Archive for January, 2023

Nei Gong Notes, January 31, 2023

Jan 31 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

Frustrating week. My thumb was still hurting, so I was nervous about doing the arm stretching stuff from the Nei Gong workshop. I asked my TCM doctor about that again, and he said that it was caused by my neck; playing around with my neck, I think he’s right. And that also didn’t make me feel great: what was causing that, what would make it feel better? Also, he told me to switch back to sleeping on my left side; he’d mentioned that before, but I guess I should pay more attention to it.

Anyways, I tried to expand the fascia in my neck, and elongate my neck a bit more; that made my thumb feel better, at least. But then last night my sleep was kind of lousy; part of that might be me being no longer used to sleeping on my left side, but I realized my neck was aching slightly, and in the past my doctor has said that my neck is linked to sleep problems, so I think it’s my neck.

So now my theory is that the stuff that I’ve been doing around neck positioning and lengthening has been stressing something in my neck too much, in a way that’s not healthy. I took some ibuprofen this morning, since that reduces swelling in ways that have helped with my back in the past, and my neck and thumb did feel better after doing that. So, for now, I’ll do that before going for bed, and I’ll stop the active work on my neck; maybe I’ll let it float back but definitely not up. Hopefully that will help; I don’t want to go back to lousy sleep…

Anyways, nothing in particular to report for Nei Gong because of all of that, and I’ll take it easy in the middle of this week, too. (But I’ve got a workshop with Joyce coming up this weekend, so I can’t take it easy then!) Tai Chi class was on Saturday; my last one for a while, I’m going to miss every week in February. My teacher did say he was going to start doing push hands more, which I appreciate. And doing the Lao Jia first form really is feeling more interesting to me now: there’s more stuff going on inside my body, doing Tai Chi is starting to feel kind of like Qi Gong. In general, the inside of my body does feel more alive, I feel stuff moving and settling a lot even when doing basic Nei Gong now; if it weren’t for my neck, I’d actually be actively happy with how things are going, I really am making progress.

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Nei Gong Notes, January 24, 2023

Jan 24 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

The main event this week was that I did a three day Nei Gong workshop with Rick. Some amount of arm stretching, though not as much as last time; I am getting better at stretching my arms just by changing focus (alternating between absorbing my attention in my arm and then pulling back my focus to outside my arm), and sometimes I actually got a surprisingly large stretch that way. The most surprising time I actually hit my bone level, all of a sudden feeling a hard cylinder in the middle of my arm; Rick said that, if you go deep enough, you can even feel the bone start to stretch, but I didn’t get that far. There was also some hint of the spread going into my chest, hopefully I can continue to have that happen a bit.

So I’m excited to keep on doing that; though, unfortunately, the previous week my right thumb started to occasionally give me a twinge of pain, and noticing more when that’s happening, I’m realizing that it’s not triggered by thumb exercise (e.g. I’d thought that practicing piano had set it off, and while it’s still possible that’s the case, I haven’t noticed the pain appear while practicing piano), but it does get triggered sometimes when I just straighten my arm. So I’m worried that it’s being triggered by having the tendon be pulled by my arm, which makes me think that doing active stretching is a bad idea until it gets better; maybe stretching by just alternating attention would work because that activates my fascia instead of my muscles, but still, seems dangerous.

Anyways, the workshop was mostly focused on building internal connection, using the first few Ji Ben exercises as a vehicle for that. So get everything set up doing Wu Ji, paying particular attention to connecting your shoulder blades to your Kua and your Kua to your Yongquan; and then, maintain that connection during the Ji Bens, and let that connection move your arms in synchrony with your center of gravity.

And I got some refinements on my Wu Ji. In terms of getting into Wu Ji, Rick mostly repeated what he said last time, but hopefully it stuck a little better: before settle down, first spread your hip joints and settle your pelvis on your femurs, and then sink down a bit; then relax the area around your tailbone, and sink down a bit more; then spread your Mingmen in all directions and sink down to the full proper depth. Doing all of that lets the base of my body feel pretty floaty. And, at some point (or periodically), give all of your joints an instruction to expand. And, as you sink your shoulder blades, let that travel down into your arms, and let your arms curve; you’ll end up with your hands pointed somewhat inward, instead of forward.

So that was the workshop; a good three days. It meant that I didn’t go to Tai Chi class on Saturday, though at least I did manage to practice some yesterday, because it’s finally not constantly raining. In terms of other stuff that’s going on, I’m noticing more tension inside my chest, at some point I should spend time with Song breathing. (Not the first time I’ve said that!) And I’ve added a “jogging” entry to Streaks; for now I have it configured to urge me to do it three times a week, though I’m thinking four might be a better idea: I think I’m making a bit of progress three days a week but it’s uncomfortably close to maintaining a steady state, so I do think a fourth day would make a difference. But for now I just want to make sure I’ve got the habit established in a way that works with my days, so I’ll leave the reminder at three days, and maybe I’ll do more days some weeks but maybe I won’t.

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Nei Gong Notes, January 17, 2023

Jan 17 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

As per my plans from last week, I’ve been doing Anchoring the Breath and the Tai Chi version of Wu Ji both days. And it’s helped: I think it’s helped my sleep (it’s certainly better than it has been but who knows the cause), but the inside of my body also feels good. Some pretty strong sinking when doing the Wu Ji, and my breathing feels deeper.

An interesting experience when doing my weekly run through the Spinal Dao Yin video: normally, when moving up the spine in the bit that’s like the Water Wu Xing but further back, I’m paying attention to how the interface with the spine feels, but I realized if I change my focus a bit, I can tune more into the fluid of the Qi feels directly. So I’ll have to experiment with that more; one thing that struck me is that the mass of liquid didn’t feel like it was getting stuck as much as when I was focusing on how it interacted with the spine. So I guess it’s routing around blockages better than I thought? I’ll definitely want to pay attention to that in future weeks.

My Tai Chi teacher went over my form again this week; it had only been a month or so, but I’d subbed in to lead the start of class for somebody who couldn’t lead it the previous week, so I got to go again. I wasn’t too optimistic, both because it hadn’t been much time and because the rain and my brother’s visit meant that I had practiced very little outside of class, but I guess my Nei Gong had been helping or something, because my teacher was unusually positive towards my form, he said that I actually looked quite good. He did mention that at the end of Dan Bien, my right hand should be slightly lower than my left hand, and when I extend my left hand out there, I should do it in a more expanding fashion rather than an angular fashion (similarly to how he’d told me to expand in a few places with my right arm the previous time), so I’ll work on that, but it seems like, in general, I should try to tune into the feeling that I had last time.

I hadn’t been doing jogging as much over the previous week or two, and it had been showing, but I was more disciplined about doing it over the last week or so, and it’s been helping, I’m getting pretty close to my previous distance. I want to stick with that, so I’ve added it to Streaks, with a target of jogging three times a week.

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Nei Gong Notes, January 10, 2022

Jan 10 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

Interesting week. The main topic for the week is sleep: my sleep was continuing to be not great; when I mentioned it to my doctor, he switched me back to the Liver Heat herbs, instead of the previous herbs that were partly for Liver and partly for Kidneys. I had pretty dreadful sleep that night (though I can’t blame the herbs for that, I think I was still finishing off the previous batch), so I asked the IAA forum about that. One person suggested concentrating on sinking my Tian Tu, another person suggested concentrating on Anchoring. (Presumably Anchoring the Breath.)

And I’d been worried that the progress that I’d been making on my spine and Kidneys might lead to some amount of energy going up and getting stuck in my head; and working on my neck should, I think, help with Liver, but maybe the attention I was paying there was getting Qi stuck in my head? So working on sinking and anchoring sounded plausible; and also I think I probably should put a pause on the spine work (since it was largely motivated by my Kidneys and they are okay), and maybe also not do so much Wu Ji (since right now the interesting effects I’m getting out of that involve sending energy up my body from my Yong Quan), though I’m less sure about that.

So I’m trying to do Anchoring the Breath every day; I’ll still try to stick with the long Hui Chun sessions on Wednesdays / Fridays / Sundays, but hopefully I’ll have time to do both. And on Sunday I did some of the Tai Chi version of Wu Ji (and I did it with my weight in the middle of my foot instead of over my Yong Quan); that didn’t feel too energizing, and actually I felt a decent amount of sinking, with my legs getting full. So I think I’ll stick with doing that most days for a while: it’ll probably help (or at least not hurt) with my sleep issues, and it’s been a while since I’ve done that for a noticeable length of time in a row, and I think I’ll learn something from the experience this time.

And sleep on Sunday night was pretty good, and sleep last night was actually the best sleep I’ve had in a few months – I woke up once in the middle of the night, I’m fairly sure, but I went back to sleep immediately and I don’t think I woke up beyond that. So that’s a nice sign.

Anyways, other Nei Gong notes: I’m noticing the Ming Line show up during random seated exercises. Another part of the reason why I’m worried about energy making it up my spine on its own, because my Dantian seems like it’s doing pretty well. And when I was doing the bit of the Liver Hui Chun that is basically Pushing the Tides, something interesting happened: I felt something (fascia?) open up a bit, but it was actually across my chest instead of in my shoulders or arms. So I’ll definitely want to try that out more; admittedly, the opening up might be a one time thing, with something getting unlocked, but maybe my chest will continue to loosen, or maybe something in my arms will loosen?

Also, when working on sinking my liquid center of mass, I’d been having a hard time getting it as low as it should go, and that seemed to be related to some tenseness at the bottom of the front of my torso. And I realized that that tenseness might actually be largely mechanical: if I lean forward more, it gets stronger, whereas if I angle back a bit, it goes away. So I guess I’m leaning forward too much; which fits in with a bunch of other different observations I’ve made about me being too forward-oriented in different parts of my body. I think I’ll write a post about that on my other blog soon.

In terms of Tai Chi: after the last Dan Bian in the Xinjia first form, go left before right, and close the left fist as you go left. And when doing Head On Cannon in that form, your fists should be somewhat high: not all the way to your chest, but maybe at the height of your solar plexus? They’re lower in Laojia, but your upper arms are in about the same place in both forms; because you turn your hands, your elbows lower a bit in Laojia. But your fists aren’t as low as the Dantian even in the Laojia case. (And hopefully now I’ve seen the end of the form enough times that I’ll actually be able to do it at a basic level; I should start practicing it more.)

And I did finally make it to the Sunday class. In Paochui, I should work on wrapping more (right arm on the outside) in Wrapping Cracker. And in the Guan Dao, when transitioning from presenting the teacup to the next move, I shouldn’t take a step with my feet: you turn around, but your feet turn rather than shift. In general, I’m doing a good job of keeping up with the Guan Dao, even though I’ve missed a bunch of classes; I’ll miss next month, too, but while we’re getting close to the end of the form, I’m pretty sure we’ll continue at least through March, so hopefully I’ll have at least one more class to learn it instead of depending solely on the video for the last part.

I listened to a Guru Viking interview with Adam Mizner; a similar take to Damo’s on Tai Chi, maybe going into slightly different details? A reminder that there’s a lot more for me to go into, if I’m up for spending the time/effort there. (Which I’m probably not…)

Also, all of this working on spinal / body alignment has had me noticed how I frequently twist up a bit while sitting, which reminded me of something Damo mentioned in one of his lectures, along the lines that sitting at ease isn’t just sitting comfortably or sitting without moving, it’s sitting in a relatively straightforward position. So I spent some time at work today trying to just sit with good alignment and without crossing things; it’s pretty hard! Which feels like it’s something that is worth working on: there’s programming in my body that I kind of feel like isn’t a great idea and that’s deeper rooted than I thought.

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Nei Gong Notes, January 3, 2023

Jan 03 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

Okay week, but nothing to write home about. I had a four day weekend, which might lead to me getting more practice than normal done; I got an okay amount of Nei Gong done, but not as much as I’d hoped, and much less Tai Chi practice than I would have expected. It was raining a lot, which limited the amount of time I was going to spend outside, and also my brother was visiting, so I wanted to spend a decent amount of my free time with him.

Also, my sleep was not great several days, and really lousy on one of them, which had a noticeable effect on my practice time. I’m not thrilled with that regression: I’d thought that I was close to having that basically fixed, but it’s really not? And neither the Liver nor the Spleen Hui Chun seemed to really help. Yesterday I did get back to the Heart Hui Chun, on the theory that I should see how all of them affect me these days; I didn’t notice any big effect while I was doing it, though I can’t say for sure how it affected my sleep, because I’d gotten such lousy sleep the previous night that I decided to do a significant length Wood Wu Xing session as well. So, while I did sleep a more or less acceptable amount last night, I don’t know for sure which of those made a difference (or, for that matter, whether it was just random variance); but, based on my sensations while doing the exercise, I think it was the Wood Wu Xing, my head did seem to calm down a bit while doing that.

Having said all of that, I did get in a fairly solid amount of Nei Gong, at least. I got back to working on my spine, doing the spine bits of the Clipping Passes exercise most days; I haven’t seen any specific effects from doing that yet, but my spine at least feels nice and warm from doing it. I kept up the Wu Ji but they were mostly around 20 minutes, I’m not sure any reached 30 minutes; and no particularly unusual sensations from that this week. (And more fiddling around than I’d like getting my alignment right, but maybe I’m getting a little better at that again?)

Also, the Clipping Passes session is only 15 minutes, which is pretty short for the sitting part of my daily practice; on days when I normally do longer sessions, I’d just add in a 40 minute Hui Chun, but I didn’t have as many work meetings as normal this week, so even on days when I was working, I usually added in a 25 minute Hui Chun. Though today I was feeling good so I decided to do an Advanced Dan Tian Gong session. I’m not 100% sure I was doing things right, so I should rewatch the video, but it’s nice to get back to the pre-Microcosmic Orbit exercises. Given the sleep issues, I should still focus on health, I think, but I also feel like the work that my doctor has been doing on my Kidneys and spine is setting me up pretty well to get back to the Microcosmic Orbit.

As to Tai Chi, the Saturday class was wet, so we didn’t do most of the regular bits: we went through the first form a couple of times, but the rest of the time my teacher was just answering questions. I asked about the transition from Oblique Posture to Flash the Back, because I was watching a video of him doing it and it was different than how I did it; it turns out that you should do a Lu there before the first flash, whereas I was going straight into the two flashes. Also he talked a bit about another difference that I’d noticed: in Dantian Change, when you’re expanding out near the end, it’s not a Peng: your body expands upwards more, so your hips go up instead of down, before you sink your whole body in the Song at the end.

One thing I forgot to mention last week: my left shoulder is remaining slightly tight. If I relax I can still get it to the right position, but I’ve regressed a bit after the work on opening it up from the workshop with Rick. Still, that work lasted longer than I expected, and still has a noticeable effect: I now know where my left shoulder should be, it just needs a bit more help, and my right shoulder is still behaving well. And I’ve got another workshop with Rick in two and a half weeks, and one with Joyce two weeks after that, so hopefully either I’ll get those back to shape or I’ll improve in some other way!

And when watching one of Damo’s recent videos on Youtube the recommendations included this older video of his; interesting discussion of the six harmonies of Bagua / Tai Chi, I’d never seen the first three in particular presented in that way. (Especially the first one.)

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