Our focus this week will be on opening and closing, and expanding and contracting as we walk. This is another natural cycle that should be occurring all the time when we are healthy. It is the natural process of letting in and closing out, filling up and emptying out. For various reasons including injury, illness, emotional issues and even just postural habit, we sometimes become stuck in one of these phases and do not naturally cycle between them. We will again work with our breath and some simple physical movements to increase our awareness of this cycle and to encourage a habit of naturally moving between these phases.
We will start by standing still and combining awareness of our breath with movement of our arms. The arm movement consists of opening our arms out wide as we breath in, and them bringing them forwards and down as we breath out. Feel the whole body expand and open on the in breath and then contract and close subtly on the out breath. If you look at these exaggerated postures you can easily see the connection between them and our emotional states. We spread our arms wide when we are open and ready to take in and embrace, and we close our arms inwards when we want to hold in or shut out. Unfortunately some factors in our modern environment tend to encourage a postural habit of being closed in. In particular sitting at a computer with your hands on a keyboard tends to roll the shoulders inwards, and this can then be reflected in an closed and inward looking perspective on life. Practicing these movements will help to break out of that pattern and establish new habits that allow you to be open and closed when you need to, not stuck in one or the other.
Next we will practice walking. As we breathe in we will turn the feet outwards for several steps, and then as we breathe out we will turn our feet inwards for several steps. Don’t try to push your feet too far outward or inward, but just turn them far enough that you feel a gentle stretching on the inside and outside of your leg.
Practicing walking in this way will increase your flexibility in your ankles, knees and hips. This will improve your balance and ability to move smoothly and efficiently. The force exerted through our bodies naturally goes in the direction that the joints bend in. If we do not have the ability to turn and reorient our feet easily, then even the slightest change in direction of the forces our body is facing becomes difficult for us to deal with. We either build tension and stiffness in our body in order to resist the forces we are facing, or we may fall over or become injured in dealing with them. By being comfortable turning our joints towards different directions, it makes it easier for us to meet the forces we face day to day. We can change the orientation of our feet to match the slope of the ground we may be on, or we can turn our feet to more easily go around things, and the energy will flow more freely through our entire body.
Next we will combine this walking with the large opening of our arms as we inhale and closing forwards as we exhale. If you have previously completed the Between Heaven and Earth qigong course, you may recognize that this essentially stimulates circulation of energy in the macrocosmic orbit, albeit in a different way from the method used in the BHE course. As you walk in this way you may feel a gentle flow of energy up the insides of your legs, the front of your body and inside of your arms as you inhale, and a flow down the back of your arms, body and outside of your legs as you exhale.
You may also feel a slight squeezing in the area of your lower back and at the bottom of your ribcage. This flows of energy caused by this type of walking naturally stimulate the Liver, Gallbladder, Spleen and Kidney meridians on the inside of your legs (you will be familiar with these meridians if you have completed the Qigong Foundation Practices course). This squeezing in the lower back and under the ribs is the physical pressure and massaging on those organs resulting from this.
Next we will make the movement of our arms more subtle as we walk, just turning them out and in without raising them, and finally we will make is so subtle as to be barely perceptible, while still following the movement of energy as we walk.
Again, as with the previous weeks exercise, you will want to spend some time doing both the large over movements and the smaller covert movements and awareness as you practice this week.