Qigong - Energy Cultivation to Improve your Health
Autumn has come to Anthem along with the Autumn Harvest - the activity of reaping, gathering, and storing what you have sown. Qigong has also come to Anthem, bringing great potential energy to your harvest this fall!
Qigong literally means the practice of cultivating your energy. Qigong is composed of two words in Chinese. Qi - the air, breath, vitality, the universal force of life, energy; and Gong - work, use, practice, transform, cultivate, or refine. Qigong means using vital life energy to create a healthy body, mind and spirit – to achieve natural balance. This is the "harvest” you are meant to enjoy.
New Qigong Classes in Anthem
This fall there are three qigong classes available in Anthem to support you in reaping your mental, physical and spiritual harvest:
Anthem Civic Center: Fridays from 8am to 9am in Oct and Nov - I am offering a qigong class focused on how to cultivate harmony, balance, and optimal wellbeing while learning how to reduce stress and improve focus. Cost: $35/month or $10 Drop-In.
Community Center: Mondays and Wednesdays from 9am to 10am with Diane Friedman. Cost: $5 with the Anthem Punch Pass.
North Valley Regional Library: For a limited time Diane Friedman is offering a free class on Mondays from 6:30pm to 7:30pm. Be sure to register as the class fills up quick!
What to expect in my class
My Friday morning Qigong class will lead you through a series of slow movements and relaxed postures, while focusing on your breath and helping you learn more about moving your energy, or qi. Qi circulates in your body, and in the process maintains good health. The class will help you refine your vital energy through movement, breathing and mindfulness.
Each exercise can be guided by your own physical abilities, which will gradually improve over time. Don’t worry if you can't do a full movement or stretch. Over several weeks, with slow gentle practice, you will become more flexible, balanced, energized and refreshed.
Qigong sets often have 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise, but we will start out with just a few repetitions. Over time, as you continue to practice at home, you can lengthen the number of sets you do.
Call 623-742-6000 for more information
Eight Pieces of Brocade
One of the qigong practices we will focus on is the Eight Pieces of Brocade Gigong (Baduanjin). This is a well known Chinese health practice that developed out of the ancient stretching techniques (Daoyin). Baduanjin Qigong has been shown to improve sleep quality, balance, handgrip strength, flexibility, improve blood pressure and circulation, tone the internal organs, and nourish and promote Qi.
The Eight Pieces of Brocade is attributed to China’s greatest general and martial artist, Yue Fei, who lived during the Southern Sung dynasty (1127-1279 A.D.) The set is one of the easiest to do and can be practiced by anybody, regardless of age or health.
Fun fact: The term “brocade” refers to an embossed fabric that is shuttle-woven of gold or silver silk threads. The best brocade fabrics were used for imperial robes and clothing.
The name Eight Pieces of Brocade Qigong implies an elaborate weaving of the best materials: Your posture, breath, movement and intention.
Why should we gather, store and move qi in the body?
The primary answer to this question is that qi is central to our health and wellbeing. The practices that help us refine our chi can be powerfully medicinal. Qigong is considered a medical practice in Chinese tradition.
Medical Qigong describes various practices for guiding, conducting, and pressing qi in the body, developed over the span of four to five thousand years. Throughout the centuries the practice of qigong has been influenced by different facets of Chinese culture and philosophy, each adding meaning to the concept of energy cultivation. Today all of these facets are incorporated into Chinese Traditional Medicine and Medical Qigong.
The origin of Qigong can be traced back to the ancient Taoist philosophers Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi. Taoist Qigong emphasizes the cultivation of life and spirituality. Some of its major contributions include the concepts of the internal elixir, self-cultivation of the three treasures, and the circulation of qi energy and the vital force (otherwise known as Heavenly Circulation). These ideas were of utmost importance to the famous physician Hua Tuo when he created the Five Animal Frolics Qigong.
Adding to the concept of spiritual cultivation, Buddhist Qigong focuses on the cultivation of the spirit by using the mind and breath, much like Zen meditation or Yoga today. The Indian monk Bodhidharma, who developed the Yi Jin Jing (Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic), is thought to have influenced the development of Shaolin Kung Fu. This intense form of exercise was designed to strengthen the muscles and tendons, promoting strength and flexibility, speed and stamina, balance and coordination of the body. Buddhist qigong also introduced the method of "using intent to direct Qi" which is still in use today in all qigong, tai chi and the martial arts.
Confucian Qigong focused on cultivating the "noble spirit" to better govern the state and often emphasized the concept of world peace. Confucian students focused on quiet sitting and forgetting (Zuowang) which is considered to be the beginning of the practice of sitting meditation we know today.
In the words of Liu Xingdi of the Leigutai Temple in Shaanxi:
"Zuowang is allowing everything to slip from the mind, not dwelling on thoughts, allowing them to come and go, simply being at rest. It is important to take a good posture to still the body and calm the mind. Otherwise qi disperses, attention wanders, and the natural process is disturbed. Just remain empty and there is no separation from Dao. Then wisdom will arise and bring forth light, which is the clear qi of the person. Do not think too much about the theory of this, otherwise you are sure to disturb the mind. It is like the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. To think about stopping it halfway is a futile exercise. Just trust the inherent natural process."
Martial Qigong focuses on conditioning the tendons, bones, muscles and skin. It emphasizes hard physical exercises using Yi (intent), Qi (energy), and Li (force). The Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic and Shaolin Internal Qigong are examples of martial arts Qigong forms. Martial Qigong is often seen as related to Tao Yin. The Eight Piece Brocade is also considered a Martial Qigong, as Yue Fei created the set to improve his soldiers’ health.