The Way of Energy: Mastering the Chinese Art of Internal Strength with Chi Kung Exercise
Master Lam Kam Chuen
Softcover 191 pp.
Published by Simon & Schuster 1991
Reviewed by Salvatore Casano Ph.D. R.N.This well done book on the Zhan Zhuang (“standing like a tree”) system of Qigong is meant for individual self-study. “Like a tree with its deep roots, powerful trunk, and great spreading branches reaching into the sky, you will appear to remain unmoving. In reality, you will be growing from within.” (p11). The book is easy to read with lots of beautiful photos and instructional diagrams to help perform the exercises and to emphasize certain concepts. The reader is encouraged to work through all the exercises at their own pace following all the detailed instructions given in the text.
The book is divided into four parts. Part 1 takes the reader through a set of warm up exercises, learning the method of breathing and relaxing, how to stand with correct posture and balance and coordination of mind-body internal connections. As a result of these standing practices one can experience many different body sensations which are thoroughly discussed, so one can monitor one’s progress.
Part two of the book is the nuts and bolts in constructing this energy system practice. The reader is led through the Ba Duan Jin or “Eight Strands of Brocade” exercises. These exercises increase the flow of energy along the full length of specific meridians, which affect the internal organs these meridians pass through. The Ba Duan Jin creates a nice warm up to begin the five positions of the standing qigong practice. The reader begins with standing in wuji, then to holding the balloon, followed by holding your belly, standing in the stream, and the more taxing 5th position holding the balloon in front of your face. One stands in each posture for a recommended amount of time. A whole practice routine follows, called The Full Circle where these 5 positions are held in a certain sequence for a total of 30 minutes. The sequence begins with wuji, followed by holding the ball in front of chest, holding the balloon in front of your face, standing in a stream, holding the belly and returning to wuji.
Additional exercises are taught, bringing a total of 9 positions of Zhan Zhuang. Some of the newer exercises come with a caveat. These exercises involve being weighted on one foot while holding a posture, and have a strong effect on the cardiovascular system. The reader is advised to have medical approval before doing these exercises since they can tend to raise blood pressure during the period of training. These exercises are the same standing exercise previously learned, but done with weighted leg. The benefits of these exercises are many: better rooting to the ground, stronger legs, enhanced balance, increased energy flow, and tranquil mind are just a few. “ Beneath its sloping shoots, the bamboo’s stem is gently curved. It takes the force of all the elements-enduring, rooted, calm. Unlike the trees that break and fall, its stem is just a hollow, nothing more. Its strength is in its emptiness. “ (p. 110)
The remaining chapter in Part 3 discusses the mental visualizations and internal flow of energy (Qi) by using imagery and mindful intentions. Through diligent practice one can get the internal energy to flow and actually feel this internal energy as well. Part four of the book deals with how these energy exercises can affect your daily life with helpful hints for doing energy exercises upon awakening, in the office , while sitting or using the telephone, using the computer, traveling, sports, gardening and other leisure activities, lifting heavy weighted items. Lastly, the author takes you through how the way of energy exercises can be nurtured from early childhood, to teenager, to meet the physiological needs of women, middle age, and old age. This is truly an exercise system for life. The very last chapter includes exercises for self-care and for common health issues as some of the medical benefits of this system are explained. There is even a discussion of using this system for first aid.
This is the kind of book that you will come back to; time and again as you gain understanding and the length and times of your practice increases. One must be patient, persistent and practice in a diligent manner to reap the many benefits of learning this Qigong system. May the Qi be with you.[Salvatore Casano R.N., PhD – a registered nurse with a PhD in Holistic Health, and is an ATCQZ certified Tai Chi and Qigong instructor. His Tai Chi and Qigong journey began over 20 years ago while working as a chemistry instructor, when he felt the need for a more holistic approach to health care. Participating in many programs and projects relating to health, Dr. Casano educates the community on living a healthier lifestyle to avoid obesity and diabetes, and as a way to reduce stress. Over the years, he has learned from many masters including Bill Philips, Marc Issacs, Richard Chu, as well as two ATCQA advisors, Dr. Roger Jahnke, and Bill Douglas. Dr. Casano, along with his wife Veronica, often sojourn together on his healing path, as they use their skills in helping others connect the mind, body, and spirit. They have four adult children, seven grandchildren, and a cat, “Tiger.”]