fog to Look for the Clouds, as both of these exercises work for the lungs and posture.
I have now developed three sets of Healthy Living Gong exercises. This book concentrates on the first set, which will help you to develop your health and open your body's healing potential. In this set we are working for relaxation and balance. The second set is all about coordination and fitness and includes lots of waist and leg movements. The third is for encouraging strength and power, with some movements actually based upon martial art movements, although done with a Qigong attitude and an emphasis on health.
Among the inspirations for Healthy Living Gong are my observations of nature and stories within Chinese culture, like fables or some event in history. People say that when they practise these exercises, they can actually visualise what the movement should be like based upon the names. All the exercises in the book are shown in detailed photo sequences with descriptions.
When you first learn the movements, you should try to practise them in order. That will help you to cover all aspects of movement, breathing and relaxation. Later, once you are familiar with them all, you can choose the exercises that are most suitable for your condition. An index of benefits of each exercise is shown with its coordinating movement in Appendix I.
For each movement there is an explanation of its benefit to the body, its history and the area of concentration. This will help you to understand what you need to focus on and how the movement will help heal the body. Qigong helps us to heal ourselves through movement, breathing and relaxation. In order to be healthy, we need to move. The human body is made to move, otherwise we would not have joints and muscles and a skeleton. However, we need to move in a relaxed way. If we are not relaxed, tension will block the Qi from moving in the body. If the Qi cannot move, the problem will just stay and will get worse and worse, like a traffic jam that is not cleared from the road.
If we don't move, we will not be healthy - even if we take all kinds of vitamins and herbs. Many people think only of the external body. They try to be slimmer, have good muscles, even have plastic surgery to look better. They do not realise, though, that the condition of the internal body (the organs, Qi and blood) is reflected in the condition of the external body.
For instance, if the kidneys are not healthy, the hair will be dry and will fall out easily. If there is a problem with the lungs, the skin will be dry and in poor condition. If the liver is weak, a person will feel cold and their hands will be thin and have a yellow colour and they will start to have problems with their eyesight. If the heart is unhealthy, a person can have acne, or feel dizzy or faint. If there is a problem in the spleen, the lips will lack colour, be white, chapped and dry. So no matter how much make-up you wear or weight training you do, eventually you will not be able to hide the problem. It will come out in other ways. (See Chapter 8, 'How Palms and Face Relate to Health', for further information on this.)
Qigong helps to make us healthy from the inside out. This is because Qigong movement helps to release negative Qi in the body and gather fresh Qi. It helps to open the channels in the body and stimulate the circulation. Blood carries Qi, so if we do not move, the blood will not flow well and Qi will be stagnant. When Qi does not flow, this is how illness develops in the body. It is like taking a bath in the same bathwater every day for a year. Will you get clean? Of course not!
Our bodies are the same. We need to change the energy and clean our internal body in order for it to be healthy. When the inside is healthy, the outside will show this. For myself, no matter what kind of illness or injury I have, I will always choose Qigong to heal myself.
If you have a deeper understanding of how Qigong works to make you healthy, then you will be able to move more accurately within each exercise and develop your skill more quickly. Many people today think that they are healthy, but this is not necessarily good health from a Qigong point of view. I discuss good and bad health in more detail in Chapter 2 and also introduce more about the history and philosophy of Qigong in Chapter 3.
Healthy Living Gong is for anyone. The exercises cover all different aspects of movement - slow and fast, easy and difficult. Healthy Living Gong works on helping different problems, including insomnia, high or low blood pressure, back problems, arthritis, stress and worry, by moving specific parts of the body in a special way. It will also help you relax and be more calm. Of course, these exercises are not only for people who have problems with their health; they are also for anyone who wants to maintain good health and for healers wanting to make their Qi level stronger.
People who heal others give away a lot of their energy, so it is easy to feel tired and even ill if you do not release the sick energy you take on from the patient you are healing. If you practise Healthy Living Gong daily, you will improve your health and have a lot of energy. The most important thing for healing others is to be healthy yourself. Otherwise you will pass on the ill energy instead of healthy energy to your patients.
Grandmaster Yang Meijun, my Sifu or teacher, taught me this. She lived to be 104 and every day she practised her Qigong skills to keep her healthy and flexible. She was known throughout China for her skill in healing. However, even though she began practising Wild Goose Qigong when she was 13, she did not begin to heal others until she was over 70 years old. By this time her Qi had become very strong and her understanding of the body, philosophy and how Qi works was exceptional. Not many people today can get to this level. You can read more about this in Chapter 9.
I learned not only Qigong from my Sifu, but also my healing skill. She taught me that you cannot only do soft Qigong movements; you also need more active or difficult movements to balance the soft ones. This is the essence of Yin and Yang. If we only do Yin things, the body will be too weak. If we only practise Yang movement, the body will have too much fire or excitement and will not calm down. (See Chapter 4 for more information on Yin and Yang.) The Qigong she taught me is the Kunlun Dayan Qigong system, which dates from the Jin Dynasty over 1,800 years ago. It covers many forms, including some long, some short, some soft, some hard. I mention some of these throughout the book, like Green Sea Swimming Dragon Gong and Wild Goose Qigong. The system also covers many different kinds of meditation and healing skills.
It is because of my many years' practise and understanding of the Kunlun Dayan (Wild Goose) Qigong system that I could create Healthy Living Gong. Healthy Living Gong is based upon the principles of the Kunlun Dayan Qigong system in that we use movement for healing, not visualisation. We do not have to think or try to direct the Qi because the movements carry the Qi to where we want it to go. That is why the Chinese government promoted Dayan Qigong as one of the top ten healthy' Qigong styles.
Another principle is that we focus directly on the internal organs by bringing Qi to the channels and acupuncture points through movement. So it also covers some knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine theory.
For Qigong to heal the body, the most important thing is to be relaxed so that Qi can flow and the mind can calm down. Today we all have a lot of stress and tension in our lives. The longer we carry this tension with us, the more health problems we may have. However, when vou do the first movement, Collecting Qi to the Dantian, you find all the tension going from your body. Relaxation is important for beginners and
advanced practitioners alike. Breathing and meditation are also crucial for good health (see Chapters 7 and 12).
Healthy Living Gong is good for beginners who have never done any kind of Qigong movement before, but it will also benefit those practised in the discipline, as it will help develop the Qi more strongly in the body. It will bring you to a more advanced Qigong level, allowing you to understand how to heal illnesses. If we can learn how to heal ourselves, we do not need to worry about health problems.
THESE DAYS, MANY people already know something about Qigong, so I find I don't have to explain it every time I mention it. But when I first moved from Hong Kong to England in 1988 to teach, things were very different. Most Britons only knew about Tai Chi (Taijiquan), and they thought that it was the same thing as Qigong. Qigong is now popular around the world, and there are many different ideas of what it is. Whatever your concept of Qigong, I would like to give you the right definition.
Qigong is an ancient Chinese practice that works to make us healthier. Qi (pronounced 'chee') means vital energy; Gong means work. So Qigong is an exercise that works on our vital energy. Vital energy is our life force and without it we cannot survive. Qigong is a way to make us healthier and allow us to live longer by creating extra Qi in the body to make the Qi we were born with stronger. Qigong is also a way of guiding our own healing and bringing our body back into harmony with nature.
There are many countries and cultures that have their own ways of working with Qi or vital energy. However, what makes Qigong different from others is that it is based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is, in turn, based upon the understanding of the Yin/Yang and Five Element theory, acupuncture points, meridians and the Dantian (the centre of our body, where Qi stored). This knowledge is only found in TCM and in Chinese martial arts. This is why Qigong is a Chinese skill.
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