Tai Chi Notes, May 21, 2019

May 21 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

This week was mostly about continuing reverberations from last week’s Nei Gong course.

I did keep up my Nei Gong practice, doing at least a little bit of it every day since the course ended. Not sure how long that’s going to last, but hopefully I’ll end up at a steady state that has me doing more Nei Gong than before the class. And hopefully doing better Nei Gong; I’m certainly doing things in a more varied way, at least. Though it’s also not feeling nearly as effective as it was during the course; not sure how much of that is because even an hour of practice isn’t the same as five or six hours of practice, and how much of that is because practice on my own isn’t as effective as practice with expert guidance.

And I’m back to doing my normal Tai Chi. (Well, except for Sunday, because it was raining pretty hard out.) On Saturday, I was definitely still on a Nei Gong high, because the Silk Reeling Exercises felt a lot more intense than they normally did, and the form felt somewhat more intense. It’ll be really good if I can hold on to some of that feeling, both because it feels good, because I suspect that it’s reflecting energy flowing better through my body than it had before, and because it’s feedback giving me potentially healthy guidance. (E.g. there were a few random moves in the form when I lost that feeling of energy, I should figure out what was going on there.) Though, jumping ahead, the Silk Reeling and the form weren’t nearly as intense in the Tuesday evening class tonight: the feeling was still there somewhat, but definitely not the same thing.

On Sunday, I did breathing meditation lying down for 30 minutes; that was also pretty intense. I guess / hope it’s a feeling of Yang Qi, and I guess I shouldn’t focus on the sensations too much, and I’m honestly not sure how much time I should spend on lying down practice because it doesn’t seem conducive to gathering Qi in my Dantian, but still: it’s interesting / pleasant enough for me to want to keep on doing it sometimes. (But I’m also starting to mix in more seated breathing practice.)

What actually hasn’t been going super well has been my Wu Ji practice: my thighs have been feeling weak, so I’ve been dropping out after about 12 minutes. Part of this is that I’m going noticeably lower than I had been before the class; maybe also I’m doing other changes in how I hold my body / muscles, and if so I’m not sure if my thighs being under stress reflects something good or something bad? But I also feel like my thighs are just over-tired right now, so maybe I should actually back off on the Wu Ji a bit, spending more time doing less strenuous practice until they’ve recovered.

Also this morning I was reading a section in the Comprehensive Guide talking about Qi Gong sequences, and it mentioned that you should drop into Wu Ji after every posture, so I did that today; so even though I didn’t have a single Wu Ji session that was as long as I’d been doing, it at least added up to a more reasonable amount of time.

Other notes from tonight’s Tai Chi class: my teacher was talking about opening up the Live Gate in a move where I don’t normally think of that as a key component, and I used that as an excuse to work on spreading my lower back a little more (sideways as well as vertically) during a few different moves; seems worth continuing to experiment with, it did at least feel differently stretched. And actually the Qi Gong practice in the Tuesday class went as well as I can remember it ever going, my Dantian did feel a little more full than normal?

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Five Animal Frolics

May 16 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

My notes on four of the five animal frolics, as learned in the Lotus Nei Gong course I just took. (The frolic we didn’t cover was the monkey, which is apparently about moving the blood.)

Tiger:

Extend fingers into claws, like gripping the top of a jar. Grab Dantian, make small circles with your hands, circling forward and unwind by going higher. Wind it in, still circling forward unwind again, and at top, lunge forward onto left foot. Pull back right arm, palm still facing down, stretching inside of rib cage; look back as you pull. Then left, then right. Then use both arms to pull back to the middle, shifting weight back some; circle arms out to the right and forward. Then same thing, but circle back to the left. Then pull back with both arms and step up with right foot.

Repeat: small circles, unwind, wind in, unwind, then lunge forward with right foot. Left, right, left, center to left circle, center to right circle.

Then: step up, unwind again and wind back.

Shift weight to right foot (or maybe step forward?), with left unweighted next to it; circle arms over so right arm is extended with claw up, left arm bent over right arm with claw down, close to shoulder. Focus on spot on left, lunge forward with left leg, swinging your arms over with right arm pointing at spot, left arm 90 degrees.

Step up with right leg, ending with weight still on left; left arm extended claw up, right arm bent over. Focus right and lunge right, coming down with left arm at spot and right arm 90 degrees over. Then left again and right again.

Come to center; unwind/wind back and then drop into Wu Ji.

Bird:

Raise arms, opening live gate; expand shoulders, imagine rubber sheet over arm, stretch the top especially at the wrist. Then go down: shoulder down, then elbow, wrist and hands go down left, stretching an elastic sheet under the wrist. Repeat twice more (3 total).

Step forward with left; flap with arms at 90 degrees, one forward and one to the side, flapping left then right then left. Then flap up with both arms forward; coming down, go up onto left food, with right foot off the ground pointing back, and with both arms going back along your back (palms up), imagine Tian Tu teaching towards Huiyin.

Repeat on other side; step forward with right, 90 degrees right left right, then both forward and back, stepping up onto right leg.

Step forward with left, twist to the left; if you’re feeling flexible, lower down until your right knee touches the floor and your butt is on your left heel. (But staying higher is fine, don’t lower your knee unless you’re flexible enough to also lower your butt.) Cross your arms in front of you (crossing on forearms near the wrists), with the right hand on top; uncross them, with the right arm kept bent and your left arm opening, pulling your right elbow away from your left hand, with your right hand pointing at your left hand. Close and do it two more times. Then step forward with your right foot, twist and close your arms with your left arm on top, and do the same thing on the right side.

Then flap three times standing on left foot; arms out to side, right foot off the ground but heavy and pulling you down on the downward flaps. Then same thing standing on right foot.

Then both arms rigid pointing out, like pole between index fingers; twisting dive bombing motion from the Dantian, starting small and getting bigger. No fixed number of turns. Then go down into Wu Ji.

Deer:

Make horns with your index and ring finger; should go up, with middle two fingers curled down but not curling at the expense of bending the fingers. Thumb also sticks out. Put up next to your head, thumbs pointing at temples, elbows further back than normal.

Send a pulse of energy up inside from pressure on your Yongquan. As it reaches the top, stretch up through your body, raising your arms, standing on your toes. Rotate your Dantian forward, turning it into a spine wave; do that twice more. Then sink down. Repeat this whole thing twice more.

Step forward with your left foot, landing on the heel. Then press up from your Yongquan on your right foot twisting pretty far to your left, led from the Qi. End up with your weight forward on the left foot (which is now flat); twist your spine (including your neck) left, looking back over your left shoulder. (Still with hands making horns by your head.)

Repeat on the right.

Do the same thing on the left, but don’t twist as hard; then do three spine waves kicked off by forward Dantian rotations. Repeat on the right.

Paw your right foot back with a sort of scraping motion, then stomp down with your right foot and lunge forward with your left foot, turning your torso to the left and sticking up your arms, with your right arm arcing over the top and giving a ribcage stretch while your left arm is more going straight in line with your body. Repeat on other side: paw and stomp left foot, lunge right and stretch arms.

End by pawing and stomping right, then stomping left next to it, then dropping down into Wu Ji.

Bear:

Raise arms to diaphragm level and let hands hang limply. Make everything heavy; as always, sink flesh around bones.

Step forward with your left foot: a relatively short and heavy step. Sink all your weight again, over your left foot; your right heel should come up naturally. Lean forward/left and fold into your Kua. Push back up from the sole of your left foot.

Repeat on right side: short heavy step, heavy weight on right, fold into right Kua, push back up.

Then similar on both sides but when you fold, lean forward so that your back foot comes up and you’re balancing over your front foot.

Then step forward with your left foot; lower your fingers so they feel like they’re sinking into your feet. Raise your arms up so your hands are beside your head; you should feel like you’re stretching out an elastic (or some mucus or something) from your fingers to your toes; you also want to feel a stretch in your chest. Your weight should remain over your front foot. Then let your hands go down. Push back up from your left foot, step to the right, repeat.

Step to the left and grab your Dantian with both fists, with palms up and knuckles touching in front of your abdomen. Drag them (and your Qi) up, still touching; when they reach your chest, arc them away and up until they’re making a circle above your head, still touching. Reverse and go down your body. Then step right and do the same thing.

Step up with your left foot, do one last bear sink, and go into Wu Ji.

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Lotus Nei Gong Course, May 2019

May 15 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I spent the last five days at a Lotus Nei Gong course taught by Damo Mitchell (with the help of a senior student of his). I’ve been impressed by Mitchell’s books, and I liked him quite a bit as a teacher: good at explaining, funny, and I really liked the mixture of stuff he taught, going over core practices, teaching us (most of) one important sequence, occasionally lecturing on basic concepts, and mixing up the difficulty level nicely. (I’m definitely more prepared than I was for the Nei Gong course I took a couple of months back, but this one was also less physically stressful, except for one morning.)

My Wu Ji positioning was pretty good; I was told to go a little lower, and sometimes my tilt wasn’t quite right but I got corrected to tilt both more and less at different times, so I’m okay on average? The tip that I picked up on the tilt was to ease up on my lower back, and I think I can feel what that’s talking about: if I stand what feels straight up to me, I do feel a slight tension in my lower back, and I can lessen that by tilting a bit. Also, my hands weren’t nearly low enough, and also should be wider, a little wider than my body, and I should make sure to keep my neck up.

Sessions regularly got kicked off with a set of stretches, I should probably try to do those. The main theoretical concepts that were discussed were about Yin Qi and Yang Qi: letting your mind sink to your Dantian to build up Yin Qi, having it go from there into the rest of your body, opening up space in your joints to let the Yin Qi flow in there (at least I think it was the Yin Qi?), how opening up your Lao Gong helps you manipulate Yin Qi, how Yang Qi leads to various sensations which you should basically ignore (which is too bad, I can feel those and they’re kind of fun!), how Yang Qi will open up the meridian on your back and that’s super important, once it’s there then other meridians will start to open. And, once you’ve done that, opening up the meridian in front is the next major goal, and doing both of those will make a significant difference in how you feel; Mitchell presented that as in reach, even in reach within a couple of years, but also something which almost nobody in the class had yet reached.

So then there were techniques in support of that: lots of stretches, for example, to open up joints, lots of sinking the mind to your Dantian. And sinking was emphasized as a key: if you just place your attention in your Dantian then it won’t really be there, part of it will still be in your head. Don’t trust your mind: instead, do a combo of paying attention to where your body can feel contact from your mind and then letting that feeling skin. Also in support of this was a technique during sitting meditation: once it has sunk, then open your hands at your diaphragm with your Lao Gong down, that helps keep the Qi down there. And then you can move your hands to hold your Dantian like a ball, and play around with it. Also, if your Qi is sunk, you can do reverse breathing (but don’t do that if your Qi isn’t sunk): don’t make a big physical production of it, instead make sure that your attention is in your Dantian and then, when you breathe in, think of a bag contracting around where your attention is.

We also spent significant time on the Five Animal Frolics, though we only learned four of them. I’ll do a separate post with notes on that.

It definitely made me want to keep on doing the Lotus Neigong stuff. I think I’m going to replace the silk reeling exercises that I do at the start of that with stretches, and I’ll sometimes replace the Qi Gong sequence I’ve been doing with the Animal Frolics. (And, when I’m doing that, I’ll do the long Wu Ji before the frolics, with only a smaller bit at the end, that’s what we were doing in the class. Though the bit at the end is very important, it lets your body learn from the frolics!) And I’ll see if I can find more time to work in bits of practice, e.g. maybe doing some sitting practice on days when Liesl is walking Widget?

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Here are my complete notes:

First day:

Wu Ji: sink back more, arms noticeably wider, tilt forward a bit more than I had. When sinking into my feet, let my weight spread the bones of my feet.

Sink the Qi by noticing where my mind interacts with my body and letting it relax and sink down. Seems like a pretty key practice. Don’t try to directly place my attention on my Dantien, that won’t have the desired effect.

Reverse breathing: after sinking Qi, inside of abdomen contracts around where my attention is. Don’t move outside muscles. Not worrying about that so much for now, I’m not good yet at sinking my Qi…

Afternoon: in Wu Ji lean forward just enough to relax my lower back. Arms are spread pretty wide to the side, a little wider than my body. Got corrected on my neck once, I should indeed force it back and up a bit.

Felt like I’d sink my Qi correctly once, pressure inside my abdomen.

Second day:

Wu Ji: got told to lower my hands a bit more.

Third Day:

Open up space between joints, sink the Qi, have the Qi full up space between joints. This is probably what’s going on in Silk Reeling Exercises, with the gathering energy between exercises? So the exercises open up space, but we need to get Qi in there?

Should probably work in something stretchy, a Daoyin, hopefully I can find a good description of the animal frolics?

Cleansing: feeling a surprisingly concrete line going down my body.

Fourth day:

Morning was rough, but I made it through.

In Wu Ji I got corrected to not lean forward as much.

Maybe it’s the long days but if we do something quiet at the end day, I do feel like my mind is in my abdomen more. And having my palms at the diaphragm open and facing down might be having an effect?

Fifth day:

Interesting lecture at the start. I shouldn’t try to do the Microcosmic Orbit with my mind, it doesn’t help. But opening the channel in the back is key (and it leads to other channels opening.). Opening the Mingmen involves stretching it; so it can vibrate like a guitar string.

Separate note about animal frolics.

One hour practice: 35-40 minutes moving energy through the body. Wu Ji counts as this.

Spend remaining time on body work (e.g. Dao Yins) or sitting practice: they don’t stimulate the Yang Qi.

Dangerous to spend more than 35-40 minutes on Yang Qi exercises without support. Can start by foods to support kidneys, Yin, and blood.

Practices:
1) Wu Ji
2) Sitting practice we did to train sinking of the mind
3) Dantian work: rolling hands, for example
4) Animals

Avoid cold food until Dantian is consolidated.

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Tai Chi Notes, May 7, 2019

May 07 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

One thing I was thinking about following up on the Qigong special class last week: she mentioned breathing through the hollows in your body. And, when I’m meditating, I actually do feel something in time with my breathing in the palms of my head, a sensation that could reasonably described as breathing through my palms. Makes me curious what the mechanism is there; and, as the meditation goes on, sensation starts spreading up my arms, like something is coming in through my palms and going up. Interesting feeling, at any rate.

On Saturday, we spent extra time on Kick with Two Feet Up: turns out that lots of us aren’t doing it right, either not swinging our arms over from behind or not hitting our leg / foot before we land. Something to work on!

On Sunday, I tried doing my Lotus Wu Ji before my Tai Chi instead of after; a lot easier, felt just like a weekday, so I guess the reason why I’ve found it hard in the past is because I was tired. The main thing I noticed during my Tai Chi practice on Sunday was that I’ve gotten sloppy again on the weight transfer in Six Sealing Four Closing, I should make sure to transfer weight solidly to my right foot.

This morning I was rereading the section on Wu Ji in Mitchell’s book, and the pictures there were more upright than I think I’m being when I look at myself in the mirror when practicing in my bedroom on Sundays. So I tried not leaning my torso as much, and it was a lot easier. I also accidentally noticed most of the way through that my center of gravity was higher then normal; I’m pretty sure that also helped making it easier, and that was a mistake. But I think the leaning less that I was doing today was probably correct? Hopefully I’ll learn more at the seminar next week…

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Tai Chi Notes, April 30, 2019

Apr 30 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I was in Cincinnati last week, helping Miranda move out of the dorm, and I didn’t do any Tai Chi or Qigong or anything the whole time; bad me. And I was too tired when I got back on Sunday to practice that afternoon, either.

I did at least get back to the swing of things today: I did my Lotus Wu Ji and Qigong over lunch, and I went to class this evening. It was actually a special class, because there was a visitor who was an expert in the Hunyuan variant of Chen Tai Chi; she demonstrated the Hunyuan 24 posture form (lots of circles!) and then taught us some Qigong. I’m already pretty full of Qigong ideas to practice, so that mostly went in one ear and out the other; it was pretty dramatic at one point, though, where after changing positions, it really felt like I was holding something in my hands. And she also told us to do standing meditation for 54 minutes, which is kind of a long time!

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Tai Chi Notes, April 21, 2019

Apr 21 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

Early notes this week since I won’t be at Tai Chi class on Tuesday. The Lotus Wu Ji is still going well; I’m staying at 20 minutes for now instead of going up to 21 minutes today, since for whatever reason I find it harder on Sundays, but I did make the full time on Thursday and Sunday. And I feel like it’s reorienting my shoulders somewhat, which I hope is good; I’ve actually noticed that I’m swinging my arms more freely when I’m walking, and I’m pretty sure that is good.

On Saturday my teacher went over my form. Notes:

  • I should spiral when doing the Ji to left at the start, I shouldn’t just push.
  • When on one foot before the first Jin Gang, don’t move my right elbow back, it breaks the energy at my shoulder, move my arms out from the body instead.
  • When pounding in the Jin Gang, be a little more full with elbows out.
  • After the second Jin Gang, keep my back full when extending my right arm and stepping back. In general, be more full in that section.
  • In Oblique Posture, lead more with my shoulder.
  • Move left elbow back more when punching, to help with getting energy from twisting my body.
  • When transitioning from Fist under Elbow to Reverse with Spiraling Forearms, strike forward with my left hand. But you don’t do that in the repetition of Reverse with Spiraling Forearms: that comes after The Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg, so you’re pushing up there instead of forward.
  • After the Oblique Posture following Reverse with Spiraling Forearms, don’t lean forward or reach up and over, instead sink and grab an arm right in front of you, doing a Lu on it. And expand out with your top arm in the two blocks at the start of Flash through the Back.
  • In Kick with Two Feet Up, make sure the right arm goes back, up, and over.
  • After the second Pat the High Horse, have the left hand turned around so the back of the hand is on your stomach before starting to turn your foot/body/right hand.
  • In general, I should expand a little more: when bending my arms, don’t bend my elbow so sharply, keep my forearm further away from my body.

Also on Saturday one of the senior students was helping go through the second form. One question I had was which foot you turn on when doing the move where you open and close both arms simultaneously, looking to the left and right. (I need to learn the names of the second form moves!) The answer is that you should be planted on your left foot with your right foot moving in both the turns (the one at the start and the one in the middle).

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Tai Chi Notes, April 16, 2019

Apr 16 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

In the Saturday class, we talked about stretches that you can do with the help of the spear. You put the spear across your shoulders, with your arms wrapped around it, with the hands coming over from the back of the spear. The stretches are:

  1. Turn your hips from side to side; but always look forward, so you’re effectively turning your neck as well.
  2. Bend over from side to side, stretching the side of your body next to your rib cage.
  3. Bend while making circles with the end of the spear, doing a sort of figure 8.
  4. Same as 3, but with the direction reversed.
  5. Fold your chest forward and back.

I led the Silk Reeling Exercises on Saturday; one of the senior students said that I should avoid having my upper hand block my field of view when doing Hand Maneuvers.

We had the Sunday class this week. In the second form, we went as far as Tame the Tiger. After Beast’s Head, you spread your hands and punch; then let your hands fall down and swing back, doing a flip like when switching sides in the Peng-Cai Silk Reeling Exercise. And then, do a shake and punch, and then you step up with the right foot and block (or punch) with your right hand, then block with your left hand, then step back and go down low, with your weight on your back foot (the right one), your right hand extended up, your left hand under your right armpit, and with your left leg extended. But don’t lean, only go down so far.

I finally got to where I can do 20 minutes in Lotus Wu Ji; not comfortable, but at least I’ve succeeded. Which was my goal before the May class; now the next question is whether to stay at 20 minutes or to keep on trying to push it up? I think I’ll probably do the latter: it’s not like it’s actually comfortable to do it for 20 minutes, but the first 10+ minutes are fine, so presumably if I keep on pushing up my total time then I’ll build up my strength.

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Tai Chi Notes, April 9, 2019

Apr 09 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I asked about White Goose Spreads His Wings on Saturday, because I was trying to figure out if you should round your back during it. I’d thought that maybe you shouldn’t during the middle part, but it turns out that you should during the whole thing: at the move to the right because you’re doing a peng, then when stepping back while you do a chin-na, then at the end.

And then, following on from that, apparently in Oblique Posture you’re supposed to lead with your shoulder when bending over.

On Sunday, Lotus Wu Ji went much better than it had on previous Sundays; that was a pleasant change. And it went well on Tuesday, too. And, at one point, I felt this strange spurting sensation on my right foot; if I’m feeling optimistic, that’s something related to the bubbling well, but it’s probably not.

In class this evening, I noticed that my teacher was always facing his torso in the same direction (towards your leg) when doing the both arm version of shoulder rotations in the silk reeling exercise; I’d been turning my torso, but I confirmed that turning it was wrong.

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Tai Chi Notes, April 2, 2019

Apr 02 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

I’m starting to feel that I’m not getting so much benefit from Dantian Rotations any more; maybe I should stop doing those, or dial them down? I wonder if there’s something else I should do while waiting for the train…

I asked on Saturday about your right hand during Pat the High Horse: it is indeed supposed to be extended.

On Sunday, when I was practicing, it felt like my natural speed for doing the first form was a little faster than it had been? Not sure if that’s a change, or if I was just in a different mood than normal.

Lotus Wu Ji is still being a pain: literally, and also I’m still not sure if I’m getting the positioning right, in particular I’m worried that I’m not leaning the right amount and/or not squatting enough. And, for whatever reason, I’m finding it harder to do on Sundays than I am on Tuesdays/Thursdays; not sure if that’s a fluke or if I’m tired after practicing Tai Chi or if doing Qi Gong first (like I do on Tuesdays/Thursdays) helps. One thing I did notice while looking in the mirror is that I feel like my neck is going too far forward; I kind of think that’s a general problem, I should work on that…

I kind of feel like, when doing The White Goose Spreads its Wings, in the middle step I should be straight instead of having my shoulders forward; I’ll try to ask about that on Saturday. And, when doing the form in class tonight, I was thinking that, when standing up in Drop and Split, my weight was a little wrong over my left foot, I should think about that. The other interesting thing in class was that the person leading the form waiting a really long time before starting, and that made raising my arms feel different, I should try that.

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Tai Chi Notes, March 26, 2019

Mar 26 2019 Published by under Uncategorized

Not a whole lot to talk about this week. I’ve been working on the Lotus Wu Ji a little more than normal; it’s definitely getting harder as I bump up the time. And I’m wondering how much that has to do with me not having the right muscles built up for it, how much has to do with me not relaxing appropriately, how much has to do with my body being in the middle of adapting, and how much has to do with me doing it wrong. It feels right at the start, but I start feeling hunched later on, and also really heavy; maybe the heaviness is good, a sign that I’m setting up my frame well, but maybe it’s a sign that I’m being too rigid?

Also, in terms of my body being in the middle of adapting: when I took the Lotus course last month, the teachers made a point of talking about sinking your shoulder blades; I’d felt I was doing a decent job of that, but this weekend my shoulder blades are starting to ache a bit, in a way that makes me think that they’re actively adjusting more? Which Mitchell’s big book talks about; though there’s certainly a chance that I’m just doing things wrong and messing up my body!

I’m also feeling that I should do more breathing practice; my breathing is feeling forced when I’m concentrating on it, and when I relax, it feels a little shallow?

Nice time going through the form this evening: it felt natural to go faster than I normally do?

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