Category Archives: Qi Gong

Summer -Fire Element

Linda Arksey

Over the last few months, the season has been in a transitional period from Spring (Wood Element) into Summer.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the months of Summer are associated with the element of Fire. Summer begins at noon on the summer solstice.

Noon is the peak of Yang during the daily hours and the summer solstice is the peak of Yang in the year, this is called “maximum Yang”.

Summer is when we spend more time outside, which increases our exposure to the Sun. This synthesises vitamin D in our body which is good for bones and boosts Serotonin levels (the “feel good” hormone). The days are long and warm which encourages more activity not just in ourselves, but it can be seen in the plants and trees. The flowers of a plant often represent the full unfolding of the uniqueness of their character, a process that is symbolised by the Fire element.

The Fire element sparks and encourages our own growth and our abilities. The central organ of the Fire element is the Heart. It is the “Emperor of all organs” ruling over the entire body, physical, emotional, and mental.

There are 12 main organ Meridians in the body. Two for each element apart from the Fire element which has four. These are the Heart, Small Intestine, Pericardium, and the Triple Burner or San Jiao.

The Heart Meridian system rules more than the Heart. It regulates the circulatory system, Blood, Pericardium, Small Intestine, Triple Burner, Tongue (which is the root of the Heart), speech, face, and facial expressions. The Heart houses the Shen or the spirit of the Heart, which radiates and shines from a person’s face. Mental ability and our conscious are found in the Heart.

The Small Intestine Meridian is known as the “sorter of pure from impure”. It is the energy that helps to decide what is needed, and what is rubbish in a mental, emotional, and physical sense.

Fire is also the energy of the Pericardium Meridian, “the Heart Protector”. This is our ability to have connection to people, the energy that stands in front of our Heart and shields us from hurt, like a warrior would protect a monarch.

The Triple Burner affects the distribution of both Qi and body fluids. This is especially important for the Heart and Pericardium as Qi and Blood travel together and can influence all the other Meridians.

These three heater Meridians look after the three burning spaces. The top, the middle, and lower part of the body’s trunk. It is our internal thermostat that looks after emotional, and physical temperature.

The emotion associated with the Fire Element is joy and laughter. During these months through the pandemic for many people it has become more important to find joy in their life, as they feel like situations are out of their control. It becomes more important to take some autonomy back in some small way.

How to keep your Summer Meridians Healthy?

Engage your senses, Summer brings intense colours, sounds and fragrances. Take the time to absorb these experiences.

Do some gardening, even growing a few pot plants has a relaxing effect.

Go outside and breathe deeply.

The colour associated with the Fire element is red. Increase red fruits, eat fruits and vegetables that are in season.

Make time to prepare a meal, sit down to dine and eat slowly.

The taste associated with the Fire element is bitter, so include Spinach, Kale, Chard, and Endive in your diet.

Drink fresh water and keep hydrated.

Exercise, a healthy Heart needs regular exercise to keep the circulatory system in good condition. The Heart Meridian is more vulnerable in the Summer Fire element, so build your exercise routine gradually.

Read a book.

Listen to music.

Practise your Tai Chi and Qigong every day.

During the Summer Fire Element nature is moving, the plants are growing, animals are getting ready to produce young and everything is busy. Soon we will transition into Late Summer, and the Earth element.

Summer – Fire Element

Earth Balance Tai Chi

Summer Qi for the Heart

Summer is an expansive time of year that is governed by the fire element and the heart in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Here are my suggestions for strengthening your heart in the summer months.

Fire Element in TCM

The Heart in TCM

The heart is a yin organ, paired with the small intestines, a yang organ. The heart is the ‘king’ of the organs, also called the ‘supreme controller’ and the ‘emperor’. In the five element cycle, the heart controls the lungs (metal element), the heart is controlled by the kidneys (water element), the heart is supported by the liver (wood element) and the heart strengthens the stomach, pancreas and spleen (earth element).

Yin Yan Theory (Heart and Kidneys)

The kidneys (water element) and the heart (fire element) represent yin yang in Taoism. They are polar opposites which all the other elements are formed from.

Taiji
(unity / the one / the whole / the complete)

divides into

Yin and Yang (absolute and infinity)

which then divide into

The 5 Elements (Wu Xing)

Every characteristic of Yin is the polar opposite or the contrasting quality of Yang. Together they symbolise a cycle of constant change: from dark to light, feminine to masculine, winter to summer, cold to hot, wet to dry, aggressive to passive, absolute to infinite and so on. Whilst polar opposites, Yin / Yang also complement each other. Balancing the health of your kidneys (water element) and the heart (fire element) is very important in Traditional Chinese Medicine.


Emotions

The heart in Traditional Chinese Medicine is associated with the following emotions:

  • Positive characteristics: love, joy, happiness.
  • Negative characteristics: impatience, cruelty, arrogance, hate.

Too much love, joy, happiness can be just as damaging as too little, even though they are positive emotions, excess either way is unfavourable. Rather than the emotions relating to a psychological brain state, in Traditional Chinese Medicine the heart governs a specific pairing of emotions. To bring these emotions back into balance, the heart is treated, by strengthening and supporting with the five element theory.


Summer Qi for the Heart

The following table explores the Taoist associations with the heart:

Five Element TheoryThe Fire Element
AssociationsInspiration, Protection, Achievement, Passion, Clarity, Intellect
SeasonSummer
TimeNoon
DirectionSouth
Celestial AnimalPhoenix
Yin or YangYang, Masculine
MovementExpansive
PowerCompletion
FlavourBitter
SoundRoar
WeatherHeat, Dry
ClimateHot
AgePrepubescent
Stage of LifeGrowth
OrganHeart, Small intestine
MaterialPhysical fire
ShapeTriangle
FormSharp edges, Pointed roof, Triangle, Pyramid, Spires
ColoursRed, Purple, Sky blue, Lilac, Pink, Baby Pink, Orange
Yin (Feminine)Soft lighting, Candles, Incense
Yang (Masculine)Log fire, Bonfire, Brilliant sunshine

TCM Functions

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart is responsible for a variety of functions in the body:

  • Governs the blood.
  • Controls the blood vessels, which are seen as the tissue of the heart.
  • Pumps blood around the body.
  • Controls bodily fluids e.g. sweat, which is seen as the fluid of the heart.
  • Controls speech, to speak your truth from the heart.
  • The sense organ of the heart is the tongue. A balanced heart will show via a healthy tongue. A tongue that is pale, dark purple or has cracks along the middle symbolises a deficiency in the heart.
  • Controls the complexion, the condition of the heart is shown in the face due to the abundance of blood vessels.
  • The emotional / feeling / psychological centre of the body.
  • The mind and Shen both reside in the heart centre, sometimes called the heart brain. The Shen is our spirit, our spiritual life and our vitality. The heart yin and heart blood nourish our Shen.

Potential symptoms stemming from a heart deficiency in Traditional Chinese Medicine:

  • Blood flow, circulation, heart rhythm and heart issues.
  • Clogged arteries.
  • Speech issues e.g. from brain injury or stroke.
  • Spontaneous sweating (heart qi deficiency).
  • Excessive sweating (heart qi deficiency).
  • Night sweats (heart yin deficiency).
  • Pale tongue / pale complexion (heart blood deficiency).
  • Purple tongue / red complexion (excess heat).
  • Flushed red cheeks.
  • Blue tinge to the face.
  • Inability to express yourself or over expressive in character (heart qi deficiency).
  • Excessive openness or closeness in character (heart qi deficiency).
  • Mental health (depression, anxiety, insomnia, psychosis).
  • Poor memory.

There are many types of heart deficiency within Traditional Chinese medicine, all relating to the five element theory and the meridian channels.


Nourishing the Heart through Movement

To nourish your heart with exercise, look for arm movements that expand, compress, spiral and involve the armpit area and inside arms, as this is where the heart meridian runs.

  • To strengthen your heart, look for movements that stimulate the heart meridian channel (yin) and small intestine meridian channel (yang).
  • To support your heart, look for movements that stimulate the kidney meridian channel (yin).

Heart Movement in 8 Pieces of Brocade Qigong

Sway the Head and Shake the Tail

TCM: Regulate heart fire.
Health: Strengthens knees, legs, waist and back, coordination, lessens stress.
Key Movements: A deep horse stance squat combined with folding the body in a circular downwards motion, so the water in the kidneys flows into the heart to cool down excess heart fire.

Summer – Fire Element

Seasonal Qigong

Seasonal Qigong – ‘Living in tune with nature’s changes’

Sue_Wood_Qigong

Seasonal Living is something that would never have been talked about 250 years ago. We got up when it was light, went to bed when it was dark, ate local produce when it was in season and joined in with the energy and the festivals of the local community. So that we were totally in tune with the energy within ourselves and it’s relationship to natural cycles.

However, now we can shop, eat, bank and sit in front of our computers 24 hours a day. We pay no attention to our energy fluctuations and, through the use of electric light, continue to work till late into the night, and at the same pace throughout the year. Often in high rise buildings far removed from the natural world.

For thousands of years, ancient cultures have studied the two-way communication between man and nature cycles and how natural laws work in relationship to human physiology. For example, the phases of the moon and its influence on the fluids of the body, and how the cycles of day and night influence activity and rest. The changes of the seasons also affect our internal conditions and mental and emotional needs. We are a part of nature and therefore part of its changes and once we cultivate an awareness of these changes and work in harmony with them, we can see how vital and strong they really are and how this can influence our well-being and motivation on every level, and are the essence of personal development and healing.

As we open our minds and look at how the world works, we can see that the body also has homeostatic mechanisms for internal balancing, just as nature does. With too much internal (personal) and external (social) tensions we can damage and create imbalances in these systems, thus draining our vital energy and working against natural energy flows

Most of us are affected by these ever-present individual and social pressures, yet we don’t necessarily know how to properly re-establish a balance, and how to work with these cycles in order to put energy back into our systems. So we just become more depleted or victims of fatigue and tensions. So rather than getting caught up in complicated scientific solutions, it can be simple changes in exercise, diet and lifestyle that can have the most profound effect on our health, self-esteem and well-being.

Ancient peoples have understood and used the concepts of the five seasons for thousands of years not only for maintaining health but for making the most on the different qualities of energy within and around themselves. In so doing continually balanced and maximized their vital life force.

Seasonal Qigong: “Summer”

dao-door

The energy of summer likes to be more spontaneous, vibrant, active, and expressive and loves disperse its energy. The linked organs are the Heart and small intestine so this class should focus on supporting and balances the cardiovascular system.

The Fire Element: the element of vitality and movement; so we can sharpen our responses with martial art training or faster moves, while at the same time working on training the mind and maintaining a sense of inner calm. (This is depicted in the black and white Yin Yang symbol where there is the black dot within the area of light, symbolising the power of stillness within activity)

An ideal warm in summer should assist in balancing the flow of the Heart and Small Intestine Meridians and include the following:

Particular focus on the following the Heart and Small Intestine
Opening and energizing their associated meridians
Massaging the organs themselves
Performing a movement that restores energy flow to the muscles associated to the relative acupuncture meridians.
Opening and closing the Mu points (points used for testing and balancing specific organs)
The point for the heart is Juque (Great Palace Gate) located on the Ren channel (number 14) on the anterior midline of the body 6 cun (about a hands width) above the navel at the end of the breast bone.

The point for the small intestine is Guanyuan – (Gate to the original) (Ren/CV3) on the midline 3 thumb widths below umbilicus.
(You can also gently massage these points with the tips of the thumb, index and middle fingers)

A simple summer Qigong exercise sequence

sq-1

A1. Inhale while placing your left hand over your heart point drawing a circle over your head with your right hand – turn the palm outwards as the right hand passes in front of the face by rotating the little finger.

Qigong_sequence_2

B1. Inhale as you raise your right arm in front of you and stepping the left foot forwards to rest the left heel on the ground (the weight stays in the right leg). Place your left hand behind your back just below the waist, resting on the Yu point for the Small Intestine on the sacrum just above the buttock crease and place the knuckle of your bent right little finger in the indentation in front of your right ear (found when you open your jaw).

B2. Exhale and bend forwards bringing your right elbow down and across towards your left knee (the extended leg).

Qigong_sequence_3

B3. Step the left foot back and repeat by bringing the left arm around the head and stepping the right foot forwards.

A stretch to open the heart and small intestine meridians

C1. Inhale, draw your right hand above your head, bend the elbow and hold the elbow with your left hand, do not let the head drop forwards. Then extend the left arm out to the left and rotate the left thumb forwards and backward so the whole arm spirals into the shoulder. Then draw the left arm behind you and slide the back of the left hand up between your shoulder blades till the right and left hand meet. (If this is difficult use a tie or a band)

Qigong_sequence_4

Wild Goose flexes its wings

Research has shown that the health of the heart is dependent on the mobility of the Thoracic spine, this exercise massages the heart and lungs and increases flexibility in the thoracic spine. Focus on the little fingers where the heart and small intestine meridians begin and end.

D2. Exhale while moving the centre of the chest backwards and rounding the upper back bringing your chin towards your chest and rotating the wrists in order to bring the backs of your hands and the little fingers together in front of the navel. Repeat these backward and forward movements several times.

Please note: should particular Organs, systems or areas of the body need support you can you a particular seasonal session at any time of the year.

Qigong_SEASONS

The source material for this retreat comes from a book and trainings inspired by Sue Woodd and Julie Hanson who first met in the mid 90’s Sue a Chi Kung teacher, Shiatsu lecturer and also a lecturer in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Julie has been a fitness teacher and presenter since the early 80’s. Their journey together led them to look deeper into traditional Chinese Medicine and its seasonal approach to life. combining Yoga, Tai C’hiChi Kung (Qigong) and energy of the seasons, diet and psychological advice make up the energy in season approach to living. Together to date they have written 6 books which they have been working on for several years, and run seasonal flow teacher training courses in Scotland and London and have presented at the London Yoga Show for the past four years.

Free Download: Seasonal Qigong

Video “Energy In Season – Summer”

Author: Sue Wood

Images: Sue Wood and Taiji-Europa.eu

Summer – Fire Element

Spring Forest Qi Gong

Summer Season – The Joy of Fire Energy

June is a month of transition. The life force is very strong this time of year and nature puts it to good use.

All the new life that began in spring flourishes and strengthens during summer because it is getting all the energy from the earth, the air, the sun, and the water to give full blossom for a good harvest in the fall. As this is true for nature is it also true for you.

In Chinese 5 Element philosophy, the Fire element is associated with summer and heat. The Fire element is symbolic of maximum energy, nature at its peak of growth.

The body is the same. You should take advantage of this time to allow yourself to be active in so many things. Take in as much energy as you need to support all your activities.

Make connection with the earth for balance and harmony. Earth in your hands, your feet in the sand, time in the garden, are all very beneficial ways to take time to connect with the earth.

The Heart Energy

The Fire element is also associated with the heart, the pericardium, the small intestines and the triple heater meridians. The triple heater is the lymph system. This makes focusing on your heart even more powerful this time of year. Let your love flow and grow and shine like the sun. Be joyful and let your heart blossom and flourish.

Summer is a great time to get outdoors, be active, be involved, get your toes in the earth and get grounded.

Time to Nourish the Spirit and Calm Your Mind

Fire is symbolic of the maximum activity or greatest yang. Early summer is being out and involved in the world and in nature and living your life fully. All your mental activity,your memory, all your thought processes are a part of this summer energy of the heart. The fire element is also your emotional wellbeing, and your consciousness. This is a time to nourish and bring peace to your spirit, and realize your life’s greatest potential as you find joy in even the smallest things. When you find joy in anything in your life you are increasing joy in your body and in your spirit.

Balancing the Fire Element

Sometimes with great passion and enthusiasm we can over do it. Balance and harmony are so important. Don’t overdo. Don’t spend too much time in the sun. When you are out, be sure to take some breaks in the shade and let your body cool down. Drink plenty of fluids. Eat lighter and avoid heavy, greasy, or overly spicy foods.

Summer – Fire Element

Qigong for Summer – Transform Impatience and Anger into Patience and Compassion

by Marisa Cranfill 

June 17, 2020Energetically, summer is also a powerful time for transforming energy. The element of summer is fire. In our body, fire connects to the heart fire that resonates the human force of unconditional love and acceptance. Therefore, many qigong practices for summer come from spiritual qigong traditions that focus on internal alchemy; the process of transforming and refining our vibration to its highest potential.

There is so much transformation going on during this epoch time on earth, it is beyond words. The gift of qigong is that it gives us tools to embrace the flow of change by aligning our energy with nature. When we are in harmony with nature, we are in harmony with our true nature which brings vitality, love and wisdom. A simple way to do this is to choose qigong practices that correspond to the four seasons.

During summer in the Northern Hemisphere, yang energy is rising to its peak expression which is on the Solstice, June 21. As I begin summer qigong practices, I realize there has not been a more critical time for humanity to expand our capacity to love and be loved. This expansive energetic support is one of the many blessings of summer qi. I say, bring it on!

The Energy of Summer—Expansion

Summer Character

The Chinese character for the word summer, xia 夏, is an image of a man standing under the scorching sun. Summer is the Great Yang (Tai Yang 太陽) when the days are longest, and the nights are shortest. The consistent heat of summer ripens the fruits of our hearts, creating the sweetest and juiciest energy of the year—joy and love.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, summer is the peak of nature’s expansion, so it is the best time for us to express the most yang aspect of ourselves. It’s the time to live life to the fullest, nourish our spirit and dare to go places we have not gone before. Summer’s sunshine invites us to go outside and to be more active through movement and play. While in winter we should sleep more to nourish yin, in Summer we can get away with less sleep but still remembering to always tend to the needs of our individual state of health. Dynamic relaxation, joyful flow and laughing qigong are beautiful characteristics of summer practices.

Energetically, summer is also a powerful time for transforming energy. The element of summer is fire. In our body, fire connects to the heart fire that resonates the human force of unconditional love and acceptance. Therefore, many qigong practices for summer come from spiritual qigong traditions that focus on internal alchemy; the process of transforming and refining our vibration to its highest potential.

Your Summer Qigong Practice

Physically, summer qigong practices focus on the organs of the fire element. The heart and small intestine cultivated through qigong are all beneficial to regulate the physical aspects of the heart.

Blue man

The heart is a major pump that ensures a constant circulation of oxygen rich blood to all parts of the body. The average heart beats 100,000 times per day and pumps about 7,200 liters (1,900 gallons) of blood! Every cell must relax and contract in a precise rhythm for the heart to keep us alive. One tiny hiccup can disrupt the electrical signals causing a heart attack or stroke. The relaxation, rhythmic movements, and patience cultivated through qigong are all beneficial to regular the physical aspects of the heart.

Although the element of the heart is fire, too much fire or heat disturbs the heart. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, when heat collects in one area of the body this is called “fire poison,” otherwise known as inflammation. Summer, being the hottest time of the year, has its own two pathogens called summer heat and summer damp heat. The symptoms of summer heat are dizziness, confusion, lack of sweating after profuse sweating, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle cramps, and fainting. Summer damp heat symptoms include nausea or vomiting, poor appetite, stuffy chest, heavy or fatigued limbs, and diarrhea. In extremely hot summer weather, it is important to dress lightly, drink lots of fluids and take care not to physically overexert yourself. Practice qigong early in the morning or later in the evening.

Emotionally, your practice will focus on the emotions of summer—transforming impatience or hatred into acceptance and compassion.

The heart is the emperor of our emotions. In Chinese language, the heart is such an important aspect of our consciousness that is has its own mind called the heart mind (xin nian). The heart mind perceives situations based on feelings and emotions. This is in contrast to the conscious mind, yi nian, that perceives based on rational logic. Regulating the xin nian to be coherent with the yi nian is fundamental to our evolution and spiritual growth.

The heart is affected by all emotions. As we learn in The Six Healing Sounds practice, the five primary emotions are anger, hatred, worry, grief, and fear. Hatred is the most destructive emotion for the heart. Hatred and impatience create heat and a violent movement that causes energy to rise and leak out. Qigong flows that balance the heart transform hatred and impatience into love and joy.

Red  heart

When negative emotions are transformed into positive virtues, the heart becomes a cauldron of spiritual alchemy. As the positive virtues combine in the heart center they are further refined into the ultimate spiritual energy, compassion. Compassion is a vibration that exudes a quality of magnetism: it touches others and is reflected to the person expressing the emotion.

Energetically, summer supports your ability to transform and transmute your vibration.

The heart is the residence of the spirit (神) and its spiritual goal is eternal happiness through meaningful and intimate connection with the world. I feel that the quarantine situation of COVID-19 has reminded us of the simple joy in connection with others and is opening up many hearts that had become numb over the last decade. This disruption in the previous program is also creating a powerful shift in the collective that is taking place through the heart center.

Surrounding the physical heart at the center of the chest is a reservoir of qi, called the Middle Dantian or heart center. A Dantian is an area in the body where qi gathers, is refined, transformed, and stored. The energy generated here is the vibration of love and compassion. When the Middle Dantian is weak or stagnant we feel irritated, unfulfilled, rejected, hypersensitive, shy, disturbed, lonely and miserable. When the Middle Dantian fire is strong and radiant we feel loving, compassionate, awake, patient, understanding and are open to love and be loved. Compassion means “with passion.” The compassion frequency fuels us to experience life in every possible reality, to accept all beings and circumstances with pure love and awareness.

The Middle Dantian is the gateway between the physical realm and spiritual realm and the process of refining energy through the Middle Dantian is called internal alchemy (Nei Dan). Alchemy is to transform one frequency of energy into another frequency. According to the Dao, we are refining our energy to return back to its original frequency that vibrates with the original source of unity consciousness.

This is an original article by Marisa Cranfill. Her videos Six Healing Sounds and Qigong for Stress Relief, and 5-part series, YoQi Qigong Flow for Happy Organs, will be available fall 2020 published by YMAA Publi

Practicing Standing Meditation

Hopefully, you have already read the previous blog on Zhan Zhuang Standing Meditation. Let’s looks at some helpful pointers and instruction.

Here are two aspects that are vital to your practice success: “fix your posture” meaning good alignment, and relax your body. Both are necessary!

Before you begin, place your attention on your feet. Then sink any muscle tension down into them and into the ground below. When you release your muscle tension and sink your energy downward, your feet may feel heavy and possibly like they are glued to the ground. This is a good sign!

Breathe comfortablyquietly, and slowly through your nose. Some practitioners breathe in through their nose and out through their mouth. That optional but don’t breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose! Keep your abdominal breathing relaxed and pay attention to what is going on inside your body. With each exhale, let your body relax deeper and deeper.

In Zhan Zhuang, the mind and body work together as one. We learn how to stay both alert and quiet by focusing our attention on our bodies. If intruding thoughts come into our minds, we let them float away as on a cloud passing by.

For beginners, you can let your arms and hands hang loose (but relaxed) at your sides. Once that is comfortable for you, try raising them a bit, perhaps in front of your lower Dantian.When you feel ready, you can move them up to heart level. Don’t force any position! If it causes you tension and/or discomfort, either modify the position or rest and try again at a later time.

If you are working with an instructor or experienced practitioner, basic corrections on the structure should be provided at your first lesson and become progressive. This helps to eliminate bad habits. If you are working on your own, it is a good idea to read through the instructions and pointers. You should also use a mirror to check your posture and alignment.

Remember reading in the last blog, that in Zhan Zhuang you just “stand still”. That sounded simple didn’t it? Well, It isn’t as easy as it sounds. In the same way that Tai Chi and Qigong forms look simple to the untrained eye, a casual observer doesn’t see all the numerous details and practice it takes to make it look “simple”.

Instructions and pointers for this simple posture with many details:

  • Stand with your body weight equally distributed between both feet. Feet are parallel, shoulder-width apart, and flat on the floor or ground, and pointed forward.
  • If you are new to Zhan Zhuang, let your arms relax at your sides, palms facing hips. Leave a small space in the arm pit so that the hands will will be a couple (2-3) inches from your thighs.
  • When you gain more experience, you can hold your arms up as if you are holding a ball or hugging a tree, at heart level. If your arms get tired, you can lower them to your lower Dantian. Don’t force or rush it. Give it time until it feels natural to you.
  • Keep your head erect with the neck relaxed. It should feel like you are suspended from your crown to the sky above.
  • Tucking your chin inward and up towards the top of your head,opens up the space where your spine meets your skull.
  • Place your tongue on the roof (palate) of your mouth, just behind your teeth. Lips closed gently and jaw relaxed.
  • Your gaze should be soft and forward, particularly if you are new to Zhan Zhuang. New students may find closing their eyes makes them feel tense, tired, or unbalanced. Having them wide open can cause distraction. More experienced practitioners may prefer to keep their eyes closed in order to improve their focus and attain a sense of peace and tranquility.
  • Relax your shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands. Lowering your shoulders (not necessarily your arms) will make your position more comfortable.
  • Your chest should be relaxed.
  • Relax  your “Kua” (hip folds).
  • Soften, relax your knees, ankles, and feet. Knees should never extend beyond your toes.
  • Relax and lengthen your spine, but don’t arch your back.
  • Allow your hips to slightly sink like you were sitting on a high chair or stool. This will straighten your spine in order to improve the flow of energy. Don’t go too low or force the posture. It will happen over time with regular practice.

When you are finished with your session of Zhan Zhuang, slowly return your arms to the sides of you body. You can cover your Dantian and breathe gently. Relax your shoulders, arms, elbows, and hands. You can also shake, rock, or tap your body (particular meridian points) to release any stagnant energy.

A few more pointers for beginners who are practicing without an instructor:

  • Be sure to practice in front of a mirror (angled if possible) to get a good sense of your body’s position and alignment.
  • If you find that you are having difficulty releasing your tension, try tensing your entire body for a few seconds and then releasing it.
  • You could also shake out your entire body to get rid of the tension.
  • Place your attention on the bottom of your feet to remove some of your energy from your head.
  • Be careful not to sink too low into your posture if you are new to Zhan Zhuang, not feeling well, or physically exhausted.

Once you have achieved proper alignment on a regular basis, you will easily notice tension whenever your body is out of alignment. Once we have truly developed this sense of awareness, we will also notice the most “subtle physical and energetic blockages or tension”.

Sensations you may experience during practice:

You may experience some temporary aching, warmth, coolness, tingling, numbness, or relaxation when you start to practice regularly. This is not something to be alarmed about. These are signs that energy is trying to flow freely through your body. If you pay attention, you may also discover a lot about your internal body.

How long should you practice?

In a perfect world, you would practice Zhan Zhuang a little each day. However, that may not be reasonable or doable for you. If that’s the case, three or four times a week should provide good results. The important thing is not to be a “weekend warrior” doing occasional exhausting long sessions whenever you find the time and/or motivation.

Many instructors and/or practitioners suggest starting with 1-2 minutes of practice at each session. Keeping practice to 2 minutes can calm your mind, provide mental clarity, and improve your level of energy. Two minutes also helps to eliminate or decrease “mind drift”. Once two minutes are comfortable for you, gradually increase to 10 minutes or more. At this level, you will find that Zhan Zhuang can recharge your energy and bring a new perspective to all your daily activities.

Did I mention that Zhan Zhuang has approximately 200 postures with different arm and leg positions. If you don’t like the one you first try, or you just want to experiment, or even if you get bored with the one you have been doing, try a different one!

Bottom Line: Like all Tai Chi and/or Qigong practice, quality, not just quantity, is vital!

Happy “Tree Hugging”!

Bai Hui

The Bai Hui pressure point is the 20th point on the Governing Vessel (aka Du Mai). It is located on the midline of the head, basically at the crown. The Bai Hui pressure point,also known as the DU20, has many names: “Hundred Convergences” (or “Meetings”), Dian Shang or “Mountain Top”, and Tian Man or “Celestial Fullness”. This point is also considered the meeting place of the “hundred spirits” and “hundred diseases”.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is known as “hundred convergences” because this is the area where the six Yang energetic channels and the Governing Vessel meet. Numerous bones of the skull meet here as well. In TCM it is said that “heaven, earth and man are the three powers” and the DU20 is the “human connection to heaven”. This obviously makes it important for conditions affecting the head and sensory organs.

In TCM and acupuncture, the Bai Hui is used to “clear the senses”, treat emotions, memory, behavior, and to “calm the spirit”. The Bai Hui is felt to be effective in the treatment of stress, headaches, vertigo, nasal obstruction/congestion, tinnitus, mental or physical tension, sleep disorders, balance, circulation issues, fatigue, brain fog,mental disorders, hyper- and hypo-tension, and inability to taste food and/or drink. The Bai Hui also “benefits the head, brain, and the organs of the five senses (eyes, ears, tongues, skin, and nose)”.

Interestingly, the Bai Hui (DU20) can either ascend or descend and can used to either uplift or sedate. Thus it can be used to treat disorders of the two “poles” of our torso. The DU20 is included in the Microcosmic Orbit, running from the pelvic floor to the base of the spine to the head. Reminder: the Microcosmic Orbit creates a continuous circular energetic loop between two distinct meridians: the Ren (Conception Vessel) and the Du (Governing Vessel).

Located at the top of your head, the Bai Hui (DU20) is effective in treating “downward disorders”, such as diarrhea, heavy menses, and any organ prolapse including the uterus and/or rectum. It is also said to “lift” motivation, drive, and a low (sinking mood). Bai Hui manipulation has been used to maintain a healthy pregnancy and for cosmetic purposes such as lifting sagging skin.

Quite a list! No wonder acupuncturists consider the Bai Hui (DU20) an “All Star”. According to at least one acupuncturist, starting with the Bai Hui, is “the acupuncture equivalent of taking a few deep breaths or meditating for a while”. This area calms the mind and the entire body. It is a good acupuncture starting place because there are those who get nervous when they see needles.

Can you manipulate the Bai Hui without going to a acupuncturist? Certainly!

How do I find my Bai Hui so that I can improve my health? It’s pretty easy!

Put your thumbs at the tops of your ears. Now extend your middle fingers to the point where they meet – at the top of your head (crown). To perform your own acupressure at the Bai Hui (DU20), just lightly rest your middle fingers and your awareness/attention at this point

  • Apply pressure with your finger directly on the Bai Hui. You can also use your knuckles or a small round ball (think golf ball) to apply greater pressure.Don’t massage or rub.
  • Pressure should be slow and firm.
  • Apply and release the pressure gradually when the soreness decreases in order to promote energy flow.
  • Take long, slow, deep breaths while focusing your intention on the Bai Hui.
  • You can apply pressure for approximately 15–20 seconds, then release for 5 seconds. Continue as desired for about 5 minutes.

According to Tai Chi Master Yang Cheng-Fu, “without lifting your Bai Hui point, even 30 years of practice would be a waste of time”. Let’s discuss why lifting your Bai Hui (DU20) is so important to both martial artists and other practitioners.

When you lift your Bai Hui:

  • You automatically tuck your chin down and inwards. The head bends slightly forward. Martially, this protects your neck and as the old Masters said: Conceal your throat and challenge all the heroes in the world.
  • You straighten your spine. This helps decompress your spinal vertebrae to avoid or reduce headaches, indigestion, low back pain and stiffness, and other health problems. You also improve your posture, balance, agility, and martial skills.
  • The circulation in your brain improves. Both Eastern and Western medicine recognize that obstruction of brain circulation (even for a few minutes) can result in permanent brain damage or stroke.
  • Qi and Blood follow to the Bai Hui when intention to that area is increased!

With or without applying acupressure (or acupuncture), there are many compelling reasons to “lift your Bai Hui”. Your body, brain, and spirit will thank you!