In this section there are some specific walking qigong practices that you may like to try which incorporate some of the principles from within the main part of the course, but with specific focuses that give these practices their own specific ‘flavour’ and help to focus on specific benefits.
This qigong walking exercise is similar to ‘The Fountain’ earlier in the course with a few modifications. In this exercise we lift our knee high as we raise our arms crossed in front of our body, drawing energy up from the earth. We then place our foot forwards heel first and transition our weight forward onto the ball as we lower our arms to our sides. As we lower our arms we imagine radiating energy out in a rainbow of colours, like a peacock spreading its feathers.
This practice is great for clearing out stagnant energy from the body and is very useful for people suffering from depression, or who feel like they are stifled in their life. The walking practice encourages us to look up from an inward focus, and look outwards filling the world with brightness. The high step encourages us to ‘strut’ and develop greater confidence and pleasure in our movement.
This walking practice is similar to the ‘Spiralling’ practice earlier in this course. The emphasis is on stability and balance. We raise our hands to waist height and extend them a little away from our body with our palms down as if to assist with our balance. When we step, we imagine we are walking on ice. We keep our feet close to the ground, sliding them forward just barely above it. We place the whole foot on the ground at the same time instead of using the heel to ball motion. Between steps we bring our feet close together to help with the careful transfer of weight. This is a slow and cautious stepping pattern and will naturally encourage the healthy spiralling of energy in our bodies.
This type of qigong walking was made popular in the 70’s by a qigong teacher named Guo Lin. She had great success in helping a group of cancer patients who met daily to practice this type of walking together. There are now many variations of this type of walking and different teachers emphasis different aspects of it. We will look at a few of them here. If you would like to find out more about this type of walking there is quite a bit of information available on the internet.
This walking qigong exaggerates the natural heel to toe walking motion and also uses ‘Gather and Disperse’ in a particular way. With the feet you tap the ball of the foot in motion beside the support leg as you swing your leg through, you then place the heel of the foot forward and transition your weight forward before swinging the other leg into motion. This tapping and placement of the heel, give the leg a loose swing and also encourages a relaxation phase in the movement for both the quadriceps on the front of the leg and the hamstrings at the back. This ensures that tension does not build up in these tissues and encourages the free movement of lymphatic fluid through the body, which is important for carrying away wastes from the cells.
You also swing your arms by your sides in quite a natural motion as you walk. With your mind you focus on gathering energy in to your centre as your hand comes in front of your body, and dispersing energy down and out through your legs as you leg swings past your outer thigh. This also activates the gallbladder meridian which is important for breaking down and removing wastes from the body. Clearing wastes from the body is hard work and requires a lot of energy. Sometimes when we work too hard at cleansing our body we actually tire it out too much and weaken it and in the end accomplish very little. This walking practice balances cleansing and breaking down with restoring and replenishing by having the focus of gathering to the centre as well as clearing and discharging down the legs.
This type of walking has similarities to ‘The Water Bearer’ and also the ‘Gentle Rain’ practices from earlier in this course, although implemented quite differently.
For this practice we imagine that we are like and old style puppet with strings attached to the top of our head, our wrists and our ankles (and possibly our elbows and knees depending on how sophisticated we want to get with our motion). We feel as if we are held up by the string from the top of our head, so our spine naturally lengthens and all of our skeleton naturally aligns in relation to gravity. When we move, we do so as if a string is lifting each limb. This causes all of the muscles to relax downwards and not exert more effort or hold more tension than is necessary for the movement. Placement of the feet tends to be quite flat, and each placement will send a slight shock of vibration up through the body which will further loosen the body allow it to align more easily.
This kind of walking is quite a common qigong practice. When we step by rolling the weight forward from our heel to the ball of our foot, as mentioned earlier this is a transition from yin to yang and so is quite a stimulating and energising pattern. As we become more active, if our energy is not flowing freely we sometimes build and hold tension in different parts of our body, and in particular walking can build tension in our lower back. Walking in shoes with a raised heel can contribute greatly to this as they force us forward into a more yang or energised state and do not allow us to put our heels down properly and relax into a true yin state. Walking backwards this pattern is reversed. We transition out weight from ball to heel, from yang to yin. This is a great walking pattern for releasing deep held tension and will particularly help to relax and loosen the lower back.