Qigong training includes five regulations: regulation of the body, breath, mind, Qi and Shen (spirit). The word “regulate” means that we constantly align, adjust, tune and harmonize something until our aim is reached. We can talk about the true regulation when we don’t have to do it consciously. Things that we have learned, repeated, adjusted and used again and again are now the part of ourselves. We use them without thinking about.
For example, we have a desire to learn how to ride a bicycle. We start to learn this new skill consciously. We learn how to maintain balance, how to stay in a right direction, how to use brakes… Doing all these for a period of time, we become more and more skillful and experienced. At a certain point we don’t have to think about all these things anymore. We just sit on a bicycle and drive off.
Regulation of the body
The first regulation is the regulation of the body (Tian Shen). In Qigong we want that our body is relaxed but at the same time stable, balanced and rooted. When the body is regulated, also our mind is calm and our qi circulates freely. Usually we start to regulate the body by practicing fundamental stances.
What are fundamental stances?
Fundamental stances are one of the first things that we start to learn in Qigong and in martial arts. They are so important because they allow the practitioner to use the body efficiently. I will try to explain it in a very simplified way. We use fundamental stances in stationary or moving exercises, in standing meditations etc. For each stance there is a certain position of legs and of our torso. These are the basis and at the beginning we can practice them, holding our arms relaxed on the Lower Dantian. After we have become familiar with this new body posture, we can add different positions of arms, according with exercise or technique that we are doing. Actually we could say that stances serve also as starting positions for all movements. Movements, for example in walking Qigong or Taijiquan, are simply shifting and stepping through different stances, changing positions of arms. Correct stances allow us to be relaxed and they are foundation for stability and for our internal roots.
Different stances and different variations
Each style of Qigong or martial arts may use different stances or even if they use the same stances they may teach different variations. You don’t have to be confused. It is important to understand them and know why and how to use them. For example Ma Bu (Horse Stance) for strengthen our legs could be much lower than Ma Bu that we use in Nei Gong standing meditation. Different purposes, different variations.
The way to practice endurance, patience and body alignment
It is said that in ancient times masters required from their future students that they were able to maintain certain stances (for example Ma Bu) up to some hours before they were willing to learn them other things. In this way the future student developed stability, endurance and strength. However this was also a test of patience and perseverance of the student. A master wanted to know if the student was worthy to dedicate him his precious time.
To the beginner it may seem incredible to stay for such a long time in a certain stance. But if we are appropriately relaxed and aligned we can do it. The correct alignment of the body means that our weight is evenly distributed through the body and all our fluids flow in unobstructed way. Incorrectly aligned posture usually blocks as well energy channels (meridians). This hinders the flow of Qi in the body, not only through limbs but also through our torso, where are situated our internal organs which are of great importance for our health. In Qigong we emphasize the practice of stances a lot because they enable the structure of the body to re-align.
We also have to be aware that joints are not designed to carry the weight of the body. Our body structure is formed in a way that the weight is transmitted through a pelvis into legs and downwards to the ground. In this way our joints can function without being pulled downwards by the weight of the body. But if our posture is not aligned then joints have to carry a lot of weight and they are more prone to injuries and other problems.
A New Posture becomes Natural
Each of stances trains the body in different way. Some stances help to build stronger legs, to strengthen the waist and back or to align ankles, hips, knees and ankles. At the beginning it is quite challenging to maintain these stances even for few minutes. It might be uncomfortable or painful. One of the reasons is that usually we try to maintain the stance using way too much tension and force. The second reason is that standing in stances allows the old tensions stored into the body to release. This is just a transition phase. Gradually tensions dissolve, also with a help of deep breathing, and we begin to feel comfortable and natural. In time our new posture becomes natural for us and our walking and moving become lighter and more connected.
The Mind Alignment
The word alignment in broader sense doesn’t imply only alignment of the body but also alignment of the mind. Standing for a long time in stance it is not so much about the strong body as it is about the mind that is calm, focused and clear. This is a very important aspect in Nei Gong and in martial arts. It is necessary also in medical and others styles of Qigong, at least to certain degree. Better said, it is necessary for everyone. Only a person with a clear mind can be really physically and also psychically healthy.
This is all for today. Iin the next blog you can find out how to practice stances and how to start replacing our unconscious postural patterns.
May the Qi be with you!
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