Playing with Waves: This is probably my favourite movement in the Shibashi practice, not only because I love waves, but also because it generates so much calm but powerful Qi. If you experience insomnia, this is an excellent movement. It is also helpful for conditions related to the spleen, liver and lungs. Of course, working with the water element, playing with waves is also a good fit for our winter practice as it benefits the kidneys. Since pushing a wave is not possible, this movement helps us to practice wu wei (effortless effort) and cultivates ease and grace while strengthening body and energy.
Spreading your Wings: A beautiful movement, this is soothing for the nervous system and conditions the heart and lungs while balancing Qi flow through their meridians. Since this movement gently opens and loosens tension or holding in the chest, it is helpful in the case of depression and low self-esteem. By embodying a sense of natural avian pride as we open our wings, we open up to self-respect and honour of true nature.
This week we will review movements 8 and 9 of the Shibashi practice (Carrying the Moon and Twisting the Waist/Pushing Hands) then learn movements 10 and 11.
Playing with Clouds: This powerful but soft, beautiful practice relaxes the body’s “fight or flight” (sympathetic nervous system) response and switches us to the “rest, digest, heal” mode (parasympathetic nervous system). As a result, it is a very soothing movement that cultivates an alert, but relaxed state for the body and smooth Qi flow. The movement offers significant benefits to the digestive system and nervous system as well as increasing spiritual energy.
Scooping the Sea: Our image with this movement is that we’re scooping up fresh, positive energy from the sea and using it to cleanse our body and energy. This movement is sometimes called “Touch the Sea, Look at the Sky,” lending the image of gathering Qi from both sources, yin and yang. This form brings benefits to the lungs and large intestine, our “taking in” and “letting go” organs, but supports all of the yin organs, helps strengthen the legs and back, and increases spiritual energy while soothing the nervous system.
I just saw this amazing heart-monitoring readout, showing the heart-rhythm pattern of someone feeling frustration compared to appreciation, shared by an organization called HearthMath® Institute. They recommend breathing with a focus on the heart area, using the imagination to breathe through the heart, and activating positive feeling–all tools that qigong’s Inner Smile Meditation practice has used for centuries.
We always smile to the heart first in the Inner Smile Meditation, even if our class focus is with another organ. In qigong it is believed that the heart is the leader of all of the other organs and all 12 channel networks.
So, you see, when I ask you in class to smile to your heart, it is a powerful practice I am suggesting–one that science is beginning to measure.
When seasons change, our Qi (life force energy) should naturally adjust to match nature’s new frequency. In our modern life this does not always happen smoothly or naturally. Without a smooth transition we are more vulnerable to imbalance and illness. Water is the element that represents and resonates with winter, so we will use it to help during this special and important time of transition—winter solstice. The yin organ for winter is the kidneys. The healing sound is “Choo,” and the energy colour is a deep blue and/or black.
Winter brings us to the time and place of moving inward. It is a very yin, slow, quiet, still, and meditative time. Just as nature draws inward and slows while growth takes a pause, it is our time for deep resting, regeneration, building and conserving energy, and filling up our reserves. Winter is also a time to tend to and transform fear, stress, and loneliness. I’ve wondered lately if the busy and bright Christmas season, with all of its spending, socializing, drinking, and overeating, has become an acceptable way to escape our intuitive need and natural drive to sit down with the darkness—to embrace it and feel it and learn from it. Spring, our time of growth and busyness will be here soon enough, and we will need the true energy, calm, and wisdom from our winter work to be strong and healthy when life speeds up again and new adventures enter our lives.
The balancing emotions and virtues of the water element, which reside in the spirit of the kidneys, include deep calm and peace, deep wisdom and self-understanding, stillness, determination, will power, and the ability to go with the flow—like water—and adapt to the constant and inevitable changes in our lives. With qigong we can gently work to transform fear and stress.
The kidney meridians (energy pathways) have a connection to not only all the fluid and bones in the body, but also to the limbic system in the brain, which decides whether to panic or relax in any given situation or life experience. Qigong can, therefore, strongly influence body-mind connection.
Blocks, stagnation, imbalance, deficiency or excess in the kidney energy, may show up as brittle bones, low back pain, knee pain, loss of will or personal power, lack of sex drive, and urinary or reproductive issues. The kidneys is also where held or frozen shock or trauma may cause imbalance. An imbalanced lifestyle, such as overworking and anything else that drains life force, will deplete the precious store of Jing (original essence) in the kidneys, which means we will have to cultivate even more Qi from other sources to recharge and bring balance to live a healthy life into old age.
Flowing and balanced kidney Qi helps us to stand in our power and have healthy ambition, and increases our ability to adapt to situations including stress. Kidney Qi can also clear confusing thoughts, improve memory, and give us the energy to pull ourselves out of heaviness. With strong kidney Qi we produce the hormones necessary to transition through life’s stresses and changes and to age and live with grace.
Through the inner smile meditation to the heart and kidneys, Qi self-massage to stimulate the kidney meridian and acupressure points, and simple yet powerful energy work through qigong flow, we will invite winter and the deeply restorative, strengthening, and peaceful Qi it cultivates.
For details about the upcoming Winter Solstice qigong class click here.
After a week of hearing from people, I’ve decided Friday mornings will be a qigong class in the upcoming regular schedule, instead of a dao yoga class. The Tuesday morning qigong class is almost full, so if you can’t make it to any of the other qigong classes let me know so I can get you on the list. I’m still aiming to run the Thursday afternoon (5:30-6:45 pm) dao yoga class. If you have comments or suggestions please contact me. I will be as flexible as my own schedule and the Cran Hall availability allows as we figure out the best times and days for this growing Qi community. If you want to try out a class before signing up, there is still some space in the October 13th class (see post below).