QIGONG-WALKING IN STYLE [2003-03-16]
Several weeks back I described the basic Qigong Walk. Those who have tried should already feel the benefits. When I first learned it, I started feeling the enhanced stamina even by the second practice session one week later. Qigong-walking around the Titiwangsa lake took between 20 to 30 minutes, and I felt like I could go round it many times. Of course, to avoid boredom, I changed routes and walked all over the different pathways on the park. And I also walked in the different styles that are variations of the basic walk. When you do this, you are certain to get funny looks because most people have not seen anyone walking the Qigong way before! I also entered many charity big-walks to put to good use this new-found stamina.
The group that started learning at Taman Tasik Titiwangsa nearly 2 months ago are finding out how important it is to master the basic walk before learning the variations. Even though they have been taught four variations of the Qigong walk, some are still struggling because they did not practise and perfect the basic walk on their own.
I will describe two variations here for you to try out so that you can also join the fun that they are having. Remember, it is best to learn directly from an instructor.
These exercises are good for the kidneys, spleen, liver, lungs and heart. Those with serious diseases should consult their instructors first.
VARIATION #1 : ONE-STEP POINT
This is the simplest variation. Start from the standby position ( which is the same as for starting the basic walk ) : males stand with the weight on the right foot and the left foot pointing down, making sure the inner toes rest on the ground about one fist-width away from the centre of the right foot. The right hand is held just in front of the Dantian ( about three fingers below navel ) and the left hand by the side of the body at the same horizontal level. Females do the opposite.
Take the first step with the left foot ( making sure the heel touches the ground first and toes are up just as in the basic walk ) while breathing in twice ( two sniffs )( Fig. 3-1 & 3-2 ). Females start with the right foot. Note that the arms do not move with the first step.
Please note that the illustrations show the hand positions for cancer patients ( palms facing the ground ). As in the basic walk, those who are healthy should keep the palms facing the body and the hands almost horizontal whenever possible. Those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high sugar and high uric acid should keep the fingers pointing downwards; and those with low BP, low sugar and anemia should keep the palms facing upwards.
Next, bring the other foot forward to rest beside the foot that is in front, with the toes pointing down, just as in the starting position ( but feet now changed ). This second step is actually a half-step. Don’t forget to move the arms appropriately as you take the second step – the arm which was in front now goes to the side, and vice versa. Breathe out once as you do this, and turn the body sideways 45 degrees to the right ( females, left ) and the head a further 15 degrees, so that the head is turned about 60 degrees to the side ( Fig. 3-3 & 3-4 ).
Pause for about 2 seconds ( while keeping you head sideways ), and you are ready to repeat the cycle which constitutes this One-Step Point ( or One Step One Touch ) Qigong Walk. This position is the same as the original starting position, except that the feet are changed and the head is turned sideways.
You can also clench your hands each time as your foot touches the ground during the second step, and keep them closed while you pause. This is beneficial for the heart.
When you repeat the cycle, turn the head forwards and unclench your fists as you take the first step ( and move the arms, and breathe accordingly ). Turn the head the other way and clench the hands as you take the second step. Note that the head is always turned towards the side of the foot that is pointing down.
All the requirements for relaxation are the same as in the standing posture. The eyes should look at the distant horizon, even when turning. Breathing is through the nose always and the tip of the tongue should touch the upper palate.
The walk will not be smooth because of the pauses, and the head will be turning from side to side. This walk must be done slowly with full concentration to get the full benefits. You should do about 20 minutes of this style. It is enjoyable, and very interesting to look at.
VARIATION #2: TWO-STEP POINT
For this variation, everything is the same as the above, except that we take two normal basic-walk steps, and then the third step is the half-step ( with the body and head turning as well ). The cycle is then repeated.
The breathing is different in that we inhale once as the heel touches the ground during each of the first two steps, and exhale with the third. The fists can be clenched in the third step for added benefits to the heart.
Note also that for both variations, we always start the next cycle with the foot that is in the half-point position.
In this style, the head will always be turning to the same side as it is always the same foot doing the third (half) step ( whichever foot you start walking with ). We should also do the walk starting with the other foot.
This variation is especially beneficial for those with liver disease. All liver patients ( male and female ) should start with the right foot. After 10 minutes of walking, change to starting with the left foot.
In Guolin Qigong, we always start with the opening exercises ( standing exercises described in previous article ) before doing any walk. In between the walks, we do the third standing exercise before changing the starting foot.
We also make sure that the patient does not get tired or stressed while doing any exercise. Thus those who are weak should do the exercises for shorter durations until they improve.
There are other variations which are too complicated to describe and can only be learned from a teacher. There is the “stationary” walking exercise that we do whenever there is space constraint. It is also suitable for those who want to start but are too weak to actually walk, provided they are strong enough to stand.
Then there is a variation I use to do the Qigong walk for brisk aerobic walking, especially on the treadmill. When the speed is slow ( warm-up ) I do the basic walk. When the speed is moderate I continue with fast basic walk. When the speed is faster I switch to breathing similar to the 2-step point walk, except that there is no half-step, pause or turning. At the fastest speed, breathing is the normal in-out. The benefits of both aerobics and qigong can be achieved if the exercise is done with concentration and the breathing is conscious and co-ordinated with the movements.
For optimum physical health, we must improve our flexibility, aerobic capacity, stamina, muscle strength, bone strength, and vital energy or qi. Here I have shared how to do aerobics combined with qigong. In the next article I will describe how to achieve both qi and strength through combined qigong and weight-lifting exercises.
Dr Amir Farid Isahak