Mind leads the Qi
In all Qigong trainings, also in those which are at the first sight purely physical, your mind should be involved. Therefore you have to constantly cultivate your mind through physical practice and meditation. After all, one of the main goals that you want to achieve in Qigong is to learn how to consciously lead Qi with your mind.
Repetition is crucial
If you are a Qigong practitioner you already know how important a regular practice is. With practice I mean all types of Qigong trainings; physical training, breathing and meditation. You have to repeat things again and again until they become imprinted in your body system, until they become a part of you. In a language of a modern science we would say that by repeating you create new synaptic connections.
Repeating mentally physical exercises
A lot of practitioners don’t know that they can greatly improve different physical skills if besides the physical practice they practice also mentally. What am I talking about? Mental practice (or training) is a way to “practice”, rehearse physical exercises in your mind.
In Qigong you can use mental practice to learn and enhance all kind of skills. By mental training you can improve your posture, learn movements or refine them, practice different principles which enable you to relax more, sense the connection of your fascia and consecutively sense your body as whole, increase sensitivity for Qi and even increase your flexibility… Mental practice is a tool which can greatly improve also a focus of your mind.
This practice is not so often emphasized or encouraged to practice, at least not here in the West. In some movies you can see practitioners of martial arts to practice in this way and you think that this is only a fairy tale. If you would come across some Chinese healer who’s encouraging his patients to use mental training because their mobility is limited due to the injury, you would probably be skeptical.
Scientific researches of mental practice
Mental practice is nowadays a very interesting subject for modern scientific research also in the West. Today scientists consider as a fact that mind trains brain to grow new neurons and new neural connections are developed (new term for this is neuroplasticity).
Recent researches in the field of Qigong came to the conclusion that mental practice of Qigong in movement has the same effect on EEG brain activity as pure physical training. Mental practice in the form of visual and motor imagery causes comparable patterns of brain activity as physical training of the same movement.
They have proved (what ancient practices knew thousands of years ago… 😉 ) that when compared with physical rehearsal, mental rehearsal can be equally effective as pure physical practice of particular action.
My beginnings of mental practice
I have started to use a mental practice instinctively because of necessity. At that time I have been practicing Aikido. In that period of my life I haven’t been yet at the point that I could do in my life what I love. Therefore I didn’t have as much time as I would like for my Aikido training. I spent also a lot of time on the way to my work and then back. Instead of being only unhappy about the current situation I was looking for a solution. I had an idea that I can use all the time spent sitting on the bus for mentally repeat and remember Aikido exercises and techniques. I used to close my eyes and I was repeating all kind of movements and techniques in my mind. I started with simple movements but my focus was improving through time and I was capable to rehearse also longer sequences. I have been really happy to see how many things I’ve managed to remember. But the real surprise was that also my physical skills have improved.
A beneficial side effect of this practice was also that since I have started to spend the time in traffic for my mental practice. I stopped thinking about the job I didn’t like and feeling sorry for myself. The result was that when I came to the job I was in a much better and lighter mood. Of course this reflected in my work and improved relationships with my co-workers.
Understanding the connection between body and mind
Later when I have started to practice Qigong and Taijiquan I have of course continued my mental practice and I have learned more about it. Today I understand better the connection between our body and mind and how they mutually influence each other. I’m not surprised any more about the power of clear and focused mind. But the most important is to practice and I know that in this area there are still a lot of things that I want to try and experience.
This manner of training is not easy at all and you have to spend a lot of time to achieve such a degree of mental focus that you are able to perform a mentally complex Qigong form or a Taijiquan long form… But you can as always start with small steps and you will still have many benefits from this kind of practice.
When to use a mental training in Qigong
I think that by combining both practices, physical and mental, a Qigong practitioner can improve his learning capabilities and enhance his/her skills greatly. Sometimes mental practice can also overcome unconscious mental blocks which can hinder practitioner’s physical progress (more about this is the next blog).
I would definitely recommend this kind of training as additional part of Qigong practice to the people who are physically not able to do certain exercises or are able to practice only for a short period of time as for example older people or disabled persons. It will reflect also on their mental clarity and focus.
This kind of training is as well very beneficial for the Qigong practitioners who are injured and their mobility is limited for certain period of time. With mental practice they can succeed to keep the Qi flow in the areas which for any reason can’t be moved.
Mental practice is suitable also when you are in situations where physical practice is not possible. These include innumerous situations: waiting for the transportation or when travelling with the train, airplane…; waiting for something, someone; in a place which is too small or inappropriate to perform a more dynamic Qigong form…
Mental practice in modern time
Nowadays this kind of training (with different background and roots) is used in different areas of life. The most popular is in professional sports training and it is proven that it brings great results.
Mental practice is used in music as well. Professional musicians can practice in this way when they are away from their instruments or they are not able to play them for different reasons (inappropriate place, injury…). Recent studies shows that if they combine a physical and mental practice they can achieve results which equal to physical practice alone.
Also in a modern medicine they started to use it for a training of different medical practitioners, especially surgeons, because the costs are lesser.
As you can see there are innumerous possibilities to apply mental training and not only for Qigong practice. If you have any time that you can use for mental training, try it as soon as possible. Experiment also with other activities. I think you will discover new dimensions of your inner world and you will have a lot of fun.
Continue reading Part 2 where you will find some tips how to mentally practice Qigong…
May the Qi be with You!
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