Organizing Daily Practice
by Yang Yang, Ph. D
If you have limited time for your daily Taiji practice, can you still benefit? The answer is yes—if you practice efficiently. This training tip describes how.
Most Taiji and Qigong practitioners have a busy schedule and do not have two hours a day to practice. Many people are lucky if they have 30 minutes a day to exercise. Some may not even have 30-minute blocks of time, and instead may have to divide those 30 minutes into several smaller blocks, spaced throughout the day.
But even short periods of exercise can make a big difference, according to a recent study from the University of Missouri. A team led by exercise physiologist John P. Thyfault reported that when fit, physically active young adults stopped exercising for three days, their blood sugar spiked more after meals—a condition that over time raises the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. To remain healthy, we should keep moving throughout the day, and even short periods of moderate exercise can make a big difference, Thyfault told the New York Times. Taiji and Qigong can help.
So, if you have just 30 minutes a day, how can you structure your time to practice most efficiently?
To answer that question, we need to consider the different components of our training. Here is one way to break the practice down:
- Standing meditation
- Sitting meditation
- Lying-down meditation
- Moving qigong
- Agility qigong
- Taiji form qigong
Standing meditation can improve strength, body alignment, quality of sleep, balance, and our ability to relax as we move. It refers to two primary postures: Wuji and Santi. It can be practiced alone or with a partner to help get the feel of it.
Sitting meditation can effectively train our brain and engage our mind. It cultivates Ling energy—improved intuition and a quick, alert lightness. For a detailed discussion of sitting meditation, please read this article in the December 2011 issue.
Lying-down meditation includes still meditation and moving exercises. It can enhance flexibility, relax the body and mind, prevent and rehabilitate injuries, and improve sleep.
Moving qigong refers here to our stand-alone drills, such as Grand Opening and Washing Organs. Each moving qigong exercise cultivates energy and each has a different focus. For example, Grand Opening helps with chest opening and closing, shoulder range of motion, and side-to-side weight shifting. The Strike Shoulders exercise enhances shoulder range of motion and trains forward and backward weight shifting.
Agility qigong refers to exercises meant to move the body quickly without compromising alignment, footwork, rooting, and integrity of the whole body. They include cai, lie, zhou, kao, and others.
Taiji form qigong refers to individual forms or part of an entire routine.
Let’s assign five minutes to each segment, and assume we have ten-minute stretches to practice in the early morning, during the day, and in the evening. Here is one way to organize the practice:
- Sitting meditation: 5 minutes, then
- Moving qigong: 5 minutes
During the day:
- Taiji form or agility qigong, moving slowly: 5 minutes, then
- Agility qigong, moving briskly: 5 minutes
In the evening, before going to bed:
- Standing meditation: 5 minutes, then
- Lying-down meditation: 5 minutes, just before going to bed
I recommend sitting meditation in the morning and lying down meditation before going to bed. Avoid moving qigong, especially agility qigong, before going to bed because these exercises tend to generate a significant amount of energy. If you have a very tight schedule in the morning and evening and more time during the day, practice sitting meditation in the morning, lying down before going to bed, and do the rest during the day.
Use these instructions as general guidelines, but please be flexible and adjust based on your specific situation. For example, if you have sleep issues, it is a good idea to do more standing and lying down qigong. If you have a lot of stress, you’ll benefit by spending more time on sitting meditation. And always remember to do slow movement to warm up before you do agility training. Even for the agility training, you do not need to move too fast.
If you’re lucky enough to have one hour a day to practice, double the time for each of these activities. Always keep in mind that what matters most is not quantity but quality. And be gentle. Gentle practice can provide powerful, long-lasting benefits.
Yang Yang, Ph. D is one of the few individuals who are recognized within the traditional Taiji and Qigong community as a master practitioner and instructor, as well as an academic researcher who’s using western science to explore evidence-based Eastern philosophy and healing arts. He is author of the highly acclaimed book “Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power”, and in 2006 was honored as the “Qigong Master of the Year” at the 9th World Congress on Qigong and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Yang trained in China under several of the 18th generation grandmasters of the Chen style – Chen Zhaokui, Gu Liuxin, and Feng Zhiqiang. He was a three-time Taiji champion at the Shanghai collegiate tournament and former instructor at the Shanghai Chen Style Taiji research association. To understand the power and mechanics of Taiji and Qigong beyond traditional explanatory frameworks, Master Yang completed a doctorate degree in kinesiology at the University of Illinois, where he remains as an adjunct faculty. Dr. Yang is currently the Director of the Center for Taiji and Qigong Studies in New York City. www.centerfortaiji.com