1. Feet connect and ground with the Earth…
How to: Begin by standing with the outer edges of your feet somewhere between shoulder and hip-width apart. Your stance must be comfortable. Keep the outside edges of your feet parallel with each other, distributing your weight to the front at 70/30 with 70% of your weight on the balls of both feet and 30% on the heels. Slightly flatten down the arches of both feet and press (K1) Bubbling Well points firmly against the ground. Now relax your knees and sink your weight into both heels while maintaining pressure on your big toes. Continue to adjust your posture on the centerline – left/right and front/back – until your weight is 50/50. Push the earth down and feel as if your feet are deeply rooted in the ground. Relax. Do not lean back. imagine the Earth Qi flows unimpeded upward through both legs and flows into the lower Dan Tian.
Practise Tips: Continually soften and relax. Press big toes down. Initially your feet may feel sore, achy, or even numb in certain areas. This is due to blocked meridians or stagnant Qi. Continued practice will improve or eliminate this condition.
Point of interest: Yong Quan (Kidney 1) “The Bubbling Well”
Notes: This step reminds you of the fundamental human relationship to earth. Grounding in this way establishes a proper foundation and forms the basis for successful energy practise. According to Qigong Theory, man is a Hunyuan Entirety whose existence depends upon a constant blending of Earth-Qi, Heaven-Qi and Human-Qi. man provides the human element and serves as the “go” between heaven and earth. Man arises from the earth and grows upwards towards the heavens just as the trees that sorround us. In order to reach out we must first become firmly rooted to the ground. When you practise, imagine that your feet send strong roots deep down into the earth in all directions. Become grounded, rooted, and centered. Feel the earth energy flowing up through the meridians of both legs until they feel like colums of Qi. Allow waves of energy to pulsate upwards and let it nourish you from deep beneath the surface of the earth.
2. Unlock the knees…
How to: Soften and relax the knees by sitting into th ekwa as if you were perched on an imaginary bar stool. Unlock but do not bend the knees. The knee caps shoul move approximately 1-2 inches forward and soften the back of the knee. imagine your knees are buoyant springs.
Practise Tips: Unlocking the knees is the secret to unlocking the back.
Point of interest: Wei Zhong (Bladder 40) “Bend Middle”
Notes: The knees are meant to be “shock absorbers” not used as stilts. When the knees are locked backward it disrupts the flow of Qi through the Bladder Meridian and places too much strain on the low back.
3. Your tailbone pointing to the ground…
How to: Your tailbone should be perpendicular to the floor; it should not incline backward, as it does when you stand normally. The lower back from the tailbone up to and including the lumbar vertebrae, should be relatively straight. In most cases the spine naturally has an “S” shape, with curves at the bottom, middle and top. In this posture however the lower part of the spine is straightened.
Practise Tips: Now that you have unlocked your “kangaroo knees” sink your weight and feel for stability of your “kangaroo tail”.
Point of interest: Hui Yin (Conception Vessel 1) “Meeting of Yin”
Notes: this step helps to stabilize the posture. When practictioners stand in Wuji it is at all times dynamic. The goal is to feel at once centered, stable and springy.
4. Sitting into the kwa…
How to: The “kwa” refers to the Bilateral Inguinal Creases/Groves of the groin region. To sit into the kwa, engage the abdominal muscles and have a feeling of rolling the thights slightly outward at the same time and allow yourself to rest more deeply on the imaginary tripod/bar stool formed by the feet and tailbone.
Practise Tips: Do not look like a “Happy Buddha”, which is more often than not pictured with a very full and relaxed belly. This image of the Buddha serves several purposes, it reminds practitioners to breathe fully from the abdomen. Ensure your pelvis is not tucked in or forced outwardly, this can be checked by standing in front of the mirror.
Notes: This manoeuvre deepend the “sitting” sensation and also engages the abs for proper abdominal breathing. During the inhale phase of breath the abdomen should not distend but rather the diaphragm should slowly drop while the ribs also expand in the back in the region of the Kidneys and Mingmen. This is known as Lower Dan Tian Breathing/Belly Breathing.
5. Relax the Lower Back…
How to: With feet now grounded and head on top, allow the lumbar spine at the level of L2/L3 to move backwards approximately 2,5-7 cm. release all tension in the muscles of the low back.
Practise Tips: If you have trouble relaxing the low back and opening the Mingmen area first try pressing the Mingmen down lying flat on the floor. Do some floor “belly breathing” exercises with your knees bent feet flat on the floor. Press your lumbar spine firmly down against the ground and then relax. Press the Mingmen down and then relax…
Point of interest: Mingmen (Governing Vessel 4) Gate of Life. Location: on the lower back, below the spinous process of the second lumbar vertebrae (L2). Stimulating Gov 4: Clears Heat, Regulates the Governing Vessel, Tonifies the Kindeys, Benefits the Lumbar Spine.
Notes: There is a myth that contends that the cause of low back pain is weak abdominal muscles. in fact, the number one cause of low back pain over tighthtened and inflexible low back and abdominl muscles! When your low back hurts the first thing to do is relax your low back…
6. Head as if Suspended from a “Sky Hook”…
How to: Imagine being gently “pulled up” by an imaginary “Sky Hook” that is attached to the crown of your head. Feel yourself “hang down” from your head and allow your spine to lenghten upward one vertebra at a time. Consciously breathe out while releasing any pressure or tension that limits circulation to your spine. Feel yourself relax each vertebral disc. Adjust your posture until it balanced along your anatomical center-line. Feel for a soft inner-sensation of floating as if your head was literally suspended from above and while your body was effortlessly hanging down from the skull.
Practise Tips: Do not raise your chin. Your ears should be centered over the shoulders. Try imagining your ears being gently pulled up.
Point of Interest: Bai Hui (Governing Vessel 20) Hundred Meetings.
Notes: The goal here is to bring the body into the proper anatomical posture along the midsagital, coronal and transverse planes. This requires consciously assuming control of your skeletal alignment, moving out of the typical “head forward” posture into proper “head on top” posture. The head forward posture places too much strain on the intrinsic muscles of the neck and spine besides being terribly inneficient and thus requiring unnecessary expedintures of energy to remain erect. Head forward posture pressurizes the entire spinal column and neurologically irritates the nerve roots and the spinal cord itself. If unchecked it produces arthritic changes, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, and other degenerative diseases. This step ephasizes the importance of balancing our structural form along the center line instead of holding ourselves erect through muscle accomodation.
7. Sitting but Not Sitting
How to: While relaxing all the muscles of the feet, legs, pelvis, low back, spine, torso and abdomen, and with tailbone pointing towards the ground, sit into the Kwa. Rest in the poised state as if sitting comfortably on your “kangaroo tail/bar stool.” Flatten the natural lumbar curve by slightly moving the Mingmen area slightly backwards. relax and balance the spine, neck, and shoulders. release all muscle tension in the legs and back as if “sitting but not sitting.” Steps 1-7 are all intended to help you stabilise and refine your Wuji stance. Wuji is also known as “Standing Like A Post,” “Mountain Pose,” “Tree Standing Pose” and “Ego-Reducing Pose.” When the body is aligned with Wu (“Void” or “Universe”) we are free from the turbulence of human emotion. This loosens the hold of personality or “ego” and helps the practiotioner calm their Xin (“Heart-Mind”) thus frees the practitioner from the unnecessary emotional energy. The Chinese believe that Humans have two minds, the Xin or “Emotional-Mind” and the Yi or “Wisdom-Mind.” Learning to calm and control the Xin greatly reduces our stress levels. The practice of controlling the Xin allows for more clarity in thought, feeling and action. The Chinese say: “Use Your Yi to Guide Your Qi.” This is fundamental to all Qi-circulating exercises and meditation. Calming the Heart calms the Mind and helps create and support an inner stillness.
Practise Tips: “Sitting but Not Sitting” does not mean “pretend to be seated.” try imaging firm support on the lumbar spine, as if restin your back against the backrest of a chair, not as if sitting down upon the sit-bones. Imagine extra support for your spine not your bottom. In other words, one is “ever-sitting” without being seated. This creates a very dynamic sensation – as if just beginning to sit down without actually finding a sit to sit on.
Notes: This practise of “inner stillness” greatly reduces our energy expenditure and enhances our general circulation. The more relaxed we become physically, the freer we become from the influences of negative emotional energy. Being chronically upset or stressed is a bad habit. It raises blood-pressure and interferes with the proper function of our organs. This is why the Chines also say: “Qi and Blood Flow Together.” This means that wherever our energy does not circulate our blood stagnates. Qi in the form of negative emotional energy (stress) forces us to contract our muscles in a fight-flight-freeze response that restricts our ability to breathe and our ability to move. Learning how to relax and let-go, how to figuratively “settle down” releases unnecessary muscle tension and frees our energy and breath for immediate stress relief. In other words, all the sutras up to this point are designed to help you navigate the subtle nuances of relaxing internally thus establishing the proper foundation for standing meditation practise.
8. The Eyes and Tongue
How to: Close your eyes to facilitate your going inward. Place the tip of your tongue lightly but against the roof of your mouth at the meeting point of the hard and soft palate. If you say “let” your tongue will naturally arrive at the correct spot.
Practise Tips: Placing the tongue on the upper palate creates “Heaven’s Cup” (The area directly under the tongue). large amounts of saliva may pool there. This technique can also be used to help thirst during extensive meditation practise.
Point of Interest: Yin Jao (Governing Vessel 28) “Gum Intersection”
Notes: Akey to Traditional Chinese Meditation practise touching the tongue to the upper palate somewhere behind the teeth. This is thought to energetically connect the Governor Vessel (Ren Mai) with the Conception Vessel (Du Mai) forming a grand circulation system that feeds all collateral meridians. This is commonly referred to as the Microcosmic Orbit. Activating the Microcosmic Orbit is a step thet leads to more advanced internal practices. Taoists believe that activating the Macrocosmic Orbit Fills the reservoirs (3 Dan Tien) of the Governing and Conception channels with energy, which is then distributed to all major organ-energy meridians, thereby energizing and nourishing the internal organs. Hui Yin pushes up slightly on inhalation and remains firm on exhalation. This technique draws abundant energy up the spinal column from the sacrum into the brain, thereby enhancing cerebral circulation of blood and stimulation secretion of vital neurochemicals. The Chinese innovation is that the Tongue also draws the raised energy down through the Heart (Middle Dan Tien) and the gut (Lower Dan Tien). This is the most widely known Taoist method for cultivating one’s health and longevity. Perforoming the Grand Circulation for 30 mintutes a day is said to lead to higher spiritual awareness.
9. Drop Shoulders
How to: Circle the shoulders backwards three times and drop them to the side. Using the muscles of the ribcage and torso gently pull down the shoulders and relax all tension in the neck.
Practise Tips: “Use the torso more so!” If dropping the shoulders proves to be difficult try using the muscles of the torso – relax means: “Lax again.” And Lax means: “to lenghten or slacken; to restore proper resting lenght.”
Point of Interest: Qi Hu (Stomach 13) “Qi Door”
Notes: “Long neck means long life.” For ages the Chinese have revered the White Crane for its grace, beauty and strenght. In Chine the White Crane is a symbol for long life because of its long neck. Dropping the shoulders has the effect of lenghtening the appearance of the neck by relaxing the tension in the shoulders. When the shoulders are unnaturally high we are said to be visibly upset or uptight. Dropping the shoulders down rids the Qi Hu area (or the Thoracis Outlet) of unnecessary tension and helps in maintaining proper skeletal alignment. Lowering the shoulders generates greater power throughout the body precisely because it frees the muscles of the shoulders, chest and neck of excessive tension. When the shoulders are high, the neck is too short and your Qi flow will be blocked. Opening the “Qi Door” (Qi Hu) greatly improves energy circulation, while chronically tight shoulders and a stiff neck rob us of vitality.
10. Go Out In Six Directions
How to: Imagine your body expanding towards the horizon in all directions: Up, Down, Front, back, Left and Right. Feel the expansion of your personal energy moving in all directions to connect with the Blue Sky. Continue moving outwards until the earth feels like a small ball resting in the center of your body. (Lower Dan Tian).
Practise Tips: Use your minds eye to see your energy field expand out and mingle with the Blue Sky which sorrounds the entire earth. Actually feel the earth centered in the belly. Something clean coming in, something dirty coming out. Do not think about Qi. This is the deepest secret.
Notes: “Exchange Qi with Nature.” In order to successfully exchange Qi with nature we must move beyond the boundaries of our “personal self” with all our “personal problems” and remind ourselves of the fundamental relationship. In Chinese medicine man is seen as a microcosm (human being) within a macrocosm (Universe). Personal stress interferes with the natural laws of balance and harmony. True man is seen as a reflection of nature and the cosmos and our bodily processes are likened to seasonal changes. The meridian/organ system is similar in concept to oceans, seas, reservoirs, rivers, swamps, and deserts and our many health changes are likened to the seasonal activities of storms, floods, droughts, and viewed as the ever activity of weather, the sun, moon and constellations. nature knows the natural Law (Tao).
“Exchanging Qi with Nature” is a way of saying: “restore the natural balance.” Release the causes of illness by surrendering the “micro” to the “Macro.” Man is a Hunyuan (blend) of Heaven Qi and Earth Qi. Let-go of the unnatural tension and allow the natural order to re-enter to restore your bodily processes to their rightful balance (Homeostasis.) Allow nature to enter by relaxing.