Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Stand up and stretch!

This is a qigong (“vital-energy practice”) called “Supporting Heaven With Both Hands.” It is one of eight exercises included in the qigong form called Baduanjin (“Eight Sections [of] Brocade”). The practice and benefits of qigong are similar to those of yoga; it is good for your body, mind, and spirit. You have probably heard of “tai chi;” that is a form of qigong.

You may do this stretch anytime and anywhere. It works wonders in improving circulation and easing muscular tension, and I often do it myself during the day to relieve the pain and stiffness of Carpal Tunnel. This is also a gentle and simple exercise to do to when you rise in the morning; it’s a great way to start your day! You may have intuitively known this because it is often the first thing you do in the morning…stretch!

When practicing qigong, or any other exercise, remember to choose a comfortable location; avoid standing in the direct airflow of heaters or air conditioners. It is best to wear loose, comfortable clothing that will not bind the motion of your arms and shoulders.

To perform “Supporting Heaven With Both Hands,” stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, and your weight balanced over the center of your feet. Place your arms over your head, bending your wrists so your palms are facing the sky or ceiling; you may stretch your fingers out as widely as possible (in my experience, this is most beneficial), or lace your fingers together if you like.

Let the back of your hands rest on the top of your head while you inhale deeply. Exhale gently but completely (getting rid of all that built-up carbon dioxide!) while pushing upward, fully extending your arms straight above your head though not so far that it hurts or is painful in any way. Inhale while lowering your hands back to rest on the top of your head. Repeat stretching and lowering your arms eight to twelve times.

The illustration of the man performing “Supporting Heaven With Both Hands” shows him standing on his toes when his arms are extended. That is a position that goes with advanced practice of Baduanjin. It is not necessary for you to stand on your toes to receive full relaxation benefits from this practice.

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