Is Shibashi Qigong or Taiji?

The honest answer to this question is that it has elements of both. Let’s start by making sure we know the difference between taiji and qigong.

Taiji is a martial art that is recognised for its softness, slow yet powerful movements and therapeutic health building properties.  It can be described as moving meditation and sometimes shadow boxing. Students learn a series of movements known as a form, which can be a hand form or a weapon form. There are several schools, which have variations of the moves, depending on their applications and forms are often known by the number of moves e.g. Long form might have 119 moves while there are shorter 37 step forms or even 18.

Qigong is a system of, literally, energy exercises. There may only be 5 or 8 moves, as these are generally designed to work with the meridians, which work with the organs of the body. These are repeated 4, 5 or 8 times. This makes qigong moves easier to follow, to learn and to practise for those who don’t wish to make a series study or practice. It is often described as health qigong to emphasise the different purpose from the martial element of taiji. Massage and herbal medicine are also associated with qigong exercises.

Shibashi offers a bridge between the two. There are 18 moves, but as these are repeated usually 4 times and as none of them is physically difficult, it is a very accessible short taiji form, suitable for all ages.

As with all qigong forms, the exercise should leave you feeling relaxed, cleansed and energised and with a big smile on your face!

Because the qi energy will be moving through your body, bringing energy and pushing out toxins, we recommend drinking a lot of water to help eliminate the toxins.

Next workshop will be a demonstration as part of a one day retreat at Portavadie with Di Oliver.

The next full day workshop will be on Saturday 8th June.

What Shibashi Means to Me

I was first introduced to Shibashi by the late great Ronnie Robinson at a taster workshop during Tai Chi Caledonia.

“I’m not going to say anything,” he announced, waving us into a circle on the grass. “Just copy me. I’ll repeat the moves about four times. If I keep going, one of you isn’t doing it right and I’ll keep going until you do it right so pay attention.”

I was intrigued as to how I might learn something that way, but it worked. Not to the point that I could remember all the moves or the order they came in, but I could certainly follow and repeat in a meaningful way. The lack of oral instruction gave me time and space to listen to how it felt in my own body. We all finished with big smiles on our faces.

When I did my two year teacher training course, I was delighted to learn that Shibashi would be on the syllabus and that Ronnie would be teaching it. At that level, naturally, we went into things in greater depth. I have books a DVD and notes galore, but it is the simplicity of the moves that makes it accessible to everyone. I teach it weekly at our over 65s Friendship Club, where some of them regard it as ‘exercises’ and some of them ‘get it’ as qigong or taiji.

When I give a demonstration of qigong at a Women’s Group, School Health Week or whatever, Shibashi is the ideal form to present. Unlike Ronnie, who knew he was teaching people with at least the basics of qigong understanding, I go through each move once. I explain to people that when I ask them to put their hands here, I mean here and not there, because we are activating precise acupuncture points. And I also want to ensure that people don’t try too hard, making big moves. Often western people associate exercise with painful stretching and great effort, whereas eastern exercises are much more gentle and in the case of qigong and taiji, it is internal energy that is being worked.

And then we do go through the moves without instruction, because people are confident enough to follow me and the music. And they pretty well always finish with big smiles on their faces.

When is the next workshop?

There are now nine versions of Shibashi, each with eighteen moves. I shall be teaching this lovely form at Portavadie on Sunday 14th April as part of a me-time day retreat with Di Oliver. Di will be teaching Dru Yoga and when not working in the studio with us, you can enjoy lunch, a glass of bubbly and all the facilities of the Spa.

I will also be teaching a more in depth version on June 8th.

Therapy through the Six Healing Sounds

There is a fascinating world of new (and old) research into the world of sounds and the effects of sound vibration on everything. Sound therapy is an ancient method of healing.
Tibetan monks, for example, have used a method of “overtone chanting” for thousands of years for treating illness. The theory is that since everything in the universe is in a constant state of vibration, including the human body, even the smallest change in frequency can affect the internal organs.

Modern sound therapists consider a natural resonance or “note” that is in harmony for each part of the human body, and for each individual. Therefore, by directing specific sound waves to specific areas, they can affect the frequency of which that part is vibrating and thereby restore it to balance and therefore health.

Shawn Picarsic has been producing beautiful pictures showing the effects of sound on a bowl of water, for example. These aren’t just pretty gimics. Given that the human body is largely composed of water, imagine the effect on a human being of different sounds. 

“One has only one way for inhalation but six for exhalation”
Tau Hongjing of the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420 – 589)

How Qigong Comes Into It
Qi is often described as the vibratory nature of the Universe. The Six Healing Sounds Qigong uses the exhalation of breath to cause vibrations which regulate and control the rise and fall of Qi (vital energy) inside the body through six different sounds. These affect the five organs, the liver, heart, spleen, lungs and kidneys and the triple heater, which balances all the energy systems. 

The next half day workshop on this topic will be held on Saturday November 10th at Whitehouse.  Early bird discount until 2nd November.





Reconnecting With Nature through the Five Elements

The Five Elements are crucial to any understanding of Chinese thinking, medicine, and culture in general. They are slightly different from the Four Elements in Western Nature, being Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood.

Each element is characterised by a Season, a Colour, an Internal Organ, an Orifice, Negative Emotions, Positive Emotions, a Direction, a Planet and a Process. As this is Summer, we are under the influence of the Fire element but of course all the others still exist! We just need to be aware of how they operate at this time and the effect they have on each other. The object of the exercise is to bring every aspect into harmony.

In the above cycle, the elements support each other, however, by using them in a different order, they can be destructive. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. We use the destructive order when we practise Qigong because our intention is to eliminate toxic influences or excesses.

In addition to the Five Element workshop I shall also be using the Six Healing Sounds Qigong to enhance the total experience. There is a fascinating world of new (and old) research into the world of sound and the effects of sound vibration on everything.

Booking
In the Five Elements workshop which will be taking place at the beautiful Comriach Sanctuary, during the Wild Heart Singing weekend of 23rd and 24th June 2018, we will have a wonderful opportunity to immerse ourselves in Nature and experience many aspects of the Five Elements.

This will be a weekend of songs, chants, silence, movement, nature-nourishment – experiencing the exhilaration of our senses being enlivened, our voices resonating with water, earth, rock, trees, birds, sky, sun and wind.

An early bird rate of £100 for the full weekend applies until 3oth May and Sue also provides accommodation should this be helpful.





Drop in Qigong

The last session this year will be a bit of a mix. It could be chaotic or it could be enlightening!

If you aren’t very sure about coming for a whole day, you can ‘drop in’ and try an hour long session (or 2!). If you have attended previous workshops, you can ‘drop in’ and revise a form you want to brush up on – or just practise in a group again.

I can’t cover all the workshops we’ve done, so I’ve listed 5 options. If you want to request a different one, let me know and maybe I can substitute. Or if it’s just one aspect you want to ask about, I’m sure we can fit it in somewhere. Or if you want to come in the afternoon but the workshop you’re interested in is in the morning, maybe I can rearrange the times.

Of course you’re welcome to come for the whole day! However, although the event is free, I do urge you to book in with the options you want, for the above reason. Things might change!

Here’s how it could work
At the moment I’m planning to start with

The Healing Promise of Qi. This is an easy set of 9 exercises (repeated 3 times each) devised by Roger Jahnke OMD to gather and focus qi energy.

Daoyin Baojian Gong is a set of 8 exercises devised by Professor Zhang Guande for General Health.

Ba Duan Jin is also known as the 8 Fine Treasures or 8 Pieces of Brocade. Again there are 8 exercises, which we repeat 8 times for General Health.

Shibashi is known as the 18 step taiji qigong. As the name suggests, it includes 18 simple exercises which we repeat 4 or 5 times.

We’ll finish with the bodyscan from the Mindfulness workshop. This needs silence, so please be on time if you want to take part.

I need your feedback in order to adapt this day to make it work for you. Please Book here to request the workshops that interest you.





Qigong in a Glasgow Garden

During the Merchant City Festival this summer, we discovered a gem of a garden just off the High Street in Glasgow. It’s Greyfriars Community Garden, run by and for local residents, who grow the most amazing things in 2 tonne containers that Jewson and the like deliver sand and stone in. The gardens are like mini allotments for people who live in nearby flats and tenements.

Unfortunately the land is owned by developers who will soon be wanting to realise their investment by building flats but, in the meantime, it’s not sitting derelict and unloved, it’s been transformed into a haven of peace in this busy corner of Glasgow. The wild flower garden in particular is like a meadow, full of wild flowers – you could be anywhere but in the city.

It seemed to me that it would be a lovely spot to practise taiji or qigong so I offered to run a couple of free sessions the next time the garden is open to the public. That time will be Doors Open Day, which runs from Wednesday 13th to Sunday 17th October.

I’ll be doing two sessions, Shibashi and Daoyin Baojian Gong, on the Saturday and Sunday.

Please keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain!





What is this thing called Qi?

The next workshop is called The Healing Promise of Qi and is based on Roger Jahnke’s book of that name. However, in order to use qi as a healing tool it helps to understand a little bit about it.

What is Qi?

We can think of qi as a life force – an energy, the vibratory nature of phenomena. You can’t touch it but you can feel it. It is working continuously at molecular, atomic and sub-atomic levels and is recognised by many ancient cultures under different names, such as ‘prana’ or ‘Great Spirit’.

The Three Treasures

Qi is one of the Three Treasures (San Bao) along with Jing, or Essence and Shen, which is similar to what we call the Mind and Spirit. The Mind-Spirit is a combination of Jing and Qi, so we can see the reason for the maxim ‘A Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body.’

Where is Qi?

Like the song, qi is all around us, in heaven and earth, trees, flowers and water, as well as the meridians in our bodies. Thus there are different kinds of qi. We are born with Yuan Qi, which is inherited from our ancestors. Then we absorb postnatal qi from food, water and the environment. There is wei qi, which is protective qi that flows at the surface of the body and each organ has its own qi. According to daoist cosmology, the two most fundamental forms are yin qi and yang qi, the primordial feminine and masculine energies.

How does it work?

“Contemporary biophysics and new era cell biology are confirming much of what the ancients Daoist investigators of Qi seemed to intuit. We know that the universe is alive and dynamic with various forces including gravity, cosmic rays and the energetic frequencies of the sun. In qigong theory  a profound force enters the human system from the universe – heaven energy – and an equally potent and subtle force enters the human body from the earth, which we know is a huge magnet – earth energy…. The resources of heaven gather in the qi reservoir of the head and influence particularly the upper body. The resources of earth gather in the lower belly reservoir and influence the lower body.

“The heaven and earth link together through what is called the Central Taiji Channel… The connection of heaven and earth in the human system, through the Central Taiji Channel, parallels the vertebral column and the central flow of blood, lymph, cerebrospinal fluid and neurological activity.”1

Qi naturally flows through the meridians, nourishing and balancing. Like water in a pipe, if it becomes blocked, qi becomes stagnant and leads to swelling, pain and ill health: or, if there is insufficient supply, the body becomes weak and open to attack by bacteria and viruses.

Like a feng shui practitioner, we can recognise when something is not working smoothly and try to remedy it. This can be accomplished through acupuncture points using needles, cups or hand pressure but we can also use simple specific exercises to work on these points and to ensure a good nourishing flow of healthy qi. You can practise these qi gong exercises or energy work exercises at any time for health maintenance. You don’t have to wait until you’re ill!

The first part of the exercises associated with Roger’s Qigong form involve finding qi in our own bodies, becoming aware of the qi in the environment and gathering heaven and earth qi to send through the body.

The Healing Promise of Qi by Roger Jahnke.

 





Enhancing Qigong with Mindfulness

Why Mindfulness? you may ask. It’s the latest thing. Are you just jumping on a bandwagon?

Well, that’s what I’m trying to find out myself. I first came across the term in relation to buddhist studies many years ago, probably as part of yoga. It wasn’t something I ever thought of as a subject on its own. Yet I’ve been intrigued to discover recently that many of my Taiji and Qigong friends and colleagues have qualifications in or teach or practise mindfulness, sorry Mindfulness, since it has now clearly become something in its own right.

I don’t believe it is possible to practise Taiji or Qigong without being mindful – at least as I understand the term – focused and aware of the consequences of one’s actions. Yet if so many people I respect are offering Mindfulness as something of value to clients who are looking for a way of dealing with stress, and getting more out of life, then I have something to learn.

Too many choices?

We have many choices available to us these days in terms of therapies and self-healing practices so how do you choose which one is going to see you through? Do you try them all or concentrate on one?

It partly depends on whether you want something to enhance your lifestyle and ability to get things done well, rather than just survive, or whether you have developed a condition of some kind, say, depression, which needs to be supported. I suspect all these options are beneficial. The choice will be down to the teacher, the availability of classes, and, most significantly, your own self discipline, because, let’s face it, unless you’re going to practise at home, you’re asking an awful lot of an hourly session once a week. So find something you enjoy.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with dabbling until you find something that works for you, but when you do find that something, the benefits of practising in depth and thoroughly, are manifest. For this reason, I am looking forward to finding out how Mindfulness can help my Taiji and Qigong practise and have invited practitioner Karen Fenna to come to Tarbert and show me.

karenKaren’s Mindfulness workshop, on the 12th of November, will show new ways of relating to our experience that enable us to handle thoughts and feelings differently. Instead of either becoming sucked into problems, or trying to avoid them at all costs, we learn to break free from habitual patterns and see things from a different perspective.
We will learn greater awareness of feelings, sensations and thoughts that are normally out of the ordinary field of awareness.
There’s more information here. A generous part of the workshop will include physiological topics such as breathing and posture, walking and (yes!) qigong exercise. I hope that you too will be interested in coming and finding out a bit more.





October Workshop, with Promise

I’m really looking forward to teaching Roger Jahnke’s Healing Promise of Qi workshop for four reasons.

Firstly because it’s one of my favourite qigong forms – it’s often the one I do in the morning to help me find the right energy for whatever I’ll be doing that day.

Secondly, it’s a simple and logical form to understand, with the moves mirroring the intention.This makes it easy for newcomers to qigong to follow and practise with focus quite quickly. Though based on ancient Chinese philosophical practices, it was developed by Roger to be accessible to sceptical Western minds.

Thirdly because it found me at a time when I needed it. There’s a saying “When the pupil is ready, the teacher appears”. Whether this means that I (the pupil) was ready and Roger (the teacher) appeared (at Tai Chi Caledonia) or whether it means that I, the pupil was ready to turn into the teacher, I’m not sure, but either way, it’s what happened, and I’m grateful.

And fourthly, though not lastly(!) the workshop will be held at the home of the inspiring Liz Gaffney-White. Heartfelt By Liz is based at Dalmally Station, which her partner Graham has been restoring for several years. Although a working station on the Glasgow to Oban line, it is also a local history museum and the space allows Liz to run felt and other craft workshops either in the station waiting room, on the platform or in the beautiful yurt. It’s an opportunity to ogle the wonderful items she exhibits and sells.

Assuming we will be in the yurt, numbers will be restricted, so I’d advise booking as soon as possible for this full day course, which includes lunch.  There is also accommodation at the station for anyone travelling or wanting to make a weekend of it.