"The Eight Treasures" – get started with Shaolin Qi Gong (2)
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- getting started with (Shaolin) qi gong
- exercises in style of Shaolin
- recovery and slowing down
- how to mix activity and relaxation
- three parts of "The Eight Treasures" qi gong form
- a certain physical fitness
- the wish to get moving, more flexible and to increase energy levels
Shaolin qi gong can
reduce stress (scientifically proven) and clear your mind.
lower blood pressure and boost your immune system (scientifically proven).
increase your energy level by getting you qi flowing.
help you to recover faster and slow down aging.
In this course, you will learn sequences four to six of the popular qi gong form Ba Duan Jin, The Eight Treasures.
It is designed for all fitness levels and for those who are curious about (Shaolin) qi gong. It requires a certain physical fitness however. If your physical ability is limited, you are welcome to practice according to the given alternatives and/or adjust the exercises to your needs. Yet, it is a course that is addressing a rather 'sporty qi gong' style and it includes a fitness part.
- stressed people who long for balance
- athletes wishing to recover faster
- those who feel easily bored by meditation because they feel the urge "to do something"
There are plenty of reasons why people practice qi gong: during rehabilitation to help them recover faster, to improve overall well-being, to enhance martial arts performances, to reduce stress and increase energy levels.
What's the difference between qi gong and tai chi?
Qi gong (also written qigong) ist mostly trained for its health benefits and to ease (or shape) the mind. Tai chi (also taiji or taijiquan) is rather focused on movements that have a fighting dimension (like certain attacking techniques). In general, tai chi forms include more movements than qi gong forms.
Why sporty qi gong?
My philosophy and experience is that our body (and our mind) needs a physical workout as much as it needs relaxation and flow. "Yin and Yang" as the Chinese say. Therefore, I included a fitness part in this course. If you are not able to perform strength and stamina training, you should at least try to incorporate some activities in your everyday life (like going for a walk, taking the stairs instead of the lift).
How advanced is this course?
This course is designed for all fitness levels as I provide different alternatives for many exercises. "The Eight Treasures" can also be performed by people with limited physical conditions and may be adjusted to your comfort. However, if your physical abilities are very limited, you might want to look for a course that is especially designed for that. Also, if your have been practicing Shaolin for a while, you might look out for experienced masters like Shifu Yan Lei or Shifu Yan Xin. They offer a lot of different courses for all levels.
Everyone has their own inspiration and philosophy and Shaolin is mine. I am fascinated by the Shaolin monks and masters ever since I have heard of them. In Shaolin they say:
"Where the mind goes, the body will follow."
Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to be known for that quote, too.
Personally, qi gong offers me to take a break from my daily care and helps me to develop a clear mind. As a result, I can focus on what I really want and make it happen. Just like this course which I have produced in my spare time.
IMPORTANT: Never exercise without a proper warm up.
This might sound funny but you should never underestimate the importance of a warm up. If you train like the Shaolin, you will reach your limit. So you better be warm enough to be able to go to your own maximum. If your body is still cold, your joints and tendons get hurt easily. If you punch hard, your elbow can get dislocated. If you kick too high too soon, your hamstring might overstretch.
(Shaolin) warm up exercises help you to prepare muscles, tendons and joints to be used in fitness exercises und qi gong movements. Your body will thank you for a holistic workout that includes warm up, fitness exercises and stretching in line with qi gong.
Try to do different workouts every day, so your body can't get used to specific movements while neglecting other parts of your body.
The Five Basic Shaolin Stances
The Shaolin training has several positions or stances the occur repeatingly: in forms, squats, as a stance in a punching position and in qi gong movements. Five of them are most popular:
Ma Bu means "horse stance". It actually looks like one is sitting on a horse. Your goal is to sit as low as you can. At the same time, you need to keep your back straight, your knees out and your feet in – quite challenging, to be honest. Hence why the Ma Bu training is part of almost every workout in a Shaolin lifetime. It's a requirement to practice Ma Bu before you learn any Shaolin form. In every workout you should give your Ma Bu some time and feel how low you can go. However, always check your technique before you go low. Rather stay high and proper (straight back and knees out) than low and unstable.
Gong Bu translates to "bow stance". It is a rather long step where your back leg and your upper body shape some kind of a bow. Try to keep your back foot on the floor and make sure your feet point in the same direction. If possible, bent your hips slightly forward.
Pu Bu is called "flat stance", flat in terms of very low. Again, try to get low but only if you stand properly: Pu Bu is a long side step where one leg stretches out and you squat down on the other. Your upper body bends towards the straight leg to give way to the hip. Similar to Ma Bu, you need to watch the knee of leg you squat with. Make sure it doesn't fall in. Maybe your elbow can help pushing it out while your hand holds the ankle. You may also hold your hands up to increase the stretch or put them on the floor to spread your body weight.
"Rest stance" is one translation of Xie Bu as it looks like your are sitting down to have a break. I tell you, it's a very active break though. At first you cross your legs (Xie Bu is also called "cross stance") as in on foot steps behind the other and then you squat down. To start with you can put your hands in prayer position. When the Xie Bu is part of the five stance combination, a punch is added and you should try to bring the shoulder out as much as you can.
Even though Xu Bu means "false stance" it still is a proper stance. You squat down while your body weight is 95% on the back leg. Thus, you should be able to lift the front leg easily as it it not really standing. Again, you try to squat as low as possible but your upper body must not fall forward too much. Holding up your handy in a defense position will help you to stay stable. Xu Bu is a great way to prepare for pistol squats which ask you to lift and straighten the front leg and then to squat down on one leg.
In this video I show you the combination of the five basic stances in one flowing movement. Try to practice it as often as you can to improve your stances.
Be smart: Practice the combination of the five basic stances after an exhausting workout. As your body is hot, you will be able to perform them better and lower.
In case you are just looking for qi gong, you can certainly skip this fitness part. However, I strongly recommend complement your qi gong practice with a physical workout (let it be walking if that feels better). Qi gong without working out is only half the battle. And the other way round.
If you are working out already, feel free to create your own fitness session. Maybe my exercises can give your routine a little Shaolin twist. For some they might be too easy whereas other will find them quite tough. Try to make them work for you by adjusting the speed and/or the repetitions within the time given.
There are more exercises in part 1.
Take off your shoes
Your sense of balance will be improved in exercise 4.
Follow your hands and expand from head to tail.
Your feet are in a T-position (right angle) at the beginning of the movement. That will give you more stability. Lift the toes of your front foot. Bend forward and bring your hands towards your front foot and put its toes down. It looks as if you are going to take off your shoes. Lift your toes while you bring your arms to the front and up above your head. Then push your hands down by the side of your body and bring the toes down again. Move the back foot so that both feet point in the same direction and lean forward. Your arms are straight and your body is in one line while you look to the ground, just in front of your front foot. If possible slightly tuck your pelvis. Then repeat everything on the other side.
Come into the Ma Bu stance for the second part of the exercise. Look over your right shoulder and then dive down in a circle movement to come up on the left side while you stretch out your right leg. Look over the left shoulder and dive down while bringing the feet in Ma Bu position and come up to the right side while stretching out the left leg. Repeat twice (in total three times to every side).
As always: You decide how low you stand and how much you bend forward.
Hold your feet – and your tummy
To the Chinese, exercise 5 plays an extremely important role as it sets a lot of energy free. It activates the kidney which have a great impact when it comes to cleaning our body from toxins.
Focus on your lower back and stretch like a cat.
Open your chest and stretch your arms to the sky like in exercise 1.
Bring your fingers to the ground, lean back while breathing in and come forward and on your toes while you breath out. Tighten your abdominal muscles and bring your head towards your stomach. Repeat leaning back and forth twice.
Grab your feet and hold on to them. Breathe in and squat down as low as you can (like in a Yogi squat). Breath out while lifting your bottom to come into a nice forward stretch. Make sure, your back is fairly straight. Repeat squatting and bending forward twice.
Be strong and clench your fist
In exercise 6 you want your body to be super strong. Think of it as energy within your body that gives you some kind of a shield. You should support that shield by tightening your body. When Shaolin masters practice hard qi gong, they use this kind of power or rather forces to prevent their bodies from being hurt by weapons.
Tighten up – be strong like a lion.
Breathe in to gather energy. Breathe out and come into the Ma Bu stance while pushing your hands powerfully to the front. Also, imagine how energy (qi) travels down to your abdominal area (as if you not only breathe out but party downwards). Breathe in and pull your hands towards you in a circle while making fists. Breathe out while you bring your right fist forward in a slow punching movement and your left fist next to your left hip. Open the right fist in a circle and pull it towards your while breathing in. Bring the left fist out for a slow punch and breathe out just before you punch. Repeat until you have punched six times in total. Never lose the tension in your body and keep your eyes focused on a ‘target’ somewhere (far) in front of your. Your look should be determined (and as strong as your body).
Get into the Flow
Always try to practice the movements linked together as a flow. As soon as you feel confident with the three individual sequences, use this demonstration to master the combination.
If you practice by yourself (without the video), try to hold the positions a little longer (about three breaths) to intensify the experience and manifest the position.
When you feel ready and are happy to continue Shaolin qi gong, sign up for part 3.
When you first completed this course, I strongly recommend you to repeat it several times. I you feel confident with the individual movement, use the demonstration video to get into a flow that links them all together. And you feel like you can do it by yourself, try it out and see how long you can hold your positions. Use your breath to guide you. Finally, move on to part 3. Try to incorporate the Ba Duan Jin form in your daily life and in your workout routine (alternate whether you do it before or after working out and find out what suits you better). On a busy or bad day, try to practice an individual moment at least. See if you feel brave enough to practice in public.
Sometimes, I schedule qi gong days to remind myself how important recovery is. I also like to insert single movements in my workout routine to calm down and get my focus back.
Let me know what works for you. I would love to see you again in one of my other classes. Also keep in touch be following me on Instagram (@smizingde), YouTube und Facebook and check my website SMIZING.de where I regularly post in English.
Keep on SMIZING.