Qigong Key Principles of Practice
When practicing Qigong, it is important to persevere and be patient. It is beneficial to practice regularly and not give up just because we aren’t seeing immediate changes. “Rome was not built in a day,” and like any skill, this requires months and years of steady practice. Striving for results will only bring tension and disappointment. Relax and let it come by itself.
When to Practice
It is not advisable to practice when full (or within one hour after eating), very hungry, over tired, or after having consumed alcohol; or when over excited, badly upset or worried. Practice will be far more beneficial if combined with a healthy lifestyle in regard to drinking, smoking, late nights, etc. Setting up a fairly ordered schedule for practice will help. Stick to it. Will-power is important and is strengthened through practice and maintaining practice. Be resolute during practice and you will find that this will help strengthen your fortitude in other areas of life.
Practice can be performed at any time of day, though in the morning and before going to sleep at night are most favoured, the latter especially, since it is of great benefit in promoting comfortable sleep. Try to practice in pleasant surroundings with fresh air and as few disturbances as possible. For those working, it is suggested to try to practice for a few minutes during a mid-morning or afternoon break (if you can find a quiet spot). This has a remarkably revitalising effect, helping you to get through the day.
Focusing on Relaxation
Develop at your own pace. Don’t try to do too much too soon, or over stretch your physical capabilities. Exhaustion or fatigue should be avoided. On the other hand, you should persevere, not just giving up because of discomfort. Try to concentrate during practice. Avoid any unnatural postures and remember that this is holistic exercise for the whole body. It is a common fallacy that such standing exercises are to develop stamina and the lower the position you stand in the better. This is completely contrary to the whole essence of the theory of Qigong Zhan Zhuang exercises. To quote Wang Xiang Zhai “If the muscles are tense then strength is exhausted.”
Relaxation is the basis for promoting blood circulation and strengthening the body as an integrated whole. Thus bend the knees only as much as is comfortable: the more relaxed they are, the longer you can stand. There is no need to concern yourself with gradually sinking lower to increase the degree of exercise. You may well find that after long practice you drop lower without noticing; this is perfectly natural and to be expected as your legs strengthen.
Before You Begin
Before beginning practice, relieve yourself and loosen all tight clothing. It is often helpful to do a little warming-up. This can include a few light loosening up or stretching exercises, Ba Duan Jin, or whatever the practitioner favours, though avoiding any strenuous activities. Before actually starting, stand quietly for a moment or two to compose yourself. After practice it is advisable to take a short walk until the body returns to normal. Avoid breaking off practice suddenly, or doing anything too energetic or strenuous immediately afterwards.
What to Expect During the Early Stages
During the early stages of practice you may well feel a number of physical reactions, some rather unpleasant. The hands may first start to tingle, and later you may feel numbness, aches, pains, itching and trembling in various parts of the body. These are perfectly natural reactions due to the unaccustomed use of and strain on muscles, physiological changes in the metabolism and the blood circulation (especially expansion of the blood capillaries) and muscular relaxation.
You may also feel inequalities of tension, numbness and relaxation, on the two sides of the body, often bringing a sense of imbalance. These are all due to physiological differences between right and left stemming from conditioned use. These feelings may be very disconcerting and may continue for many weeks or even months. Stay calm and persevere at each practice as much as you can without straining yourself.
Endeavour to try to relax the problematic part, but do not let it become a source of mental tension. If need be rest for a minute or two then restart. Most importantly do not become agitated depressed or give up the moment it becomes uncomfortable, and persevere in daily practice. Then with the passage of time the constitution will improve and these reactions will gradually disappear, the body becoming progressively more relaxed, comfortable and strong.
As with all such disciplines, practice should really be under the tutorship of an experienced teacher. It is especially important that an experienced teacher assigns the appropriate postures and continually supervises your progress.
For a normal healthy person, the standard “Holding the Balloon stance” is highly recommended.