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Ten Minutes of Qigong Can Energize Your Day, Stop Insomnia

A 10-minute qigong or tai chi practice sounds like an infomercial, but, surprise, even a Chinese-language text recommends that some exercises to move “qi” or energy through the body can be better than no exercises.

“If those who are busy with work and household chores have little spare time but wish to do some health exercise, they may try the following qigong practice, which takes only about 10 minutes or less.” This excerpt is from a book, “Methods of Traditional Chinese Health Care” that I found in a used bookstore in Vietnam. It was translated in 1990, updated in 1995 and is based on centuries-old healing practices. 

The book explained that a 10-minute qigong practice can be “generally classified” into three forms: standing, sitting and lying. Novices pick what is most comfortable for them. The most important decision is that you follow the routine every day. You can choose morning or evening, depending on your schedule.

Standing form is feet apart at shoulders’ width, legs bent and buttocks drawn in, “as if gripping a basketball between the knees.” The more you can bend the knees, the better your results.

Sitting form is sit upright or, if you prefer, take a “semi-reclining” position with the legs and knees apart at shoulders’ width. In both standing and sitting form, the next move is to extend the hands forward in front of the chest with the palms facing each other, separating the fingers, rounding the shoulders and dropping the elbows. The more you extend the arms the forward, the better the workout effort.

Next you “open and  close the palms.” Open means you move the palms away from each other and the close action means your move the palms toward each other. In sitting form, you can open and close the knees too.

What differentiates qigong is that while performing the physical action, you equally engage the mind in visualizing its own opening and closing action. For example, you can imagine how resistance of, say, a large rubber band would feel if wound on your palms stretching and releasing. This mind work is what will help you circulate the “qi” or energy in your body.

For the 10-minute session, perform the opening and closing by starting with more extensive or bigger movements, gradually going smaller, smallest and then not at all. Four distinct categories of movement is important to accomplish.

The “no action” step still asks you to imagine the movement and resistance. It helps the mind enter a state of tranquility and, if you keep at it in short sessions each day, you will soon feel almost a “magnetic attraction”  or sensation of energy moving through your limbs and body.

Lying form is a natural and potent remedy for insomnia. Best practiced before sleeping, the technique calls for extending the arms above the chest while lying down, facing the palms to each other. Hands are shoulders’ width apart. Before dozing off to sleep, try opening and closing the palms while your arms are still extended. Strange as it might sound, the lying-form technique is considered a primary option for introducing people to what qigong or tai chi can do in your life. You might be lying down, but it is palpable when you feel chi or energy running through the body.

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