Tai Chi Qigong - introduction
Here, I am using to term Tai Chi Qigong to refer to a style of qigong that bases its movements on Tai Chi. Often these movements will be linked together in a short qigong Form that looks very much like Tai Chi.
Originating in China, qigong (pronounced chee-gong) can be translated as 'energy work' or 'cultivating energy'. A more accurate translation could be 'any training or study dealing with Chi (or Qi) that evolves over a long period of time through regular and committed practice'. If that sounds a little daunting to the beginner, it need not. It just means that the more practise we put in, the more benefits and rewards we accrue.
As we have seen, qigong is smilar in look and feel to tai chi, combining deep, mindful breathing with gentle, relaxed, flowing movements, but it differs in that it has no necessary martial arts applications. It can be (and usually is) practised purely for improved health and healing, although martial artists do often train in qigong to develop internal power in their self defence applications.
The ultimate purpose of qigong is to cultivate the chi or life energy within us, so that it flows smoothly and abundantly throughout our relaxed body, healing and repairing and lubricating and bringing us back to a state of natural balance and harmony. Movements flow to the rhythm of our breathing and a relaxed but precise internal focus leads the chi through various pathways and causes the chattering mind (Monkey Mind) to become subdued and tranquil.
Similar benefits can, of course, be achieved through sitting meditation, but the slow, gentle, relaxed, mindful movements of qigong - which feel very much like moving meditation - have a profoundly healing effect on the body, as well as inducing a deep tranquility in the mind.
In summary, regular qigong practice improves overall health, as well as emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being. All imbalances and symptoms of dis-ease are remedied and healed to some degree.
Qigong - health benefits
Improved muscular strength and flexibility; lubricated, less painful joints
Improved circulation of blood, vital fluids and energy, with blockages becoming cleared and stagnant blood/fluids/energy beginning to flow freely again.
Improved functioning of the internal organs, particularly the 'yin' organs - liver, kidneys, lungs, heart and stomach/spleen. The digestive system becomes stronger and more efficient and we are less prone to digestive upsets. The immune system is upgraded and we suffer less from infections such as coughs and colds and 'flu.
Improved balance and co-ordination. A feeling of being grounded in our body. By 'rooting' into the Earth (like a tree), we can attract 'Heaven' or sky energy down through the head (much like a tree or a plant receives and absorbs the energy of sunlight).
Improved mental health, a more balanced emotional life and a reduction in anxiety, stress and depression. We learn to allow our emotions to flow freely, like the weather, rather than trying to suppress, control or manipulate them. As a consequence, we become more self-accepting and self-compassionate. Our relationship with ourself improves and that leads to an improvement in our relationship with others.
Because we are able to lay, what feels like a blanket of tranquility over our agitated nervous system and subdue our chattering, negativity-biased, 'messy' mind, we experience more inner peace, restfulness and a greater sense of inner fulfillment that isn't dependent on external events or circumstances.
Improved spiritual well-being. With greater awareness and appreciation of our internal energy flow, we feel more in harmony with nature and the world around us and we may be able to access a deeper, more spiritual way of being, beyond mere ego-identification, where we realise that we are all part of the one energy and ultimately, the one consciousness (the Tao, in Taoism). This can bring a feeling of extraordinary peace, joie de vivre and liberation.
Open Door Five
A short qigong sequence, devised by Master Joe Lok, will be taught in all classes in order to open energy gates:
Phoenix in Graceful Clouds of Blessing:
Master Joe Lok's Phoenix in Graceful Clouds of Blessing Qigong consists of 3 parts:
- 16 standing qigong movements, each designed to strengthen the internal organs. These are simple to learn, based on spherical movements and cause a tangible chi-flow through the body
- A Practice Form, consisting of the aforementioned 16 movements linked together into a qigong Form. See the video below.
- A Demonstration Form that is similar to the Practice Form, but is at a more advanced level.
At present, Ilona teaches the first 2 parts of this system.
An extract from the book by Master Joe Lok:
“Phoenix in Graceful Clouds of Blessing”
The form has to develop energy in the first place and bring the energy through the eight extraordinary channels and regulate the energy flow in the 12 meridians of the 12 organs which ensures health and balance.
It would just be an extra bonus if the mystery of “how” energy works on health is revealed.
For energy to go through the eight channels would mean at least eight independent stances or eight sets of movements to practice on. To add on stances to work on the flowing of energy in the twelve meridians it would add up to twenty. However, meridians and some of the channels are in pairs, one on each side of the body. The number of movements in the form might have to be doubled to forty.
And the form must be able to direct energy travelling the whole body via the fascia for a general strengthening of the body and drive away pain. In addition, energy must pass through all the joints to increase agility and prevent bone loss by introducing some joint relaxing elements into the form. Furthermore energy has to be gathered and accumulated practice after practice. Energy has to circulate all over and later on be consolidated to the core inside the belly.
That would be a deterring sum of up to more than 50 stances or independent sets of movements.
To keep the practice simple I confined the number of movements by bringing in the five elements, gold, water, wood, fire and earth, to work on the meridians for the benefits of the organs.
For example, one movement represented in the gold doctrine will train for the lung meridian which belongs to yin, and at the same time this same movement will train for its yang counterpart, the large intestine meridian.
Likewise, one movement in water will train for the yin kidney meridian and at the same time for the yang gallbladder meridian and the yang three chambers meridian.
All in all, five movements repeated left and right work on twelve meridians, where the five elements are each split into yin yang.
The eight channels circulation is consolidated into another five movements and the dai channel circulation is made implicit in each movement.
From then on, one more stance works to direct energy from the kidneys to circulate all the organs. One stance works to spread all the joints, with the spine spreading vertically, and the ribs and the joints in the limbs spreading horizontally.
One stance embraces and spreads, at the same time, energy all over the body. One stance consolidates the energy to a smaller confinement near the end of the form.
This comes up to fourteen stances, a number acceptable to most beginners. Adding up to a stand at both the commencement for energy gathering and the end for energy accumulation, the whole form has a comfortable 16 stances.
Then, a complete form, linking up all the 16 stances is presented for ultimate pleasure and flow of energy in a gentle but lively grace.
However simple, the form is comprehensive and found on profound theories and is extremely precise in the postures to be appreciated by all as a valuable reference.
Although the form is not primarily dedicated for martial art, it does improve martial performance because momentum is generated in the practice. The flow of energy in the training is an internal guideline to the martial motions. The filling of energy covering the body helps the sense for reaction. The energy gathered in the practice builds up the core for internal power.
Further information can be found at www.phoenixqigong.org
Shibashi 1- 18 Stance Tai Chi Qigong
Ilona learned this from Chris Jarmey, Director of the European School of Shiatsu. It is one of them most popular qigong sequences in the West. It's easy to learn, adaptable to all levels of fitness and works the whole body, as well as quietening the mind and lifting the spirit. Most people enjoy performing this sequence - Ilona teaches sometimes just a few moves during the lesson and sometimes the whole 18 movements. There are many videos on Youtube that you can search up that will show you the basic moves.
Cheng Man Ching 37 Stance Tai Chi Yang Short Form
Ilona has been teaching this Form for over 20 years. At present, the only class where this form is taught is the Friday 10am class in Gosforth.