Does your neck ever crackle and crunch? Last week in class a Qigong exercise required turning our heads left and right. At the end of class a student mentioned that when she turned her head she felt a crunchy crackly feeling in her neck and asked if there was something she could do to make that better. Tai Chi & Qigong have so many important principles to consider and apply. Often Tai Chi & Qigong students apply the principles only during practice. It is as important to apply the principles in daily life so they are not principles anymore but become how you live, breath and move. In Tai Chi & Qigong there is Yin and Yang. They cannot exist without one another. Light cannot exist with dark, inside cannot exist without outside. There is a dynamic polarity between Yin and Yang. If you think of the body in terms of Yin and Yang then the head is Yang and the feet are Yin. Yang rises and Yin sinks. There is a concept in Tai Chi & Qigong called Ding Jin. Ding Jin can be thought of as “upright energy”. The study of Tai Chi & Qigong contains both the external physical and the internal energetic work. In the beginning of your studies you may not “feel the Qi” but the alignment of the body is very important in allowing Qi to flow. In “Traditional Chinese Medicine” (TCM), if Qi is blocked there will be stagnation and this can lead to pain. Years of poor posture and body mechanics can lead to chronic pain. This where Tai Chi & Qigong are so great!!! We can learn to move and feel our bodies differently.
Here is a simple exercise that reflects how small a small change can have a big effect. While standing, envision yourself standing under a waterfall. The waterfall is strong enough to make you move energy to the top of your head in order to remain standing there. Now, if you tuck your chin just enough so that you feel the back of your neck lengthen, you will notice your entire spine is aligned differently. It may feel as if you opened the spaces between your vertebrae. If you are looking in a mirror it might appear that you grew taller. As you maintain energy at the top of your head, allow your body to relax and sink into the feet and ground. Now you have a dynamic polarity between the top (head) and bottom (feet). Think of your spine as a flagpole. Turn your head slowly, not tilting it in any way. Keep your chin slightly tucked and maintain the energy at the top of the head. Only turn to where it is comfortable. Do not go past that point. The more you reinforce pain patterns the more pain you will have. When you turn your head you should feel an opening of the vertebrae and not a compression. Learning to maintain upright energy takes time and focus but it is something that can be incorporated into daily life. Tai Chi is often thought of as a way to maintain a robust youthfulness and energy into old age. Take the time needed to make changes that will improve your health and vitality!!