Exercise & Qi Gong
Exercise is a key component to maintaining or regaining good health. It is proven that exercise lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, the risk of stroke, diabetes, cancer and arthritis...plus raises energy levels, improves balance, and promotes better mood and sleep. But health challenges can interfere with your ability to exercise, either because of physical limitations, medical restrictions, or just not having the energy to do it. So you do what you can, when you can.
Ten years ago my exercise routine went from 30 to 60 minutes of power-walking every day, to barely being able to roll over in bed. During the worst days of my illness I knew that if I wanted to maintain any muscle strength I had to do something…so when I could, I’d raise and lower my legs and arms while lying in bed. As I became a little stronger I would walk around the house…from there I progressed to walking to the mailbox, then to the end of the street, etc.
About 1-1/2 years ago I was ready for something more – I wanted to lose some weight and improve my general well being, but still couldn’t handle anything aerobic or strenuous. I discovered a book by Jorge Cruise, 8 Minutes In The Morning, outlining his diet and exercise program. My diet was already in line with the eating program he recommended*, but the idea of having an exercise routine lasting only 8 minutes each day sounded appealing. His theory is that by exercising first thing in the morning you are jump-starting your metabolism, which benefits you throughout the day. So 6 mornings each week I do the two daily exercises featured in the book, though in the beginning instead of the recommended 12 repetitions, I could only do maybe two or three of each one. I have since been able to work my way up to the recommended 12, and can often do even more. The key is to modify it to your needs and fitness level. Here is one of my favorite ways to jump-start my day and ready myself for my daily exercises: ( page 122, paperback version, 8 Minutes in the Morning by Jorge Cruise)
1. Bring your hands together for a strong clap. With every breath, clap strongly. Clapping your hands creates a neurological jolt that stimulates your brain.
2. Move into an energy posture. Stand up straight with your shoulders back and down and your chest out. This activates your diaphragm which maximizes oxygen intake.
3. Jog in place. Breathe deeply as you jog in place. This increases the rate of oxygen to your body by causing your heart to pump more blood.
If you are interested in finding out more about his program, check out his website, www.jorgecruise.com, or you can check with your local bookseller, you will also find it online at www.amazon.com.
Update 9/09: Although I no longer pracitce the 8 Minutes in the Morning routine, it is an excellent filtness program and was instrumental in helping me to maintain and regain my physical strength. I am currently swimming and walking to stay fit, and plan to begin a resistance program soon. The important thing about exercise is to do what you can - to know your own limitations and honor your physical condition, but to do SOMETHING!!
As important as it is to keep yourself moving, it is also beneficial to quiet your body and mind… to allow the chi (energy) to flow unencumbered through your body. About two years ago I met a wonderful qi gong master who recommended some exercises he felt would be helpful to my healing. Do as many repetitions as you can…he recommended 12 of each, but even one will get things moving.
You begin by stretching the body:
Raise your arms above your head and stretch upward
Stretch your arms out to the side and swing them back and forth, side to side
Stretch as you raise your arms above your head with your fingers intertwined, palms upward. As you bring your arms downward keep your hands in the front area of the body, as your hands separate lean forward, straighten and your arms should rest at your sides
Raise one arm sideways over your head – stretch to the opposite side. Alternate and do the same with the other arm
Place hands at the small of your back and push your abdomen forward
Swivel your hips from right to left in a circle (like doing the hula hoop)
Raise your arms above your head and stretch upward.
After the last repetition bring your arms down so they are resting in front of you.
Now it is time for the Wuji pose. But first an explanation about Wuji… In Chinese philosophy Wuji means absolute quiet, void of movement, and complete nothingness. The goal of this exercise is to reach a state of calmness and relaxation, to release tension and internal stress. This helps to unblock you energy and ensure the smooth flow of chi - stimulating the blood flow, which is good for the interchange of internal energy necessary for good health. Chinese medicine believes that nothing is more important to good health than peace and quiet!
1. Stand with you feet apart to the width of your shoulders
2. You hands will be at your side with palms inward
3. Close your eyes, place your tongue so it is touching the roof of your mouth
4. Keep your body straight with no muscle tension. Knees should be bent slightly to support legs/body. Lightly hold in tummy muscles.
5. Imagine a wire entering through the top of your head, running straight through the center of your body and directly through to your balance center (approx. 2” below your naval). This “wire” will help to hold you upright and keep you in perfect alignment.
6. Stand quietly for 3-5 minutes, focus your attention on your breathing, on your balance center, on how perfectly aligned your body, mind and spirit are at that moment. As you feel ready, gradually increase the amount of time in pose.
If you are interested in more QiGong exercises check out “Natural Healing with QiGong” by Dr. Aihan Kuhn, CMD. Your local library and bookseller, as well as online booksellers should have a variety of books on the subject. Note, the spelling can vary from QiGong to Chi Kung!