By Jim Kaminecki –
There are many benefits of exercise that are widely known. It’s not simply something that benefits the physical body, although that is certainly the case. A consistent routine also has benefits for emotional and psychological well-being. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience, and the body is the temple from which all that experience flows.
Once they decide to engage in physical exercise, people have a whole world of options – weights, yoga, running, Pilates, swimming, martial arts, walking, cycling, team sports, and tennis, to name a few.
As you were reading the above, did you tell yourself that none of those options were for you? You may have one or more reasons for believing this is the case. However, be assured that it is never too late to start, or begin again. There’s always some type of activity that will be a good fit, regardless of where you’re at today.
Qi Gong is an energy practice which combines breath work, movement, and meditation. As a Chinese martial art, Qi Gong has a history which goes back 4000 years, and is actually the precursor to Tai Chi. Tai Chi traces its origins back about 3000 years to the Zhou Dynasty. Both are low-intensity physical exercise that can be done by any age group, in almost any physical condition. A good teacher is ideal, until at least a foundation is built. However, if that is not an option, due to circumstances, there are other choices. No equipment or gym membership is needed. So, simple online instruction and some space indoors or outdoors will suffice as long as the desire to learn is there.
As a practice, it is not widely known in the United States as it is in Asia. However, the Mayo Clinic says over 2.5 million Americans now use Qi Gong and Tai Chi to improve health.
Ba Duan Jin is a Qi Gong exercise that I practice, and have taught at a number of BMSE conferences. Translated to English it means ‘Eight Pieces of Brocade.’ The form I teach is through my Shaolin practice, and has more than eight movements. Here are the health benefits of some of those movements based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
1. Two hands reach up to the heavens – feet firmly planted, and arms extended up with fingers interlocking and palms facing the sky. This movement will help promote blood circulation and expand the lungs. The result is that you can take deeper breaths and inhale more oxygen. Oxygen exchange increases Qi, and it will strengthen the body.
2. Drawing the bow to shoot the hawk – feet firmly planted in horse stance, when facing left, pushing out with the left hand and drawing back the right arm, then alternating sides. The movement focuses on regulation of Qi in the body, with a special focus on the lungs and liver. It also expands the rib cage, increases the elasticity in the shoulders and neck, along with increasing blood flow through these areas.
3. Wise owl gazes backward – feet firmly planted, hand behind head and lower back, turning 180 degrees. This movement is designed to counter the five damages and seven injuries that are part of traditional Chinese medicine. It focuses on the spinal cord, where the body’s yang energy flows. It also focuses on the arms, circulation, and activating the meridians in the arms.
4. Two hands press the Earth – bend at the waist, hands holding feet while exhaling. This movement is to help strengthen the kidneys and waist. The kidneys are responsible for strong bones and store Qi. A weak waist leaves the body susceptible to disease and sickness. During the movement, it’s important that the arms and legs come into contact, as there is a connection between the heart and kidneys (heart – kidney intersection method) in traditional Chinese medicine.
5. Lifting heels and bouncing seven times – hands behind back, lifting on toes and dropping on heels. This movement is designed to heal and help prevent disease. It does not do this on its own, but as part of the entire process (the complete form). It accomplishes this mostly through activating the Du Mai, which sends signals through the spinal cord to stimulate other important organs in the body.
Regardless of the personal choice you make in exercise, incorporating that activity into your morning routine is the best possible time. We all have busy lives, with many demands placed on us, and a number of which come at us completely by surprise. By getting your 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or one hour completed during the morning, you are sure to avoid those extra demands later in the day. Also, by doing so in the morning, you have:
Begun your day with accomplishment, no matter what happens throughout the rest of it.
Invested time in yourself, and engaged in something just for you.
Given your metabolism a kickstart which will last throughout the day.
Awakened with activity instead of artificial stimulants like coffee, tea, or pop.
Finding a physical activity to add to your daily routine will enhance this experience we call life. Whether you choose Qi Gong or some other form of exercise, consider incorporating it into your morning routine – before the day begins.
Jim Kaminecki is a holistic health and wellness advocate; a lifelong learner; a sand volleyball, swimming, and skiing enthusiast; an amateur photographer; a career, investment, and business consultant; a music aficionado; a Shaolin Kung Fu, Qi Gong, and Tai Chi practitioner, and occasional instructor.