Practice Guidelines: Qigong Exercises for Health

Seated qigong exercise using turning at the waist.

Qigong exercises for health improvement have some guiding principles which are essential to help you get the most out of the time you spend in practice.  To that end, I have provided the following list of five pointers help improve the energy flow during your practice time. These pointers do not include recommendations on breathing, as that has been covered in previous posts regarding diaphragmatic breathing.

Maintain continuous movement. Continuous, unbroken movement is an aspect of the circularity of movement execution. While some qigong movements may outwardly appear to have linear aspects, there is circularity built-in when you perform them in an unbroken manner. Pay attention to the transition aspects of movements as the hands or body change directions and allow a circularity of rhythm to develop at these points. The flow of yin and yang energies will be enhanced and the movement of energy from and to the dantien will be noticed more.

Slowness helps create balance and coordination. When using qigong for healing, slowness facilitates integration of mindfulness. Mindfulness allows feeling to occur, which is needed for allowing interior energy work to happen and create change. Feeling imbalances, you work towards achieving balance. For instance, if you notice if you are too yang (tight) on one side you feel that tightness and allow it to dissolve. As balance increases, coordination increases.


When you are learning moves, you usually learn to do the movements at a quick or moderate pace. A faster rhythm helps you ignore balances. It can be awkward at first to slow down the movements, but it is necessary for internal energy work. Once you know the movements and don’t have to think about them, practice at a slower pace to obtain a deeper mindfulness of your interior space and let the energy do its work. Do it until it becomes natural and you will feel more intense energy flow.

Quickness practice can be used to develop ability for martial qigong, but it needs to be done with a relaxed body. Therefore, for this type of qigong, practice slow at first to foster relaxation and development of coordination.  Slow practice will increase your speed in quick practice because a relaxed muscle can move quicker.

Relaxation. Called sung in Chinese, relaxation is a foundation principle of qigong practice. It is a required state for qi cultivation. Before starting qigong practice, letting go of mental and physical tension is needed. Doing meditation, sitting or standing, prior to movements will help foster this state. Practice progressive relaxation from head to toe and dissolving of blockages that are encountered. The body’s chi center should be sunk to the dantien and the body should connect with Earth qi, or ground.

Develop your ground. This is also known as developing your root to ground. The upper body is empty in this state and the qi is centered in the lower half. The feet feel like the have roots penetrating into the ground. Holding qigong postures as standing meditation postures, or doing standing meditation alone, fosters rooting. Movements (coming from the dantien) which shift the weight from one leg to another also help. However, the body must stay in the same plane and not move upwards during the transitions from one leg to the other. In the Animal Frolics Qigong, the bear walking form is recommended in this regard. It is important to maintain correct alignments and fully transfer your weight to obtain one full and a totally empty leg.

Move from the waist. In Chinese, the waist is called the kwa. The waist moves independently of the hips, thus there is movement into the inguinal crease. This is not something that is normally developed in other disciplines. Movement into the inguinal crease also does not involve twisting of the upper torso. The spine doesn’t twist. There is movement of the musculature in the upper thigh, but the knees are stationary. If twisting of the spine or legs occurs, then this cuts off energy flow and reduces the benefit that you can gain from your practice. One qigong exercise that specifically helps develop this ability is “swing 1” described by Bruce Frantzis in his book, Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body.

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Practitioner of Qigong and T'ai Chi in the water tradition of Lao Tse since 1995. See my blog entry on asthma to understand my healing journey.
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