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Archive for the ‘Tai Chi & Qi Gong’ Category

Five Animal First Set

Tiger Deer Bear Monkey Bird Qigong Set 01

 

Mountain Pose

  • Feet within shoulder width, outsides of feet parallel (big toes might feel slightly pigeon-toed).
  • Aim tailbone between heels and elongated lumbar vertebrae downwards.
  • Sternum points straight ahead, don’t arch your back up or puff your chest up. Cervical vertebrae extend upwards, they don’t lean backwards or forwards.
  • Qigong breathing (inhale: belly in; exhale: belly out) for 10 breaths. Elongate the spine.

 

Tiger Stretching

  • Inhale, belly in, tailbone back, hinging at the hips.
    • Feel the adductors activate.
  • Legs are straight, lumbar is straight, hands in tiger claw.
  • Exhale, belly expands, curve tailbone to point between your heels.
    • Do not bend your knees.
    • As belly expands, the hips move forward.
  • Spine extends up in a wave motion, initiated by the curve of the lumbar at the onset of the exhale.
  • Pelvis moves forward, back is long, arching backwards. 
    • Head back slightly, following the wave.
    • Feel the activated adductors.
  • Inhale, aim tailbone back, belly in.
    • Adductors.
  • Pelvis moves back, through Mountain Pose, to hinge the hips again with a straight lumbar and back. This is a wave motion.
  • Repeat for 5 breaths total. Wave the spine.

 

Tiger Searching

  • Feet in a forward stance/forward lunge. Hands in tiger claw.
    • Back foot at 45°, heels in line. Back leg is straight, pressing into the heel and outer edge of the foot (little toe side).
    • Front foot forward, front shin must be 90° to the floor, perpendicular. 
      • Front knee directly above front heel, not in front of it, not behind it. 
      • Make sure the knee is rotated slightly out, do not let it come to the inside of your ankle.
  • Inhale, belly in, hands come to the front of the belly, palms facing each other.
  • Exhale, belly out.
    • Hinge waist so lumbar is straight and torso is in line with the rear leg.
      • Think of a “pole” extending from your vertex to your back heel.
    • Rotate the body to the back-foot side with the “pole” in the center of the rotation.
      • Front-foot-side hand moves forwards, palm down, level with shoulder.
      • Back-foot-side hand moves to your ribs, palm up, gently brushing the 8th/9th rib.
    • Look towards your back shoulder.
  • Inhale, belly in, hands come to the front of the belly, palms facing each other.
    • Maintain hinge of waist so lumbar is straight and torso is in line with rear leg
  • Exhale, belly out.
    • Rotate the body to the front-foot side, around the “pole”.
      • Front-foot-side hand moves to your ribs, palm up, gently brushing the 8th/9th rib.
      • Back-foot-side hand moves forwards, palm down, level with shoulder.
    • Look towards your forward shoulder.
  • Inhale, belly in, hands come to the front of the belly, palms facing each other.
  • Exhale, belly out.
    • Hinge waist up so lumbar is straight and torso is in line with rear leg
    • Rotate around the pole.
      • Front-foot-side hand moves forwards, palm down, level with shoulder.
      • Back-foot-side hand moves to your ribs, palm up, gently brushing the 8th/9th rib.
    • Look towards your back shoulder.
  • Inhale, belly in, hands come to the front of the belly, palms facing each other.
  • Exhale, torso straightens up, palms down (still in tiger claw), gaze stays straight forwards between the hands.
    • Rotate torso & hands to the back-foot-side.
  • Inhale, hands rotate into a hook, (like a “J” on the right side, a reversed “J” on the left).
  • Exhale, hands rotate back down the “J”, torso & hands rotate towards the center.
  • Inhale, hands come around like an ellipse.
  • Exhale, hands & torso rotate to the front-foot-side.
  • Inhale, hands rotate into a hook, (like a “J” on the right side, a reversed “J” on the left).
  • Exhale, hands rotate back down the “J”, torso & hands rotate towards the center.
  • Inhale, hands come around like an ellipse.
  • Exhale, rotate torso & hands to the back-foot-side.
  • Inhale, hands rotate into a hook, (like a “J” on the right side, a reversed “J” on the left).
  • Exhale, hands rotate back down the “J”, torso & hands rotate towards the center.
  • Repeat with the opposite foot forward. Rotate the spine.

 

Deer Scanning

  • Stand in Mountain Pose
  • Hands form deer antlers (thumb, index, and pinkie extended; middle and ring fingers contracted).
  • Inhale, bring hands up to throat/nose area, palms facing inwards.
  • Exhale, extend hands over your head, arms straight, palms facing outwards.
    • Extend upper back up and slightly forward.
      • Sternum faces straight ahead, not angled up nor sunken down.
    • Extend tailbone/sacrum/lumbar downwards with a very slight forward bend.
      • The spine should be a very shallow crescent, a slight “C”.
  • Inhale. 
    • Hands come down to the sides of the head.
    • Elbows extended outwards 90° from torso.
      • Pull your shoulder blades together with the rhomboids to open your arms up.
    • Aim tailbone to an ankle, activate adductors so weight transfers to that ankle’s leg & foot.
    • Step/slide unweighted foot forwards.
  • Exhale. 
    • Slightly elevate your front hip.
    • Use the forward-foot hamstrings and both legs’ adductors to pull your pelvis so your body weight is on your front foot (mud-walking).
  • Inhale. Rotate your torso to the front-foot side.
    • Extend your back into an arch.
  • Exhale. Wave the spine so that your chest comes forward.
    • Tailbone moves forward. The spine is back in the slight “C”, but with a twist.
  • Wave the spine four more times.
  • Return torso to neutral, aim tailbone to forward-foot heel, and mud-walk the back into Mountain Pose.
  • Repeat on the other side. Wave the spine within its rotation.

 

Bear Pushing

  • Feet in a forward stance/forward lunge. Hands in extended claws.
    • Back foot at 45°, heels in line. Back leg is straight, pressing into the heel and outer edge of the foot (little toe side).
    • Front foot forward, front shin must be 90° to the floor, perpendicular. Front knee directly above front heel, not in front of it, not behind it. 
      • Make sure the knee is rotated slightly out, do not let it come to the inside of your ankle.
    • Hands in front of belly, fingers pointing up.
  • Exhale, “bear pushing the sapling,” hands come forward to full arms’ length.
  • Inhale, rotate back knee externally so that the back leg bends. “Sapling pushing the bear.”
    • Front leg stays straight, lean back and keep neck in line with the rest of the back, so that you’re looking slightly up.
      • Torso in line with front leg.
    • Hips & shoulders facing forwards.
    • Hands come back to belly, fingers still pointing up.
  • Exhale, continue back knee’s external rotation so that the leg straightens, pull with forward leg’s hamstrings. 
    • Don’t allow forward knee to pass over forward ankle, keep forward lower leg 90° to the floor/ground.
    • Arms extend, “bear pushing the sapling.”
  • Repeat two more times.
  • Fourth time: inhale, lean back and rotate torso to the front-foot-side.
  • Fifth time: inhale, lean back and rotate torso to the rear-foot-side.
  • Switch stance and repeat. Wave spine, rotate spine, and connect spine to adductors, hips, hamstrings, and feet.

 

Monkey Grooming (Rubbing & Scratching)

  • Roll/massage over kidneys & hips.
  • Tap with closed hand over kidneys & hips.
  • Massage inner corner of eyes.
  • Massage backwards in line from above eyes to the nape of the neck.
  • Dominant hand sinks into depression over spine at nape and massages
    • Off-hand presses down gently into the vertex of the head.
  • Hands move out to the mastoid process and massage.
  • Massage forward along the parietal bones (sides of the skull) to the temples.
  • Massage temples.
  • Massage under cheek bones to the nose.
  • Gently massage eye socket.
  • Massage from just below the eye, down passed the corners of the mouth to the chin.
  • Massage outside & inside of jaw, moving back to the corner.
  • Massage down SCM muscles on either side of your neck.
  • Cross hands; massage to middle of collar bone.
  • Massage down pec. minor (outside of chest)
  • Massage down pec. major (middle of chest)
  • Massage either side of rectus abdominis (outside the six pack)
  • Massage where rectus abdominis inserts into the pelvis.
  • Massage back up the midline to just below the ribs.
  • Squat step forward and “brush hair” three times.
  • Squat step other foot forward and “brush hair” three times.

 

White Crane Spreads its Wings

  • Inhale, feet within shoulder width.
    • Hands rotate inwards with holding fist, knuckles facing each other.
    • Slowly bend the knees, aim tailbone backwards.
  • Upper arms come to 90° from torso.
    • Elbows continue the rotation until arms are pointing straight out from the torso at 90°.
  • Exhale.
    • Arms rotate downwards until they are parallel with the torso.
    • Aim the tailbone between the heels, and straighten the knees.
  • Repeat four more times.
  • Open fingers into extended feathers, place one hand atop the other.
  • Step forward with the top-hand foot.
  • Mud-walk.
    • Inhale. Aim your tailbone to the forward heel & slightly raise your forward hip.
    • Exhale. Pull your pelvis forward using your forward-leg hamstrings & both adductor muscles.
    • Come to a stop with feet side by side.
    • Aim tailbone between your heels & use your adductors to bring weight to equal distribution in both feet.
  • Step forward with bottom-hand foot.
    • Mud-walk.
  • Step forward with top-hand foot.
    • Mud-walk.
  • Repeat, and switch hand position for the mud-walking. Wave the spine while spreading your wings.

 

Closing Movement

  • Inhale. Step backward with right foot & begin forward arm circle.
    • Aim tailbone to right heel, slightly elevate your right hip.
    • Use right quadriceps muscles and both adductors to pull your pelvis backwards to the right foot.
  • Exhale. Bring left foot even with the right foot & close forward arm circle; bow forward with hands in front of your sternum.
  • Inhale & elongate spine within the bow.
  • Exhale & hinge waist upwards ⅓ of the way.
  • Inhale & elongate spine within the bow.
  • Exhale & hinge waist upwards ⅔ of the way.
  • Inhale & elongate spine within the bow.
  • Exhale & hinge waist upwards to standing.

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Classes

I practice and teach Wu Dang Zhao Bao He Taijiquan (Zhao Bao style tai chi chuan), Five Animal Frolics qigong, and the Bodhidharma set of qigong.

Online Curriculum

Group classes are held:

– Tuesday & Thursday Afternoons at 2:00pm at Gianinetti Park in Carbondale, CO. Participants need to maintain appropriate distance and wear facial coverings.

– Thursday Mornings at 9:00am at the Aspen Recreation Center, 0861 Maroon Creek Rd, Aspen, CO <<Aspen Rec Center classes have been postponed until SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 isolation measures are lifted for fitness centers>>

Private lessons available by appointment.

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Daoist breathing is the basis for both qi gong and tai chi, as I enjoy practicing them. Both arts use the muscles of respiration to initiate and power their movements. As such, breathing is the foundation of practice, far more so than the prescribed order of the movements, or form. It is really quite simple, but as with any proper daoist idea, the more we practice it, the more we learn, the more we see our previous conceptions were amateurish grasping at best, and pedantic drivel at their worst. As with any exercise you learn about on the internet, consult your health care provider before attempting it.

Daoist Breathing:

Inhale: bring the abdominal/core muscles inwards while the chest expands.

Exhale: gently push the abdominal/core muscles outwards while the chest contracts.

The basic idea is to turn your body into a bellows. When the area above the diaphragm expands, the lower contracts, and vice versa. This stimulates the Vagus nerve, which engages the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest (healing and wellness) aspect of nervous function. Just doing daoist breathing provides many of the health benefits of meditation, tai chi, and yoga. You can combine it with these activities for even greater results.

It is of paramount importance to not force your muscles or hold your breath, as doing so could result in injury. It is best to only exert about 70%.

Let the inhalation and exhalation flow together as do the peaks and valleys of a sine wave. Inhalation is a yin concept, so draw your abdominal muscles inwards to your center point, the spot 1.5 finger breadths below the navel, our center of gravity. This should be a gathering feeling. Exhalation is a yang concept, and the abdominal muscles should expand outwards from the center point; a spreading feeling.

Thus, if yin is inhalation and yang is exhalation, the diaphragm is that curved line delineating yin and yang in the yin yang symbol. The daoist classic the Dao De Jing explains qi as what happens between yin and yang, or the interaction between yin and yang. The myriad creatures all descend from the qi between the yin and yang of the One. In this regard, “qi work” could be understood as diaphragmatic work. In my experience, qi is best understood experientially, not intellectually. Therefore, if you want to know what qi is all about, my advice would be to ignore what people say (especially me!), and focus instead on what you feel while engaged with the breath. Trying to grasp qi with our mind will lead us to an illusion, a construct of cognition, which prevents genuine communion with this most interesting of concepts. Feeling our body with our heart, leaving our labeling devices out of the picture, is the way to go.

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Qi is synergistic function as it is perceived by the aspect of our consciousness that is responsible for intuition. It is often spoken of as energy, and elaborated upon with metaphors of water, but this is merely to facilitate explanation. Energy is capable of transforming into matter and back again, but qi does not do this. It also does not register on the electromagnetic spectrum. Indeed, yin and yang qi is understandable as the positive and negative aspect of magnetism.

The very first line of the section of the Dao De Jing that talks about the Dao (“The Way”) says that “the way that can be spoken of is not the true Way.” Or as Alan Watts puts it, “The course that can be discoursed is not the true Course.” The same holds true of qi. If we think qi is anything like the metaphors we use to discuss qi, we miss the point entirely and go clamoring after illusions and fancies. The best way, in my opinion, to understand qi is experientially. This is not satisfactory for a discerning mind of science, I know, and to this objection there are two things I can say:

1) There are phenomena which are capable of being experienced and understood in a purely rational manner, and then there are the phenomena which arrive only through intuition. Barring the notion that intuition is the result of complex lateral calculations and processing we cannot yet understand, which is still speculation despite its deference to reason, intuitive phenomena deserve to be treated as possessing categorical differences from rational ones. In this approach, qi is a quality of intuition that communicates with rational phenomena, but is not itself of reason. Our senses and mental processes grounded in reason cannot perceive it, but this does not mean it is not there. There is a rational system for qi to follow, yin-yang theory, which it always follows. Thus, qi itself is perfectly rational in functioning, though it is something outside of reason. A reasonably unreasonable phenomenon.

2) Assuming intuition is a category of rational thought that we are yet unable to trace and understand, qi would then be an imagined variable that allows a system to work. Eastern medicine relies on qi, which may be how the ancients explained nerves and hormones, which for some reason are capable of being influenced by putting needles in the body at certain places, which do not have to be the same two points for the same results.

My study of this topic, both written and experiential, has led me to a conclusion with much more in common with the first point. I invite skeptics to give these healing arts a fair shot by placating their inner critic with one or both of these points. Belief or acceptance of qi has nothing to do with their efficacy, but it is a fascinating area of study.

That said, acupuncture, Eastern herbalism, Tai chi & qi gong all operate on the level of qi. Yoga describes this as prana, which is translated as breath energy. Try some daoist breathing and see where it takes you!

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