– Chief Instructor Brett Wagland
Recently, traditional Chinese medical practitioner and Qigong expert, Fei Wang, conducted a workshop on Qigong and Tai Chi. He said that the first thing he looks for when teaching Qigong is good posture. If you are leaning backwards or forwards, it will be impossible for you to advance to a higher level of Qigong. It is difficult to understand relaxation if you fail to grasp the meaning of good posture.
Students comment on the discomfort they feel when they are in the Holding the Tree posture. Many Tai Chi and martial arts students do not realise at first that this Quiet Standing posture is designed to train the skeletal system, nervous system, the muscles and connective tissues.
The initial feelings of discomfort are caused by the weaknesses of the body. The following are some of the more common problem areas experienced by students
Soreness in the Shoulders
When embracing the tree, our arms are held at chest height as if embracing a ball. It is important to use only minimum strength to maintain this position. As your muscles relax, you may feel soreness in the joints of the shoulders. The aches in the shoulders are mainly due to residual tension and the use of too much force in holding the tree. With practice, the soreness will ease and you will experience a soft yet full sensation in your arms and shoulders.
This particular shape is designed to improve circulation around the joints and relax and strengthen the upper body, especially the shoulders. Eventually, your centre of gravity will sink to the lower body.
Soreness in the Lower Back
This is usually due to an exaggerated sway of the lumbar curve. This can be corrected by relaxing the waist area and gently bending forwards from the waist until you are no longer leaning back. When your spine is straight, the weight of the upper body will fall and rest in the legs and eventually the soles of the feet. It is best to check this adjustment with your instructor to ensure that you understand and feel what it means to be standing straight.
Most people have suffered some damage or weakness to the lower back, so it is important to practise the Quiet Standing correctly and regularly. You will gradually strengthen this part of the body. Remember that it takes time!
Heavy or Sore Feet
As you become more accustomed to the posture, you will experience a sinking of the body weight to your feet. At first, you will feel discomfort in your feet due to the extra weight. They will feel hot and heavy as if you are sinking into the ground. This is a good sign. It means that you are beginning to relax and experience the full weight of your body. As with any new exercise, you will feel a little awkward. Gradually, your body will adapt and you will then feel comfortable and at ease.
Busy Mind – Difficult to Settle
Good posture is a great help in calming the mind. Be aware of your posture when doing the Quiet Standing. Practise regularly. Don’t force your mind – let things happen. Be patient and consistent. Choose a right time and place that is conducive to the practice. Don’t try to stop all the thoughts and don’t engage with them. Let the thoughts flow naturally. As soon as you are aware of a thought, bring your mind to the Dan Tian in the abdomen. As long as you remember to practise this act of mindfulness, you will gradually find your awareness staying at the Dan Tian longer and longer, with fewer interruptions from passing thoughts. All you are doing is practising mindfulness and your mind-body will take care of the rest.
In learning Qigong, calming the mind can be one of the most challenging tasks. It is important to practise regularly – don’t worry about the result. Just go with it. Something is always happening, even if you are not aware of it. K eep practising and enjoy the benefits. Eventually, your mind will stay at one point and you will feel where your Dan Tian is.
I wish you all much perseverance in cultivating the Quiet Standing. The benefits are immense – so simple and yet so profound. One day, you will feel that it is a most enjoyable activity and you’ll miss it if you don’t practise each day. Yes, I know, it’s hard to believe at first, but it is something to look forward to!