At QiWorks, Standing Meditation is the cornerstone of our practice.
Each practice begins with a progressive internal scan of our body with our awareness. Proceeding from joint to joint, we adjust each into its proper position before moving on to the next.
Over time, maintaining this practice of optimal posture slowly develop into a simultaneous awareness of all the parts of the as they are re- integrated with each other into an elastic frame.
Along with posture, we cultivate awareness of the breath in standing meditation. Indeed, the breath is our primary tool in realigning and integrating our body parts with each other so that the body can function as a whole, as a unit.
In summary: Through cultivating the breath and self perception of our internal environment of balance and proprioception, standing meditation over time integrates the body as a whole with the mind, the result being an optimal state of alert and relaxed readiness for action.
The next practice is to maintain our standing meditation posture while engaging the body in movement.
As human beings, we are bi-pedal and vertically aligned with respect to gravity. This position and orientation in space allows for three fundamental types of movements of the human torso: horizontal, vertical and rotational.
As the foundation of the body, the legs have the job of moving the body around in space.
Each of the main joints of the legs (ankles, knees and hips) is primary in one of these movement and supportive in the other two.
In the vertical raising and lowering of the torso, the knees are the main joint.
In the rotation of the torso left and right, the hips are the main joints.
In the horizontal movement of shifting the weight from foot to foot, the ankle is the main joint.
We practice these three types of fundamental torso movements by themselves, in simple combinations with each other, and in combination with the movement of the arms.
Walking results when we alternately step with and shift the weight onto, the left and right feet.
The arms move mainly in circular patterns. Chief among them are vertical circles, horizontal circles, rotational circles, diagonal circles, simultaneous circles, alternating circles, clockwise circles, counterclockwise circles, etc.
Five Animal Frolics Qigong
The Five Animal Frolics system of qigong presented in this clip is a very ancient system of qigong.
As the name implies, the Five Animal Frolics mimic the movements and spirit of five animals. These are the Deer, Tiger, Bear, Monkey and the Crane.
Like all good systems of qigong, The Five Animal Frolics provide a thorough stretching and conditioning regimen for the entire body by successfully combining the awareness of posture, the awareness of movement, the awareness of breath, and the awareness of effort.
1. The Frolics teach us to combine the three fundamental torso movements (vertical, horizontal and rotational) into patterned sequences of greater complexity.
2. The Frolics teach us fine control of our breathing rhythms in cultivating relaxation and integration of body and mind.
3. The Frolics teach us the uses of internal resistance training, in which opposing muscle groups are made to exert against each other in the performance of movement.
Soaring Crane Qigong
Unlike the Five Animal Frolics, The Soaring Crane qigong system is a modern qigong system, created in the 20th century.
But in its approach to body conditioning, the Soaring Crane system utilizes the very same methods as its ancient cousin, combining posture, fundamental movements, breath control and internal resistance.
What is meant by “internal resistance” can be explained easily by considering he movement of the arm as it flexes and extends.
In normal flexing of the arm only the biceps is exercised, and in normal extending only the triceps is exercised. In other words, while one member of the muscle pair is working, the other is resting.
But when you use internal resistance in flexing and extending, both triceps and biceps will be worked simultaneously and continuously, both while flexing and while extending.
To do this requires intent. As you contract either the triceps to extend the arm, or the biceps to flex the arm, you create resistance to that effort by simultaneously contracting, to a lesser degree, the opposing muscle.
Obviously, when contraction is stronger in the triceps, the arm will extend, while when it is greater in the biceps, the arm will flex.
Applied to movement in general, it is precisely this relative difference in effort between opposing muscles, or groups of muscles, that creates movement when practicing internal resistance.
Because when opposing muscles are exerted equally, whether at 0% or 100% intensity, there will be no movement.
But when the contraction is greater in one than the other, movement will result accordingly.
Yang Style Taiji
From the health maintenance point of view, it is accurate to consider taiji a very long and complicated qigong pattern.
Much like the Soaring Crane and Five Animal Frolics, the taiji form combines the three fundamental torso movements in more complex sequential patterns, it harmonizes our breathing rhythms with its movements, and it uses internal resistance as its core conditioning methodology.
The taiji form also lets us more fully understand the implications of resistance training as applied to the three fundamental torso movements in space: vertical, horizontal and rotational.
In the vertical dimension, up must always be actively balanced by down and visa versa. In the horizontal dimension, forward exertion must always be actively balanced by backward exertion and visa versa. In the rotational dimension, clockwise rotation must always be actively balanced by counterclockwise rotation and visa versa.
In other words, when all our movements and exertions in any given direction are always balanced by exertion in the opposite direction, the net result will be a stable, vertical posture in all our all movements.
In the final analysis, the genius of taiji is more than just a health maintenance system. It is also a sophisticated martial art, as reflected in its full and more accurate name: taijiquan, the additional word “quan” meaning ‘fist’, or, ‘martial art’.
The martial dimension of Taijiquan is revealed in the fact that each posture and movement in the form has a specific offensive or defensive martial function, examples of which will be featured in other video clips.
Accordingly, we will use the shorter term “taiji” whenever we are talking about its health aspects, and the longer term “taijiquan” whenever we are talking about its martial aspects.