I was thrilled to receive such a positive response to my last post on Standing Qigong. And it wasn’t just support, even though I confessed that now I have to climb back up the mountain on the way to 2-hour sessions again. You guys asked really great questions about standing qigong. Instead of answering them in the comments of the last post, I decided to turn the questions into a post of their own.
Update: After you read this post, check out my answers to some great questions that were asked in the comments, here. Last spring, I set out to enter “the 2-Hour Gate” in standing qigong. And I got there. In fact, it was easier to get there than I thought it would be. Before you think I’m bragging about my practice, though, there’s something else I have to confess. As soon as I missed a couple weeks of practice, going through the gate became impossible for me.
When you go to the gym and hit the weights or take laps at the community park the exercise that you get does a great deal of good for your body. The problem with exercise programs like this is that they are entirely focused on external development. The muscles are developed, excess fat is shed and joints are strengthened, but at a cost. These high impact exercises put stress on the joints that will eventually develop into injury and the increased circulation will wane soon after the session is complete.
The biggest question people ask me about standing qigong, especially when they hear about the 2-hour project, is “what do you do, just stand there?” There is actually a really delicate balance between “doing” and “feeling” when you stand. You learn lots of different techniques, like breathing, sinking, dissolving, and pulsing, but how you apply them internally when you are holding a static posture is a tricky topic. If you rev your engine too much – activating strong diaphragmatic breathing the entire time, for example – then you miss the potential stillness in the posture.
In all Taoist practices, there is a theme of moving like a newborn. We look to the softness, connectedness, and smoothness of their movements to re-learn and relax how we normally get around. Taoist breathing trains you to move your belly, sides, and back in a gentle compress and release pattern that tones the internal organs. The Opening and Closing of the joints that we train in the Marriage of Heaven and Earth qigong, teaches you how to minimize muscular force and lead your movements from the natural hydraulic pumps in the joints and cavities of the body.
The study of Tai Chi requires that you also study Qigong as well, separate from your Tai Chi Classes. The tensions that we feel, both physically and psychology are largely the result of blockages in our body’s natural energy paths. Qigong refers to this energy and it is the study of bringing our breathing into harmony with our movement. One of the best Qigong exercise is the arm-swing exercise. Usually done as a warm-up, it prepares the body for relating the movement of your arms with your shoulders and spine.
Last month, we discussed the sense of progress you can sometimes struggle with in your practice. At the time, I mentioned that I’ve been working up to a two-hour standing session, which is a very structured practice goal. Today, I wanted to report back about what I’ve been experiencing in standing qigong and show you how to shift your sense of the time that passes when you stand. The structure of adding one minute to the length of the stand each day is seems like it should make for a very linear sense of time when you practice.
We’re borrowing a technique from Dragon and Tiger qigong to try and get a better sense of the lower tantien. The lower tantien (“dan-tee-en”) is the energetic center of your physical body, located just below your navel, on the central axis of the body. If you dropped a line down from the crown of the head, through the body, and out the bottom of the pelvis, it would pass through the lower tantien.