The Shanghai Medical Qigong Exercises
by Shaun McCorkell
Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong can be considered systems of non-strenuous exercise that should be practiced on a daily basis. The slow and relaxed movements of the forms strengthen the ligaments and tendons, which in turn increases balance. The stances and techniques executed in the forms help tone the muscles of the body, while the deep breathing massages internal organs. This is accomplished when the lower lungs fill with air and expand, causing the other organs to move against each other. Tai Chi Chuan is symmetrical and provides for balanced development of the body. The practice of Tai Chi and Qigong also helps one to relieve stress and clear the mind. This allows for greater focus and higher development of sensitivity of other people's chi, or energy. Blood pressure is also reduced and circulation is improved. The importance of body alignment will help one improve posture and allow for better energy flow. Benefits from Tai Chi are both physical and psychological. Tai Chi can also be considered a form of meditation.
Various Qigong exercises may be performed on a daily basis either in the morning or at night. These exercises are beneficial for chi flow and for allowing you to practice your Tai Chi form with a deeper understanding of breathing and focus. Remember, there are no quick results. You must practice these short forms daily and consistently over time. Then you will notice results. The benefits are many: lower blood pressure, increased energy flow, physical and mental relaxation, and better attuned focus. These results not only improve your martial arts training but your day-to-day life and can be performed by anyone at any age.
It is important to focus on your breathing during these exercises. It should be deep and rhythmic. To breathe correctly for these exercises, inhale for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 4, filling the lower abdomen as you inhale.
The Shanghai Hospital Exercises
Stand with your legs shoulder width apart and knees bent. Your back is straight, and you are looking forward and slightly down (like your head is suspended by a string). Put your arms out in front of you at shoulder height and pretend you are holding a giant ball or wrapping your arms around a tree trunk. Your fingers should face each other but not touch. Keep your shoulders relaxed and sink your weight into your legs and down into the floor. Be rooted and connected to the earth. This exercise is considered more difficult than any of the others because you remain motionless the entire time. For many people this is hard to do.
As a variation, this can be done with the right or left leg in chamber, or in various depths of horse stance.
Reaching for the Stars
Stand with your legs shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent. Tilt your head back and look straight up. Put both hands up like you are reaching for something. Palms of your hands should be facing forward, and your fingers pointed up. Reach with one hand at a time as high as you can go with your arm fully stretched (do not move your feet at all). As you reach, turn your hand so that the palm is facing outward (away from the body). As you bring one hand back, the other one goes up. Both arms never drop. You remain looking up the entire time. You should feel this in your neck. As long as it is not a sharp pain, you should keep going. The discomfort felt is your body telling you your weak spots. All these exercises work to strengthen those areas.
Raise your right knee up into chamber in front of you. Then, leaving it up there, turn your leg to the right. Then rotate your leg so your foot comes up horizontal with your knee. Your knee should still be facing the front. From there rotate your leg to the right and back (knee ends up facing the wall on your right side). While rotating, keep your leg at the same height and in the same position. Then bring it back into chamber. Keep your left knee (supporter) bent at all times. Repeat as often as you like. Repeat on the other leg.
Extend your right arm fully towards your right side (palm facing down). Rotate your arm around so the palm is facing up. From there bend your arm up 90 degrees, palm facing your bicep. Then, leaving the arm in the same position, rotate at the shoulder, forward and down. The arm should still look the same but is now upside down (rotation of 180 degrees). Extend your arm out again, twisting it so the palm is facing up. Then rotate your arm back so the palm is facing down (original position). The shoulder stays at the same height the entire time. Repeat as often as you like. Repeat on the other arm.
Self-massages will help to keep your chi flowing. It can be done at any time in almost any place. These massages should be done with some pressure, but not too much. Examples of this would be: rubbing your hands together like you're washing them; rubbing up and down your arms, hitting all areas of the arm; and rubbing up and down your legs with both hands. Rub the sides and then the front and back of the legs. Place one hand on each side of a knee. Massage the sides of the knee in circular motions. Using your pointer fingers, massage around your eyes, temples, and jaw.
About Shaun McCorkell:
Shaun McCorkell has been practicing Tai Chi for four years under Sifu Joe Bruzzese and is a Kempo Instructor at the Kempo Martial Arts Dojo of Farmingdale, L.I. Shaun is also a Graduate of New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), and holds a bachelor's degree in Architectural Technology. You can go to our web site at www.kempomartialarts.net