This is an excerpt from Qigong Illustrated by Christina Barea.
Correct Postural Alignment
Correct posture refers to the alignment of the bones in relation to the joints for the purpose of maximizing qi flow and minimizing obstructions. In qigong therapy, it is said that wherever qi does not flow, disease sets in. Qi is carried in the Blood like water in a river and flows throughout every part of our body. If there are sharp bends in the river, qi slows down; if the river straightens, there is less resistance and the flow increases. By paying attention to how our bones are stacked on top of each other, we can minimize the number of bends in the body and thereby facilitate free-flowing qi.
Free-flowing qi is important on two levels. First, it washes through the body and cleanses the organs, fasciae, and blood. Blood carries qi along with oxygen and nutrients, and therefore it makes sense that wherever Blood is circulating, healing is occurring or disease is not setting in. Qi movement in this case means that there is no holding onto stressors of any kind and that health and relaxation are actively supported. Qigong therapy recognizes that external influences, including physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental influences, have a real energetic charge that can be associated with specific parts of the body.
One important reason for maintaining correct alignment of the body during qigong practice is that it keeps the major energetic center of the body, called the Taiji Pole, straightened. The Taiji Pole is a column of energy extending from the top of the head at the crown down to the perineum and links all the energetic meridians and centers along the midline of the body (see figure 2.1). Each end of the Taiji Pole is an energetic portal that connects upward to Heaven and downward to Earth. Keeping the Taiji Pole straightened facilitates free-flowing qi through its core and a flowing current between the head and feet.
The second important benefit of free-flowing qi is the effect of release—in order to hold great structure, we must relax the muscles and allow the bones to hold themselves in place using minimal effort. Relaxing the muscles entails an active command from the mind to release tension, and releasing muscular tension also implies letting go of emotional and mental tension. When the entire body is relaxed, our true nature is allowed the freedom of expression.
For example, a common place to hold onto tension is the shoulders. One of the rules of posture requires the practitioner to drop the shoulders—that means don’t bring them up by the ears. Let’s say you’ve come home from a stressful day at work. It’s likely that your shoulders have been creeping up toward your ears or cramping your neck. To relax the shoulders, the mental and emotional tension that put them there in the first place would also have to be released. We would have to leave our job behind and be completely whole and alone in our body. When we are on guard, we tend to hold the muscular pattern that goes with that attitude. Once we can release and fall naturally into proper alignment, the healing has already begun!
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