Shibashi vs 6 step

I know, teach and use 2 different qigong sets. The shibashi (18 moves, plus the standing zen at the end ) and the 6 step (5 moves plus the standing zen) . What is the difference apart from the number of moves? Well the shibashi set is designed to give an energy ‘work out’ (as well as gentle physical workout) The 6 step is designed more as a detox….to cleanse the energy. But both start the same way. With some moments of preparation getting into good posture, tuning into to your breath, grounding yourself, and the simple arm raising move the is called ‘opening the gates’ or ‘raising the water’ . Both end with the standing zen. (standing in good posture, hands crossed in front of your lower abdomen ) In between well thats very different. But there is one other thing that is the same for both sets you get out of them what you put in. You can stand and wave your arms around ….and my teacher says that is still beneficial. Or you can focus on getting the best possible posture, really focus on your breath and feeling the energy flow, and make it a really mindful experience.

Thee is one potential difference I haven’t mentioned…the time it takes. Superficially the 6 step looks as if it will always be completed in a shorter time than the shibashi. But a lot depends on how you do the set. Done at a minimum level (6 repetitions of each move) the 6 step will of course be completed in a shorter time than the shibashi. Including the time for preparation… about 42 breaths for the 6 step versus about 120 breathes for the shibashi. But if you do the number of repetitions your body and energy tell you is needed that can take you up to 12 or more repletions of each step. suddenly 42 breaths becomes 96 or even more. for the 6 step.

Like i` said…you get out it what you are prepared to put in…

Standing qigong

Hang on….most qigong is done standing isn’t it? Well yes. But it is possible to do ‘qigong’ (energy work) when standing still. Not just ANY old position of course….but in a good bear stance…..or if you are more advanced dragon stance I suppose. But by standing in bear stance you are opening up the channels for the flow of qi, you are actively connecting to both yin (from the earth) and yang (from the sun) sources of energy by having the relevant acupressure points correctly aligned. And of course you are moving….because you are breathing. The terms ‘energy’ and ‘breath’ are closely linked in Ta chi. My mantra for my classes at the Cerebral Palsy centre is ‘If you can breath you can do it’ Breathing is about the one thing they can all do. Also in my sessions I often suggest that you imagine breathing energy along your arm, or out through your hand.. Your breath can direct the flow of energy. So breathing is an integral part of qigong.

Standing, and breathing without arm motions is the in many ways the core of qigong.

I felt drawn to standing qigong a few days ago…not something I normally do. And when I mentioned this to my mentor she said that standing qigong can be useful in winter…when we all feel like hibernating.. Energetically it felt the right thing to do. And a few days later I found myself naturally flowing into the 6 step routine…which felt good.

Up till now I haven’t focussed much on my posture or my breath. Or take this as a signal that I need to work on both.

Qigong, the I Ching, wu wei and Taoism

This morning I read an inspiring article in the magazine of the TCUGB. I wouldn’t normally start my day with some serious reading but all I can say is it felt right. And as a result of that I found various things running round in my head. Especially what the author said about the I Ching. She has done a thesis on how the 8 trigrams in I Ching are linked to the 8 powers of Taiji Chuan. As a result I found myself wondering if the I Ching could help me make a decision. And I realised what I needed to do was do my qigong practice in the best way, so my mind would be in the right state for me to throw the dice, and interpret what the hexagram said.

Just like the Tao Te Jing, (TTJ) the I Ching is built on the strange concept of’ wu wei’…..non-doing. The idea is that you allow yourself to become in harmony with the universe. When you do that you allow things to happen rather than actively doing things. It’s a difficult concept to explain, and even harder to achieve. It’s called ‘The Tao’ But in the first first of the TTJ it says….The Tao that can be named is not the real Tao’…or words to that effect. So words are not always helpful…but they are all I have so here goes.

I started my qigong practice. I decided I needed to really try a’feel’ the qi or at least to work as if I could feel the qi since this is something that does not come naturally to me. I really focussed on getting my breath and body in harmony, being mindfullly aware of what my body wanted to do and what my mind was doing. I just let it happen. I didn’t tick myself off when I realised my mind had wandered away with thoughts of this blog post. I just lead mt mind back.I didn’t tick myself off when I realised my posture had slipped. I just corrected it.I couldn’t tell you how long my practice took….maybe 30 minutes…..but however long it took it felt right. And I didn’t feel impatient as I sometimes can. Being honest at the start my intention was to use the 6 step…but as I ‘opened the gates’ I realised I would be doing the shibashi.

After the practice I sat down to throw the dice and interpret the heaxgram )(made up of 2 trigams) And I got some very clear and understandable guidance not only about the issue I focussed on but about other issues.

I tell those I teach that the important thing isn’t to come to a weekly class…but to build the concepts into your daily life. The daily practice means that in every day life you automatically respond to signals from your mind or body….and put the principles of qigong and mindfulness into action when you need them.

But it’s called practice because you need to learn how to do it. Does this mine every day my practice will be as good as it was today? No. Today was special. It was a ‘wow’ moment. But I have learned that ‘wow’ moments are built on all the moments in between when you feel frustrated because nothing makes sense, or works they way you think it should. In many ways the days when your practice goes badly are the most instructive ones. And in many ways the important ting is not what you do…but the fact you do anything at all.

Qigong and the physical body

I had an enlightening moment watching TV a few days ago. I was watching people in knife wielding contest. Their success (or lack) depends on the strength and sharpness of the blade, and how effectively they USE that blade. I was watching one competitor who had what the experts said was a great blade….but I realised she was making the best use of her blade. She was using her arms and shoulders…but not the power of her whole body. It was obvious from the way she was standing and moving.

And suddenly I really ‘knew’ the importance of the posture and the core abdominal muscles. When you stand correctly, with the core abdominal muscles engaged, you are able to tap into the maximum amount of power both physically and energetically.

Wielding a knife with jour your shoulders and arms, exercises (and puts strain on?) the shoulders and arms . When you get your whole body involved you have so much more power…..and less strain on the joints. Effectively you channel the power of your abdominal muscles into your arms. Ditto your legs to keep you standing securely (or kicking if you are into kick boxing !)

So the time spent getting into good posture and engaging your core muscles at the start of the qigong set is in many ways the most important part. Becasue qigong for all it looks as if your war just waving your arms around is so much more than that. I have always known that on one level. The enlightening moment meant that I ‘knew’ it on a deeper level with much greater understanding.

It also menat I suddenly understood how qigong can be just as good as zumba for your health!!!

That understanding is something I will bring into my personal practice and my classes in 2019.

Happy New Year!

Seated qigong

I have a broken toe. This means driving walking and standing are all limited. So I have had to do qigong seated . Tis has been a difficult experience. Somehow it doesn’t feel as if it benefits me as much. I feel I ‘should’ be standing and getting a good upper body posture feels much harder when I am seated. But as I was doing it just now one word came into my head…’trust’

When I first started reiki self healing it didn’t feel as if it was doing me much good. And when I started giving reiki I often had to trust that I was doing anything at all because I couldn’t feel the energy flowing. However experience with reiki taught me to trust that whatever I was doing, it was doing good..

I realise I have to do the same with qigong…..especially seated. And this has emphasised to me how much further I need to go in my understanding of qigong. Greater understanding of reiki gave me the confidence to use it better, and I started to become more aware of the energy I was channelling. So greater experience with seated qigong, and greater study of qigong will no doubt lead to something similar.

At the moment I am not at my best, taking medication (with reluctance) to help with the pain while not taking so much I get careless about what I am doing. I am of necessity staying still. And it occurred to me that this stillness is 'ALSO part of the healing. Helping my direct my energy where it is needed. Stillness is integral to qigong.

Also the stillness is stopping me doing so I am just being. Lao Tzu ‘wu wei’….doing by not doing. And opportunities have come my way for 2019 already.

Maybe I need to do MORE seated qigong if it helps me ‘be’ rather than ‘do’

A different aspect of mindfulness

I often mention that qigong is a very mindful practice because it helps to keep you focussed in the moment. Ad that is a very important aspect of mindfulness. But  an equally important aspect of mindfulness is being non judgmental. 

Being non judgemental means you don't beat yourself up about how things are, So much stress is caused by our own critical judgments on ourselves and our actions. Being mindful of that tendency, noticing when you are being judgmental and recognising that it is a very unhelpful trait  are key benefits of mindfulness.

Sometimes this means accepting that in this moment you have this pain, this level of energy, that this is all you can do. It means accepting your ,limitations . 'But surely that means you will never improve?' I here you say. Not so. If you have a clear goal (eg to improve your practice of qigong) being no judgmental on the days when you know your practice falls short of what you would wish is important. Becasue I often say it isn't about doing the moves perfectly...but doing them perfectly for you. Not judging yourself critically because you are not holding perfect stance, or not practicing it for as long as you would wish each....or even not practicing it each day because...you know life happens.

When you know what you SHOULD be doing (in  an ideal world, or  if you were monk on a mountain top in Tibet who did nothing except practice qigong 10 hours a day)  then that improves the benefit of what you physically CAN do,

I run sessions for wheelchair bound people who have very limited movement. I always tell them 'doing it in your imagination is fine ' They will NEVER be able to physically get the stances and moves perfect. But if they can breath and use their imagination they still get huge benefits.

I realised to day that applies to equally to me. I need to be non judgmental on the days when my stance isn't good, when I can't hold my core abdominal muscles engaged, when I run out of time or energy to do even minimal practice. That doesn't mean I can be complacent. I know what I WANT to be doing.. And I can assure you my practice has improved immeasurably since the first time I was introduced to shibashi. 

Accepting your limitations as long as you have a real desire to improve is mindfulness in action. 

 

 

 

So why do I practice qigong ?

As I did my practice today this was the thought that kept going through my mind. In part this was triggered by what I learned at a training class I attended with my trainer,. She emphasised something I already knew on one level but needed to be reminded of.  Our daily practice will change. Somedays its all about relaxation. Other days its about responding to what your body needs. And what your body needs will vary.

Based on my own practice I know some days I am stiff and need the qigong movements to loosen me up. Somedays my movements are naturally loose wide and flowing...others my joints feel in need of wd40 and ned coaxing to move at all.

I also know somedays its very easy fro me to get into and maintain a really good stance....while others I just need to wave my arms about as I breathe and nurse my body into doing anything

And some days its a case of body be hanged.....I just need to relax and chill.

I practice qigong because I know the more I practice the better I will get it .

I practice qigong because the gentle movements keep my joins from stiffening up

I practice qigong because its the best form of mindfulness for me on days when sitting or lying feels wrong so my mind wants to go off on wild journeys

I practice qigong becasue it gets me into the habit of listening to and responding to my body's needs

I practice qigong because I enjoy it and I know that by practising it every day I keep myself healthy on many levels. And I know it can improve me health on many levels

I also know by keeping my energy in as good a state as possible, I am doing what I can to keep the energy in my tiny part of the world balanced. And that can only be a good thing

Namaste

What I learn from my pupils

At the beginning of each class we bow in. We are honouring the energy, and everyone else in the class. They honour me as their teacher....ad I honour them for what they teach me.. And I learn a lot from my pupils.

Today was a good example. a question about one of the moves led to a discussion about how being mindful could help them do what felt right for THEM. Because I wanted to focus on them being mindful of their body, I lead a very physical set with little talking so they could be mindful. That gave ME a chance to be mindful...and I maintained better stance than normal....and boy did I get hot!!

By teaching, I learn and understand more about qigong....and my general practice improves. By teaching I learn more about how to teach.

Maybe its true that those who can do, those who can't teach.....but teaching has always been important to me...and I feel privileged to have some amazing and stimulating people attedning my classes.

Going with the flow

One of my husbands favourite sayings when we have no definite plans made is to suggest we just 'go with the flow and see how the cookie crumbles' its a great way to spend a day believe me. No expectations....just doing what attracts our attention. No expectations of what we SHOULD be doing..., no pressure to do what others might think we should be doing...just being us.

Qigong is all about going with flow...and I have had an interesting experience recently. One of the shibashi set is called 'the rotating flywheel' The arms and hands draw circles in the air in front of the body in each direction. My normal practice was to draw the circles to the right (anticlockwise to my viewpoint) first. However building on what I learned in the last training weekend I realised it felt more natural to draw the circle clockwise first....ie going to the left first. Curious I asked my teacher if there was any difference...and she said the correct way is the way I naturally flow ie to the LEFT first. (But to encourage a class to go the correct way I need to do it in reverse)

To say I was intrigued and pleased is putting it mildly. . I do not naturally 'feel' the flow of energy..but clearly I am sensing something. One thing I have learned in my journey with holistic therapies and psychic development is that I can trust it when I 'get'  something that I don't quite understand. I have learned to just go with it.

Going with the flow is also at the heart of mindfulness. Just accepting what is, not expecting any specific outcome. Just going with what comes our way. Importantly not judging any thoughts as 'good' or 'bad' ...just accepting them as thoughts that are here one minutes...then gone the next.

I have a lot to thank my husband for....and his little mantra is one of them because it has helped me in life generally, and in my qigong /mindfulness practice.

Qigong is for life not just the class!

Both qigong and mindfulness are wonderful things to do in a weekly class. But the real benefit comes from putting what you learn into practice in daily life. And that doesn't just mean setting aside some time every day to practice them. I have known and understood this for ages. But this morning I did something that really emphasised that.

I got up to a sink full of dirty crocks. I had 4 choices. Load it into the dishwasher which would make the kitchen tidier....but would use electricity. And in any case I didn't have a load big enough to put the dishwasher on . Ignore it for a bit.but that really wasn't an option. Its not in my nature to do that. Do it protestingly....focussing on I wish I didn't have to do this....or do it and find some enjoyment in it.....

You what??? Have you gone mad? No thats exactly what I did. I spent a pleasant few minutes enjoying the feel of water and bubbles on my hands. I was mindful of the variations in textures and temperatures I could feel. I felt pleasure in the cleanness of each item....and satisfying squeak of my fingers on the clean surface.. I knew that this was also gentle exercise for my wrists which are a little stiff at the moment. And as I was standing I was able to send a little time standing in god bear stance ...with pelvic tilt of course. 

I was really sorry when it was over!

Now you might read that and think...well OK theres a bit of qigong in there but thats mainly mindfulness....with a dash of NLP thrown in. And you would be right BUT Qigong is all about working with your energy and keeping it balanced and healthy. Your thoughts play a huge role in how healthy your energy is. 

Your energy and your health generally are massively affected by the things you do every day. How much you sleep, how much you exercise, what you eat and drink, and what you  think...All the good you do in one class can be wiped out by a stressful situation, a row with the boss, a bad commute to work, ....................................(fill in the blank with own ideas.)

If you choose to set some time aside each day to practice qigong and mindfulness that great. But if the attitudes that underpin them are habitual then you won't allow the boss, or the commute, or the kids, or all of the stresses modern life can throw at us, to unbalance your thoughts. 

Qigong is all about balance. Physical and energetic balance are what most people can easily understand.  But mental/spiritual balance is just as important. 

 

Teaching about energy

Yesterday my class wanted me to focus on energetic aspects of Qigong. And I realised how very hard it is to separate that aspect from the physical aspect of the mindful  aspect.After all its the physical side that helps the energy flow...and the mindful aspect that directs it. Its no wonder the yin/yang symbol is so closely associated with tai chi!. In teaching them I learn myself....and in many ways that is WHY I teach...because it gives my the discipline to make sure I keep learning. Certainly learning qigong in the first place greatly increased my understanding of energy and reiki  . It comes back to a saying of a friend of mine as she started her holistic journey. 'Its all about the energy' A saying I think I now have a deeper understanding of. Namaste

Rooted and grounded on the lawn in the sunshine

There really is something wonderful about my morning sessions on the lawn whatever the weather. But there is no doubt the sunshine adds another element. I feel so connected to nature and the earth  as I practice my qigong....practising working with MY energy that links with the energy all round me.

All energy affects all other energy....and by keeping my energy balanced I make it easier for other to keep themselves balanced....and balance is part of harmony. That is what qigong is all about...balance and harmony.

Harmony is something lacking in the world at times. Spreading harmony feels like the right thing to do. Namaste

A new phase of the journey

Qigong can be done on so many levels. Over the weekend I did some training to take my qigong to the next level.  But it will take a lot of practice.  Persist and practice to progress. I have said something  similar before.

This new phase goes deeper both energetically and physically. I learned more about breath and body, balancing yin/yang energy ,the position of the hands, how to stand rooted and grounded...

The classes I run, and what I do in my personal practice, are mainly focussed on the mindful relaxation aspects of qigong. What I have learned over the weekend is more about the physical aspects ....which are still be mindful and relaxing.

My first step is to practice this deeper type of qigong and improve my personal practice. Then I will have the knowledge  and  confidence to try to take some of students on that road too.

I am not a tai chi master, far from it. I am just a little further along the road than the people who come to my classes.  I am hoping as I travel further I can encourage and lead some of my students to follow

 

Qigong and mindfulness in daily life.

I have been doing  qigong regularly but not really experienced anything that made me feel 'I must blog about that' These posts need to have a focus to be interesting after all. But that does not mean I have not been experiencing things, or having some insights both with th qigong and with meditations.

However I now have a new motivation for what I do. My blood pressure is very high and I am going to have 24 monitoring. Of course qigong and mindfulness as part of stress management should help keep my BP down....so this was an unpleasant but probably much needed wakeup call. 

If I can avoid it I do NOT want to go on medication. So effectively I had a week (now half gone) to do what I can in terms  of my diet, exercise, and cognitive approaches (stress is not caused by what happens round us but by how we think about what goes on round us!) to bring my BP down. But the reason they now do 24 hour monitoring is that a one shot measurement does not accurately reflect what goes on over the course of a day. My success or otherwise could be down to how well I put into practice the the techniques I know can help.

This is a reminder that qigong and mindfulness are not exercises to be done once a week, but tools to be used in daily life any time stress becomes an issue. And hopefully with habitual use, stress will never have a negative impact. (Worth mentioning that of course not all stress is bad...) 

It will be fascinating to see what effect qigong and meditation DO have on my BP......and I will report back next week on what happened and how I intend to use both qigong and mindfulness going forward.....even if medication is needed.

 

Mindfulness

I have written a lot about qigong and how it is a mindful activity...but I do also do mindful meditation and other mindful activities.  Mindfulness is very much associated with meditation but I have realised that may well put some people off. Mention meditation and some people are immediately put off by the feeling that means clearing their mind....something they find impossible to do.

Well I have some news. NO-ONE can clear their mind in that way. Minds are meant to think thats why we have them.  So what is the point of mindfulness? Mindfulness could really be much described as awareness. Awareness of what you are thinking...awareness of when your thoughts are being unhelpful.  Many problems are caused by what we think. Stress depression and  anxiety are caused by out thoughts about a situation. Pain is often made worse by anticipation of future pain. 

Although much of the talk is about techniques that promote mindfulness, in fact what you want to aim for living mindfully..by which I mean learning to recognising when your thoughts are unhelpful, and then automatically bringing your mind to focus on something else.  This can be your breath, or it can be an activity your enjoy...gardening, walking, computer games reading, cooking, sewing. I have learned that there are ties when I need traditional mindful techniques like meditation or breathing, or of course qigong. But my practice with those techniques means I notice when my thoughts are being unhelpful.... normally worrying about how something will go in future, or how someone may react to an email or pm. Another favourite activity of mne is anticipating conflict...... I have lost count of the number of times I have imagined how a difficult exchange may go only to have the rug pulled out from under me when what happens is nothing like my fevered imaginings!!! By being aware (mindful) of my tendencies I now notice (by being mindful) when I have drifted off into an unhelpful thought pattern. I ave learned how to end those patterns by focussing on what I am doing right here and now in this moment. That may mean just focussing on a current activity....or it may mean I opt to stop and use a another technique like breathing qigong or meditation.

I still regard myself as not a natural meditator.....but I realise I have become far more mindful in my daily life...and that is actually the goal. The technique yu use and how good yu are is actually alost irrelevant.

 

Schumann resonance

I have started studying crystal reiki. This is use of crystals as part of reiki therapy to modify the energy . Part of me is sceptical about this....but then with my  mantra 'its all about the energy' I  can see crystals as solidified energy..  So I can't just ignore this aspect. The course is also CPD for my reiki. PLus I love crystals....so what's not to love about a chance to learn about them...even if my sceptical hackles may be raised by the some of the things in the course.

In the very first module the course mentions Schumann resonances and suggested listening to one of the many tracks out there while meditating or self healing with reiki. I tried meditating with them and got a bizarre tingling in my hands.

I am sure no-one reading this will be surprised that I decided to listen to them while doing qigong....and I was aware of the same tingling...but much less intense.  However todays set was not the most intense I have ever done. I was 'doing' the moves not being the moves. I am wondering if I would feel  more from the resonances if I was being more mindful, really focussing on posture,  and breath, It may also need me to find the right track to listen to.

Watch this space. This could be an interesting part of my journey

Qigong in a busy life

There is a well known quote from the Dalai Lama to the effect that we should all meditate 15 minutes each day except when we are busy. Then we need to meditate for 30 minutes. This is counterintuitive of course. But maybe it needs to be.

This morning it was too cold to go outside and I thought as I would be warm INSIDE I had no excuse to  avoid the full shibashi set. The cats and my husband conspired to interrupt me so it was not the flowing 'dance' I normally do. And I realised that is a metaphor for life. It gets in the way. The important thing is not that I flowed through gracefully...but that I got back to it after dealing with a dead mouse  and making a cup of tea . (Normally the tea would have waited but since the dead mouse forced an interruption I thought I might as well do the tea as well)

As I got back to my practice after this happily short interruption I realised I was putting into practice what I need to do every day. Coming back to being calm and focussed when life gets in the way.

The Dalai Lama's advice on meditation can be understood in the same way. the 15 minutes a day when life is calm means that when you NEED the 30 minutes a day to help you focus on your priorities you are well practiced you and confident in your ability and can really benefit from it.

Daily qigong practice is the same. And I now understand why my teacher said we should do shibashi set daily....and that the 6 step was a kind of detox. Daily practice of the shibashi set means that when life gets hectic, I can get maximum benefit from taking a break with the 6 step. however many times I need to do that in busy day..

Namaste

 

It was a cold and frosty morning

I woke up to find a heavy frost but brilliant sunshine today. So I went outdoors to do some qigong. Because it was so frosty I thought the ground might be firm enough to go on the lawn and I was right. So for the first time in months I was able to stand facing the rising sun (releasing my inner pagan!)  and go through a qigong set. And so many thoughts and ideas came to me.

With the sun (which is the ultimate  source of all energy on the planet) shining down I felt good, uplifted, and very aware. I was also aware of birdsong, traffic noise, and my cats....and I felt very connected. 

A fascinating insight came from the fact that the lawn is uneven.  Posture is important in qigong. And the best posture comes when you are on a flat floor. But as I found out yesterday when I tripped over a loose floor tile in a local shop,. you cannot guarantee you will always have a good flat floor to stand on. And I realised it isn't about being on a flat flor so you can have good posture. It's about developing good posture so when the floor is uneven you still stay upright.

During the standing zen I literally stood there with eyes closed and breathed.....just letting  myself be aware of any sensations that came to me. And I felt a huge sense of joy at the fact that I was able to stand in my garden in the sunshine and just breath. It was a pure mindful moment.

Qigong helps develop  good posture so you can stay upright when the floor is not so smooth.

Mindfulness helps you develop resilience so you can cope when life is not so smooth.

And that's why I practice both techniques