Week Two: Tiger
The energy of the tiger is strong and resilient, its attitude is focused and determined. The focus and determination of the tiger energy is useful to cultivate to help us through the challenging situations life places in front of us sometimes.
The primary element stimulated by the tiger exercises we will be learning is the wood element. This element relates to the liver and gallbladder, the tendons and the eyes, and we will clearly see these affected by the exercises we will be doing. As we go through the exercises we will also look at how some of the other elements are also stimulated by the movements, in particular fire, water and metal.
Understanding the combination of all these elements gives a more nuanced understanding of the tiger energy we stimulate with these practices, rather than thinking of them as purely for wood.
This Weeks Practice Sessions:
This week will be spent practicing Tiger ‘warm-up’ exercises. These exercises will help you to start to feel the energy of the Tiger and will prepare you for further Tiger movements next week.
The movements are simple to learn but can be quite physically challenging. Start by just doing a few of each movement. Take a break if you need to and then do some more. With persistence the Tiger movements develop tremendous strength and resilience, but you should work gently with your own limits, extending them gradually.
Start each practice session with the Alignment, Centering and Opening exercises and then do as many repetitions of the Tiger exercises as you comfortably can. Then finish with more of the Alignment, Centering and Opening exercises.
Note down in your practice journal what you learn doing the exercises and how they make your energy feel.
In this exercise we bend forwards and backwards with our arms quite wide. We place our fingertips on the ground like claws to help to activate the tiger energy. If you have practiced Twelve Rivers Qigong you might recognize this as being somewhat similar to the ‘Tiger Straightens its Waist’ exercise for the bladder meridian. So this exercise clearly stimulates the water element. Bending forwards and backwards with the arms wider and the hands in claws will have a different overall feel though. The body should feel like it is more active overall, that the muscles and connective tissue are ‘holding’ the whole body more. This type of activation of the connective tissue relates to the wood element.
In this exercise, with your hands on the ground, you walk your body forward into essentially a press up position, the hands underneath the shoulders and the body straight. You then rock your body back and raise your pelvis so that your feet sit flat on the ground if you can. Next bend your knees and sit the pelvis back down with the arms extended. Next dip your head towards the ground and move forwards bringing your head between your hands and then arching up.
Repeat as many times as you wish, then sit your pelvis back with your knees bent, walk your hands back in close to your feet, straighten your legs and stand up again, bending backwards before returning to a neutral position.
Ideally you do this whole exercise supported on your fingertips. Also ideally your knees will not touch the ground throughout this exercise. This keeps tension through your whole body throughouit this is exercise, activating the connective tissue. Again this relates to the wood element and activates the Tiger energy. You can make the exercise easier by supporting yourself on your palms and by putting your knees down if you need to though.
This exercise starts from a press up or plank position, arms under the shoulders and body straight. Bend the knee of one leg and then reach it behind your stretching backwards as far as you can. Keep your head up and looking forwards. Put your foot back down, repeat with the other leg and then alternate between legs as many times as you wish.
Next lift one hand off the ground and reach forwards as far as you can. Place the hand back on the ground and then repeat alternating between hands.
Again, as with the previous exercise ideally you will be supported on your fingertips and have your knees off the ground throughout this exercise. You can make it considerably easier by putting your knees and palms on the ground if you need to.
Standing in a neutral position, squeeze the hands forming the fingers into claws, squeeze the feet as well as if your toes were claws digging into the earth. Then relax both your hands and feet. Ideally as you do this you will feel your whole body contract and squeeze from the arms through the shoulders, the chest, back, abdomen, pelvis and legs, all the way down to the feet. The whole body working together. The whole body will then release and relax at the same time as well. This will be much easier to feel if you have prepared the body by doing the preceding exercises first, developing the whole body connection and activation through your core.
This whole body tension and relaxation is one of the key characteristics of Tiger energy. A big part of the strength of the Tiger comes from the whole body working together. When the fingers form Tiger claws, the strength comes not just from the muscles of the hands and forearms, but from the whole body down to the toes.
This tension and release also has an important relationship to the Liver. The liver regulates a lot of the tension in the body. This is useful in regulating energy production to help us to deal with different types of situation from the stressful and strenuous to the pleasant and relaxing. When we get stuck with the wrong degree of tension in our body it becomes unhealthy for us. In obvious ways it can lead to muscle soreness and fatigue or poor muscle tone, but it also affects our blood pressure. If the tension is too low we will have low blood pressure, and if it is too high we will have high blood pressure. Unevenly distributed tension can also cause uneven loads across the organs.
By tapping into this tension and release throughout the whole body we learn to be able to do this more effectively. By building tension we learn not just how to be more tense, but how to balance that tension and connect with deeply held tensions that may be harming us. When we can connect with that tension we are then also more able to release and let the tension go.