All forms of qigong have posture as a central focus. It doesn’t matter if you are practicing while standing, sitting or lying down regulating the posture will enhance the practice. What happens when you regulate the posture is you allow optimization of your structural alignments and enhancement of blood, lymph, and qi flow through your vessels and channels.Add purposeful relaxation to this and you form the right combination for balancing the body (tiao-shen) and producing the “Heavenly elixir within”.
There are a few different sequences you can use to regulate the body. For structural alignments I prefer to start at my feet and work my way up to the top of my head. I then do purposeful relaxation from my head down to my feet. Some people prefer the opposite way, either way works. It is best if you experiment and find out which direction you prefer for your awareness to travel. When you are practicing the relaxation aspect of regulating the body you do not want your body to be limp you should still be mindful of your structural alignments. It is more of a sinking feeling into the ground like all the tension is draining out of you. Here we begin.
Feet should be parallel and shoulder width apart.
Your feet should be parallel. This means the distance between your toes, arch, and heals are exactly the same. I remember the first time I purposefully stood with my feet parallel in class I felt like i was standing “pigeon toed”. I wasn’t though I was just so used to standing with my toes pointed out that standing with my feet parallel felt awkward. The benefit for positioning your feet parallel is it allows your ankles, knees, and hips to rest squarely over your feet which keeps them in alignment. It also opens up your tailbone which allows better nervous, circulatory, and qi system communication between the body and brain. When you stand with your feet pointed out you have a tendency to then squeeze the muscles around your tailbone. Keep your parallel feet shoulder width apart. I like to actually use the hip bones that point out on your pelvis to the width of your shoulders as more of a reference point. I recommend aligning the instep of your feet up to your hip bones if you have wider hips and smaller shoulders or aligning the instep up with your shoulders if you have wider shoulders and smaller hips. Play around with the distance here. In a couple tries you will find the best placement for your parallel feet. You will know because it just feel “right’ or “natural” like your are really able to sink into your stance. The benefits for keeping your feet shoulder width are allowing complete alignment of your ankles, knees, and hips and also full stability when you are standing.
Keep your Knees directly over your feet.
Placement of your knees is crucial. You do not want to have your knees past your toes in the forward position because you will then have all your weight resting on your knees which is a no no. What you do want is your knees bent and either the knee cap over the middle of your foot or as far forward as the toes (but not past the toes). This will then allow your weight to be distributed through your knees all the way down into the ground. You want to also make sure you knees are not bending in toward each other or out away from each other. You want your knees directly over your feet. Last but not least is you want a slight lifting of the back of your knees. This is allows for any extra weight you were holding in your knee caps to be transferred to the ground. This is a very slight movement, it is almost more of a felt sense but it is a actual movement. The benefits of bring more awareness to how your knees move and where they should be place is priceless for the long term health of this extremely important joint.
Tilt your pelvis to flatten your back.
Gently rotate your pelvis forward on the hips so your lower back flattens out. A lot of people have a tendency to strain this movement. Don’t. It is a gentle tilt and as your lower back muscles loosen along with your hip joint you will be able to relax into the movement more. Benefits of gently rolling the hips forward are elongation of the spine and aided awareness of the lower abdomen (DanTian) and Kidney’s (Ming Men).
Lifting the back, sinking the chest.
Moving from your pelvis, bring awareness to your midriff (the area between your pelvis and ribs) and lift this area elongating the lower back to avoid compression of your core. Lift your mid-back and upper back while at the same time separating the shoulder blades allowing your arms to hang loosely at your sides. Your middle fingers should touch the side seams of your pants. Allow space under your armpits about the size of golf balls. At the same time of lifting your back sink your chest and abdomen. This can be difficult at first because we hold a lot of tension between our throat and solar plexus. It might seem like more of a felt sense in the beginning but after steady practice your chest and abdomen actually sink and loosen. Benefits of lifting the back sinking the chest are separation between vertebra which allows a “breathing” space between vertebrae and better electrical andqi flow to and from the brain. Sinking the chest/abdomen brings better circulation to the the internal organs by relaxing the tension in the front of the body. A key benefit to lifting the back sinking the chest is stimulation/opening of the Small Heavenly Circulation (Xiao Zhou Tian). Which is a classic qigong exercise in china where qi flows up the back channel (du mai) of the body and down the front channel (ren mai) which help to balance the energy of the twelve organ meridian system.
Sink the shoulders, suspend the head.
Let your shoulders drop straight down. We hold a lot of tension and anxiety in our shoulders. This has become such a chronic condition in our day and age that if you could just remember to always sink your shoulders you would relieve a lot of the tensions you experience in your upper body. When you consistently have your shoulder raised this causes your ribs to lift and your breathing to become shallow. This then sets into motion a whole host of tensions from your mid back all the way up to your head. Lift the crown of your head as if suspended from above by a string. At the same time your chin pulls in slightly and your Occiput (Jade Pillow) opens to allow more qi flow up the back channel to the top of your head. Remember to also raise the tip of your tongue to your upper palate (where the “L” sound is when you say look) so the qi can descend down from the crown through your front channel to your lower abdomen (Dan Tian).
You can utilize what has been presented here in any mode of qigong from standing, sitting, and lying down. When you are sitting keep all the alignments for your body the same as standing. Just place your hands in either your lap or resting on your knees. Same with lying down keep all of your alignments the same and your hands resting at your sides. Remember the key points of feet parallel and shoulder width apart, knees directly over the feet, tilt your pelvis, lift your back sink your chest, and sink your shoulders suspend the head. At first this may take anywhere from five to ten minutes to accomplish in detail but over time as you practice regulating the body you will be able to adjust your posture in a few seconds. Allowing you to optimize your alignments anywhere at anytime. In part two of the Regulating the Body we will explore in detail Fang Song Gong (relaxing) from the head down to the toes