Alignment, Flexibility, and Co-ordination
Your focus, in every class (practice session), must include your embodied experience. A good beginning is to have a “love affair” with gravity and the atmosphere. This will assist you in regaining proper alignment by yielding to the most constant influences on your body. At the same time, you can explore your natural flexibilities and tensions; the forces most responsible for proper (and poor) alignment.
In Qi Gong, each of your joints is considered a gateway for Qi (Circulation). By exploring and opening all of your energy gates (your joints) you will increase Qi flow, natural flexibility, and balanced alignment.
Another aspect of opening your joints is to imagine that the atmosphere is like the ocean – with strong tides and to imagine that your body is made of kelp. By completely letting go of your body and flowing like deep ocean currents, you will find your Mind, Body, and Emotions meeting in the vulnerability of complete release.
It is easy to focus on the movements and forget the love affair. Feeling gravity, the atmosphere, or the imaginary ocean as an intimate friend or lover – enjoying a shift of attention, expectation, and boundaries are one of the many reasons this practice has been taught for so long.
It sounds grandiose, but this is about becoming one with reality – after all…
With an open and energized Body, Mind and Heart, you will naturally feel more co-coordinated, graceful, and sensually aware.
The shift of awareness is from the mechanics of posture and movement to the meaning of being moved and opened through dissolving control and boundaries – safely.
As you become familiar with the ‘moves’ of Qi Gong, and the details of your posture are feeling more like habits than homework, you are ready to focus on the many possibilities of your breath.
The subtle qualities of each breath can be an invitation into meditative presence and energetic Healing. There are many forms of Breathwork that Qi Gong relies on to guide you through blockages, Heal chronic illness, bring you into infinite stillness, and ecstatic bliss.
In the approach to learning and practicing Breathwork that I have developed, there are Four Branches of Breathwork.
- Sensual Breathwork
- Incremental Breathwork
- Threshold Breathwork
- State Shift Breathwork
Most Qi Gong exercises are made to coordinate each movement and gesture with your breath. As you go deeper into the study of Qi Gong, you will learn to rely on the most specific and focused forms of Breathwork to transform and heal subtle aspects of your body and being.
Dao Yin ~ Embodied Healing
The earliest known and recorded form of Qi Gong, called Dao Yin, was a part of an embodied healing system created by the Indigenous people of Asia. There are records on painted clay jars of this practice going back at least 5,000 years.
Today, Dao Yin and Qi Gong mean the same thing to most people. I feel that there should be a distinction between Qi Gong and Dao Yin practices for the clarity of the participant. Qi Gong, especially in recent years, has become a practice focused on Qi (energy sensations). Dao Yin focuses almost entirely on tangible shifts in Somatic (embodied/felt sense) experience. That may sound the same, but the distinctions in what you use as a reference for your experience and progress will take you in profoundly different directions. I will unravel those distinctions throughout this book.
In ancient times, Dao Yin focused on how illness, trauma, and chronic distress can be ‘trapped’ in your body, disorienting your Spirit/Mind. Being an Indigenous practice, even today, Dao Yin associates most kinds of illness with changes in the weather and seasons, Karmic debts of your family and Ancestors, or a vexation of minor Deities and Folk Spirits. The postures, stretches, and repetitive gestures were understood to activate your whole being (Mind, Essence, and Breath) into action; while purging your body of imbalances and latent pernicious Winds and Spirits.
Another Indigenous quality of Dao Yin is animal imitation. Some understand this to be a ceremonial dance, while some would say it is a form of ‘Breathwork induced spiritual possession’ by an animal ally that has the right power or ‘Medicine’ to help you. As a clinician, I sometimes suggest that my patients go home, induce a trance state with Breathwork, and call on a certain animal to guide you on a dream journey, or to take over your body (in a caring way) so you can learn to remember your past in other ways.
As the descendant of some Indigenous tribe, from somewhere in human history, state shift and shapeshifting practices are your birthright. I believe we have the addiction and overdose problem that we have today because, as a society, we think of these traditions as New Age, or dangerous psychologically, or as a gateway to evil. It depends on who you talk to…
With the advent of the meridian system, a clearer understanding of circulation, efficiency, the Dan Tian system (Chakras/Energy Centers), Dao Yin became a pre-alchemic system of Ceremonial Self-Care. Rich in-depth, personal meaning, and prolific in modalities to reunite with your true/authentic (Zhen Qi) or sense of aliveness, this practice is a devotion to conscious, present, alive, and embodied existence.
Dao Yin practices, both ancient and recent, mirror almost exactly the perspective and the process of modern trauma-release therapies. This has been a personal and professional interest of mine for over 15 years. I will speak more about the wounds of Trauma shortly. For now, feel into your embodied state, especially when you feel wound up or suddenly exhausted. When you are ready, and with support, if you need it, listen in to your Body and Being.
Trust your Body and notice if there are any Instinctual, Visceral or Existential memories or ‘blank’ spaces.
Trust your intuition and learn from an experienced teacher. Shifting your state through Self-Regulation, nervous system Down-Regulation, inducing the Relaxation Response are a regular part of Qi Gong and Dao Yin practice.
As you consider what your Qi Gong practice may look like, I encourage you to feel into your body and life and ask yourself if you need to reduce distress gradually, or immediately. If you feel that you will need to release stored trauma (on many or any levels), find a skilled guide to ensure you begin that journey with support and a loving witness. Finding and releasing these energetic wounds or painful thought-forms is what I think of as modern Dao Yin.
For many people, it is a much more honest place to begin. If you are not ready or comfortable working with Qi as a focus, then keep your attention on your present, felt-sense embodied sensations.
If you feel a lot of Qi sensations, and tend to get overwhelmed, talk with your teacher or an Acupuncturist.