Is qigong for everyone? Do I become Daoist after doing it and how can it actually change my life? What are benefits and limitations of this ancient Chinese practice? Simon Calder, qigong teacher with over 25 years of experience, explains the essence of this forgotten art of movement.
How have you started practicing qigong?
I started at the age of 17 with Master Choy who had moved to the UK to live. After seriously injuring my spine, it was the Qigong practice that fixed my body.. I couldn't walk properly for more than a year, so you can imagine how determined I was to find a system, that can heal me. And Qigong was a practice, that gave me stability and fluency in the body. It changes the whole body frequency.
So what actually happens to the body while practicing qigong?
While practicing Qigong we become more aware of our connection between movement and breath, creating a deep connecting to the energy field that supports and nurtures our lives. Qigong strengthens the tissues, joints, organs, well just about everything including immune system. While strengthening the joints, it also keeps them lubricated and free of tension, helping to build a better and stronger body.
And on the physical level, which we usually begin with?
There are many types of Qigong, the main one I practice and what is good to practice first is Medical Qigong, which is aimed at healing and strengthening the body. We begin with aligning the physical body, correcting any poor posture. Energetically grounding and centering are great benefits from Qigong which literally keep us centered and present in the body. So when the body is in stress it is contracted which takes a lot of our energy, the body is in a fight/flight response, when we learn how to stand in relaxation, this is where energetic grounding happens, we can be still and trust our bodies to support us. Which creates the ability to calm and balance the emotions. And I do not mean suppressing the emotions, but rather seeing clearly, being with what is arising from the mind and body, but not getting lost in it. I am not saying your mind is a bad thing, we are not going to switch off the mind or get away from it, just being with all parts of ourselves in harmony. What is more, qigong boosts your immune system as well as resolves any old tension issues, keeps you young and supple and full of energy.
How does it influence our nervous system?
Qigong helps to nurture and calm the nervous system. Modern life creates a lot of nervous system stress. All this stress lowers our ability to function well in life. After a time we are prone to adrenal burn out and nervous system problems. So strong nerve function keeps us functioning efficiently, our minds strong, clear and focused. With Medical Qigong, the foundation is strengthening the kidneys, nervous system and brain.
Another day you said also that qigong will make our joints juicy. Can you expand on this?
Qigong starts as a soft practice as flowing water. So with water practice we are softening our tissues and joints to become open and supple, bringing synovial fluid into the joints removing energy stagnation and blood stagnation which causes pain and sickness. As the body ages we dry out into old age. What better to have a practice to keep us young and moist. So if my main practice is a fire practice, like for instance intensive jogging, workout like fitness training or crossfit, you are contracting the muscles and joints creating tightness and tiredness. If you enter the soft watering practice (knowing that we are 75 percent water) all the collagen fiber and hyaluronic acid will moisture themselves, all toxic like lactic acid are removed from the joints and muscles. The body regains balance and begins to move naturally.
Water practice, fire practice…What do you actually mean by saying that?
Let’s say we go to the gym, I started cool and then I practice and it gets hot, I take off my T-shirt, I sweat, and we can ask ourselves if I move to the water or fire. It is obviously fire because the heat is rising. And what produces heat is a muscular contraction and tension which brings a lot of lactic acid into the system, which creates heat, stressing joints and ligaments and reducing our energy levels, which is why athletes can be prone to sickness and low immune system function. So the foundation to a water practice is soft fluidity through the whole body tissues as opposed to a limited muscle contractive movement.
So, wait a minute, qigong is water or fire practice?
Once we have soft practice, which doesn’t provoke any contraction in the body we gain softness and suppleness and higher energy levels. Qigong is taking us into the alignment natural state of well-being without rigidity and tension. The basis is water but we can on that base explore other qualities and keep our body balanced. But first we need that fluid, open, soft movement that dissolves our tensions, to get fluidic expression of the body.
And I don’t have to become Taoist to practice qigong?
Absolutely not (laugh). There is no Ganesh, no Shiva, no Shakti. It becomes very pragmatic, very direct. There is not mystical movement, no requirements I have to achieve. If we are moving the qi energy, we are looking for gong – which is practice. So, we are looking at yoga forms and it turns out that yoga yin and Taoism are exactly the same, just with qigong we enter into move movement than holding postures, consciously moving energy around the body.
Assuming that all you say is convincing, I go to YT and watch some videos and can ask myself – is my body experienced enough for such a practice.
Qigong at it’s foundational level is very simple, which is why it can be done at any age 5 – 85. YT is ok to get a very basic understanding, but a real teacher will show you what is really happening inside the movements and breaths. Like any beautiful cake it looks simple on the outside yet as we go deeper we understand that what looks simple on the outside has many layers and qualities that can be learned and understood over time. No experience needed to start Qigong
Can I be practicing qikung in a wrong way?
There is a certain structure, like with the alignment of the posture, correct breathing and mindfulness…Only when you have learned how to build up large amounts of energy in the body can you do Qigong in a wrong way. But don’t worry by the time you get to that stage you already have learned the correct techniques, again as long as you find a good teacher.