What is Qigong? It looks similar to Taichi but Qigong is focused on health rather than martial applications. Qigong is also similar to Yoga but it can be practiced without any special clothes or equipment.
There are many forms of Qigong. The Dayan (Wild Goose) form has been extensively studied, acknowledged for it's health benefits, and is the form approved to be taught nationally by the Chinese government Department of Physical Culture and Sports. Dayan Qigong exercises your entire anatomy, making it a wonderful life long teacher to explore the connections between your body, mind, and world around you.
The steps provided in this instructable can be used to get in the zone before performing the Dayan Qigong Form or Warmups. Each of the steps can also be performed on their own as a little meditation or break throughout the day.
Step 1: Smile
As you prepare for the preparation, try smiling if you aren't already! Qigong a chance for people of any age to play and discover new things. Remembering to have fun is more important than any single step, since it's a part of every step. Little smile or big smile, forced smile or natural smile, stoic smile or silly smile, all kinds of smiles help make space for enjoying what lies ahead :-)
Step 2: Foot Placement
Bring awareness to your body starting with the feet. For the Warmups, start with your feet together as demonstrated. For the Form, place your feet shoulder width apart and parallel to each other. If you're going through this Instructable on it's own without following with the Form or Warmups, try switching which placement you use and see what differences you notice between the stances.
Step 3: Find Balance
After your feet are placed, find your balance on them. Try rocking forward or backward, left and right. Have fun with big movements that bring your toes or heel up. Try subtle movements that keep your feet connected to the floor but provide insight into how much pressure is on each part of your foot as your weight shifts.
Finding your center isn't a single a-ha movement that will stick after that point. It's closer to bringing a persistent awareness to the position of your body, where your center of gravity is and how your weight is transferred down through the parts of your body touching the ground.
The body is always moving and shifting, once you feel like you've found a center in your feet that its shifting around you can bring that sense of balance up through the rest of your body. Let your ankles sit on your feet and find that same sense of balance, all the way up through your legs, let your pelvis rest on the legs, your spine rest on your pelvis, and skull balanced atop your spine.
As you become familiar with the weight of your body connecting through their feet you may experience a sensation of greater connection to the ground, or one of your weight extending down into the ground past its surface. Another sensation that balance brings is one of lightness as your body effortlessly supports itself. If you don't have either of those sensations don't worry, there's no need to try and imagine them. Those are just two possible sensations of an unlimited array, mentioned to encourage exploration and feeling throughout each step.
Step 4: Relax Shoulder Arm Hand
Keeping balance running as a sub-task in your brain, bring focus to your shoulders and let any tension held there dissolve. Try opening your chest or rolling your shoulders as a stretch to explore the limits of where they could rest, then find a spot that's comfortable and relaxed.
Let the relaxed feeling in your shoulders settle into your arms so that they are hanging loosely at your sides. Leave a little space in your armpit so that the arms aren't touching the body as they settle.
Extend the relaxation through your wrists into your palms and fingers. Let the fingers be evenly spread. Experiment with the distance between the fingers to find something that's comfortable.
Thumbs point forward, a greater distance between them and your pointer fingers, almost forming an L. Play with that distance just as you do with the distance between the other fingers and the distance between your arms and body.
Step 5: Tongue Touching Lightly
Retaining your balanced and relaxed stance, bring focus to your tongue. Bring it to rest gently on the roof of your mouth, just behind the teeth. Finding the right pressure can be tricky. If you are stressed, angry, or frustrated you may find yourself pushing harder than usual. If you're having a spacey day or feeling lazy, you may realize your tongue is wandering around your mouth instead of sitting in place. Somewhere in the middle is a relaxed pressure that isn't forced, but still carries the intention of connection between your tongue and pallet.
Experiment with how much of your tongue is connected to the roof of your mouth. Does it feel different when your tongue reaches up (more of a downward curve) rather than arching up (more of an upward curve)? See if you can feel any difference from one day to another, or even from one hour to another.
Because Tongue Touching Lightly isn't externally visible, it's a perfect physical meditation to practice at any time! Give it a try when you're waiting in line, need a break at your desk, or enjoying a walk. If you're into endurance sports, try holding the connection throughout the day, pausing only to speak, eat, or kiss ;-)
Step 6: Soft Gaze
Another subtle step, softening your gaze will likely take some practice. The idea is to see everything, but nothing. Look straight again, letting your vision expand in all directions as far as it can without moving your eyeballs. Even if there's an interesting object directly in front of you or somewhere in your vision, don't let your focus rest on it. Instead, absorb everything you see without placing labels or meaning on them.
One way of shedding labels is to live the idea of "beginners mind" where everything is continuously new and being freshly discovered. Another approach to softening the gaze is to let our vision be like a painting at face value, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe."
Because our eyes automatically focus on things all day long, this is a neuroplasticity stretch (teaching our brains a new trick). If it helps you warm up to the stretch, wiggle your eyeballs back and forth, up or down, in circles, or all over. If the exercise becomes tiresome or annoying, don't force it. Try another approach or another time.
Relaxation and effortless effort are tenants of Qigong which apply to all aspects of the practice. It's similar to working smarter instead of harder, but working without work at all is a little harder to put your thumb on. Through years of experience, the only recommendation I can consistently give regarding these less tangible practices is to play and experiment to find your own way.
Step 7: Focus on Dantians
With your body balanced, relaxed, tongue touching lightly, and gaze meeting the world with the same lightness, it's possible to bring focus to significant points inside the body. Throughout the DYQG Form there are three major points which are frequently referenced. There are hundreds of points used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, but learning the locations of these big three is the first step in discovering their depths.
Lower Dantian is the most commonly known Dantian as martial artists and meditators are trained to focus there first. It'in this s located in the lower abdomen, in the center of the triangle formed by drawing a line between the navel, lower back, and perineum. If it's your first time trying to locate the Dantian, it's worth taking a break from your posture to explore the space inside your body using your hands and the distance between them as reference. Try placing one of your hands just below the navel and the other hand on your lower back and feel around that space with your focus.
Middle Dantian is chest level. The heart, lungs, and thymus gland are the most significant organs in relation to the Middle Dantian. Like the Lower Dantian its center is in the middle of your body, so feeling around your chest and back with your hands can provide a sense of the space where it resides.
Upper Dantian is at your forehead, commonly referred to as the third eye. It's located about three inches behind the middle of your eyebrows. Once again, placing your hands around your head can make the abstract idea of a point inside the body a bit more tangible.
Just like the bones of your body are sitting on each other, the Dantians can be used for balance and alignment throughout the form. Before you develop any sensitivity to the points, it's beneficial enough just to know their mechanical locations. Feel your posture straightening and lengthening as you consider the Dantians from the bottom up. Feel tension dissolving and your weight sink as you consider the Dantians from the top down.
Step 8: Engage in Activity
From here you're ready to do further warm ups, go through the Dayan Qigong Form, or return to your day carrying a bit of your attentive self along with you 0:-)
If this Instructable is appreciated I'll create more to explain those, but in the mean time you can explore existing resources to learn more. I learned Dayan Qigong first from Meiko Onzen and later received my DYQG teaching certification from Wen Wu School. Other teachers have made their own learning resources, such as Dove Govrin's Form Demonstration. Take care and enjoy!