Archive for April, 2023

Nei Gong Notes, April 25, 2023

Apr 25 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

Not much to report this week: we were visiting my wife’s father, so I didn’t do my regular Nei Gong / Tai Chi practice routine, and no classes. I did make sure to do some amount of Nei Gong every day, but it was more along the lines of the amount I do during a workday rather than a day off; I did almost no Tai Chi.

One thing I’ve been noticing recently during my Wu Ji is that my shoulder is getting tugged down a lot. I was assuming that I was actively pushing down my hands and arms, but when I was paying attention to it today, I don’t think I particularly am? Maybe I’m just deluding myself, but maybe I’m managing to relax enough that the weight of my arms (and my shoulder blades as well, perhaps?) are pulling down to an extent that feels significant. Not sure, I’ll have to observe it more.

I’m going to talk to my Tai Chi teacher about me teaching an intermediate Silk Reeling course; if he agrees, I’ll see if there’s any interest in that.

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Nei Gong Notes, April 18, 2023

Apr 18 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

Mixed week: it started not great but ended up quite good. I’d been getting over a cold, and Tuesday morning had been pretty good, so I figured I’d get back to Nei Gong practice on Wednesday. Which, honestly, I should have known was a mistake: I didn’t feel as good on Wednesday morning as I had on Tuesday morning. But I decided to do some Nei Gong anyways, not my full Wednesday routine but still a noticeable amount, and that was probably a mistake? Certainly I was feeling worse the rest of the day on Wednesday and on Thursday; it’s possible I would have been feeling just as bad without the Nei Gong practice, but I don’t think it helped.

Which was unfortunate because Rick was running a Nei Gong workshop starting on Friday. I actually was feeling noticeable better on Friday, but I didn’t want to repeat the mistake from Wednesday, so I stayed at home and didn’t practice that day. Though I did have an interesting time when I went for a walk and felt my lower back spreading and curving forward around the sides a bit; that had been happening to me some recently, it was nice to see it happening then even though I’d been sick recently. So at least there was something good still going on inside my body.

I was continuing to feel better on Saturday, so I went to the workshop; I figured I’d bail halfway through if I started to feel worse, but I felt good enough to stay the whole time. Apparently the theme of this workshop was placing your attention an inch outside of the skin of your body, and doing the Wu Dao Yins while in this state, to help shape your tissues. Which is related to the arm stretching exercise that Rick had been teaching in previous workshops, where you stretch your arm by putting your awareness above your arm (after first putting it inside); I’d been having good results with that, so I was happy to build on it.

I don’t know that I had super spectacular results doing that with Dao Yins during the workshop; even Pushing the Tides was going sort of mediocre for me? But it was very interesting doing Wu Ji that way: it really helped my body spread out more inside. (Including my shoulders, interestingly enough.) Also, one thing he said was, when you create space during Wu Ji, you should sink through the space that you’re creating; so, in particular, my arms were sinking pretty heavily as my shoulders opened.

Also, we did the three snowball exercise that he’d showed us in the previous workshop, and I learned a few more details. You should feel it through your body as your hands are moving in all three snowballs; e.g. in the middle snowball, you should feel it going through the space between your ribs. Also, the middle one goes to the height of your collarbone, not to the height of your middle Dantian. And stay sunk in your Kua the whole time, don’t come up in the middle / high ones.

Definitely glad I went to the workshop; I’ll play around with doing the Dao Yins that way, and I’m finding it very natural to expand during Wu Ji, so I’ll keep that up as well.

I didn’t go to the Nei Gong workshop on Sunday because my Tai Chi teacher was holding a Push Hands workshop, and given that I’d been asking for him to do more Push Hands for a year, I wanted to make sure to go to that. And, fortunately, the Nei Gong didn’t make the cold come back or anything, so I was feeling fine doing push hands. I mean, mostly fine: it was two and a half hours in each of the morning and the afternoon, and I was feeling a bit beat by the last half hour or so! But that’s a lot of push hands, so that’s understandable.

In the morning, we started by continuing the two hands fixed step drill we’d been doing, and then moving on to the moving step. I spent most of the morning (maybe all of the morning) working with people who were new to push hands (and who had less Tai Chi experience than I have); that was a pretty good experience for me, it got me being more analytical which solidified my knowledge of what was going on at each step. And it also got me thinking about what kind of energy to give people, how and where to push them, which was a useful learning experience as well. And then, towards the end of that, I got to work with somebody else who was at about my level who wasn’t my normal practice partner; that was useful, too.

Then, in the afternoon, we did the Dai Peng Dai Lu exercise; I’d seen that before and could mostly do it, but I definitely felt a lot more solid after learning it again. And I also was trying to go down lower than I had been; I feel like I’m better at going low than I used to be? Then we did the five step and the three step exercises; those were new to me. In the afternoon, I was mostly / entirely working with my regular practice partner; useful to make sure that we can do them together, hopefully we’ll still remember them on Saturdays.

Not this Saturday, though, because I’m on vacation visiting relatives; we’ll see how much Nei Gong and Tai Chi I do this week, but presumably it’ll be noticeably less than normal. Hopefully I’ll be able to do at least a bit of Nei Gong every day?

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Nei Gong Notes, April 11, 2023

Apr 11 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

Pretty solid week. On Wednesday, I did more Nei Gong than I have in months (outside of workshops): 10 minutes of stretching, 1 hour of Spinal Dao Yin, 40 minutes of Kidney Hui Chun, 25 minutes of Full Moon practice, and 35 minutes of Advanced Dantian Gong. A sign that I’m making progress on recovering energy; still not particularly close to where I’d like to be, but progress is good. And progress on Nei Gong is good, totally aside from my energy levels.

I had some neck strain Wednesday night; it reminded me of when, last year, I had arm problems that were related to neck issues. And both times I think it happened when my Nei Gong was going well. So my tentative theory is that Qi going up into my neck (which was certainly happening on Monday during my Anchoring the Breath) strains some of my tissues up there, in a way that gets them inflamed; at any rate, I’m taking some ibuprofen to try to keep that under control. Hopefully with that I’ll manage to stretch out the spaces between my neck vertebrae without having any particularly bad side effects; we’ll see.

One thing I forgot to mention about that session last week: I think I finally understand (or at least am starting to understand what Soft means while breathing). Because, while I was doing that, it felt like boundaries were getting less strict, between breathing in and breathing out and in terms of where the breath was ending up in my body. And that last feeling in particular did seem like it could plausibly be described as softness.

Not a lot to report about Nei Gong for the rest of the week. Though I was experimenting with my arm positioning some during Wu Ji and I realized that, when I let my arms expand, I could feel my elbows sinking, so it was nice to be making progress in that way too.

In terms of Tai Chi, I did a solid job of practicing during the week: I still didn’t quite do every form I know (this time I skipped the spear form), but I did all but one, and I did try to get caught up with the class on the Guan Dao.

In the Saturday class, I remembered my teacher telling me to sink into my back Kua more during the Push Hands seminar, so I tried doing that during Silk Reeling; sure enough, I really can sink into my Kua more than I have been. So I need to keep on working on that; I worked on that during the first form as well, but I have to work on it more during push hands, more during Nei Gong. (With luck, this will help some of my body’s asymmetry, I think my left Kua is relevant there.)

My teacher, when watching my Jian form, also gave me a pointer on the Support a Thousand Pounds move: he showed me the energy moving to the tip of the Jian there. Which is actually related to something I’d been wondering about when rewatching Damo’s intro Jian video last week, since Damo had talked about energy going up and down the Jian; I was surprised to see my teacher demonstrate it in that move, though, since the Jian is going a fair amount to the side instead of straight out! Definitely something to work on; I don’t really understand what my teacher was actually doing, but now that I know it’s possible, I can experiment with things. (And probably my teacher wouldn’t have shown me that if he didn’t think there was a chance that I’d be able to get it.)

And then on Sunday we had the monthly Tai Chi class. Sure enough, I actually was caught up with the Guan Dao form; and I think I’d picked up things decently well from the videos? (Either that, or I was missing the same subtle points in class that I was missing from the videos.) And we went a bit further; honestly, basically we went to the end, though I think we’ll go through the form for one more month. I’ll definitely have to keep up my review, because on some of the new moves, I could do them right after watching somebody but they went out of my head pretty soon after that. But I’m pretty optimistic that I’ll have the form down decently solidly. Also, when doing the Lao Jia Second Form in class, I felt like I was getting better at that; my Sweeping the Hall Leg is no longer completely pathetic, and I think I finally know the right sequence of moves in the bit at the end where you’re doing a bunch of punches and fakeouts in a row while advancing.

Unfortunately, my sleep wasn’t great on Friday night, and I was feeling a little off on Saturday, and on Sunday I was pretty sure I was coming down with a cold; it was a pretty mild one (otherwise I would have had to skip the Sunday class), but it was definitely present. So I didn’t do much Nei Gong on Sunday and none yesterday and today. I was feeling almost better most of today (though I’m definitely not feeling 100% this evening), so I think I’ll do some Nei Gong tomorrow; not as much as I do on a normal Wednesday, probably, let alone the amount I did last week, but maybe the amount that I do on a normal workday. And actually my body today has felt like it’s sinking on the inside, so that’s also a good side, I would seem to be making progress.

And this weekend I’ve got a Nei Gong workshop with Rick on Friday and Saturday, I’m definitely looking forward for that. Unfortunately I won’t be able to go on Sunday, because the Push Hands workshop is all day on Sunday, but I’m looking forward to that too!

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Nei Gong Notes, April 4, 2023

Apr 04 2023 Published by under Uncategorized

The week started off kind of meh but ended up pretty good. I got in okay practice on Wednesday and Friday, but there wasn’t any day where I felt like that was a really good practice. A few months ago (or maybe the end of last year), I had these times where I had unexpected amounts of energy in my Dantian and spine, and while in some ways I feel better now, I also am not feeling like that at all frequently. So, while I feel like I’m doing better in some ways (both with my health and my Nei Gong), maybe I’m overestimating that progress. (Though, the previous couple of weeks, my TCM doctor was happy with how things were going, though he did say things had slightly backslid this week.)

It might be a side effect of not doing the Hui Chuns so constantly? And I do want to spend most of my time doing other stuff, but still, maybe doing one Kidney and one Spleen isn’t enough? I’ll try mixing in a second Kidney one and see how that helps.

Another hypothesis is that I should work on my form. I feel like I’m not relaxing my spine and neck as much as I had been when things were going well; easier to do when my Qi is going well, but still. I should expand more, to get more Spleen Qi, while working on hanging flesh. And I should make more space in my back, move my ribcage a bit back, and tweak the curvature of my lower spine to get my Ming Men full.

Anyways, that was Nei Gong last Wednesday through Friday. I did do a decent job of staying with my Tai Chi practice; I didn’t do the Xinjia first form but I did go through all the other forms I know, and I made it a bit further in the Guan Dao. And the Saturday Tai Chi class was fine.

And then there was a push hands workshop on Sunday. Lots of people there, which was great to see, I hope that gets both my teacher and my fellow students interested in keeping it up. It was good to practice with people other than my regular push hands partner; mostly the people were new to push hands, but that’s fine. I got reminded of a couple of single hand exercises that I learned last summer but haven’t done much since then, I should get back to practicing that one. I was working on relaxing and maintaining Peng, which seems like a good direction to go in (and which is also consistent with some of the form stuff I was mentioning on the Nei Gong side). And my teacher pointed out some situations where I wasn’t sinking enough into my back Kua, I should learn from that. (And I should also finally get around to taking a video of my Lao Jia first form, to help catch stuff like that.)

Also, a couple of weeks ago I watched a video where Damo was mentioning using Ma Bu as a diagnostic and as a foundational Gong Fu practice. So I watched a video he made on that; he actually showed the basic Ma Bu plus three follow-on moving exercises. I’m glad I watched it both because of the extra exercises and because of how he showed doing the form: wider than I’d been doing it, with a useful way to figure out the correct width and height.

When showing the first of the moving exercises, he said that you should make sure you can do the static version for 5 minutes first. Which, it turned out, I could without any particular problem, so that was good news. But I also figured there’s stuff in the static version for me to work on, so I’m going to do that regularly for a week or two before adding in the moving stuff; I did it several days in a row, though I forgot it yesterday and today, maybe I should add in a daily reminder for that.

And then yesterday’s Nei Gong practice was surprising. I sat down to do Anchoring the Breath; it seemed like it was going pretty well, my breath in particular was feeling surprisingly relaxed, so I made sure to work on that as well as the anchoring. And then, about halfway through, my spine just started to unfold and stretch up: basically, getting that expanded feeling that I was lamenting at the start of the post.

And it was also interesting that it wasn’t in the last part of the exercise, where my attention is completely down at the Dantian: it was where I was observing my breath in my torso somewhere. So I think what triggered it was me getting my breathing right: observing it and letting it develop without controlling it. I’ll definitely add that to the list of foundational stuff that I’m working on; and I should work on that when I’m standing, too, I feel too tense when I’m doing that. (Which is another reason to work on my Ma Bu, it’ll help with building a strong, relaxed standing foundation.)

So that was a really good sign. Would have been nice if today I’d been able to build further on that, but still, a good day. And, ultimately, a good week: progress on both the Tai Chi and Nei Gong sides, and I’ve also got a nice, tractable list of foundational changes to work on.

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