QI GONG – True To Our Roots Spontaneous Qi Gong
By Nadia Smith
What is Qi? Qi (pronounced “Chee”) is energy.
What is Gong? Gong is exercise or activation.
The oriental approach to exercise is soft, gentle and yet powerful; it is about gathering, cultivating and harvesting energy, rather than expending it as in Western exercise.
According to the Taoist principles of Yin and Yang from which Traditional Chinese Medicine originates, Qi Gong is a self-healing art designed to help one stay well, youthful, agile and alert.
The Taoist philosophy is about a person walking along the path of life, a spiritual path of joy, insight, freedom and depth. Tao is everywhere and is the movement of all life which flows in all directions endlessly, following the universal process of existence. We have the choice as individuals to have an awareness of this or not. The riches we gain, however, if we choose to follow this path of life are infinite, as they help us maintain a balance and a sensitivity in all that we do. For example, we become focused in our daily activities, observant and compassionate of others, joyful and trusting of Tao or the universal energy which we may choose to call God, Allah, Divine Power, or whatever you are most comfortable with.
Qi or energy is everywhere and is the Life Force around and inside of us. Many books have been written on Qi/energy, and what this chapter is loosely based on is the thousand years’ old Chinese philosophy, but adapting it to our contemporary Western lives with a revolutionary approach of spontaneous Qi Gong movement called True to Our Roots, founded by me, Nadia Smith.
Over thousands of years five main schools of Qi Gong disciplines were developed in China, within which hundreds of different styles and forms of choreographed exercises emerged. These schools are the Taoist, the Buddhist, The Confucian, the Medical and the Martial Arts ones, and an extra one could be added as the Village or Family/Ancestral school. Their essence is about self-healing and they are still practised fervently all around the world.
This begs the question, “How did it all begin”? Animals and we humans practise Qi Gong naturally all day, for example, yawning and stretching first thing in the morning, stamping our feet when we are cold, rubbing our tummy when we are full or in pain; these natural movements are almost like reflexes which we do to feel better; that is Qi Gong.
So, do we need to practise forms and be devout followers of various Schools and their Masters?
I learned the hard way! As a devout Health & Fitness Instructor I spent years striving through pain and pride, practising new forms while loving the challenge without heeding the aches and pains my body was developing. After all I came from an era and belief of “No Pain, No Gain”, and “Going for The Burn”! Qi Gong is a self-healing art through movement, however …. so, what went wrong there? My curiosity was aroused and I started to delve deep into my psyche and my books!
I was particularly interested in spontaneous Qi Gong as I had been warned against it by one of my Chinese Masters. The reason for this became clear over the years as the spontaneous movements are triggered by our autonomous central nervous system. If the body holds a lot of tension or trauma it starts to tremble or shake involuntarily, so we were advised as students not to entertain this as it could be dangerous for people with mental illness, and therefore it was recommended that this type of activity was done with a master’s supervision. After years of research and agonising at my own body which gradually developed osteoarthritis I found out that the use of our shaking mechanism was encouraged by the founder of Trauma Release Exercise, Dr. David Berceli. Through his own work in war-torn and poverty-stricken countries he realised that people needed to release deeply held fear to function in life rationally and comfortably. He devised a series of exercises to help trigger off the tremors held in the Psoas or our Core muscles, which react instantly to threat either through fighting, fleeing or freezing. I learned to become a Provider in this method recognising at once that this was part of Spontaneous Qi Gong, especially as I learned the physiological safety aspects of this method.
Shaking or tremoring is the body’s instinctive reaction to help restore it back to its natural calm and harmonious state, something which is observed with dogs, cats and other mammals. We set up a subconscious restriction to this to cope with life’s challenges which unresolved and unreleased, become deeply held tension in the body, causing side effects such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, aches and pains (as I did by developing osteoarthritis of which I am now cured!), and other diseases. Once our system recognises that it is safe to release this held tension little by little, our rational brain is always on standby to help regulate, after having initially been guided by a Provider to start with and learning to ground, which is part of Qi Gong practice.
The best part after the tension release process is that the body can enjoy myofascial unwinding stretches which can take us into the depths of our fluid being, searching for hidden nooks and crannies in the body which can delight in involuntary stretches triggered from inside out. This is not only a deeply nourishing and healing experience for the entire body but also a natural form of Qi Gong as the body will stretch in the way it personally needs to, releasing blockages from the meridians connected to the internal organs. This activity is meditation in movement, as the mind can relax while the body elongates, folds, spirals, undulates, allowing its natural architecture to command the movements. In Qi Gong terms this is when the Qi moves you.
Qi Gong helps to bring us closer to nature and the Taoist philosophy teaches us that we are not separate from our environment but totally entwined with it. We are affected by the natural seasons and the weather, the food we grow and eat, the people we interact with and all our activities affect our health and wellbeing. They go further in explaining that our internal organs, and therefore our general health and our emotions, are affected by the seasons and the natural elements they bring along, for example, the heart is connected to the South, to the element of fire and summertime, the emotions of love versus hatred and cruelty, and that according to the principle of Yin and Yang, the rule of dual polarities exists in our world. So, everything works in pairs and opposites. Without daytime we would not understand the concept of night-time, or without heat there would not be cold, or light versus dark and so on.
This theory is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine where our organs function in pairs, again yin and yang, so the Heart is yin, a “full organ” and works together with the Small Intestine, which is a hollow organ and yang, so the heart would be the female to the Small Intestine the male.
What connects all our internal organs are the meridians or channels of Qi or energy, and the reason why Qi Gong is a self-healing art is because when the body undulates, spirals and stretches naturally, it heals and clears blocked energy from the various channels which form an intricate network of energy lines throughout the body. Once the body is given the opportunity to unwind and delight in its own Qi and natural fluid movement it will sometimes hold a position suspended in time until the blockage clears, when we can suddenly feel a rush of heat, as the circulation improves and the Qi flows.
The method I developed to help achieve this result is by using the Qi Touch, which is using two fingers to touch the area which requires attention, and allowing unconditional love to come from my “middle Dan Tien” (“Crystal Field”), or heart area, while staying well rooted with both feet firmly planted on the floor. What follows is an instant spontaneous movement from the student/client which comes as a complete surprise to the first-timer! The magic of this is that one surrenders entirely to the moment and the body, while the mind relaxes.
Spontaneous Qi Gong can be done alone, in pairs or in a group of people, and can be done sitting, lying down, standing freely or holding on to the back of a chair or barre.
In a group or in pairs one gets entrained by the activated energy field very quickly into the “Qi Bubble” where fluid movement occurs, and feelgood factors are experienced almost instantly, where pain dissolves and muscles, bones, connective tissue and internal organs realign and heal.
I developed True To Our Roots Spontaneous Qi Gong to help people get in touch with their natural primordial self and their own magical internal self-moving and healing choreographer and Master.
Forms and disciplined Qi Gong were designed by following examples of how animals take care of themselves in nature and were designed through life-long observations by past great Masters in China. Most of these forms are beautiful and useful to practise if one has no aches or pains and the fluidity of the form can be enjoyed, but they were developed to help one be healthy and well.
My body taught me otherwise, as it ached its way through years of Qi Gong retreats, and workshops resulting in two hip operations, to finally find my own internal powerful Master. Only then was I able to start healing myself, not by following someone who told me how to move, but by allowing my body to show me with gentleness how it needed and wanted to move to feel better.
The ancient phrase of uniting Mind, Body and Spirit becomes reality once familiar and adept with Qi Gong practice. The Taoists developed breathing techniques to help the flow of Qi and increase vitality to help one reach a state of self-realization and immortality. The breath is our natural medicine, and various breathing techniques are used to either increase or reduce high blood pressure for example, to create relaxation or more fire in the body. I found, however, that in our Western society where stress is a high-risk challenge, breathing has become very shallow because of the hold fear has over our lives. It is as if we are holding our breath, which is where the natural shaking mechanism in spontaneous Qi Gong is practical as it eventually helps to free the diaphragm allowing the oxygen to penetrate the lower parts of our lungs more easily.
The immortality they refer to I have interpreted as, we become so closely connected with our true spirit through regular Qi Gong practice, that our transition from the material world into the infinite dimension some call Heaven, the Afterlife, Nirvana and more is at our command and seamless. While on the earth plane it becomes easy to access communication with the source from where our spirit comes and returns to. So much so that once the belief within this magical dimension is felt, the material body merges with the true spirit which, once united works miracles here on earth. One learns to trust this ultimate power and becomes fearless with regards to death. This is when we get back in touch with our natural senses, our psychic abilities, and how we learn to trust our intuition just like the ancient cultures did throughout the world. For example, the Aboriginal people in Australia and their natural telepathic abilities, the native Americans and their belief in and abilities to communicate with the Spirits; Shamans, Medicine Doctors and so on were and are still sought after for their wisdom and healing abilities. These ancient traditions are still respected nowadays as these are the people whose connection to Mother earth never waned which makes accessibility to the universal energy and the yet scientifically unexplained wonders still so magical and real.
My mission is to help people become more aware of their connection with the earth, nature and their body and its amazing self-healing powers, to activate and feel their Qi/Energy to enhance their lives. Regular self-practice helps sharpen our senses which can become dormant through over-stimulation, (i.e. through the media, advertisements etc), so it helps at keeping a balance, diffusing stress before the alarm bells warn us of something more serious and help us be kinder to our bodies.
The aim of True To Our Roots Qi Gong is Whole Body Enlightenment, as the essence of Qi Gong is based on self-healing with its goal of creating a harmonious union of “Mind, Body, Spirit”.
“Empty yourself of everything
Let the mind rest at peace.
The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.
They grow and flourish and then return to source.
Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature.
The way of nature is unchanging.
Knowing constancy is insight.
Not knowing constancy leads to disaster.
Knowing constancy, the mind is open.
With an open mind you will be openhearted.
Being openhearted you will act royally.
Being royal, you will attain the divine.
Being divine, you will be at one with the Tao.
Being at one with the Tao is eternal.
And though the body dies, the Tao will never pass away.
Tao Te Ching XVI
References: “Everyday Tao” by Deng Ming-Dao
“Trauma Releasing Exercises” by David Berceli PHD