Muna’s Gigong Blog #3
January 11, 2021
After last week’s disturbances in our country in our Capital that sent earthquake-like shocks throughout the nation, my class on Saturday January 9th was designed to ground us in our fundamental core.
The beauty of Qigong to me is its ability to support a comprehensive foundation for life through movement and breath. It is a system of cultivating vitality and awareness while we do exercises of mobility, strength, and physical function. Ultimately we approach daily life with an integrated axis of mind, body, heart and spirit.
From my own direct experience within my own body, I have developed metaphors and language which I hope are evocative for you. These are filtered through my haphazard curiosity to knowledge of symbols and keys used in spiritual world practices. I also find it a fascinating journey to evolve and deviate from certain strict forms (often developed by male practitioners), to “embroider” with my personal touches.
I hope you find them as pleasurable and delightful as I do.
Muna’s Gigong Blog #2: Baduanjin
November 25, 2020
I think of the beauty and richness of Brocade, which we can embroider as we like. Each meridian is a different color silk thread, interweaving and connecting to make a beautiful cloth to wrap the fascia, bones, sinews, tendons and ligaments. By the end of the series, we have a beautiful “robe” of qi, we can wear it beneath our silk cocoon this winter.
8 Brocades can also be expanded to 12 Brocades….in time.
The Baduanjin qigong(八段錦) is one of the most common forms of Chinese qigong used as exercise. Variously translated as Eight Pieces of Brocade, Eight-Section Brocade, Eight Silken Movements or Eight Silk Weaving, the name of the form generally refers to how the eight individual movements of the form characterize and impart a silken quality (like that of a piece of brocade) to the body and its energy. The Baduanjin is primarily designated as a form of medical qigong, meant to improve health. This is in contrast to religious or martial forms of qigong. However, this categorization does not preclude the form’s use by martial artists as a supplementary exercise, and this practice is frequent.
The Baduanjin as a whole is broken down into eight separate exercises, each focusing on a different physical area and qi meridian. The Baduanjin traditionally contains both a standing and seated set of eight postures each. In the modern era, the standing version is by far the most widely practiced. The particular order in which the eight pieces are executed sometimes varies, with the following order being the most common.
Two Hands Hold up the Heavens (Shuang Shou Tuo Tian)
This move is said to stimulate the “Triple Burner” aka “Triple Warmer” or “Triple Heater” meridian (Sanjiao). It consists of an upward movement of the hands, which are loosely joined and travel up the center of the body.
Drawing the Bow to Shoot the Eagle / Hawk / Vulture
While in a lower horse stance, the practitioner imitates the action of drawing a bow to either side. It is said to exercise the waist area, focusing on the kidneys and spleen.
Separate Heaven and Earth
This resembles a version of the first piece with the hands pressing in opposite directions, one up and one down. A smooth motion in which the hands switch positions is the main action, and it is said to especially stimulate the stomach.
Wise Owl Gazes Backwards or Look Back
This is a stretch of the neck to the left and the right in an alternating fashion.
Sway the Head and Shake the Tail
This is said to regulate the function of the heart and lungs. Its primary aim is to remove excess heat (or fire) (xin huo) from the heart. Xin huo is also associated with heart fire in traditional Chinese medicine. In performing this piece, the practitioner squats in a low horse stance, places the hands on thighs with the elbows facing out and twists to glance backwards on each side.
Two Hands Hold the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist
This involves a stretch upwards followed by a forward bend and a holding of the toes.
Clench the Fists and Glare Fiercely (or Angrily)
This resembles the second piece, and is largely a punching movement either to the sides or forward while in horse stance. This, which is the most external of the pieces, is aimed at increasing general vitality and muscular strength.
Bouncing on the Toes
This is a push upward from the toes with a small rocking motion on landing. The gentle shaking vibrations of this piece is said to “smooth out” the qi after practice of the preceding seven pieces or, in some systems, this is more specifically to follow Sway the Head and Shake the Tail.
this study demonstrates promising efficacy of Baduanjin in preventing bone loss commonly occurring in middle-aged women. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17080541/
Current evidence indicates that practising TQ has a physiologic impact on immune system functioning and inflammatory responses. Rigorous studies are needed to guide clinical guidelines and harness the power of TQ to promote health and wellbeing. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32629903/
Muna’s Gigong Blog #1: Yijin Jing (Muscle/Tendon Change Classic)
November 23, 2020
Practise regularly, at least once weekly.
Enjoy every moment, taste the sweet flow of the fluids through the tendons, muscles, joints, saliva in your mouth, elixir of life flowing throughout.
Bright wet eyes and lively bushy tail, 4 lively “paws” to anchor into earth and claw at heaven.
Cultivate and weave the silk cocoon to protect yourself.
The Yijin Jing (simplified Chinese: 易筋经; traditional Chinese: 易筋經; pinyin: Yìjīnjīng; Wade–Giles: I Chin Ching; lit.: ‘Muscle/Tendon Change Classic’) is a manual containing a series of exercises, coordinated with breathing, said to enhance physical health dramatically when practiced consistently. In Chinese yi means “change”, jin means “tendons and sinews”, while jing means “methods”. The number of exercises tends to change; some contend that 18 should be the correct one (if based on the 18 Arhats), but can vary from 10 to 24, to 30. Today the most respected routine is that of Wang Zuyuan, composed of 12 exercises, and has been adopted by the Academies of Chinese Medicine in China.As the name implies, “sinew transforming exercise” is the method to train the tendons and muscles. The exercise is designed according to the course and characteristics of Qi circulation in the 12 regular channels and the Du and Ren channels. During practice, Qi and blood usually circulates with proper speed and with no sluggishness or stagnation.
The basic purpose of Yijin Jing is to turn flaccid and frail sinews and tendons into strong and sturdy ones. The movements of Yijin Jing are at once vigorous and gentle. Their performance calls for a unity of will and strength, i.e. using one’s will to direct the exertion of muscular strength. It is coordinated with breathing. Better muscles and tendons means better health and shape, more resistance, flexibility, and endurance. It is obtained as follows
* postures influence the static and nervous structure of the bod
* stretching muscles and sinews affects organs, joints, meridians and Qi
* torsion affects metabolism and Jing production
* breathing produces more and better refined Qi
* active working gives back balance and strength to body and mind (brain, nervous system and spirit).
Yijin Jing unifies in fact Yi (intention) with Li (strength), consciousness (yang) with muscular force (yin). The mind is free from thoughts, has a correct and well-disposed attitude, the breathing is harmonious. Internal and external movement must be coordinated, like movement with relaxation. Externally must be fortification; inside must be purification; unifying matter and spirit.
Some classic recurring points of Yijin Jing can be described as follows:
* Most of the movements use open palms, fists are used only for stretching the tendons.
* The names of exercises change, but often the basic idea of movement remains the same. I.e. Wei Tuo greets and offers something (Nanjing Ac. of Tuina); Wei Tuo offers gifts to the sky (Liu Dong); General Skanda holds the Cudgel (Zong Wu-Li Mao).
* Movements are done standing, sometimes bending forward, but never lying or sitting.
* Eyes are always open, never closed.
* Movements are slow but full and tensed, face and body shows relaxed attitude.
* All directions of the upper body section (especially shoulders) are active and moved.
* Dynamic tension rules the moves.
* All parts of the body work together.
* There are different ways of practicing the same Yijin Jing form, according to the basic rules, to the body shape, to the time of practice and to the general health conditions.
According to traditional verbal formulas, we have that:
* The first year of training gives back physical and mental vitality.
* The second year enhances blood circulation and nurtures meridians.
* The third year allows flexibility to muscles and nurtures the organs.
* The fourth year improves meridians and nurtures viscera.
* The fifth year washes the marrow and nurtures the brain.
The Five rules of Yijin Jing are:
* Like lake water reflects the moon, a calm spirit allows energy to move inside the body.
* In order to use and flex muscles deeply, to get maximum extension and move Qi and Xue, slow movements are required.
* Each movement must be brought to the maximum.
* Efficacy comes through waiting and keeping tension for a longer time.
* Limbs and trunk must be extended so that blood and energy can circulate, so we have flexibility.
Breathing in Yijin Jing is a controversial point. Many modern sources insist on a deep, forced, reverse breathing in order to develop power and more thoroughly energize the body. Other sources suggest that this may often create excessive strain and pressure on the body. Robert W. Smith, in his article on the J.A.M.A. in 1996, suggests that there are differences between the northern and the southern way of breath. The southern variants seem not to have a developed system of regulating breathing or working on Qi. In his work on “Breathing in Taiji and other fighting arts”, Smith analyses not only Taiji veterans and classics, but also known fighters out of his personal experience, and concludes that the kind of breathing which is most effective, be it for martial or for health purposes, is located between classic abdominal breathing and a slow, unconscious breathing, with scope for explosive exhalations of the kind typically used to accompany strikes in many martial arts styles.