Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Baduanjin qigong: Timing can make a difference

I have discovered a wonderful set of drawings of the Traditional Chinese Medicine meridians that the owner, Pedro Bernardy of RyuBuKan Dojo in Concord, California, has graciously given his permission for me to use in talking about baduanjin qigong.

I"ll be showing you the meridians, or energy channels, that each of the baduanjin positions addresses. There is much overlap, with one position affecting one or more bodily organs and energy meridians, so this will be an overview.

I have talked before about the Ecosystem of YOU, how everything affects every other thing in your body, and this is no exception. Even though a position is especially related to a particular energy meridian or practice position, that is certainly not all it affects.

Today I'll give an overview of baduanjin, incuding the hours of the day for the organs which you may want to keep in mind when you choose your time of day to practice.

Qi gong is a method of health and vitality cultivation which is hundreds of years old. There are thousands of different forms, many of which concentrate building, moving, or promoting healing energy through specific parts of the body. BaDuanJin is a very complete practice that promotes health in specific organs and areas of the body, as well as being a whole-body workout without the Work! It also promotes physical coordination and gracefulness, and teaches economy of movement so you use less energy to accomplish tasks.
Each of the eight positions in BaDuanJin should be practiced slowly and gently. Practice of the complete form should take approximately 20 minutes a day. It may seem at first as if "nothing is happening," but be assured much is happening! Your inner organs and body systems are being well cared for, given new or renewed energy and vitality. It can take as little as one month, or as long as three months, before you feel the difference in your general health and well-being. If illness or disease is present, it may take longer to feel the beneficial effects of qi gong practice, but improvement of health will be noticed if one practices mindfully and daily.

By practicing mindfully, one practices without distraction. Listening to soft music is fine, but televisions, telephones, and computers should be turned off, and lighting should be normal (not bright). When practicing, wear loose clothing in layers; it is not unusual to become warm during practice, and a sweater or extra shirt can be removed to allow for greater comfort. Practicing in fresh air is beneficial, going outdoors in nice weather is recommended, but avoid cold and drafts in winter weather. Practice away from air conditioners in summer.

When you practice mindfully, you should concentrate on two things; the movement of the positions, and breathing. 

Breathing is very important. Inhaling should "fill the belly;" that means to allow, but not force, the abdomen to extend outward as you inhale. Exhaling should empty the lungs, and the abdomen may gently be contracted, "pulled in," to help tighten and strengthen abdominal muscles. Breathing should always be done only through the nose; breathing through the open mouth is to be avoided because it can cause the mouth and throat to become dry and uncomfortable. Also, breathing through the mouth allows the intake of colder air than does breathing though the nose. Inhaling cold air is to be avoided. The tip of the tongue should always rest lightly on the roof of the mouth, just behind the top front teeth. 

The BaDuanJin positions are to be practiced in gentle, swaying movements of the arms. Feet should be shoulder-width apart, firmly on the floor with weight balanced on the center of the foot, not the toes or heels. Legs should be slightly bent; never "lock" your knees! "Locking" or stiffening any joint is to be avoided, always. It can damage joints, and it blocks the flow of energy. The positions should be repeated on an average of eight to twelve times each. You may practice BaDuanJin at any time of day, and even do a "short set" (or a full set!) anytime you are feeling tired or stressed. 

Above all, always listen to your body. If something causes pain, Stop! At first, you may feel slight aches after practice. You may also feel tingling or other sensations in your hands, arms, and legs. That's normal with any exercise and will disappear after the first week or so of practice. 

Time Wise
When to practice qi gong
There are many theories on the best time of day to practice your energy and health enhancing routine. Some believe that working out early in the morning at the time yang energy grows is the best option. Others believe that a couple of hours after your largest meal of the day is a good time. I believe that your body will tell you the best time by intuitively moving you to practice. Once you determine the best time for you, do try to practice at the same time each day.
There are, however, some beneficial and interesting things to know about time-of-day. In Tradition Chinese Medicine, certain hours of the day correspond to certain areas or organs of the body, and certain emotions. If you are experiencing illness or emotional distress, you may want to practice at a time within the two-hour period which corresponds to the area of your complaint. Doing this directs extra energy, and promotes additional curative benefits. 

11:00 PM to 1:00 AM gall bladder: anger
1:00 AM to 3:00 AM liver: anger
3:00 AM to 5:00 AM lungs: sorrow, anxiety
5:00 AM to 7:00 AM large intestine: sorrow, anxiety
7:00 AM to 9:00 AM stomach: pensiveness, overconcentration
9:00 AM to 11:00 AM spleen : pensiveness, overconcentration
11:00 AM to 1:00 PM heart: joy (overexcitement), grief
1:00 PM to 3:00 PM small intestine: joy (overexcitement), grief
3:00 PM to 5:00 PM bladder : fear
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM kidneys : fear
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM pericardium: joy (overexcitement), grief
9:00 PM to 11:00 PM triple burner: joy (overexcitement), grief 

The triple burner (or san jiao) is not a recognized organ in Western medicine. Chinese medicine considers this a connector and coordinator of the functions of all the organs as well as an energy regulator. Unless you have another preference, this would be an all-around good time of day to practice qi gong.


Amit said...

I had no idea in Qi Gong that there were specific times for particular ailments.

Again I've learned something new! :)

Michelle said...

Hi Amit,

That's why I'm happy to have the drawings of the qi meridians which I will share as I explain each qigong position.

It isn't just the major organ, either, it's the energy moving through the whole channel. If your complaint is, say, around the wrist area as shown by the points in the drawing, the time of day the lung channel is active might be a good time to do baduanjin and enhance the energy moving through the channel that includes that wrist area.

Of course, one should never allow a problem to go undiagnosed, so if someone has a problem, they should seek qualified medical counsel. As lovely as these drawings are, they are not qualified medical counsel. :-)

Amit said...

Hey Michelle,

Absolutely and I totally concur with your last statement. I do intend to visit my doctor about this but I have a question for you. Recently, I've been getting a cold or a flu at regular occurences, like every month or so. Just 2 weeks ago I got the flu and that then turned into a serious throat and chest infection. that has almost cleared up but it's taking a awful long time to do so and obviously the frequency of these illnesses is a concern. What can you recommend I try in the mean time until I see my doc?

Michelle said...

Hi Amit,

Here are some real easy things that should be easy to include in a busy day and still make a good difference:

Watch television programs or movies that make you laugh. "Not only have increases in immune system activity been recorded at the time scientific study participants were viewing a humorous movie, the elevated levels of some beneficial immune system hormones and cells actually carried over into the next day giving further protection from disease." Also, "researchers say that laughing one-hundred times is the equivalent of spending fifteen minutes riding an exercise cycle…" Though they also add that you shouldn't replace exercise with movie viewing! Laughing and cycle riding use different muscles, and laughing doesn’t do as much for the lymph system as riding a bike, or jogging, or rebounding on a little trampoline.

Make sure you move around; if you are sedentary during the day (i.e. have a job that keeps you at your desk), your lymph glands do not get stimulated enough to move waste materials out of your body, so do something that involves a lot of physical movement for at least 10 to 15 minutes each day. Jog or ride a bike; preferably outside where there is fresh air; indoors if treadmill or exercise-cycle are available.

To support your immune system drink a daily cup of Echinacea or Goldenseal herbal tea, or take the herb in capsule form. I drink a cup of Echinacea tea every day and I seldom catch anything.

Good luck!

Amit said...

Generally I move around quite a lot. Even though I work in I.T. because I tend to work on the network side of things, even though I spend lots of time at my desk. I also tend to move around a lot and even move heavy equipement. I like the echinacea tea idea. I mainly only drink herbals tea's now anyway so I'm going to get some and keep it in my desk drawer at work!

Thank you! (((HUGS)))

Michelle said...

I try to offer several options so a person can choose the one that will work best for them...as we know, people are not one-size-fits-all!

Glad you like the tea idea...that's great! I let it steep for about 10 minutes...I think you get the maximum benefit from the herbs that way though the taste is a bit strong.