Archive for February, 2023

Nei Gong Notes, February 28, 2023

Feb 28 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

Similar to last week: I was feeling iffy enough on my trip that I didn’t want to do Nei Gong. And, in fact, I got a bit of a cold on Friday; nothing horrible, but still.

Anyways, I’m home now, sleeping better, and pretty much over the cold. I’ve been trying to make sure I wasn’t eating too much, and I slept soundly last night, I think I only woke up once; especially good since the time zone change was only a few days earlier.

I’m still not completely sure I’m out of the woods, so I think I’ll hold off on Nei Gong tomorrow and Thursday, but if I feel good on Friday then I’ll get back to it then. And maybe I’ll do some Tai Chi tomorrow? I’ll also be curious to see what my TCM doctor says on Friday, since it will have been four weeks since my last appointment.

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Nei Gong Notes, February 21, 2023

Feb 21 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

Very little to say this week. I’ve been on vacation, and my sleep just hasn’t been consistently good enough for me to want to get back into practice: sometimes I’ll have a good day and think I’m in good form, but then the next day my sleep will be crappy and I’ll be afraid that I’m going to get sick again if I push myself. I think the sleep problems are related to the quantity of food that I’m eating, which is probably higher than normal given that one of the benefits of this vacation is being around good restaurants; fortunately, the better restaurants actually have quite modest portions, so it’s not as bad as it could be, but still.

Anyways, the one thing that I have been doing along these lines is I’ve been trying squatting with my feet on the ground. I saw some videos on that a while back that made me think that it might be worth trying: something that people in many parts of the world do in complete comfort, whereas Americans have trouble with it. (I can squat fine on the balls of my feet, but the mechanics of that feel different, like they’re putting / transmitting weight in unhealthy ways.)

When I’d tried it before, I had a hard time keeping it going for more than a few minutes; I wanted to relax more but never felt like I could. But I decided to give it a try during this trip while waiting for Liesl as we were going through a museum; and, after a bit of experimenting, I actually did manage to relax more and feel decently comfortable squatting that way? I don’t know that I could do it for an hour or anything like that, but it definitely felt like progress compared to how it had been for me before.

And it also felt like probably useful body mechanics from a Nei Gong point of view. When I relaxed enough, my pelvis was definitely sinking, enough to put a quite strong stretch on my lower back: I could feel stuff popping in there as it got dragged down. It took my a little bit of fiddling to get my weight in a position that felt stable, and I suspect that, as I relax more, that positioning will change, but the positioning that I ended up with was also activating my Yongquan a noticeable amount.

I’m also pretty sure that it will help me better understand the default positioning of my back and lower body, and ways in which my habits in that regard are not so healthy. In particular, my left foot was turned noticeably further out than my right foot; I’m not treating this like Wu Ji or anything, I expect my feet to be turned out, but I would also want them to be turned out symmetrically, and that definitely wasn’t happening. So I’ll want to understand and work with that; maybe if I can get them turned more symmetrically then the weighting of my pelvis will help get stuff aligned to a better positioning?

One thing that did surprise me what what it felt like when I stood up: I was usually noticeably light-headed after doing that, much more so than I am when sitting on the ground or squatting on my toes. Not sure what the deal is there, and whether it’s transient or not; I’m not worrying about it or anything, it didn’t take that long to recover, but it was a surprise.

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Nei Gong Notes, February 14, 2023

Feb 14 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

Good Nei Gong practice this Wednesday and Friday. On Wednesday, I got back to doing Spinal Dao Yin after taking a week or two of from that because of various other life stuff going on; nothing particularly striking happened while doing that, but still, it feels worth continuing. And I also followed Joyce’s video of the Earth Hui Chun from the section in the IAA Library on talks from other teachers; mostly not new information, but one thing that she pointed out that I wasn’t aware of was that, when doing the mudra at the end, you should squeeze your thumb a bit and feel how that squeeze affects the inside of your body. (Which it indeed does!)

Friday was more interesting, though. As I mentioned last week, I’d gotten a little worried that maybe my Dantian is leakier than I would like, so I thought I should probably do some Dantian Gong sessions. Which I did do on Friday; I figured I’d try a full set (3 minute intervals, which adds up to a little over an hour), and I was cautiously optimistic that my standing had gotten enough better recently that I’d be able to manage that. And, indeed, I could; the standing was honestly basically no problem at all (and I did feel like I was sunk deep enough). So, setting the Dantian Gong aside, I really have made progress on my ability to stand for a while in Wu Ji-like positions; still work to go, I am almost positive that I wouldn’t be able to get particularly close to doing it for three hours (which is one traditional milestone), but an hour without problems is still an achievement. As for the Dantian Gong itself, not a lot to report there; happy enough to have done it, it felt useful but in a way that made me less worried about me being super leaky there. Who knows, hard to say for sure.

And, at the last workshop, Boris had given me a nudge to try all 5 Hui Chun in a row again, and he mentioned that Damo had recommended the order of Water, Fire, Earth, Wood, Metal, so I did that. Similarly to the Dantian Gong, it felt fine / interesting in terms of the inside of my body, so I was glad to have done it but it wasn’t a revelation, but I was surprised how well I held up. And here I was actually a little more surprised – even a month or two ago, I’d been feeling like my outer leg was falling asleep (and maybe putting a little more pressure than I’d like on my knee) when I sat in Burmese for 45 minutes, and I also remembered from last time when I did this that, even if I switched legs every 45 minutes, that, in the last 15 minutes or so, my butt would ache enough to start to get distracting. (The full 5 Hui Chun set is about an hour and 45 minutes, if you do it in three minute intervals.) But I did it the whole time without switching legs once, and both my leg and butt were just fine.

I actually don’t feel like I can really take credit for that, though: I’m pretty sure that what happened was that I changed meditation pillows a couple of weeks earlier, and that it’s easier to sit for long periods on the new pillow. The new one is in sort of a V shape, so there’s an indentation in the middle that works well with sitting Burmese: in particular, I can pull in my outer leg more, and I’d already noticed that that helped when I did that with my other pillow, and I think it helps even more here. When I bought the new pillow, I already noticed in the store that it was thicker than the prior pillow, and I was thinking that I’d take out some of the filling material, but when I tried it out, I realized that the thickness wasn’t uniform, and so as a result I have a noticeably slope of my legs down the sides of the V; that felt more comfortable, and I’m pretty sure that that also made a noticeable difference. At any rate, I was pleased to see that, with that pillow (and maybe with some amount of practice from the medium-length sitting sessions that I’ve been doing more of over the last half year), I can actually reasonably sit for a couple of hours without pain. (Whether I can do it while staying awake is a different matter, but fortunately the Hui Chuns give me something to do, and I was pretty alert that morning.)

So two long sessions, adding up to about three hours of practice time. (And I put in a good stretching session too. And I’m also noticing that I’m finding the stretch where you stand in Horse Stance width with your arms pressing out your knees to help stretch the Kua to be easier now than it had been – I was already thinking that that was easier in this workshop than in the last one, and I think that isn’t an illusion.) And one nice thing that I noticed, too, was that I wasn’t bored while doing that – I wasn’t counting the minutes wondering how long I could keep it up, I was just doing the exercises. (Maybe occasionally noting how long it had been / how long remained, but not in a way that I had any particular emotional attachment to.) It certainly helped that, for both the standing and sitting exercises, I was doing something that had me change up every 3 minutes, so I don’t want to extrapolate from that to how I would feel if I were, say, sitting doing Calm Abiding for a couple of hours, but still, it felt like I was making progress mentally.

Nice to have two good days of Nei Gong practice; the Friday practice in particular was probably one of my all-time best practices outside of workshops. The only downside was that I didn’t do much Tai Chi either afternoon, so I still have stuff to work on in terms of practice volume, but I feel good about myself anyways.

Also, I feel like the quality of my breathing has improved, that I’m using more of my chest. E.g. when jogging I felt like the breaths were going further down into my torso, instead of being stuck up top; but I’ve also noticed that in other contexts too. Not sure what to attribute that too (the jogging? the Nei Gong workshops? my Nei Gong practice at home?) but it’s a nice improvement.

Though I won’t be able to build on any of the above this week: we left for vacation on Saturday, so I’m not on my normal routines. And the vacation involved a red eye flight and a large time zone shift, which is generally something that makes me feel tired for a few days in a way that makes me wonder if I’m starting to come down with a cold; I did a decent length sitting session yesterday but even while I was doing that, I felt like it might not have been a wise move from the point of view of “don’t do Nei Gong when you’re sick”, so I didn’t stand yesterday and didn’t sit or stand today. Hopefully by the second half of the week I’ll be feeling good enough that I can resume practice, but even if that’s the case, I do want to spend a decent amount of time out seeing stuff, so probably my practice will still be on the short end of things. But it’s nice to go on vacation, it’s our first vacation that’s not to visit relatives (or not for me to go to a Nei Gong workshop) since COVID.

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Nei Gong Notes, February 7, 2023

Feb 07 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

The main event this week was that I went to a three day workshop that Joyce was running. She said that my standing was significantly better than the last time she saw me (at the workshop with Damo last summer), which was good to hear, and in general she seemed like I was ready for more stuff than before.

Some notes:

When shutting down, I should stretch my arms out some while raising them.

In Wu Ji, I should try spreading my chest more and spreading my back more side to side. And when I spread my lower back horizontally, I should let my rib cage move into my lower back more: this helps support my lower back. When I try to let my weight sink from my shoulders to my Kua, it’s hitting my lower back and mostly stopping; playing around with that, if I can get a bit of a feeling of a slight curve there (tilting my Kua and tailbone forward), then I get much more of a feeling of connection from my shoulders down into my Kua.

We did a neat exercise the first day where you bring your hands in a circle, alternating sides, in at the bottom, then up, then out at the top, then down on the outside; kind of like stationary Hand Maneuvers, except that your palm stays down at the top and only turns out when going down, and you turn your body out more as you go down. And feel a connection as you do this from each foot to the opposite hand, along the Jin Jing lines. When I did that for a few minutes, that connection started to feel surprisingly intense; we only did it one day, so I should make sure to do it again soon (probably tomorrow) to make sure I remember how to do it. (And, of course to benefit from it.)

In general, I should stretch more; I always get told this, and I’ve been doing it a bit more, but it’s time to step that up another notch. And I usually actually enjoy most of the stretches when I’m in workshops; I probably should do a better job of remembering which ones I don’t do that feel useful…

We did a fair number of arm / shoulder space creation exercises. (A good continuation of the workshops with Rick; some different exercises and emphases this time.) During a decent length Pushing the Tides session the second day, I actually got to a situation where I didn’t feel like I was straining much to keep my arms up: there was discomfort from the stretch itself but not so much from muscle fatigue. I’m not sure whether that was my muscles learning which ones needed to work and which ones didn’t, or whether the amount of stretch had put my arms in a configuration where legitimately less muscle was necessary to keep them up, or what, but it also felt more comfortable on the third day and when I was practicing some yesterday. Also, on the third day, we followed Pushing the Tides with a stretching exercise with my arms pointing down and out at 45 degrees; and, after a few minutes of my second part, my arms just started stretching out more and more on their own for a while. So both of those were pretty cool changes, I am definitely going to want to work in arm stretches into my practice multiple days a week for a while.

When doing Dantian Gong, she encouraged me to be firmer with my Qi. And also some things she said and some things I’ve seen make me wonder if my Dantian is still leaky; I should find time to put in some good Dantian Gong sessions.


So that’s it for the workshop; we’ll see how much Joyce is back in the area, though workshops with Rick are great too. (No word yet on when the next workshop with either of them will be.)

Not a ton to say otherwise. I forgot to mention last time that I did put a post up on my other blog about the various ways in which my body likes to go forward more than is ideal. No Tai Chi class this weekend, because of the workshop; I did a little bit of practice at home but I should definitely do more. My neck is getting better: still room for improvement but I’m not worried about it. My sleep wasn’t great on Saturday and Sunday, I think that might be linked to me eating more food than normal during the workshop; I should experiment more with that variable and see the effects on my sleep. Because of the workshop, I didn’t jog quite as much as I would like, I continue to think that it would be good for me to have 4 days a week be my target there instead of 3.

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