Qigong Forms + More Information
"Untie your knots; soften your glare;
settle your dust.
This is your primal identity."
- Lao Tzu
What is Qigong?
Qigong (pronounced Chee-Gung) is just this: Qi + Gong.
Gong (also spelled Kung as in Kung-fu) means work or effort. Qi (also spelled Chi as in Tai Chi) is often translated as "energy" or "vital life force," but Qi is more than just energy and vitality. It is palpable, and has intelligence. It surrounds and fills everything in nature - including you. Qi is a manifestation of the Dao. The Dao is the way things are. How are things? Things are changing - expanding and contracting, rising and falling, moving inwards and outwards, gathering together and dispersing, swirling and undulating.
So when we put all of this together, Qigong is a practice of working intelligently and gently with the way things are. Qigong teaches us how to surrender to the nature of changing circumstances, while holding firm to our own true nature. Qigong is a way of training to be and flow with what is, and with how things are evolving within and around us.
More than a movement practice:
When we practice Qigong, we are not just moving our bodies mindfully and breathing deeply. We are practicing an ancient art with shamanic, medicinal, philosophical, and other cultural roots from China. We are receiving and benefiting from an art and science that has been cultivated and passed down with devotion by countless generations of humble and esteemed practitioners. We are deep in the here-and-now, dancing in the intricate web of spacetime, weaving our own unique life force into a web of tradition that spans vast distances of time, culture, and distance.
Yin & Yang:
Yin is the receptive principle, and Yang is the active principle. The two are in constant interplay - coexisting and balancing each other, and turning into each other once they reach their extreme expressions. In Qigong, we work actively with the interplay of Yin and Yang, and this teaches us how to work with these principles more skillfully in our lives.
Some Qigong and Nei Gong forms work with the Bagua. These are the eight directions made up of the four cardinal directions and their midpoints. The eight trigrams of the I Ching relate to these eight directions. We might also think of these directions as gateways into various states of being - the fresh, inspired, arising energy of the east, where the sun rises, for example. Some Qigong forms are practiced facing in specific directions in order to connect with the Qi of that direction.
Forms I teach:
Everything I teach is informed by decades of study and practice, and by the teachings I've received from others. What you as a student receive from me as a teacher is an ever evolving work in progress. Over the years, my teachers have changed the forms they've taught me, and I do the same. Qigong is a living, breathing art, and one's relationship with it changes as one's body, understanding, circumstances, and awareness changes. Below are some favorite forms, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Wild Goose - Dayan
Wild Goose is one of the great loves of my life, and it informs all the other Qigong forms I teach. Wild Goose works with specific acu-points, meridians and vessels, and is the most dynamic and complex form of Qigong I have encountered. There are 15 forms of Wild Goose I am receiving, studying, and deepening in, and I do not yet teach all of them. The Grand Master of Wild Goose, Yang Meijun, practiced this form in secret without teaching it to anyone for sixty years. There is wisdom and potency in simmering ingredients until they transform into an elixir. Wild Goose utilizes whole-body movements to integrate the mind-body-emotions-spirit.
Each Wild Goose form offers different benefits. Here are a few to give you a sense: I often teach portions of Wild Goose 4 or "Tripod & Spiral," for its effects of elation and freedom. Wild Goose 1 is an excellent teacher of moving Qi forwards and back, up and down, in and out. Wild Goose 12 tonifies the kidneys, and improves the balance and interplay of kidneys and lungs, kidneys and heart.
Dao Yin is not Qigong, although they are often taught together. Dao Yin movements are more tense and stretchy than the soft movements most people associate with Qigong. While Qigong is often used to directly build and circulate Qi, Dao Yin is used to release stagnant Qi so that fresh Qi can flow in more naturally. Dao Yin both strengthens your tissues, and clears them of toxins and stagnation.
There are four unrelated forms I teach, all with the name "Swimming Dragon." Dragons are symbols of actualized infinite potential, and swimming implies the water element's gifts of fluidity, soft strength, humility, and adaptability. Dragon is also often a reference to the spine, so these forms all bring strength and flexibility to the spine.
Primordial - Wuji Qigong
This is one of my favorite forms. Wuji as a concept has to do with the mysticism of void - the most primal nothingness from which all form emerges. This Qigong form is designed to bring you into that state of emptiness. As we practice, we spiral both clockwise and widdershins, facing each of the directions, and we bring Qi downwards and inwards. By the end of the form, you find yourself in a quiet and content yet luminous state of being.
Self healing massage - An Mo Gong
Who doesn't like a good massage? We use various techniques to stimulate blood flow and Qi flow in the meridians, sinews, joints, and organs. I personally do these first thing every morning, and right before bed every night. This practice is both soothing and gently energizing.
Bone Marrow Washing
This is another of my favorite forms. My teacher, Dr. Bingkun Hu, taught a unique longer version of this classic form. His version is intensive and takes a while to learn and build the musculature for, so I usually teach only a few sections of the form, especially the pinnacle section - "Plucking Stars" - which gives a calm yet euphoric feeling.
Inner Cultivation - Nei Gong
These practices are generally done in stillness - standing or sitting meditations. Nei Gong practices work with specific techniques of intent and/or visualization, cultivating Qi in specific meridians, vessels, or acu-points, or with colors and other imagery, often timed with the breath.
Restoring Natural Harmony - Guigen
This is a newer Qigong form, inspired by ancient techniques. It focuses on bringing Qi down and in, and then clearing and revitalizing the Qi of each of the five elements/phases. The Qigong practice ends with Zuowang style meditation - cultivating emptiness.
Six Healing Sounds
There are many versions of the healing sounds. Some forms teach five, and some teach six. These practices clear out the toxic emotions associated with the five elements/phases, and then cultivate their attending virtues. This practice is calming and inspiring.
Ba Duan jin - 8 Pieces of Brocade
This is one of the most popular Qigong forms, perhaps because it is one of the easiest to learn and memorize, attends to each of the five elements/phases and the central vessels, and gives a good stretch to the whole body. It gives a feeling of clear, calm readiness.
This is a collection of practices my late teacher, Dr. Bingkun Hu, put together. These are some of my favorite simple forms to teach. Like Wild Goose, they utilize whole body movements to bring integration throughout one's being. They cultivate a feelings of flow and openness, and take practitioners into that essential quality of relaxed alertness that enables clear and smooth flow of Qi.
I teach many other practices, walks, stances, warm-ups, etc. Many of these are without name, but all have purpose and power.