Qi Circles and modified kagles that I learned years ago from Susan Matthews and Master Wang Hao Da didn’t do much for me at first. Susan stressed them so vehemently that I had to make myself do them even though I didn’t see the value at first. Gradually over time my body showed some positive response to them. Once I actually practiced them it didn’t take so long to see the value. Now I teach them to others.
Funny thing about qi circles, most people don’t see their value when first introduce to them. These days I vary how I teach them. I often don’t even talk about them specifically as a set of practices. I incorporate them in other movement practices, such as Chen Style form. The importance of shapes and directions in tai chi and qigong are profound, and a matter of fact with seasoned practitioners. It’s different with beginners, who in the absence of clarity, doubt. Understandable … many of us start with doubt, because it was doubt that developed before we tried one more thing in attempts to solve whatever concern we had.
Qi circles are useful for a number of things. For example, they can help to develop a stronger, more responsive digestive system. They can enliven the metabolism and reduce, even eliminate, constipation. Nutrition and digestion are interests for me, because stress seems to hit me right in the gut as I’m sure it does for many people.
I also try to eat stuff that is easy to digest if I can ever figure out what that all is for my particular body. I suspect it’s different for everyone, though there are commonalities. I believe that more easily digested food could be more nutritious because nutrients are more bioavailable and metabolize more effectively. Food we had no trouble processing when our bodies were young and operating optimally may not be the best for older folks.
(https://www.youtube.com/embed/fnvtp1LfCUA“>watch a youtube clip of Susan demonstrating qi circles)
Tai Chi movement is interesting and tai chi non-movement may be even more so, especially if you are trying to detect the difference between the two. One thing to look for is if a part of the body is not moving, then the part attached to it probably isn’t moving.
For example, sometimes a part, such as a shoulder, runs up against stuck ribs which don’t support the shoulder movement. The shoulder is moving in isolation from the rest of the body, throwing off one the first things a learner should understand: whole body moves as a single unit. You can think of this, and practice it, in terms of bio-mechanics or energy. Bones, joints, ligaments and tendons, or qi (yi-qi-li).
More often than not we don’t recognize this is happening, even though we have a frustrating sense of something not being right. Aggravating it is. It’s not that it’s not right, it’s just not moving.
Here is a little solution: track this non-movement to its origins. Become aware of what moves or not. Learn how to move any one of these parts. Repeating single basic moves rhythmically is great to loosen and move stuck spots. You usually have to change your idea of how to move. You have to see it in your mind’s eye before you are able to move what you haven’t moved probably in years. Look at the joints, ligaments, and tendons, not the muscles. Move them. Feel the energy flow through the body.
Check out this sample of George Xu doing Chen form here, followed by a nice explanation
The Chinese word for central equilibrium is zhong ding. It is a place and a concept. It is the center point of alignment. It is 3D, as Master George Xu says, meaning it can have volume, or more precisely, six directions: up/down, front/back, left/right simultaneously.
A basic concept of internal movement art is to move from a single point. The attention is placed and held on that point and the movement is initiated and the rest of the body is activated. Placing and holding the attention is a listening with your whole body, not just the ears. It’s like seeing with the ears and listening with the eyes.
To practice zhong ding, move just the spine. One vertebra at a time, like climbing a ladder. The attention climbs up and steps down each one at a time. A center line comes into your view upon which energy moves. It’s like a tube aligned along the spine from tailbone to top of head. This is the place of zhong ding. This line can go deep into the earth and high into the sky.
Progress to focusing attention on the central equilibrium of the legs. Ultimately you can shift your attention to anything, inside or outside the body, and give it a central equilibrium and move from there. This is the concept of zhong ding practice.
Just about any simple move will do. Perform slowly, softly, and intend on holding your gaze on the locus; in a beginner’s case, the spine area.
Qigong is like Massage on the inside of the body. The effect of movement is from the inside out. The organs, ligaments, tendons, all the connective tissue. The fascia. The lymph nodes and channels, the meridians, even the bone marrow, all benefit from movement on the inside. When you are doing Qigong and Taiji keep this in mind.
People don’t know what tai chi really is, or could be, or how much more they could know about it and the potential it holds. Narrowing it down to a phrased description I would say tai chi is a whole-being movement art. It is body-mind movement. Even more, it is mind-energy-body movement meditation. It is being.
The body possesses a sentient awareness unique from the brain, which in turn has its own way of interpreting data provided by the senses. A quiet mind allows this to happen. The body is close to the life force. Thought is not essential, yet knowing is possible. The body can be kept alive even if the brain is dead. The body knows when it is sick and when it is well. It doesn’t need the brain to tell it. It has its own way of knowing. This way of knowing, the tai chi practitioner seeks in practice: to know with the body, to think with the heart, to feel your way, rather than have a discussion in the brain about what the body is doing.