ABOUT 100 people started learning Guolin Qigong with me at Taman Tasek Titiwangsa, Kuala Lumpur, the last three Sundays before Chinese New Year. Everybody had fun learning the qigong walk. Half the fun was discovering that when you have to concentrate on your walking, you often end up walking like robots! After three lessons, most are now doing the qigong walk correctly and some quite gracefully.
Many others wanted to learn the qigong walk but could not come because they live far away. We hope to start classes in areas where our association does not yet have a group. But those who are interested must be patient as we can go to these new areas only after completing the preceding class (eight weekly sessions for the beginners).
Since we will not be able to cover all the areas where there are interested people, I will try to describe and illustrate or demonstrate more of the exercises through these articles for their sake, even though I have always said that it is best to learn qigong first hand from an instructor. Today I will describe the simplest exercises that everyone can do.
Qigong while sitting
Sit comfortably on a chair or sofa (provided it is not too low – your thighs should preferably be horizontal) with your spine upright. Look straight ahead. You may close your eyes if there are distractions. Close your mouth and keep the tongue touching the upper palate just behind the upper teeth.
Rest your hands on your knees with your palms facing up. As you breathe in (all breathing is through the nose, and try to do relaxed abdominal breathing), slowly lift up your arms until they reach shoulder-level. Then hold your breath as you slowly turn the palms to face downwards.
As you start to breathe out, bring the arms down gently until the palms are just above the knees. Again hold your breath momentarily as you turn the palms upwards. You are now ready to repeat the cycle. You can do as many cycles as you like. Try to do this for at least one minute (about five cycles).
You can vary the arm position by starting with the hands in the centre instead of resting on the knees (the arms are bent as before). Turn the hands so that the palms face outwards. As you breathe in, slowly move your arms outwards until the hands are directly above the knees. Pause your breath as you slowly turn the palms inwards. As you breathe out, slowly bring your hands towards each other until they nearly touch. Pause again as you turn the palms outwards. You are now ready to repeat the cycle. This variation is similar to the third opening exercise of Guolin Qigong (done while doing the Qigong stance).
Sitting qigong and can be done anytime and anywhere. However, try to avoid doing any qigong exercise just after eating, or when you are too hungry (eat first, rest, then do qigong).
You should try whenever you sit for some time, like when watching TV, or surfing the net or doing your mails on the computer. It will be good to do sitting qigong at intervals to charge your body. If you sit for too long, it is better to get up and do the stretching qigong.
Stand in the basic qigong stance as taught previously. Then put one foot forward (about as far as you would when taking a small step forward). Next, rest your weight on your front foot and turn the hind foot outwards about 60 degrees. Now rest your weight on your hind foot (and remain so throughout the exercise ).
Slowly lift up both arms from your sides, to the front and continue upwards and then right over your head while stretching the spine and leaning backwards until you cannot lean backwards nor extend your arms anymore.
The movement is done while taking one long, deep breath (chest breathing – that is, filling the upper lungs) until the chest is fully expanded at the end of the stretch. If correctly done, the hands would be tracing an arc exceeding a semi-circle, depending on how far back you can stretch your spine and your arms.
To maximise the stretching, you should straighten the front leg and tip-toe the front foot gradually as you start leaning backwards while your arms are stretching over your head backwards.
Properly done, your lungs will be filled with air (and plenty of oxygen if done where there is fresh air, especially in the park) and you will feel your chest and lungs expanded like never before. You will definitely feel exhilarated (you will literally sigh) and feel so good at the end of each stretch. It will get better the more you stretch and the deeper and longer you breathe while doing the exercise. You can repeat the exercise as often as you like.
Those with back or spinal problems and those who have not stretched their spines for a long time should be cautious about overstretching and causing injury, and should initially end each exercise at the first sign of tightness in the back.
This is my favourite stretching exercise and so far all have enjoyed it whenever I put them through this routine. It is excellent for recharging after a long lecture, working or doing anything that keeps you immobile or makes you tired or sleepy.
Qigong while lying down
Whenever you’re tired, or just taking a rest, or just before sleep, you can do qigong while lying down. Just lie down supine with your arms akimbo and your feet apart as in the basic stance. The palms can be facing down at first while you breathe slowly for several minutes. You can keep your eyes opened or closed.
Then slowly turn your palms upwards. Next, while you inhale, slowly lift your arms upwards until your hands are about one foot above. Pause your breath while you gently turn your palms downwards and continue moving your arms downwards as you exhale.
Bring your hands down until they nearly touch the floor (or mattress). Then pause while you slowly turn the palms upwards again. You can then repeat the cycles as desired. This is actually a variation of the standing and sitting exercises mentioned.
If you intend to continue to rest or sleep, stop the movements and continue breathing in a relaxed manner until you doze off or are adequately rested.
A firm mattress is preferred if lying in bed. Those with bad backs should try doing it on the floor with minimal padding if there is discomfort. They should try this exercise as often as possible to help regain their health.
Back pain is among the commonest health problem and is usually due to a combination of factors – obesity, poor posture, poor nutrition and lack of proper exercise. This will be worsened by any injury. Although not a critical illness, it causes more morbidity and more absenteeism from work than most other illnesses.
Qigong while praying
Many Muslims are curious about how their ritual prayer (solat or sembahyang) can actually improve qi strength and flow. I had mentioned that the main exercise of Islamic Qigong (Tang Ping Gong) is similar to the ritual prayer.
If the ritual prayer is done with full concentration, the prescribed movements are done slowly and perfectly as taught in the religious instructions; and recitals are done in a relaxed, proper manner that they should be done, then all the requirements for qi enhancement are automatically achieved.
The Quranic verses, when properly read, is done so with orderly breathing (there are rules about when to breathe and when not to). These are in fact prerequisites for the perfect prayer. If the Muslims perform their prayers in such a disciplined manner, they should all be getting this benefit in addition to other health and spiritual benefits that they can expect.
Qigong is purely a healthy exercise, while the Muslim ritual prayer is essentially a spiritual exercise. However, the prayer is incomplete without the movements and breathing (as explained above) and so it is also meant to improve physical health.
The five prescribed daily prayers, properly done, together constitute a self-maintenance programme for both spiritual and physical wellbeing. It is a pity if a Muslim prays five times a day for many years but misses out on this health benefit because he does not perform it as properly as he should. On the other hand, imagine the health potential of the Muslim who “practises” qigong five times a day everyday while complying with his religious obligations.
It is no wonder that qigong was first practised in the temples and monasteries, since its exercises are naturally compatible with spiritual rituals.
In modern times, there are spiritual groups that actively combine qigong with their spiritual teachings. One such group (Falun Dara, more popularly known by their qigong style called Falun Gong) has attracted much attention worldwide since the Chinese Government cracked down on them several years ago.