Welcome to the MIT Qigong Blog





Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Practice makes perfect

by Kate Britton
Qi Magazine - Issue 90

Simply going outside every day to go through our forms is not necessarily going to have a marked impact on our skill level.  There is training and there is training.

Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes, but I am not entirely convinced that we can ever reach perfection.  That would imply that there comes a point when, no matter how much more we practise, we just cannot get any better.  I do not think that can be true.  I believe that if we continue to train, we will always keep improving.

There are three basic ways in which we can practise all the skills we have learned. The first I call ‘Maintenance’. This is when we simply run through the forms that we know so that we do not forget the sequences. This is necessary to some extent, especially when we are short on time. When we are learning a new form, for example, we concentrate a lot of our time on that one, which means that we have less to spend on everything else we know.  We may, then, have to just run through some of our forms quickly to keep them fresh in our mind.  Because, as an instructor, I know quite a few forms and it is impossible to practise them all every day, or even every two or three days.  But I like to make sure that I practise everything I know at least once a week.  If I leave something for two or three weeks, the detail starts to disappear, and the form begins to become blurry.  If I leave it longer than that, whole sequences begin to get lost.

The second way we can train is to practise for ‘Health’. This is extremely important, since the main reason we learn skills such as Qigong, Taijiquan and Chun Yuen Quan is so that we become healthier, stronger and more flexible. But when training for health, both our mind and our body must be relaxed. This means that we cannot be thinking too much about each move and how we might make it better. In fact, we need to empty our mind and let the movements heal our bodies.

However, if we only practise for health, and our movements are never checked, eventually your forms may become sloppy and lose definition. Finally, we need to practise for ‘Improvement’. When we do this we look at each move in detail to see how we can make our performance better. We can go over and over a short section of form to see if we can improve our posture and the framing. Practising to improve your skill is extremely important if you are an instructor. Once you start teaching you have to start running to stay ahead of your students. Just as you want to see them improve, they want to see you gaining more skill so that as the years pass you still have a lot to share with them.

So a combination of all three methods of training is necessary if we want to continue developing.

When people first join a class, there are usually some who do not practise at all between lessons, which seems a bit of a wasted opportunity to me.  We are given a very valuable gift that will help us stay healthy and mobile into old age.  Of course, if you do not practise from one week to the next, then you will have difficulty remembering what you learned the previous week. Repeatedly going backwards each time you attend class is demoralizing, especially when those who started at the same time begin to move ahead, leaving you behind. You will probably very quickly give up. But with a little effort in your spare time, even just for ten minutes a day, you can start moving forwards each week, and begin to reap the rewards to be had from these fascinating arts.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Applying the Empty Mind

by Adam Wallace
Qi Magazine - Issue 88
Fall 2008

The concept of ‘empty mind’ is realised through deep relaxation, attained spontaneously or through training (meditation). It means to be fully aware of the presentand surroundings and forget the self, which removes all hindrance to physical possibilities.

My first experience of this occurred before I had even heard of the concept, before beginning my journey into martial arts and Qigong. It actually occurred during my driving test over twenty years ago now. As a learner I never felt nervous or caused drama on the road but within one minute of being in the car with the invigilator I made a cardinal error. Following his instruction to make a right turn out of the test centre I put my foot down on the accelerator and turned the steering wheel too leisurely, resulting in the car mounting the kerb (on his side no less!). I did not dare to look at his face. In my mind I had already failed so the weight of worry and feeling of apprehension lifted away and the mind became a blank slate.

As he continued to issue his list of commands in a monotone I performed them perfectly, like an automaton.We returned to the test centreafter three-quarters of an hour (which felt like an eternity) and as we came to a complete stop the instructor closed his file and said, “Mr. Wallace……you have passed”. I responded, “You’re joking, right?”, nonplussed, believing him to possess some sadistic sense of humour. (I discovered later that instructors allow errors in the first five minutes due to ‘test nerves’.)

In 1998, I entered into a Pushing Hands competition for the Wenxian International Taijiquan competition. In the evening before the opening, I learned that my randomly picked opponent was the Chen family member who had been my training partner in my previous week’s stay in Chenjiagou (Chen Village). I felt deflated, knowing he was one of the top athletes under Master Chen Bing and Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing. He was more skilled and losing to him in the firstr ound would mean my early exit from the tournament (or so I thought at the time as the rules had not been adequately translated).

This began to eat away at me, causing my Qi to literally disperse. At breakfast I had to force myself to eat and felt uneasy. After lunch I returned to my room with butterflies in my stomach, awaiting the moment of truth. Instead of resting in bed I began practising Zhan Zhuang (Standing Pole) and after half an hour I sat down to meditate. By the time I arrived at the stadium I felt transformed and invigorated. My mind was so calm (a contrast to the competitors that go to great lengths ‘psyching themselves up’), my Qi was stable (adrenaline under control) and fully restored, and I felt deeply centred. Gone were all the doubts and insecurities. At the end of a very close match I was declared the winner, all due to‘empty mind’.

Othertimes when empty mind practice has come in handy is when I train jumping. There is a wall in the park where I used to practice that reached my waist level. A few times, to challenge myself, I would jump onto it from a stationary position; difficult enough even with a running start. Each time I would stand facing the wall considering the height and pondering clearing the distance too much, I would prevent myself from doing it as if my feet were nailed or glued to the ground.

Whenever I would finally stop thinking and say to myself, “Just do it”, I always succeeded.When it comes to physical training and Qi it does not do to overintellectualise what is happening internally. It is more important to feel the experience rather than think or try to make sense of it. Some people find the idea of ‘No Mind’ hard to get around. It seems like a paradox. It is important for the skill taught to be absorbed by the body and not to remain only in the head. Consciousness of self is the greatest impediment to the execution of physical actions. 

Most accidents occur and chances are missed because of pensiveness and hesitation to act, or else in acting rashly or emotionally. In combat, when an opponent commits to launching an attack he creates an opening and becomes vulnerable for a split-second. This window of opportunity, the potential to counterattack, must be ‘felt’ instinctively. There is no time to think because by the time the eyes see it and the brain sends the message to the limbs to counterattack, the opportunity is lost. The opponent would have returned to a defensive position or retreated out of range (closing the ‘window’) or renewed his attack, presenting a whole new set of problems to solve and answer.

The mind, unchecked, creates irrational and unwarranted fears, self doubt and anxiety. In this situation it can literally become our own worst enemy. It creates barriers, physically (between us and our bodies and achieving our goals) and subtly (between us and other people and nature.) The ‘empty mind’ enables us to see things without prejudice, as they really are, and enables us to achieve far more physically than we might think possible.

Monday Night Qigong 1/28/13

There were 18 of us tonight in Twenty Chimneys at the MIT Student Center... It was great to have so many new people in one of our oldest practice locations. Join us next Monday at 7pm for another great Twenty Chimneys stand with Coach Jim Roselando (Student Center - 306). 

10min Gathering Qi
10min Dr. Ma Li Tang's Qi Tuning
20min Natural Post
5min Left Shi Li
5min Right Shi Li
5min Gathering Qi
Seal/Wash

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Qi Magazine: Walk this Way

By Julian Wilde
From Qi Magazine - Issue 90
Winter 2009

Among the many aspects of the wonderful Taijiquan of Chen Village that I noticed was the emphasis on vertical alignment. From the youngsters who practised every afternoon, through the teenagers who were training on the edges of the central courtyard most of the day, to the older guys who popped in a few times to go through their routines, everyone was very careful to keep upright, to keep the spine vertical as much as possible. Generally, their posture was superb. Though rooted and steady, the straightness of their posture made their stepping look very light and precise. I could have spent hours watching and making notes!

The vertical alignment of head, hip and heel is quite important in Taiji but there are times in our practice when we inadvertently let the posture slip. When we do, we lose Peng, ground connection, and we distort the body, thereby robbing it of maximum efficiency. One of the most usual times we sacrifice posture is when we step. If our legs aren’t strong enough, if we can’t relax and sink enough, we unconsciously lean the body, forwards, backwards or to the side when we extend the leg. You can check this for yourself with a variation on the Chen walk.

The Chen Walk is an exercise we use as part of the warm-up in all Taiji classes. It’s simple but such a versatile sequence that I feel it deserves a little more attention. Basically it consists of crossing the arms in front of the Dantian, sliding the heel diagonally forward, and then transferring the weight over. While we’re transferring the weight, we turn on the forward heel and then pick up the back foot. Also, as the weight transfers forward we let the arms “swim” open. Simple. But here are three ways to use the same exercise. No doubt you can think of others.

Firstly, working on the afore mentioned vertical alignment: - stand on your left leg, the toes of the right foot resting on the floor. You can keep your arms by your side or behind your back, it doesn’t matter. Sink the body as much as possible and extend the leg, heel first, to the side as if preparing to step. Feel any tension resulting from this movement and get a friend to check your posture to see if you’re leaning slightly. Adjust accordingly, which usually means coming up a bit or taking a slightly shorter step.

Shift the weight to the right leg, turning the toes of the right foot out as you transfer. Before you pick up the left foot, check your posture again. It‘s common to lean forward slightly to get the weight fully over, but this means again that your step was too wide for your ability. Now try and pick the left foot up cleanly. If you have to drag it a bit, your step was too wide for you or you’re not able to sink enough for the movement to be clean. Now try the whole sequence on the other side and see what happens. Often one side is stiffer than the other.

We tried this one in class, being really careful to lift the crown of the head, which automatically tucks the chin in slightly, and trying to lengthen through the whole spine. Everyone was reminded to try to put this into their 19 step form and were surprised how different it felt!

We can use the Chen walk to exercise other aspects of our Taiji. For instance, we can train diagonal energy by making sure we push from one foot to the opposite hand when we do the walk. Transfer the weight by pushing the back foot into the floor, using the energy to push the arms out. This will definitely result in a loss of good posture for some students but it’s still a great exercise! Step as wide as you like but make sure you push from the back heel rather than just sink onto the front foot.

We can also perform the Chen walk trying to keep the head at the same height throughout the exercise. This, as you will find out, definitely works the legs hard! It will also force you to adjust the width of your step. Most people tend to come up a bit when they move on to the forward foot and sink again when they step. Just as an exercise, try and keep your height constant.

And then, of course, you can try the above three exercises all over again, but this time stepping backwards. That’s another class over! Where does the time go?

We all want to learn the exciting forms, the Cannon Fists, the spear and broadsword etc, but if we can’t even step forward or backward without distorting the body and the basic principles of Taiji, it’s better to rein in our enthusiasm and pay attention to basics. Again!


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stance in Strategy

From The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi

Adopt a stance with the head erect, neither hanging down, nor looking up, nor twisted. Your forehead and the space between your eyes should not be wrinkled. Do not roll your eyes nor allow them to blink, but slightly narrow them. With your features composed, keep the line of your nose straight with a feeling of slightly flaring your nostrils. Hold the line of the rear of the neck straight: instill vigor into your hairline, and in the same way from the shoulders down through your entire body. Lower both shoulders and, without the buttocks jutting out, put strength into your legs from the knees to the tops of your toes. Brace you abdomen so that you do not bend at the hips. Wedge your companion sword in your belt against your abdomen, so that your belt is not slack - this is called "wedging in."

In all forms of strategy, it is necessary to maintain the combat stance in everyday life and to make your everyday stance your combat stance. You must research this well.

Friday, January 25, 2013

YEAR ONE DEMONSTRATION

Coach Roselando demonstrates MIT Qigong Year 1 Exercises:


GATHERING QI

CRANE

TURNING COW

LOW POST

Monday, January 21, 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Monday Night Qigong at MIT 1/14/13

There were 26 standing at MIT on Monday!

Monday, January 14, 2013
Warm-up
10min Gathering
20min Natural Post
5min Left Hun Yun
5min Right Hun Yun
5min Left Shi Li
5min Right Shi Li
5min Gathering
Seal/Wash

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sealing the Breath

From Qi Magazine - Issue 89
by Zeng Qingnan & Liu Daoqing


1. Xu (like the word “shoe”)

Mouth form:
Close the lips slightly and stick the tongue forward and roll both sides of the tongue inward slightly.

Effect:
This has a curative effect for eye trouble, the decline of liver function, poor appetite, and dizziness.

Movements:
a. Put one hand on top of the other below the navel (the Dantian acupoint), left hand under for men and right hand under for women.
b. Touch the big toes to the ground lightly, stare, produce the sound of “Xu” while contracting the abdomen and breathing out.
c. Breathe in naturally after the stale air is totally exhaled.
Do this 6 times.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Global Standing in Plaia Lopez, Brazil

Submit your global standing pictures to qi@mit.edu

"Our first day we hike 3 or 4 hours through beautiful coastal rainforest to finally arrive at Plaia Lopez, one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world – fine white sand, crystal clear, warm water, nearly deserted and – because its in a nature reserve, bereft of any buildings, skirted only by jungle and the occassional granite rock. I start taking a run down to the most distant part of the beautiful, 3km cresent beach. Eventually find myself in this magical, secluded cove. Absolutely no people, ocean perfectly crystal clear, out to sea, epic mountains and islands rise out of the haze, the waves rock in a benevolent swell. I wade into the water, laughing out loud – THIS IS SO AMAZING!!! The water gently rocks my body, the temperature is perfect. Turning to look back at the shore, I see palm trees gently swaying in the breeze, in the mountains rising above the beach, ferns and grasses gently rocking. As I wade back to the perfect white beach, a cheeky wave tries to knock me over. I sit on the sand for a long time, utterly alone, jungle behind me, salty ocean in front of me. There is a slight breeze. I suddenly remember it’s Christmas day. The moment felt right for some Zhang Zhuang."

-Excerpt from the Journal of Sean 12/25/2012


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

You and Your Qi

by Adam Wallace
Qi Magazine - Issue 87
Summer 2008

Your Qi is your life. Abundant Qi ensures good health and vitality, speedy recovery from illness, and quality of life. Deficient Qi spells listlessness and illness, and no Qi means death, literally.

When your Qi is full you feel comfortable inside, no matter the weather. On extremely cold days you may feel the temperature on the surface of the skin, but inside you will feel warm, so the extremities and joints do not suffer. When Qi is deficient, you can even feel cold internally on warm days. This is why the elderly fear winter especially.

Your Qi level is directly related to how you see the world and respond to it. When your Qi is full and stable you will feel balanced, vibrant and confident, with a deep sense of peace and harmony. Mental clarity, wisdom,  and mood all depend on the Qi level, so when Qi is low you will not only feel physically weak, vulnerable and insecure, but also become cantankerous, melancholy, anxious or fearful and suffer negative and confused thinking. When Qi is unstable you may experience severe mood swings, become easily enraged, or suffer manic depression (bi-polar disorder).

Many people suffer heart attacks or strokes because they are not sensitive to their Qi or do not know how to control it through regulating the breath. The attack often occurs when the body is stressed and the mind is preoccupied or ‘out of the body’. Qigong regulates and balances Qi with the mind and breath and so prevents Qi becoming overstimulated and stuck. I would wager that no one has nor ever will suffer a stroke or heart attack during their Qigong practice as they are mindful of the internal body. If they practice every day (especially twice or more), they need never worry as the effects of training last for many hours, so regularity maintains order.

Many people today complain of having no energy. They work, come home, collapse and repeat this day-in and day-out. They run themselves into the ground, literally. The way we feel, in general, is a reliable barometer for what is going on internally. Before we become seriously ill, we will generally feel an overall sense of malaise. This is a warning signal. Over time, if nothing is done to remedy the situation, we then become fatigued, burned out and run down. When Qi level is weak the immune system too is weak. So when fatigued, sickness invariably follows. Then comes the enforced rest at home or in hospital and the ubiquitous medication that must be taken until the last days of life. Medications interfere with Qi but the average person taking these medicines can be too disconnected from his body to even notice.

Your Qi level, as it is at this very moment, is the result of your parents’ combined Qi (the good and the bad), together with that gained since birth, from food, water, air and exercise/rest. (The more you exercise the body with breathing fresh air and relaxation, and without exhausting it, the more it recharges, just like a car battery.) So you can take the Qi your parents gave you, use it wisely to go beyond life expectancy or you can squander it hastily.

Everything we do in life uses Qi, so we must spend it wisely. Eating the wrong food, in large amounts, uses a lot of Qi for digestion and this results in the feeling of heaviness and sleepiness. Even breathing can waste Qi unnecessarily when it is not natural. Reading, especially at the computer, uses our Qi and weakens our vision, so it is important to take frequent short breaks in order to let the eyes recover and avoid eyestrain. Many men complain of exhaustion and their doctors cannot diagnose the problem, but Chinese medical doctors would be able to detect that they have weakened kidney Qi through immoderate sexual intercourse. People complain of symptoms but remain unwilling to restore balance themselves by making necessary recommended lifestyle changes, especially if it involves depriving themselves of pleasure.

Many patients today undergoing chemotherapy use Qigong and/or Chinese medicine to help remedy the symptoms of treatment (aching muscles and coldness in the bones) instead of using Qigong as the primary treatment. During the days they practice they feel better because their Qi level has been elevated but after the ensuing chemotherapy session they feel terrible as the treatment damages the kidneys and erases all the good Qi cultivated from practice. So, the patient takes one step forward and three steps back. No matter what the illness may be, the only way to truly recover is to bring up the Qi level so the body has sufficient Qi to combat and overcome the illness. When the Qi is not strong enough, illness gains ascendancy and ultimately triumphs, resulting in a weakened state of health or death.

The factors that determine our Qi are (mostly) under our direct control. Therefore, largely, our lives are the result of our choices.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Great start to MIT Qigong 2013!

Here is a photo of Coach Jim Roselando assisting a first time practitioner at MIT Qigong. There were over 23 people standing with us tonight. A great way to start the new year!


Monday Night Qigong Schedule (1/7/13):
Warm up
10 min Gathering Qi
10 min Turning Cow
5 min Gathering Qi
20 min Natural Post
5 min Gathering Qi
10 Leg Qi
Seal/Wash

Friday, January 4, 2013

Mentally Fit in the New Year

By CHELCEY ADAMI
Link to original article

People often forget to exercise the most important part of their body, their brain. Valley resident Maria Elena Marcello has been practicing yoga, reiki, tai chi and kung fu for years and also teaches tai chi in the city of Imperial’s recreation department. She said these activities not only provide physical exercise but also mental exercise, helping with one’s cognitive abilities and preventing issues such as Alzheimer’s.
“The No. 1 sicknesses are produced by stress so you have to really try to calm down and calm your mind,” she said.

Marcello enjoys the kung fu for the cardio-aspect but makes sure to balance it out with the more relaxing activities such as yoga.

“It’s gentle movements and believe it or not, it strengthens your body, tones your muscles. You’ll lose weight and you enjoy it because it brings you peace,” she said. “Tai chi is a good beginning for anyone making a resolution to be healthier in the New Year. You have to balance hard exercises with soft exercises.”

She added that activities such as yoga and tai chi can be practiced by people of any age. "If you don’t want to try something like that, just go for a walk," Marcello said. "Just enjoy your surroundings, look at the trees, look at the flowers, just try to relax. You have to be trying to be healthy in all aspects of your life.

"Even if in office all day, one can take five to 10 minute to relax and mediate," she added. "Just close your eyes and relax your body, try not to focus on anything, your mind, and then continue with your work."

Ken Cohen is a worldwide renowned health educator, Qigong Master, practitioner of indigenous medicine, speaker and author. Qigong are ancient Chinese exercises, breathing techniques and meditations “used to create a full supply and smooth flow of Qi which means ‘life force,’” that serve as a complimentary medicine.

“Stagnation equals disease whether physical, mental or spiritual. We’re meant to be in a state of flow and connection,” Cohen said.

"While it’s not meant to cure every disease, it can be a powerful complimentary medicine to mainstream practices. If someone is in distress due to a relationship, life circumstances or more, then they are more likely to become ill," Cohen added.

“There’s no question that the mind communicates with the body,” he said. “If we can exercise more control over the mind, we can lessen the stresses that cause disease.”
It’s important to remember that while focusing on mental health is key, it doesn’t take the place of the physical exercise. “Some people make the mistake of thinking ‘I’m doing tai chi and don’t need to do more,’” he said. “We want both the external strength but we also want internal, or metabolic, strength.”

When taking personal control of one’s responses to outside influences, such as pollution and its corresponding breathing health issues, Qigong can be particularly beneficial.

“To the extent that you can’t control the external environmental, it becomes more important to control the internal environment,” Cohen said.

Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or cadami@ivpressonline.com

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year, New Breath

by Martha Everett
Link to original article from Desert Exposure

Breathing techniques from the ancient Chinese system of Qigong can boost your oxygen and sense of peace.

Qigong is an ancient Chinese system that uses movement, breath and mindfulness to gather intrinsic life force energy, or Qi, for healing, meditation and exercise. Qigong is said to be over 4,000 years old. Over those thousands of years, many varieties of Qigong were formed, using Chinese medicine for curing and preventing disease, using philosophy for reaching enlightenment, developing longevity and meditative practices.

Contemporary Qigong blends these principles together, using physical training in either static postures or dynamic movement. It engages mental training, using visualization and focusing on the movement of Qi and practicing slow, rhythmic breathing or other Qigong breath exercises. Qigong is also supported by the ingestion of medicinal herbs, foods with high Qi content or those that interact with the elemental forces.

Qi travels within the blood, true to the adage, "Where the blood flows, the Qi goes." Qi does not flow as well through areas of tension, tightness, injury and restriction, as the blood is not able to penetrate these areas as deeply. This creates an area of stagnation, which Chinese medicine believes is the root of disease.

Qigong can be a great way for people of all ages to increase blood flow and circulation, because the practitioner is using breath, movement and visualization to increase the flow of Qi. Breath work can be especially beneficial to bring more Qi and oxygen to the blood, as well as aiding in the shifting of the emotional composition in the areas of tension or tightness.

Qigong breathing brings a lot more oxygen into the lungs than normal respiration. This oxygen is for both the respiration process of breathing and for fueling all metabolic processes of the body. The oxygen is shared through the process of diffusion from the lungs to the blood. Transfer to the blood allows the hemoglobin protein in the blood to distribute the oxygen throughout the body. Qigong breathing will greatly amplify the amount of oxygen coming into the body, thereby oxygenating every cell. With this breath, as it increases more blood flow in the body, Qi is simultaneously increased. The Qi can be felt in the body as heat, pulsing, or a sense of inflation to the limbs. The Qi and breath can help move through emotional blocks, as the emotions and the breath are so closely related. The oxygenation of the cells that occurs during Qigong is very important for the health and wellbeing of the physical body.  

Martha K. Everett, certified Qigong facilitator, will be holding a three- hour breath workshop Saturday, Jan. 19, from 1-4 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at 3845 N. Swan in Silver City. The price is $35, $25 if you've attended a previous Breath Empowerment with Martha, and advanced registration is required. For information, call (575) 388-2098 or (575) 574-7268 or email martha@abundancetherapeutics.com.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

MIT Qigong 2013 Schedule

Winter Schedule
The MIT Qigong Club meets every Monday from 7-8pm

January 7, 2013: MIT Student Center 3rd Floor - PDRS 1&2

January 14, 2013: MIT Student Center 3rd Floor - PDRS 1&2

January 21, 2013: No Class - Martin Luther King Day Holiday

January 28, 2013: MIT Student Center 3rd Floor - Room 306

February 4, 2013: MIT Student Center 3rd Floor - Room 306

Spring ScheduleThe MIT Qigong Club meets every Monday from 7-8pm


February 11 - June 3: Building 5, Room 234
http://whereis.mit.edu/?go=5