GOOD FOR Arthritis Coordination Finger injury
1 Stand with your left foot forward and your right foot back. All your weight should be on the back leg, which is bent. Your left leg (front leg) should be straight and light. Hold your left hand at around ear level and your right hand by your waist. Both hands should be held like dragons' claws with the fingers slightly rounded and the palm hollowed. The waist should be open, with the upper body turning 45 degrees to the right.
2 Simultaneously shift your weight forward on the left leg and let your arms rotate so your left arm cycles in a circle downwards and your right hand cycles upwards in a circle. Make sure to keep the hands held like dragons' claws.
Repeat, moving your weight forward and backward while cycling the arms as many times as you like.
3 Now, change your feet, so your right foot is forward and your left foot is behind, so that the position is opposite to that used in the beginning. Repeat the same movement again and again until you feel good.
As your body moves forward, breathe out and as the body moves backwards, breathe in. If you cannot manage to coordinate the movement and the breathing, just breathe naturally, as this is also good.
Keep all the joints in your arms and hands bent all the time, particularly the fingers and arms as they move forward. Never fully stretch out the arms so that they are tense or close them up too tight to the body. Keep the same relaxed shape all the time, as though the arms were moving in a circle and as if you are holding a ball in each hand.
The movement should come from the waist and you should look at the hand that is moving forwards. As the body moves forward, the waist should face forward. As the weight shifts backwards on to the back leg, then the waist opens 45 degrees. It is important to keep all your joints relaxed, including the hands. They should not be tense.
Always remember that whichever leg is bent, the opposite hand to this leg should also be the one to cycle forward.
This exercise is very good for your coordination. Many people think that as long as the movement flows well, it will make them healthy, and so they are not bothered to keep the correct hand position. However, they forget that coordination is also very important. Those with good coordination will also have clear minds and will always think about the circumstances they are in. They will think about other people more and will not be so short-sighted. Coordination is not only about developing the muscles, but it is also to do with improving the functioning of the brain.
If you cannot do more than one thing at a time, it means that there is not enough energy going to the brain. When this happens, people can easily feel under stress. When someone can do more than one thing at a time, they can think about the next step or what effect their action will have on the future. This is because they have enough energy going to the brain. If you have more Qi going to the brain, your mind will be clearer and you can cope with whatever happens.
When all the joints are relaxed, this allows the Qi to flow through all the channels. This movement is particularly good for people with arthritis or rheumatism. These problems start because the Qi cannot go through the channels and so all the toxins build up in the joints. However, even if you do not suffer from these problems, this exercise will still be good for your joints and circulation, especially the knees and ankles, shoulders and elbows.
Have you ever seen drawings and paintings of Chinese dragons? These differ from those in the West. The Chinese dragon is the symbol of the king or emperor who was the leader of all China. In the past, it was said that no matter who governed the country, this person was a dragon who had come down to earth just for this purpose. So the emperor's clothes would always have a dragon emblem embroidered on them and they would always be yellow. Yellow is the colour of the element earth. In the Five Element theory, Earth is in the middle, so this symbolised that the emperor was like the centre, or stable foundation, of all China.
Chinese dragons could fly without wings and had claws with five fingers. The claws symbolised the Five Elements and all the directions in the world. So a dragon emblem was only allowed to be seen on the emperor's clothes and other personal things. No one else was allowed to use it, otherwise they would be imprisoned or even killed, because the dragon symbolised the emperor, the Son of Heaven, and only the emperor was supposed to have this level of power. Today, though, this is not a problem. I created this movement with the hope that every one of us can be like a Chinese dragon, with strong and flowing energy.
Old Tree with Winding Roots
GOOD FOR Ground energy Strengthening legs Kidneys
ACUPUNCTURE POINTS Neiguan (see page 61) and Waiguan (see page 61)
1 Stand with your weight on your left leg and the knee slightly bent Place the right foot next to it, heel up, only the toes touching. Cross your wrists in front of your Lower Dantian (see page 65). Men should place the left hand over the right and women, the right over the left. Allow the Neiguan and Waiguan points (see page 61) to connect together in front of the Dantian.
Step to the right with your right foot, while keeping both knees bent and the weight even on both legs. As you step, separate the hands so the fingertips lightly touch the liver and spleen on either side of the body. Do not touch with the palms. Make sure the back is straight and the shoulders back and chest open as you open the legs.
Step towards the right foot, with the left foot, keeping both knees bent at the same level as before. The left heel should be up and all the weight should be oh the right leg. At the same time as you step, bring your hands back to the same position at the Lower Dantian as before.
Repeat the stepping and closing, moving from left to right and right to left.
As you step open, breathe in and as you close, breathe out. Do not breathe any other way.
Breathing is very important in this movement. It is a special kind of breathing called 'reverse breathing'. With reverse breathing, when you breathe in, the Dantian will go in and when you breathe out, the Dant-ian will push out. This is just the opposite of normal or natural breathing. (For more information on breathing, refer to Chapter 7.)
This movement will allow you to gather and also to ground the Qi. When you open, make sure the body stays at the same level as your starting position. Do not let the body move up and down as you open and close. In the beginning, some people may find their legs are quite weak, so when they close the legs together after doing the opening, they will try to straighten the legs. However, if you do this you will lose Qi. Also, when you close the legs, keep the body facing forward. You should not have the body turned to the side.
This exercise is very good for the lungs. Many people today find that when they try to breathe deeply, it is too difficult to do so through the nose and, instead, they will open their mouth to breathe. This is because their lungs have not been exercised enough. Our lungs are muscles, the same as the leg muscles. If you do not work them, they will become weak. Then, when you need to run or climb stairs or do something a bit strenuous, you will have no energy.
Another benefit of this exercise is that it helps strengthen the legs. A healthy person cannot live without strong legs as legs are the root of our body. It is the same as using a tripod for your camera. If the tripod is too weak to support your camera, what will happen? We all know what the result will be. Strong and balanced legs are very important. This movement also benefits the stomach, spleen and liver so the internal organs will become strong and healthy.
This exercise was inspired by my Chen Taijiquan training, as well as the principle in Chinese culture that legs are the root of our bodies. Chen Taijiquan training is very much about the legs. Strong legs can bring you a lot of energy, make the body warm and the foundation strong.
In Chinese culture, we always hear about the ten generations of the Tang family and twenty generations of the Kong family. In the West we do not hear too much about these sorts of things, because in the West people are educated to make as much money as they can, to be as famous as they can, as these are considered to be marks of success. I do not mean that you should not be rich and famous. There are a lot of good rich and famous people. But today's education does not tell us to respect our parents who cared for us when we were little, when we were too small to feed ourselves or go to the toilet alone.
Nor does it teach people to respect the teachers who taught them so that they could make their living in the future. It is your teacher who taught you how to read and write, and how to respect your boss who pays your wages so you can keep your finances in good order.
All of these are your roots. Of course there are bad teachers, but if everyone was educated to respect their ancestors, their teachers, their family, their employer, there would be less problems in the world today. Just because others show disrespect, it does not mean that we should do the same. If someone else steals, it does not mean you should steal.
The Chinese see their ancestors as their power and their roots. With strong roots, then the tree will be strong and the leaves and the fruit will be good. If you had many generations living together under one roof, this was considered very lucky and must mean that your family had done a lot of good things. Anyone who has many generations in their family is proof that their roots are strong and healthy and that their family tree can grow fruits and flowers.
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