Re-membering… movements of stillness
‘If you have a strong sense of self… it is like carrying around a burden’
”Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
‘Twil be in the valley of love and delight
When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend, we’ll not be ashamed
To turn, turn will be our delight
‘Til by turning, turning we come ’round right’
When I wake, and when I meditate, I often move and massage my body using Qigong-based exercises. Qigong facilitates flow of energy, a dance of contraction and release, holding and letting go, observing and generating.
‘Qigong is a conscious practice where each individual takes personal responsibility to balance and harmonize their vital energy – reducing stress, increasing health and vitality as well as developing spiritual perception and awareness. Qigong literally is working with the energy of life.‘
I will describe here the most basic exercises, more like ‘warming up’. For readers who want to give something a go, see which exercises you find interesting or useful and go with those. As in my previous post about following the breath, I am starting from the most basic level in order to make a good foundation for long-term, committed practice. I will also take the opportunity to reconnect myself strongly with the more rigorous Qigong practices which will become essential threads in my ongoing mindfulness practice.
Rotating / Stretching
I systematically rotate and stretch parts of my body. Sometimes I complete this throughout my body and other times I just do one or a few areas. I normally begin with my feet, rotating them at least four times each way. Then I point and contract them a couple of times. Ending with a gentle shake of the foot. I do the same with my knees and so on through my body. One thing to remember is to keep the areas you have already rotated loose as you progress through the body.
Whether we are warming up or practicing flowing forms, we are always held from above, just as we are firmly planted in the ground. This allows areas of our body inbetween more freedom to let go and be as they are, without needing to compensate for the rest of the body. Slow rotations are good, and importantly we are not tensing as we rotate. Rotations are very effective for clearing stagnation in your joints.
During this period of rotations, or before or after, I also massage the various areas. I begin with my hands (as they are doing the work on the rest of the body). Firstly, I warm up by clapping and rubbing my hands. Then I progressively hold each digit, then each finger as a whole, then each hand as a whole. Then I very gently pull on each finger and each hand, ending with a gentle shake (while holding with my other hand). I also briefly massage all the muscles in the area. I finish with brushing strokes of the whole hand (with my other hand) and shaking both hands. I do the same process with my feet and other parts of my body.
I find this practice can be both incredibly grounding and invigorating. I love activating this balance and dance of simultaneous stimulation and relaxation in my body!
Here are some video links that show some of the practices I have used in the past and am recommitting to (time to call my old teacher Evelyn Girard!). They are worth watching for those who already have a basic foundation in Qigong or a strong interest in connecting with it as a practice.
Taoist Qigong – Joint Opening and Body Care (video 14:14min) This video shows rotating and stretching embedded in an integrated and flowing practice – the ideal!
Guigen Qigong (with Simon Blow) (video 3:23min) This is a healing process that gets me in touch with my body and reminds me to love myself!
Restoring Natural Harmony (more Guigen with Simon Blow) (video 6:18min)
18 Hands Lohan Qigong (video 2:31min)
I strongly recommend giving this a go. Standing still can really grind against the busyness of our lives – but when we learn to do it well it can actually give more energy to our movements, more focus to our intentions and more satisfaction to our doings. Standing meditation can weave us firmly into the place we are in while reminding and helping us to inhabit our body.
Standing Meditation #1 – How To Do It (video 1:38min) This is the quick fix!
Qigong Standing Meditation (video 5:24min) This is the earthy, universal practice of being!
Practice Standing Meditation (instructions)
I also find it very useful to follow a similar process lying down before going to sleep and upon waking. Ending and beginning the day in your body – not just a big bag of worries, regrets, plans and obligations. Activating and holding vital energy for renewal.