Qi Gong Exercise

Creating & Using Space to Release Deeply Bound Tension

Posted by Paul Cavel on 8 August 2017

Wu Style Tai Chi, France 2013

In two previous posts on creating and using internal space and increasing mind-body relaxation, I walked you through two individual and distinct processes for growing your body’s capacity, and releasing stress and tension. Once you’ve practised each thread separately and regularly for some time and with good results, then you can weave together the exercises into a hybrid practice that carries with it deeper health benefits.

Qi Gong Exercise to Create
& Use Space in Your Body

In the progression that follows, you want to stabilise what you learn in each phase before moving on to the next, more complex layer which encompasses and requires skill in all you have learned in previous layers. Genuine benefit from training is not sustainable if you move on too soon, before you are truly ready. Spending money on a product you don’t use is one thing, but investing your time, effort and energy with poor results is far more wasteful. You can nurture your investment in yourself with the mindset of contributing a little, often.

Choose a Simple Qi Gong Exercise

By now you should have some idea about how many repetitions (reps) or how long you can practise any given movement or form. (If not, follow the links above to the previous two posts).

Be sure to choose a simple exercise, such as the first tai chi move, Beginning Form, or Cloud Hands/Waving Hands Like Clouds—an exercise you could repeat 30-50 times without strain.

Next, split the total number of reps you will practice in a single session by five to coordinate with the following five-phase practice. I recommend between 6-10 reps in each phase.

  • Phase 1 – For the first phase (of 6-10 reps), apply the methodology you learned in the instructions on making space, opening the body as best you can without using force. Remember the more space you create, the more space you can use, and the better results you can achieve. That said, forcing the body creates tension and thereby closes down the body, mind, qi or some combination thereof. So don’t try to spring forward too soon, and take a step back if you find your practice starting to unravel. Play to two-thirds of your soft tissues.
  • Phase 2 – After completing the first 6-10 reps and without stopping, smoothly transition into the second phase, this time focusing on softening your eyes and nerves as much as possible (see my post on relaxing the eyes). Use your range of motion (within two-thirds of what is ideal for your nerves) to relax as much as possible while you continue to practise.
  • Phase 3 – Over the next 6-10 reps, transition your focus inwards yet deeper, back to making more space. This time don’t stretch so much as you did in the first phase yet more than you did in the second. During this third phase, try to keep the nerves relaxed with the intent of making more space in your body.
  • Phase 4 – In the fourth phase (6-10 reps), once again return to using the space you have created by fully releasing your nerves and back off from the tissue stretch. Just let the nerves discharge and use the feeling of your eyes as an indicator of how relaxed your nerves can become with each evolving rep.
  • Phase 5 – The last 6-10 reps is about finding the integration point between the tissue stretch and the nerve release, between making and using space. Although you don’t want to incite any hardening of the nerves, your intent is to allow the body to open up to whatever degree possible. Of course this level of practice requires you to play a fine line, and it could take some weeks or months of training to strike a satisfying balance. Plus, the line can change from one day to the next! So you must feel deeply into your body during each practice session, which might be easier some days than others. Tune into your body and, as you do so more regularly, you’ll find it easier to catch your flow.

After a couple of weeks of regular practice, gradually reduce the number of reps in phases 1-4 while increasing the number of reps in the last phase (maintaining the same number of reps total). This process will give you a visceral, direct experience of the two extremes, as well as a method for slowly integrating them for deeper, more profound health benefits. However, it’s important not to rush the process and skip ahead; the mind may know it (or more accurately, the mind may think it knows it), but the body is in constant flux and could always use some refinements!

“Each of you is perfect the way you are…

and you can use a little improvement”.

—Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki


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In upcoming posts…

I’ll talk more about the Principle of Thirds and link in some breathing exercises to help you go even deeper inside to release bound tension, and use the space you have created in your body to grow your health and wellbeing.

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