In this first week of our qigong walking course, our focus will be on the simple rise and fall of energy within our body. When our body is healthy there will be a constant rising and falling of energy within our body from yin to yang and yang back to yin. This rising and falling causes gentle stimulation throughout all the tissues of our body, gently massaging every cell and stimulating the flow of fluids, the activity of nerves and the movement of other energies within the body. Sometimes due to injury, illness, stress or other emotional issues we may create areas of tension or weakness in our body which stop this natural rise and fall from occurring naturally. Our walking practice this week will help us to re-establish this natural flow and help make it a habit that we continue unconsciously outside of our qigong practice as well.
We will use two physical factors to help to stimulate this movement and to help us to focus on it. These will be our breath and raising and lowering of our arms. Whenever we move part of our body there is an equal and opposite reaction and other parts of our body have to compensate by either also moving or by building tension and pressure to counterbalance the movement that is taking place. When our body is very relaxed and we move our arms in front of us we can feel a wave of pressure rise up through our body as we raise our arms and sink down as we lower them. Also when we breathe, the expansion of the inhalation also causes our whole body to rise just slightly and the contraction of the exhalation causes our whole body to sink just slightly. By focusing on the rise and fall caused by these physical factors we can gently help our bodies to let go of tensions that we are holding onto that are blocking our natural flow of energy. We can also gently strengthen areas that have become weak by encouraging the energy to flow through them.
We will start by simply focusing on our breathing and making it deep and slow, raising our arms on the inhalation, and lowering them on the exhalation. We want to keep the whole body relaxed as we do this, so check your ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders, neck and arms as you do this so that the wave of energy can move smoothly through your body. If any area is stiff it will cause the energy movement to become jerky or may even block it. Pointing the elbows towards the ground helps to keep the arms and shoulders relaxed.
Once we are comfortable with this movement and can feel the rise and fall of the energy like a wave in our body, we will begin to include steps by raising one foot as we inhale and then setting it forwards and down as we exhale. This will make a very slow exaggerated walk which will help us to focus on the rise and fall of energy. You will be able to tell how well you have relaxed your body by how smooth this movement is, if you are still holding some parts of your body tense then the movement will be a bit jerky and you will tend to lean backwards and forwards with each step rather than simply rising and falling gracefully. If this is the case, that’s ok. Just try to relax and gradually make the movement smoother and more graceful and your body will become more centred and relaxed.
Once you are comfortable with this we will try adjusting the rhythm of your steps to a more normal walking pattern. Do this by standing still and focusing just on the rise and fall of the arms and the breath again. Count your inhalation at a comfortable stepping pace and then count your exhalation at the same comfortable pace. After several breaths begin to walk again still following the rise and fall of energy in your body with the breathing and arm movement but taking several steps for each breath.
Next we will focus on making our awareness of the rise and fall more subtle. Stand still and gradually make the rise and fall of your arms smaller, still following the rise and fall all through your body. Continue this until the movement with your hands is very subtle, or even indiscernable, then begin walking again still following the rise and fall of energy, using only the breath as your guide.
As mentioned in the introduction to this course, you now have an overt and a covert way for you to focus on the rise and fall of energy in your body while walking. You can overtly focus on it with large arm movements and slow exaggerated steps, or you can covertly focus on it by walking normally and simply following the rising and falling stimulation caused by your breath. You will want to spend time practicing both of these methods during the week.