PARTING THE CLOUDS
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your elbows rounded and knees soft. Inhale and raise your arms above your head, with the backs of your hands facing each other. As you exhale, slowly move your arms out to their respective side, palms facing out and squat down low. Keep your arms moving around in a circle so that your hands meet in front of your knees. Once there, breathe in, rise into an upright position, simultaneously bringing your arms up passing in front of the centre of your body. Keep raising your hands till they are above your head. Repeat this sequence for one minute.
SAGE PRESENTS THE PEACH
With your feet shoulder-width apart, arms at shoulder level at their respective sides, breathe in, slightly turn and stretch to the right so that your left heel raises off the floor. Simultaneously, bring your left arm down, passing in front and close to your body and stretch to the left, palm facing upwards. Stretch that arm out to slightly above shoulder level. Simultaneously, bring your right arm towards the back to shoulder level, palm facing down. On the exhalation breath, turn your hand so the palm is down, pass the left arm down in front of your body and move it towards the back on the left, palm down. Bend the knees slightly as your arms change side, drop your left heel and raise the right heel. Simultaneously, the right arm swings from the back and stretches out to the left, just above shoulder level. As it passes the front of your body, invert the palm to face up. Repeat for one minute.
Standing with your feet shoulder-distance apart, squat slightly, bring your hands low in front of you, palms facing up so they meet by the middle fingers. Raise your arms, fingers still touching and rise. When your hands are at chest level, start to invert them so the palms will be facing up when you raise your arms above your head. Exhale, push arms up, squat down slightly. Maintain this position through two breathing cycles. On the third exhalation breath, rise up, separate the hands, curve them out to their respective sides, squat down and bring them to meet low in front of you. Repeat for one minute.
Finish with Balancing of chi.
There are other exercises such as Archer shoots arrow; Passing the ball; Touch the sea, look at the sky. Chi kung exercises can be performed in any sequence. Just start and finish with Balancing of chi.
As with all chi kung exercises, ensure that you retain that awareness of your moves, breaths and your mental focus. Every time you breathe in, touch the roof of your mouth with your tongue. If you are unable to keep the connection during the exhalation as well, ensure you do it with every inhalation. Connecting your tongue with the roof of your mouth completes the internal pathway, optimising the flow of chi.
After the warm up exercises, the first chi kung form is the Opening Form.
With your arms by your side, palms facing inwards, inhale gently and raise your arms to the sides till they reach about shoulder level, palms facing down. Keep the shoulders down. On the exhalation, bring your arms down, palms facing down, to your side. On the next inhalation, with your palms facing in, raise your arms till they are at chest level. While still inhaling, rotate the palms so that they are facing down and retract your arms closer to your chest. Exhale and press your palms down. Flow directly into the repetition by bringing your arms to your sides. Repeat this sequence three times.
EXPANDING THE CHEST ON THE MOUNTAIN TOP
On the inhalation, raise your hands in front of you to chest level, palms facing in, and retract your arms, palms facing towards you, so that your fingertips meet at the heart centre. With the exhalation, expand the chest by bringing the shoulder blades together. Simultaneously bring your arms out to your side at shoulder level, with the palms facing forward. On the next in-breath, extend your arms back in front of you at chest level, palms facing in. Continuing that inhalation, rotate your palms to face down and retract your arms towards your chest. Exhale and press down. Flow smoothly into a repetition by raising your hands in front of you. Repeat three times.
PAINTING A RAINBOW
Maintain the same stance as in the former exercises. Through all the moves, keep the elbows soft. Inhale and raise your hands above your head, palms facing in. On the exhalation, lower your left hand, palm facing up, to your left side, shoulder level, and turn to face it. Simultaneously, shift your weight to your right leg so that your left leg is straight. When you inhale, simultaneously execute the following. Raise your left hand to meet the other hand above your head, turn your head forward and adjust your weight to be equal on both legs. On the next inhalation, repeat as before but with your right side. Repeat each set a further three times.
After balancing of chi, it is necessary to warm up, thereby opening up the internal pathways and stimulating the flow of energy around the body.
For this sequence of exercises, known as opening up the triple warmer, maintain soft breathing, and keep the balls of both feet in firm contact with the floor. You can allow the heels of your feet to come off the floor, or keep them grounded to the floor.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms hanging loosely by your side and your knees soft. Keeping your breath soft, turn at your waist to the left. Keep your arms down, but let them swing in motion with the turning of your waist. Using the motion from your waist and the momentum, bring your arms up till the left arm is at shoulder level and the right arm at a comfortable height. Now, swing towards the right hand side. This sequence forms one set. Each in breath should span two sets. Each out breath should span two sets. Continue this exercise for one minute.
For the next part of the triple warmer, again, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees soft and arms loose. Raise your arms to shoulder height. From the waist, swing both your arms to the left, maintaining them both at shoulder level (and your right arm in a comfortable position) and look to the left. Next, swing your arms to the right. Breathe as in the above exercise. Continue this exercise for about one minute.
In the last part of the triple warmer, standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, swing to the left, but this time, bring your left arm to the back and allow the right arm to follow to a comfortable position. Turn your head to look towards the back. Swing round to the front and then to the right side. Breathe as in the previous two exercises. Repeat for approximately one minute.
For the next warm up exercise, stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Raise your arms above your head and grasp your right wrist with your left hand. Breathe in and bend forward so that your hands can nearly touch your ankles. This action will open up the governing vessel in your body. Breathe out as you become upright, raising your arms (still joined at the hands) above your head and stretch back. This action will open up the conception vessel in your body. Repeat three more times. The governing and conception vessels are two of the body’s primary meridians through which energy flows.
Chi kung, literally meaning “energy work”, is commonly used in order to warm up the body, including the internal organs, prior to practising tai chi. These exercises enhance and optimise the flow of energy around the body, leaving you feeling invigorated with a clear mind. Practising chi kung can also be used independently, as a means of relaxing the mind and the body.
These exercises will help to release tension within you, develop your mental focus and rejuvenate you. Many of these exercises focus on certain bodily organs. The idea is that the more you practise chi kung, you will learn to direct energy to the organs that are in need of healing and therefore in need of chi.
All movements in chi kung are soft and flowing. Keep your elbows and knees soft and slightly bent.
Standing barefoot or in soft shoes, keep your back straight. Slightly tuck your hips. Align your head, shoulders, ribcage and hips as if there is a pole going through the core of you. Soften your knees. Be aware of your breathing. Let it be rhythmic and slow.
Chi kung commences with the exercise – Balancing of chi.
Stand with your feet hip width apart. Place your hands in front of your lower abdomen, crossed over by the wrist area. Take a slow deep breath in. Let your arms fall to your side, palms facing forward, and then raise them up to their respective sides, slowly, above your head slightly. Make sure you keep your shoulders down and elbows bent. Do not reach too far above your head. You are still breathing in at this point.
When your arms are slightly above your head, gently turn the palms to face the ground, and breathe out, slowly. Slowly, push your palms and arms down till your hands are in front of your lower abdomen once again. The exhalation breath should be longer by two or three counts. Imperatively, the breath and the movements must be synchronised. It may take some time to harmonise the breath and the movements.
Repeat Balancing of chi three more times.
When you are breathing in, you are drawing in energy from the universe. When you are breathing out, by the action of pushing your arms down slowly, you are packing energy into your dantien, the reservoir of your chi.
Chi kung is the practise of a range of well-established Chinese exercises that are known to enhance and optimise the flow of chi (internal energy) within the body. Hundreds of styles of chi kung exist, varying from the simple, static exercises that are wonderful for calming the mind, to those that are dynamic and vibrant which are relaxing, yet simultaneously are re-energising.
This exercise system has been practised in China for over 2000 years, and is gaining popularity in the Western world. The basic premise is that through an awareness of the flow of chi, an individual can alter the flow of their internal energy to positively impact the individual.
Usually, prior to practising tai chi, it is common to open with a sequence of chi kung exercises as this warms up the body, internally and externally. Unlike tai chi, chi kung is not a martial art, although it too does comprise fluid and gentle movements. The most noticeable difference between the two is that chi kung exercises can be practised as discrete, individual exercises, following no particular order like that required in tai chi.
As chi is the life force that pervades everything within our universe, thus forming the essence of everything that is, the flow of chi within the body can greatly affect our physical and mental well-being. And so, the benefits of practising chi kung are manifold. Chi kung is an excellent system for calm the mind and reducing stress, as well as for improving various bodily functions.
The exercises themselves, when understood, target specific areas of the body as the exercises focus on increasing the flow of energy to certain organs. Mastering the range of exercises can be achieved quickly, although it is imperative to synchronise the coordination of the movements with the breathing techniques for real benefit. When practised mindfully, the benefits of the chi kung exercises can be felt almost immediately.
Performing some of the static exercises can lead to a meditative state. This involves standing statically for a period of time with the arms in various positions, being aware of your breathing and visualising streams of energy entering the body as you stand grounded. These postures create a powerful connection between you and the energies coming from the heavens and the earth.