The 'Other' Dimension of Qigong Exercise
By Joan Foo Mahony (exclusive for on its inauguration)

When I wake up in the morning, the first Qigong exercise which I do is what I call 'embracing the tree' (see my book "Indispensable Qigong - For People On the Go!" for a full description of this exercise). This exercise (as in all Qigong exercises) works to activate and open the body's energy channels clearing blockages along the way while at the same time directing the qi to specific areas of the body.

What I am describing above can be regarded as the physiological aspect of doing Qigong exercises which is all very well known to Qigong practitioners. All of us who diligently practice Qigong do so by using our own internal qi energy to stay healthy or increase our energy levels and strength and remove the blockages and imbalances in our system which causes disease and poor health.

However, the reason I start my day with this Qigong exercise is not just for its physiological benefits (which are very important) but because qi energy is also very much the product of the mind and I wish to commence my day right with the right frame of mind. This is what I call the "other" dimension of Qigong exercise which some Qigong masters refer to as the mental and spiritual dimensions of Qigong.

Before I go further on this, let me briefly speak about qi energy for those who have not read my book or know very little about this increasingly popular subject of Qigong exercise.

The word "qi" can be simplistically described at various instances as universal or internal or vital or life energy. However, the word "qi" is not an exact or quantitative term and its meaning is often vague. Even Qigong masters have been known to say: " I don't know what it is but there is something there."

Well that something is not only there, it can also be developed through "Qigong" for practical purposes. The word "gong" means, again very simplistically, working with or the art of. So Qigong exercise literally means working with your internal life energy.

Doing Qigong creates the energetic ability for the body to heal itself. Through Qigong exercises, you activate and open the body's energy pathways often referred to as the meridians of the body or places where our energy or qi flows. When we practice Qigong, this internal highway of energy opens, stretches, and energy flows through easily without obstruction.

One of the most important physiological aspects of Qigong exercise here is that your muscles become toned and invigorated with blood. This in turn helps the immune system and nervous system and improves your all round vitality and health. It is a method of self-cultivation and works firstly to benefit the body physiologically because through Qigong practice, you are actually extending the range of your muscles and tendons. The result of this is that you bring about more mobility within the body and improved flexibility. With this, you obviously have an improved state of mind because you feel more alive and more open with your increased agility and flexibility.

However, for Qigong to be truly effective as a health exercise, we must also understand that cultivating qi energy is also very much a product of the mind. In every Qigong exercise we do, the best results are obtained when we are able to still the mind and concentrate.

So that is why I begin my day by standing in the Qigong basic position every morning and 'embrace' my big beautiful leafy life-giving tree. I am doing precisely this: telling myself 'don't rush!', stilling my mind and allowing my thoughts (for a brief five minutes or so - it could be as long or as brief as you wish ) to be filled with positive things and with this inner peace or tranquility, I am enjoying and visualizing this wonderful life giving qi force flowing through my body. For me, it is a wonderful morning start for the rest of my day.

When you are able to achieve what some masters call the "Qigong state of mind", you will be relaxed, you attain a state of harmony, of single pointed concentration which removes every trace of the frazzled nervous energy which afflicts so many of us - including me!

As I said earlier in my book and in this article, just doing the normal Qigong exercises is good enough for one to achieve the universal objectives of doing Qigong, i.e. maintaining one's health and stamina, improving our immune systems, being stronger and clearing our systems of blockages that cause disease. Qigong at its purest physical level is powerful and for those who do not wish to go further, there is no need to aspire to the next level which is the mental or spiritual levels of Qigong. However, that would be a pity, a waste of one's tremendous potential.

So, if you wish to go beyond the physical, let me open this window for you. What is this mental or spiritual dimension of Qigong and how does one cultivate it?

How does one still the mind? Most of us have a thousand thoughts racing through our mind and keeping it still or empty seems an impossible task. Which is why I integrate it with my Qigong practice. I replace my thousand meaningless thoughts with my one visualization of that big leafy green tree when I embrace my tree in the Qigong morning exercise and I focus on this. You will find that while you may not easily cultivate an "empty" mind, you will certainly find it easy to focus and concentrate on one thought or subject and that brings you to the state of stillness, naturalness and relaxation that is the essence of the Qigong state of mind in its most elementary and fundamental form (I am not at this point going to go beyond to the different levels of the mental and spiritual dimensions of Qigong).

When you still your mind and meditate while doing your Qigong exercise, your brain waves have a lower frequency and greater magnitude and more synchronized. Although a pattern of breathing as such is not strictly important when one does the Qigong exercises purely for the physical effects of Qigong, if one wishes to achieve a still mind for the mental benefits of Qigong, then it would certainly help if you take long, deep and slow breaths. Breath out slowly, pause then breath in slowly, pause again and repeat this. Do not close your eyes because while you are in deep meditative state, a sharp push by someone or a loud noise may not only shatter your peaceful concentration, it will scatter your mind and energy.

Research has shown that when you practice Qigong, you actually slow down your metabolism. The result of this is that your oxygen consumption takes place in a more efficient manner. Slower breathing also gives you a great sense of calmness.

Here are some interesting statistics:

1. Normal people breath out 18 times per minute.
When you achieve the Qigong state of mind, you breathe out only 5 times per minute. Why is this? Through the internal stillness and concentration added to the Qigong movements, a Qigong practitioner's breathing is slower, deeper and involves better exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. When this happens, a Qigong practitioner has a more efficient system for removing toxins from his body!

2. A Normal person takes in 500 cc of air per one breath.
A Qigong practitioner takes in 5,000 cc of air per one breath - almost 10 times the capacity.
This is because when you practice Qigong, your lungs have a larger intake capacity. When this happens you have more oxygen and consequently more energy and a more efficient blood flow to supply nutrients to all cells.

I also end my day with a Qigong exercise and combine this with a Qigong meditation. Depending on the type of day I have had, I may end with the "scooping water" exercise to release fatigue in my tired limbs and when I do this, I still my mind and visualize the water running effortlessly through my fingers or I may end the day while lying on my bed already with the Qigong exercise of going to sleep in the floating position - legs and arms out, fingers stretched and open and I close my eyes (this is the one time I do close my eyes !) and focus on any one thought to relax and bring a positive end to my day. When I do this, I drift beautifully into a wonderful sleep and wake up the next day - refreshed ...the Qigong way!! (All the Qigong exercises I mention here are described in my ebook, "Indispensable Qigong : For People On the Go!" )

Please try it. We can achieve whatever we wish so long as we train our mind to believe this.

Indispensable QI GONG For People On The Go!
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