In this case study, you'll see how Kevin improved his Cloud Hands and Swings through video feedback.
While you can follow a guided practice for the standing qigong portion of Energy Gates, doing a follow-along for the moving exercises doesn't really help you improve your practice, so feedback is key.
Going through the process of not only getting a correction, but watching yourself before and after, helps you internalize the new movement pattern. If you are just told to change the way you are moving, sometimes the new pattern is so different from what you are used to that you can't feel the difference, and the correction doesn't stick.
In this series, I think you'll see how Kevin was able to integrate the feedback and improve his set a little bit with each video.
Nice work, Kevin!
This is the clip Kevin initially submitted, of standing, Cloud Hands, Swings, and Spine Stretch:
Here's my first round of feedback:
- Let the head roll forward a little more, lengthening up the back of the neck to open the occiput and lengthen the entire spine -- i.e. drop the chin slightly
- Try a smaller stance so that you can focus on aligning the centers of each leg joint on top of each other (as opposed to a wider stance where you will feel the leg muscles activate on the outside after a longer standing session).
- You have a very clear line on the ascending side, from the pushing leg up through the arms -- this is good, but you might also want to develop the sinking side too -- the side you're shifting on to, by tracking the downward hand and feeling that as that hand goes down to the hip, you are simultaneously feeling down the weighted leg. When the hand finishes, you will have arrived in the foot.
- Long term, there is a difference between rotating around the side channels, which you are doing well here, and rotating around the central axis. This is another place where, if you take a slightly smaller stance, you will be able to track the line from the crown of the head, down through the roof of the mouth and all the way down to the perineum as your turning axis.
- The kwa folding and leg alignments are great.
- Same basic comment as Cloud Hands: great leg alignments, but the wider stance is going to keep you rotating around the side channels more than the center -- for a while you might want to try doing a first swing with no weight shift, with the feet much closer together, so that you can feel rotation around the center in a clearer way -- again, this is more of a variation that highlights a different element, rather than an absolute.
- This is tied to the size of the stance a little, I think, but you've got some "leg reach" going on with the unweighted leg in the side position. If you pause the video in one of the side positions, you see the foot pretty far ahead of the shoulder -- ideally, you want to pull the leg back with the hip and shoulder, so they stay in vertical alignment. The big idea here is that the movement can create a twist through your entire skeletal structure and you move in and out of the side positions, which is what is happening now -- that activates a lot of soft tissue turning. The caveat is that it can also tax the leg joints. More than a caution, though, if you make the structural movement more compact, it directs the force vectors inward, to the internal organs, and so you start to activate different benefits internally. So try a smaller step.
- The third swing is hard!
- Notice how your arms go all the way back into the shoulder joint at the top and kind of rest there for a beat? That also tends to extend the spine and creates a brief pause at the top. You want to stay just shy of that position.
- The other way to look at it is through the kwa pump. You need to let the closing of the kwa pull all the way down through your feet each time you transition from one "up" position to another.
- You've got the basic shape, I just want to re-orient you to the internal pulls and flows a little bit.
- At the very end, when the body stops, the arms should just fall.
- Looking good on the way up. On the way down, I would encourage you to move less from the lower back. Basically, once you move above the height of the diaphragm or lowest ribs, there isn't really any lumbar movement.
- Another thing that will help is more of a kwa squat as you go, as opposed to folding at the kwa. This will put you in the legs more.
Overall, great stuff. I'm really impressed with how you've worked on this material on your own!
A week later, Kevin sent me a second video:
You can see, based on the feedback, that we're still working on some common themes. He's made some little tweaks, but because of where he is in the learning progression, the stuff he will focus on now will take some time to get into the body and change with regular practice.
- Â Try to "sit" into weighted leg more.
- Emphasize the down more than the up.
- You're doing good, smooth turning.
- Watch how foot creeps out as you go through your reps, you can see it sneak out a little at a time.
- Try to do more of a pulling back feeling for unweighted side so the foot stays under the hip more.
- In the transition, drop into the squat to get under you arms instead of lifting -- this is the same timing issue we discussed in the webinar, where you have to drop the body before the arms fall.
- Watch how everything opens out from the kwa at the sides -- ideally, if there is a strong up and down, you won't see this, instead the legs will open and the arms will swing up in the same line.
Nailing the Third Swing
This time, when Kevin sent me a new video, he had completely re-engineered his Third Swing. Now, he was clearly closing his body before the arms were dropping.
I've seen people struggle with this change for a long time and never quite find the right feel for the timing.
See you if you can pick up from the video a few of the other changes Kevin was able to integrate:
- The upward arm is much softer -- to the point of making a small circle at the top.
- There is a much better connection to the downward hand and you can see the connection all the way down through the weighted leg.
- For the future: start twisting into unweighted leg sooner to start downward pull -- think about the kwa on the unweighted leg, right at the moment you begin to reverse direction, you want to see ifÂ you can feel a winding into that leg
- For the future: the shoulder's nests and chest need to hollow more -- this isn't necessarily related to the first swing, but it's apparent here. The goal is to feel the chest sliding down as the spine rises up.
- There's better pull back on leg, but it still creeps out to sides. The fix is in making a more distinct weight shift from one leg to the other in the middle position (when you work on this, you give up flow). As you shift into one leg, the other feels like it gets scooped up from the hip joint and you want to have it completely off the ground before you turn to the side.
Since Kevin sent me this last video, we've had follow-up conversations about certain principles that he's ready to integrate into his practice, some of which isn't as easily teachable through video feedback. So, there certainly is a limit to what can be communicated this way. What I hope you will see, though, is just how much you can shape your practice with this kind of feedback and guidance.