Yoga is such a wonderful practice, which has taken North America by storm. You see yoga centres everywhere, even in small town Canada and USA. While it is perceive by many as only a form of workout, it is becoming increasing noted for it’s other benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, decreasing stress, increasing concentration and allowing one to “be in the now”. It has been and truly is more that just a workout and stretching routine.
On the other hand, Medical Qigong (MQG) is a not as widely known or practiced in North America, though I believe it should be. It is a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and has been developed and perfected over the last 5,000 years. It is based in working with your Qi (pronounced– chee), your life-force energy or Prana in Sanskrit. This energy is in everything and everybody though not always in the form that is most beneficial to you and this is where the two practices come in.
MQG could be viewed as yoga’s younger brother, since Ayurvedic Medicine, which yoga evolve from is about 2,000 years older than TCM. Yoga is to Ayurvedic Medicine that Medical Qigong is to Traditional Chinese Medicine. That makes the two movement modalities of Medical Qigong and Yoga very complementary to each other.
I would like to recommend four ways that MQG benefits your Yoga practice.
1. Focusing your intention
As I mentioned briefly earlier, yoga has a benefit of being an internal practice as well as a stretching/movement practice. MQG as a founding principle is about the focused intention of movement of energy, be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. Our practice uses many tools to aid us in that quest, meditations, breath and mind. By bringing in the energy healing of Medical Qigong, you receive stronger results from your yoga practice.
As an example, let’s look at the posture of Downward Dog in yoga. While in this posture allow yourself to follow the flow of your Qi with your intention (breath and mind’s eye).
On the inhale, follow the energy flowing from your feet up the inside of the legs all the way to the lower back (just above the buttocks). On the exhale, reverse the energy and allow it to flow down the outside of your legs down to your feet. Repeat throughout the exercise. This is called Descending the Yang and Ascending the Yin in MQG and is great for the kidneys, increasing power of your essence and making your yoga posture even more healing.
2. Increasing your Breathing Capacity
Anyone who has done yoga knows that breathing correctly in vital in sustaining a healthy practice and not collapsing on your mat gasping for air. Be there, done that! In both disciplines, proper breathing is a guiding principle of a good practice. It increases oxygen to your brain and within the blood supply.
There is a whole section of training on breath within Medical Qigong call Respiratory Dao Yin. It offers multiple ways of focusing the breath, which help you move the Qi and assist the body in healing itself. The most common breath in qigong should be very familiar to yogis. It is the abdominal breathing. The major difference between the practices is that in MQG we put a special emphasis on the role of the tongue. It is placement is very important depending the intention of the task. The main position, called the fire position, is to place the tongue on the upper palate right behind the top row of teeth. This is believe to assist the energy of the breath, thereby, making it flow easier throughout the body allowing the Qi to circulate freely. It also works it’s healing magic through something called the Microcosmic Orbit (MCO). The MCO is one of many energy circuits in your body. It flows up your spine from your perineum (root chakra) to the top head (crown chakra) as you inhale and down the front of the body back to the perineum as you exhale (see diagram). This circuit is flowing all the time, but to better assist it and avoid energy being lost, the tongue needs to be on the roof of the mouth.
So, give this a try when you are practicing your breathing techniques or meditations and see if it helps you feel more invigorated.
3. Cleanse the Body
It is hard to do a yoga practice on a day when the brain is working overtime, the emotions are running wild or the stress level is on overwhelm. Once the practice gets started things usually calm down, but it is hard to drag yourself there in the first place or really “feel” it when you attempt to start it.
Every MQG workout consists of 3 parts- purging out what ails us, tonifying the system to maximize the Qi and balancing out the energetic field. The first part of this workout is a wonderful compliment to any yogic practice. Through a series of exercises, we move energy that is stagnant or excessive out of the system to eliminate it. The best thing about this attribute is that it is cumulative. The more you practice this the easier it is to rid yourself of stagnant and excess energies.
Here is a great example about 5 minutes before a yoga workout you can help yourself calm down and relax with this exercise so that you can continue on with your practice. This exercise is called Dropping Post. It is a very simple exercise, which I am modifying a bit to fit into a yoga session. Start from a standing posture
with your feet about 6-8 inches (15-20cms) apart and parallel with each other. Begin by rising up on your toes and then bouncing down on our heels. This can be as a very fast or slow movement. As you do this imagine the stresses of the day dropping down out of the body down into the Earth. Let all your troubles go (strong emotions/feelings, troubling situations and thoughts) and continue to bounce for a minute or so. Then, pause and inhale and rise up on your toes to “stack the bones”. This is a cleansing movement to re-establish the energy system. On the exhale come down and shake out any excess and remaining negative energy with a few more heel bounces. Repeat this last part three times. That is all one repetition of dropping post. Feel free to do this up to three times in total. This will get you into a better space within your mind, body and spirit to begin your yoga practice.
4. Finding Centre
Once you get to a deeper level within your yoga practice you realize quite quickly that there is something bigger than yourself at work here. A yoga practice is a spiritual practice. Regardless of the name you use, the spirit within awakens and a centering of the energy is witnessed. That for me is what yoga is truly about… moving past all the physical to find the fruit of the Divine.
Medical Qigong also has at its core a spiritual belief. It is only through this spiritual essence that we find our authentic self and our true path. I love this about both disciplines. In Qigong, we have whole series of training called Mental Dao Yin, which is about training the mind to become quiet and open. Through a series of meditations and mind-focusing exercises, we look to obtain peace, release hidden information in order to heal ourselves and transform our earthly existence.
Our main meditation is called the 1-10 meditation. It is set on rhyming sequence to match the focus of the mind with the intention and energy. This is used before most all other meditations, workouts and energy healing sessions. It assists in grounding ones energy as well as connecting them to the divine.
The rhyming sequence goes like this:
One is fun, two is shoe, three is tree, four is core, five is alive, six is thick, seven is heaven, eight is gate, nine is shine and ten is begin (the workout, healing etc.).
If you would like to try the meditation, please click here.
There are an amazing amount of similarities between both Yoga and Medical Qigong. So much so that I believe that practices truly compliment each other. By implementing a few of the above suggestions from Qigong into your Yoga practice, you will find that it deepens and truly assists you in going into a more spiritual and healing space. So consider trying a little Medical Qigong to move your practice to the next level.