Taiji and qigong exercises have been used by people in Asia for over 4,000 years. If you have ever visited China and gone into one of the many parks in the morning, you have seen groups of people doing these exercises.
What is not so well known is that besides taiji (tai chi), many are practicing qigong.
A new book, Breath Energy Work: Exercises for the Mind & Body, provides the traveler (and non-traveler) an introduction to qigong (a combination of breathing and moving). It includes a collection of hand exercises that give you instant gratification, face and lower back massage, and a good assortment of stretches
There are many exercise programs, but what makes this program unique is that it can be done almost anywhere, anytime, without the need for special apparel, place or equipment. All you need is to spend a little time going over the text and practicing.
This is a short morning routine to help get you started. A routine should be modular, exercises strung together in a way that suits your needs. You can change the order I suggest, adding or subtracting as you see fit.
When I refer to breathing, I’ll always be referring to diaphragm breathing, using the diaphragm rather than the chest to draw breath in. To practice this type of breathing, lie down, place your hands on your abdomen just below the navel, and allow the hands to rise as you inhale, and return to the original position as you exhale.
With practice, you should be able to do this while standing or seated throughout the exercises.
Eventually, you will also notice a little expansion around the lower back on the inhale. Just be patient with this process, practicing the breathing only for short periods of time. With practice, breathing will help you to maintain a healthier pulmonary capacity throughout your life.
Then, try one of the face washing techniques. Be sure your hands are clean first. Place both hands on your face and wipe down, then return the hands to the original position and wipe out. Repeat nine more times for a total of ten. This exercise is great for stimulating and refreshing the facial muscles.
Lower Back Massage
Reach around and give your lower back a massage. Start as high up as you can reach and rub down a few times. Then, using your thumbs, start high and knead your way down on both sides of the spine. Now, using your fists, tap up and down on the lower back, alternating the fists. Ask those muscles to relax and remind yourself often.
While sitting on the edge of the bed or in a chair, raise one leg and extend out in front of you. Now raise it a little higher and hold for a thirty count. Now do the other one.
Then, clasp your hands under one leg just above the knee for support and raise your lower leg 30 times. Now do the other one. Finally, raise one leg up and rotate the foot around 15 times in each direction. Now do the other one.
In the standing position, feet shoulder width apart, bend at the knees to end of shoes with both hands in front of your chest. In one motion, raise up and throw your arms out and up to top of head height. Do this quickly while counting to ten. Up and out, up and out.
Now, clap your hands together down low in front of you ten times, then at chest height ten times and finally behind you ten times. Just try it; it’s very invigorating.
Place your hands in front of you, palms up at about waist height, fingers pointing inward, as if your hands were lying on a table. Your elbows should be extended out to the sides, shoulders natural and released. As you inhale through the nose, the hands rise up to chest height, and your shoulders remain loose (don’t let them rise up).
At chest height, turn both hands over and exhale while pushing down to waist height. To repeat just turn the hands over, palms up, breathe in and so on. Do at least 5-10 times.
It helps to get into the habit of doing your routine daily: regular practice produces better results.