Updated: May 31
This blog is all about how to start into the practice of Qigong as a beginner, it can be a bit daunting getting started with a practice like this so how best to begin the practice?
Ideally you would find a local teacher and try a few classes in your area and see if you like the way Qigong is being taught by them and if it resonates for you. Bear in mind there are thousands of different forms and styles of Qigong so finding both a style and a teacher that is right for you can be tricky.
Failing this there are a multitude of wonderful online teachers offering really comprehensive training and this is probably the next best option if you don’t have a local teacher that you feel comfortable with.
My recommendation is that you have a starting dynamic sequence that you learn and make your regular practice. When I say dynamic Qigong I am referring to the moving forms of Qigong as opposed to the still (standing) form of Qigong often known as Nei Gong - the inner work. The two work synergistically together but as a beginner it is easier two think of them as two aspects of the practice.
Start gently maybe 10 - 15 minutes at a time and work up towards a 30 - 45 minute daily routine (on a good day). The benefits of this are great and in all honesty if you are not up for a daily practice I would suggest that Qigong may not be your thing. It is a subtle and gentle way of using the body and to really get the benefits quite regular practice is needed.
So my favourite starting sequence that I recommend to all beginners is the Eight Pieces of Silk, sometimes called the Eight Brocades. This is a routine that has been practiced for at least 1000 years and just regularly doing this routine will give you so many health benefits that I won’t even bother to start listing them all.
I have a copy of this full routine on my website under my online classes, broken down into individual movements.
I recommend you start with just one movement and keep doing it until it is totally fixed in the body/mind then add another. The full sequence if you are doing 6-9 cycles of each movement will take you 30 - 45 minutes and trust me you will feel the benefits of flexibility, clarity and calmness after a very short time. On a deeper level it is stimulating all of the systems of the body and helping to keep you balanced and healthy in this busy world we live in.
Bear in mind the dynamic Qigong practice is only half of the picture, the internal practice (Nei Gong) is the other half of the equation where we learn to stand in the Qigong posture and meditate while you use the various methods of Qigong breathing. I will go into the breathing techniques in another blog but we will discuss the standing technique in this blog as it’s an important part of the practice and between each of the movements it’s good to just stand for awhile and rebalance before moving into the next movement.
Shaking and tapping:
Before you begin your dynamic Qigong practice I recommend start with a few minutes of shaking and tapping down the meridians of the body. If you go to one of my online classes at www.graceqigong.com.au/ I always start with this routine so you can follow it there, but the technique is firstly to lightly bounce up and down either with your feet still in contact with the ground or even lightly bouncing off the ground and coming back in contact with it again. Keep it loose and relaxed and twist a little bit as you bounce. Shake out the arms and legs and gently shake every part of the body that will let you shake it! Think loose and feel as if you are releasing tension and stress from both the physical and emotional body as you shake. Next we beginning tapping along the meridians to stimulate the Qi flow in the body. Basically tap the inside and outside of the legs, then lightly over the stomach and chest area, lower back over the kidneys, down both sides of the arms, then lightly tapping or rubbing the neck, the back of the skull and all over the head. To finish rub the hands together until they are warm then wash over the face and head and down over the heart. Finally just stand for a minute or so breathing gently in and out through the nose into the lower dantien (stomach area) and feel the body, be aware of how you are feeling in the moment, what areas you are holding onto and what areas are relaxed. This routine should take you 3-5 minutes and even if this is all you do each day, you will get benefit from it.
“All qigong techniques are based on the qigong stance. Like a musical composition, the stance is the theme, and the other qigong movements are the variations.” — Kenneth S. Cohen, “The Way of Qigong”
Learning the correct Qigong standing posture is a very important part of Qigong. Your posture either restricts or facilitates the qi flow, as well as the effectiveness of other parts of Qigong such as breathing and relaxation.
Your posture will vary as you do your qigong movements, but adhering to the qigong stance as your foundation and coming back to it between movements is an important part of the practice.
Think of qigong as ‘effortless effort’, relaxed efficiency and non action, in Daoism you aspire to performing life’s activities with the absolute minimum necessary force, so that it may appear you are not acting at all, you allow life to mould itself around you.
Starting with the feet, ideally you are bare foot and even better standing outside on the grass, connected directly to the earth. Feet are about shoulder width apart with the feet parallel. Spread the toes and feel the feet open to connecting to the energy of the earth. Rock gently forward to back and from side to side until you find your centre of balance over the middle of the feet (just behind the ball of the feet actually) ‘the bubbling springs’ and feel connected to the earth through this central point, you can imagine tree roots growing out from the centre of your feet deep into the earth keeping you connected and grounded.
Next make sure the ankles and knees are stacked over the feet (not rolled in or out) and then gently release the tailbone, visualise that it is gently being pulled down into the earth. We need the lower spine to be relaxed and the pelvis to be neutral i.e not tucked under nor rolled backwards. To fine this neutral position can take a bit of time. Have the hands gently cupped in front of the lower dantien (stomach) and open the armpits so the arms are away from the sides of the body enabling the qi to flow more easily.
Then we soften and release the stomach and all the organs inside the lower abdomen and breathe gently but fully into the lower dantien area in and out through the nose with the tongue gently resting on the roof of the mouth. Then soften the chest and release any tension through the heart, lungs then up into the throat, face jaw, eyes and entire head. Gently tuck in the chin so the crown is extended up towards heaven (metaphorically speaking) and feel the spine being gently lifted up to heaven by a thread. So now in this balanced position, breathing into the lower dantien we visualise the spine being lifted to heaven and pulled gently into the earth as if it is growing in both directions.
Quite a lot to visualise and it takes years of practice and refinement to really find and relax into this stance, but persevere as it is a major key to the practice of Qigong. In this image the arms are elevated up to the heart, this is the second position of Zhan Zhuang (the standing posture). If you are practicing this position keep the shoulders relaxed and drop the elbows down towards earth and feel as if the arms are floating in water. Visualise that straight line between ankle, hip, shoulder and crown.
So to recap, begin each session ideally first thing in the morning by shaking and tapping down the meridians, come to standing in Zhan Zhuang - the standing posture and spend a few minutes just standing, breathing deeply into the lower dantien until you feel balanced and grounded. Then begin your dynamic sequence, to start with this might be just one movement repeated over several times. Listen to your body and don’t push too hard the practice is all about relaxing into the movements and starting to get a sense of the Qi or energy flowing though the body with the breath. Rest between sequences in Zhan Zhuang then at the end of your dynamic sequence stand again until you feel balanced and grounded, finally finish with the shaking and tapping routine.
This is a good way to step into your Qigong practice, I have been doing this every morning for 30 plus years with the Eight Pieces of Silk as my stating sequence and I highly recommend it. It’s not a cure all but I have yet to find anything else that comes even close to the benefits this ancient tried and true practice gives.
I hope this was helpful and good luck with your Qigong, feel free to email me with any queries you may have.