Stay Warm in Winter with Qi GongJan 28, 2011 04:06PM ● By Luis Duarte
We live in a field of qi, "vital breath" or "life energy." Yet, like a fish in water or a bird in flight, we are unaware of this medium that supports us. Qigong means "working with the qi." It is the ancient Chinese art and science of becoming aware of this life energy and learning how to control its flow through a precise choreography of posture, movement, respiratory technique, and meditation. Like biofeedback, qigong teaches psychophysiological self-regulation. The student becomes aware of bodily functions conventionally considered involuntary-- blood pressure, respiratory rate, even the flow of blood and nutrients to internal organs-- and learns to restore balance. However, unlike biofeedback, no technical devices are needed. Qigong is one of the most cost-effective self-healing methods in the world. The only investment needed is time. A practice of thirty to sixty minutes each day can ultimately result in better health, increased vitality, and peaceful alertness.
There are thousands of styles of qigong. Some are designed for general health and well-being and may be done every day for a lifetime. Others are therapeutic and targeted to cure specific problems. Qigong techniques are suitable for men and women, young and old, athletes and sedentary, and the disabled. All styles are based on similar principles: relaxed, rooted posture; straight, supple spine; diaphragmatic respiration-- the abdomen expanding on inhalation, retracting on exhalation; fluid movements without excess effort; and, tranquil awareness.
Many of us suffer with chronically cold hands and feet and can’t seem to get or stay warm. Heavy layers of clothing and drinking warm liquids such as coffee, cocoa and tea cannot combat the feeling of “chilled to the bone.” Bringing heat to the body can be accomplished by practicing breathing techniques, such as the qigong Tumo practice. First, visualize that you are breathing in through the top of your head and imagine that you have a very long and narrow neck, and a full, round base. Your breath travels down through the neck of this “bottle.” When it becomes full at the bottom, imagine corking it to keep the breath from escaping for as long as possible. As you come to the end of your endurance, release the breath very slowly. At the same time, imagine that the qi is like a mist that separates from the air and descends to the bottom of the bottle. Once this mist has settled, envision removing the cork, start breathing in, and begin again.
As you repeat, work your way up to holding your breath for longer intervals (20 seconds, 30, and so on). You will get very warm within 15 minutes of doing this exercise. By utilizing this technique, even those who are chronically cold can generate enough body heat to stay comfortably warm for hours.
The Tumo training eventually evolves to a sole focus on visualization. Imagine that a sun is shining in every cell of your body. The energy of the universe is warming each cell. At this point you no longer need to concentrate on holding the breath. The significant principle with this exercise, which is true of Taoist and traditional Oriental philosophy, is that practice is an attitude. There is an important Taoist saying: "My life is in my hands not in the heavens’ hands." If you are ill you can get well. If you are hungry you can overcome it even if you do not have food. If you are cold you can become warm. From the Buddhist and Taoist perspective, a lot of healing has to do with faith. The minute you let go, things begin to happen. If you don't have the faith, the breathing serves as a crutch to show you that this is possible. You can then work your way up to trusting in your own abilities and divinity, manifesting the energy by simply remembering those moments. The more you do Tumo, the faster the heat will come, and eventually you will not need to concentrate on the breathing at all.
Luis Duarte began his study of Tai Chi & Qi Gong in 1993. He currently conducts exercise classes in the short and long forms of Tai Chi, Taoist healing techniques, breathing exercises, meditation, stress reduction, Chi Kung, and Nei Gong. Luis holds black belts in the arts of Tae Kwon Do, Shindo Ryu and Kickboxing. He studied Yoga with Akaria Kripananda Avaduta and traveled to Wudang Mountain China to study the advance aspects of Qi Gong and Tai Chi. His knowledge of martial arts, Tai Chi and Yoga allows him to teach a highly effective and safe synthesis of eastern and western healing methods. For information and upcoming Qi Gong schedule, contact Sabita Holistic Center at 203.254.2633.