Week One: Alignment, Centering and Opening
In this course we are going to be imitating the movements and energy of different animals. In order for us to do this well and safely, we need to make sure that we are centered within our own energy first. So in this first week we will be practicing some simple qigong movements that help us to do this. The movements that we will practice also act to open the shoulders and spine. This allows energy to flow more freely through the sympathetic nervous system which will be useful in helping us to manifest the yang aspect of the energy embodied in the animal practices. Finally this sequence will also activate the contra lateral co-ordination between our limbs helping to ensure healthy neurological development as we work with the animal movements in subsequent weeks.
The first exercise in this set is a centering exercise. Pressing the palms against each other in the center of the body helps to activate body sides of the body equally around the centreline. Moving the hands pointing upwards and downwards helps us to align with the energy of heaven and the energy of earth and particularly gravitational pull.
The second exercise opens our shoulders. Turning the body with the arms extended gently stretches through the shoulder joint and ribs. Having the palms facing up throughout this motion helps to avoid rolling the shoulders forwards and down which is a common tendency, particularly these days with the amount of time people spend sitting and using computers and other devices. Rolling the shoulders forward and down can put pressure on the nerves and cut off the flow of energy out into the arms. Instead with this movement the shoulder joint stays open and allows the nerves and blood vessels to be gently stretched with the movement.
The third exercise opens the spine and allows energy to flow more freely through the sympathetic nervous system. Reaching downward with the backs of the hands touching inwards gently stretches outwards from the centre of the spine. Standing up with the palms facing upward close to the body then draws energy up through the nervous system which has been opened through the previous stretching. Opening the hands outwards then spreads the energy in all directions through the body.
The fourth exercise activates the contralateral coordination between the limbs, helping the left side of the body to connect and coordinate with the right and vice versa. This is very important for developing continuous energy flow rather than flow that starts and stops. You can learn more about that in ‘Waking the Qi’ if you have not already looked at these practices.
These exercise are gentle but profound in the way they activate the sympathetic nervous system. In the videos the exercises are shown repeated just a few times, but you can repeat them many more times if you wish as you work on Centering, Aligning, and Opening.