Moving Taiji Qigong
Moving taiji qigong includes both stationary and walking exercises. The following discusses the first of three stationary sets with exercises. The first one, which I call the "primary set," is generally used for taijiquan beginners. I call the second set the "coiling set," since it emphasizes coiling movements. The third set is the "rocking set." It trains the coordination of the hands, feet, and the movement of the body. These three sets actually combine the taiji qigong and the white crane qigong that I was taught, and they have benefited not only me but also many of my students. For more information on the second and third sets, I suggest you read Tai Chi Qigong: The Internal Foundation of Tai Chi Chuan.
Stationary Taiji Qigong
This set of qigong exercises has several purposes:
- To help the taijiquan beginner understand and feel qi. The sooner a beginner is able to understand what qi is and to feel it, the sooner and more easily he or she can understand the internal energy of the body. This set is simple and very easy to remember, so after a short time, you will be able to do it comfortably and automatically and devote your concentration to your breathing and qi.
- To learn how to lead qi to the limbs. When you have regulated your body, breathing, and mind, you then learn how to lead qi from the limbs to the lower dan tian when you inhale, and from the lower dan tian to the limbs when you exhale. This trains you in using your yi to lead the qi (Yi yi yin qi), which is very critical in taijiquan training.
- To gradually open up the twelve primary qi channels. After you have practiced this set for a long time, you will find that the qi is flowing more and more strongly. This stronger qi circulation will gradually open the twelve qi channels and let the qi circulate more smoothly in your twelve internal organs. This is the key to maintaining good health.
- To loosen up the internal muscles, especially those around the internal organs. This loosening removes any qi stagnation near the internal organs, which lets them relax and receive the proper qi nourishment.
- Remember to Stand Still to Regulate the Breathing (Jing Li Tiao Xi, 靜立調息)
After you have completed your warm-up qigong, stand still, close your eyes and regulate your breathing. Pay attention to your third eye (upper dan tian) and bring all of your thoughts from outside of your body to the inside. When your mind is calm and concentrated, bring your attention to your breathing. If you are doing only relaxation qigong training, use normal abdominal breathing, and if you are training for martial arts, use reverse abdominal breathing. It does not matter which breathing technique you use. When you withdraw your abdomen, hold up your huiyin cavity and anus, and when you expand your abdomen, relax or slightly expand your huiyin cavity and anus. Remember: do not tense or strongly lift up your huiyin cavity and anus. This will tense the lower part of your body and stagnate the qi circulation. After you train this abdominal anus breathing for a period of time, you will feel that when you breathe, the lower part of your body is also breathing with you.
- Big Python Softens Its Body (Da Mang Ruan Shen, 大蟒軟身)
After you have regulated your breathing and mind, start moving your body around slowly. The motion starts at your feet and flows upward in a wave through your legs, body, chest, shoulder, arms, and finally reaches your fingertips. Keep the movement going for one to two minutes. After you have finished, hold your hands in front of your waist with the palms facing down. Continue to keep your mind calm and breathe smoothly.
The movement feels sort of like a large snake moving around inside your body. The movement is comfortable and natural, and there is no stagnation or holding back. Do the movement for about one to two minutes, until you feel that your body is soft and comfortable from deep inside the internal organs to your limbs.
- The Qi is Sunk to the Dan Tian (Qi Chen Dan Tian, 氣沉丹田)
In this third exercise you are using your mind to lead the qi to sink to the lower dan tian in coordination with the movements. First, inhale and turn your palms toward each other. Then lift your arms to shoulder height. Then turn both palms downward. Lower your arms to waist level while exhaling. Do ten repetitions.
Each time you lower your hands, imagine you are pressing something downward and use the mind to lead the qi to the lower dan tian. Remember, even though it looks like you are moving only your hands, with practice you will be able to generate the movement from your legs or waist.
- Expand the Chest to Clean the Body (Zhan Xiong Jing Shen, 展胸淨身)
After you have completed the last exercise, start circling your arms up in front of you and out to the sides. As your arms rise in front of your chest, they cross. Inhale. Then separate your arms as they continue up and out to the sides. Exhale. Repeat the movement ten times.
Continue to inhale deeply as your arms rise, and exhale as they sink out and to the sides. The yi and the movement start at the waist and are passed to the limbs. The chest area is especially important in this exercise. The deep breathing and the movement of the arms loosen the muscles around the lungs. While doing this exercise, you should also visualize that you are expelling the dirty qi and air from your body and lungs, pushing them away from your body.
- Pour the Qi into the Baihui (Baihui Guan Qi, 百會貫氣)
After you have cleaned your body, you now visualize that you are taking in qi from the heavens through your baihui (acupuncture cavity in top of head) and pushing it down through your chest to the lower dan tian, and finally through the bottoms of your feet into the ground. The motion of this exercise is simply the reverse of the previous one. Again, the relaxation of the chest is very important.
As you inhale, open your arms out in front of your abdomen. Continue to inhale and circle your arms upward until they are above your head. As you exhale, lower your arms, palms facing down in front of your body, while visualizing that you are pushing the qi downward until it is below your feet. Perform ten repetitions.
- Left and Right to Push the Mountains (Zuo You Tui Shan, 左右推山)
After you have cleaned your body and absorbed qi from heaven, you start building qi internally and using it for training. As you inhale, raise your hands to chest height. While continuing to inhale, lower your elbows and turn your hands until the fingers are pointing to the sides and the palms are facing down. Keep your wrists loose. As you exhale, extend your arms to the sides. When the arms are halfway extended, settle (lower) your wrists and push sideways with the palms as if you were pushing two mountains away. Inhale and bring your hands back with the palms facing inward. Finally exhale and lower the hands in front of you with the palms down and the fingers pointing forward. The muscles should remain relaxed throughout the exercise. Do not extend your arms to the sides as far as they can go because this causes muscle tension and qi stagnation. Perform ten repetitions.
- Settle the Wrists and Push the Palms (Zuo Wan Tui Zhang, 坐腕推掌)
This exercise continues the training of using your yi to lead your qi, only now you are pushing forward instead of to the sides. In order to lead the qi forward to your palms, pretend you are pushing a car or some other heavy object. Start by raising your arms in front of you while inhaling. Palms up.
- Large Bear Swimming in the Water (Da Xiong You Shui, 大熊游水)
When you have finished the last exercise, begin this set with your hands in front of your abdomen.
While exhaling, circle the hands to your waist and rotate the palms upward. Continue to exhale and go right into the next movement of extending your arms forward. The motion is similar to the breaststroke in swimming. Perform ten repetitions of the movement.
As always in taijiquan, the movement is generated from the legs and directed upward to the hands.
- Left and Right to Open the Mountain (Zuo You Kai Shan, 左右開山)
This is similar to the last exercise, but you use only one arm at a time. Extend your right arm forward while exhaling. Turn your body slightly. Then inhale and turn the palm downward as you move your arm out and to the side. Next circle your arm down to your waist as you rotate the palm upward. As the right hand reaches your waist, begin the same movement using the left hand. Do ten repetitions of the complete movement. Let your chest open and close in coordination with the arm movement and also turn your body slightly.
- White Crane Spreads Its Wing (Bai He Liang Chi, 白鶴亮翅)
This last form is used for recovery. In it the arms expand diagonally. When this motion is done in coordination with the breathing, the internal organs will relax and loosen, and any qi that may still be stagnant internally will be led to the surface of your body. Inhale and cross both arms in front of your chest. Then exhale and extend your arms diagonally with the right arm up and left arm down. Inhale as you draw both arms in and cross them in front of your chest. Then exhale and extend them diagonally again. The mind should remain calm and the entire body should be loose. Perform ten repetitions of the entire movement on both sides.
When you are finished, inhale and move both hands to the front of your chest and turn both palms down. Exhale and lower your hands with the feeling that you are pushing something down, and lead the qi back to your lower dan tian. Finally, drop both hands naturally to your sides, inhale and exhale naturally ten times and feel the qi distributing itself in your body, especially in your hands.
Because you have been standing still for a while, your circulation may have become stagnant and qi and blood may have accumulated in your feet. Before you move, release the stagnation by rocking back on your heels and raising the front of your feet as you exhale. Then rock forward onto your toes while inhaling. Perform ten repetitions before you start moving around.
The above excerpt is from Tai Chi Qigong: The Internal Foundation of Tai Chi Chuan by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming.