FAQ's about Qigong and the Eight Pieces of Brocade
What exactly is qigong, and how do I say it?
Pronounced, "chee kung", qigong is a form of traditional Chinese exercise that stimulates the flow of qi, or bioelectricity, using slow and precise body movements, controlled breathing and mental focusing to improve balance, flexibility, muscle strength, and overall health.
The whole idea of qi, or whatever, just seems weird to me. Can you help me out here?
Qi (pronounced 'chee') is only now becoming more understood in scientific terms as something observable and definable, quite possibly as our understanding of the fascial system of the body develops.
The Asian definition of qi is vast and rooted deeply in eastern culture, and is used to illustrate every cause-and-effect relationship in the universe. But for the purposes of our class, we will narrow our explanation of qi to being the body's own bio-chemo-electro current, and how it organizes and affects our bodily processes: governing cell function and regeneration, collagen production by stimulating fibroblasts, and the transformation of air and food into nourishment for the body, as well as eliminative processes.
This current is affected by how we eat, how we think, and in specific regards to this class, how we breathe and move.
Why "eight pieces of brocade"?
Brocade is a very heavy, very expensive and luxurious cloth. In China, this cloth was considered the ultimate protection against the harsh cold and the typical illnesses that would accompany such weather.
This collection of qigong exercises was believed to strengthen the immune functions of the body, therefore providing the same warmth and protection as brocade.
The 'eight' pieces refer to the number of exercises in the set, though some of them can and have been broken down into further pieces.
Isn't qigong exercise, like, for old people?
While the movements of qigong are very gentle, and most can be applied by the elderly, it is still very effective for any age and ability.
In our culture, we equate intensity, lots of sweating and ‘the burn’ with effectiveness. There is a place for that, but we also need practices that nourish and rebuild the tissues and joints. People also find that doing slow, mindful movements with breath control to be quite challenging (and sometimes sweat-producing), as the more we slow down, the more we encounter our weak spots. This can be an opportunity to strengthen those areas and shift ingrained patterns! Also, as we are faced with so much other stimulus that keeps us in a perpetual state of tension, practices like qigong can help us unwind, regain control of our energy and even sleep better.
And for the record, if you’ve ever seen a 100-year-old martial artist throw another a guy across the room with barely a flinch, that’s the power of qigong. :)
So, is it like Tai Chi?
It is. However, as this article so succinctly says, Tai Chi is a martial art; Qigong is a system of wellness.
Tai Chi is more like an extended, slow-motion form, that can be complex, precise and take many years to master. Qigong, while it has a number of styles and intentions, is usually a collection of repetitive moves that emphasize breathing and posture. Because qigong is more free-form and less rigid than tai chi, it may be more accessible to those with physical limitations.
How can such gentle slow movements improve my health?
We have had a different view here in the west of how our bodies work and how health is maintained, compared to in the east. We know that proper diet and movement of the body is good for us, but have not yet fully grasped the connection between the body and the mind, and more to the point, the fascia.
To explain it really briefly, qigong comes from the eastern understanding that through the practice of unifying the breath, the mind, and the movements of the body, we can have a greater influence over our health from within, and develop an awareness of what is appropriate for our body's health.
We are also only just beginning to understand the tremendous influence the fascia, or connective tissue, has on our total well-being, and how specific movements, practiced with intention, can positively influence the condition of our fascia.
And/or, how will I know I'm getting my money's worth?
Like with any new heath habit, patience and consistency in practice is required on your part if you want see long-term benefits.
But some things you may notice in the short-term are increased flexibility, relief from nagging aches and pains - especially in the back and neck - a sense of relaxed alertness and mental clarity, deeper awareness of how your body reacts to stress, and clearer messages about what your body needs to be well.
Just a little bit of energy gained in the short-term builds on itself and allows you to reach for better choices in other areas of your life.
Again, the more you put into it - both in the class and beyond - the more you will get out of it. By including theory and hand-outs, with the class, I hope to give you enough tools to work with to continue your practice and education on your own.
~ But don't just take my word for it.... read what others have said about the Eight Pieces of Brocade! ~
How is this class different than others?
As my partner Bill and I were first learning this form of exercise while studying through the book and DVD, “Simple Qigong Exercises for Health”, we discovered that much of its effectiveness was found in author Dr Yang Jwing-Ming's imperative to understand what the theory and purpose was behind each movement.
Not only did we want to pass that intention along to those that we taught, but to also bring in how these exercises relate to western anatomy & physiology, and how they can help modern-day common ailments.
Are there contraindications for practicing qigong?
There are really no specific conditions that would prohibit the practice of these exercises. As with any exercise, you would want to use care and pay attention to your body, refrain from eating just before or after, and if you have arthritis or issues with the spine, you'd want to modify some of the movements.
As far as pregnancy, qigong is safe, although beginners and those who lack pelvic holding strength should practice the wide and deep horse stance, with its strongly lowering effects, only in a modified form to avoid premature labor. The same applies to practicing during menstruation to avoid excessive bleeding. Intense twisting of the torso should also be avoided when the volume of uterus is increased.
Will practicing qigong conflict with my spiritual beliefs?
The purpose of this class is to focus on the benefits of qigong from an anatomical and physiological perspective. While many people use Eastern medicine as a launching point for their own philosophical beliefs, I present the discipline from a medical and scientific perspective.