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Optimum Conditions for Taiji Qigong Practice

This is an excerpt from Theory and Practice of Taiji Qigong-4th Edition, The by Chris Jarmey.

Time of Day to Practice

You can practice Qigong any time of day (or night!). As dawn breaks and at dusk are especially good times because there is a natural calmness in the air at that time. This is because the energies of day (more Yang) and night (more Yin) are equally balanced as night slowly turns into day and day gradually recedes into night. This effect is obviously much more marked in a rural setting.

Which Direction to Face

Many practitioners like to face the sun in the early morning, because it is felt that much Heaven Qi can be absorbed from the sun as it rises. In the evening it is considered beneficial to face south (or north if in the southern hemisphere), because it is believed that the Qi within you aligns itself with the earth’s magnetic field, to allow a greater absorption of Earth Qi. In the middle of the day your direction is not so important. Personally, if I am located such that I can feel the direct warmth of the sun, I sometimes prefer to face directly into that warmth, or occasionally I like to feel the warmth on my back.

However, if I happen to be on the edge of the seashore or overlooking an open view from a height, facing straight out to the horizon seems more powerful and relevant than the position of the sun. If you are indoors, facing the light from a window usually feels best.

With practice, your sensitivity to such things will grow and you will naturally position yourself to face the most appropriate direction, which will in fact be the predominant source of energy.

Another traditional view is to take into consideration the directions which relate to certain internal Organs:

  • Facing East may help strengthen a weak Liver.
  • Facing West may help sedate an overactive Liver.
  • Facing West may help strengthen weak Lungs.
  • Facing East may help sedate tight and congested Lungs.
  • Facing North may help strengthen weak Kidneys.
  • Facing South may help strengthen a weak Heart.

Again, I would say that any direction that feels right will be more effective for you than choosing a direction according to the theory. If you are not sensitive to such things at the moment, experimenting with the directions according to tradition or theory is actually a good way of acquiring that sensitivity.

Where to Practice

Qigong can be practiced almost anywhere, but some places are better than others. The best places are where the Heaven and Earth Qi are most abundant, and the frenetic hussle and bussle of “civilization” is absent. If you should find yourself high in the mountains next to a waterfall in pleasantly warm weather, then that would be ideal. The seashore is also excellent because moving water generates lots of Qi. The mountains or seashore also has the advantage of being relatively free from atmospheric pollution.

If you don’t happen to be in the mountains or by the sea, at least try to stay well away from traffic fumes, excessive noise, and the electromagnetic radiation from TV sets, computers, etc. Try to find a quiet and peaceful space indoors or outdoors with plenty of fresh air, but avoiding draughts.

What to Wear

Wear loose comfortable clothing, ideally made of natural fibers, and remove watches and bracelets because they constrict the Qi flowing through the wrist. Also, because you wear one watch on one wrist, there will be a sense of asymmetry when you raise your arms. If you insist on wearing such jewellery, put the watch on one wrist and the bracelet(s) on the other to at least get some symmetry of weight distribution. It may not seem significant from just reading this, but when your sensitivity grows through practice, you will really feel like the watch is in the way.

Feeling too cold during your session will dramatically reduce the sensations and benefits you might otherwise experience. If it is chilly, dress appropriately. It is especially important to wear warm gloves if you have cold hands. Once you are well established in your practice, your hands will begin to warm up immediately or very soon after you begin your Qigong routine. Keep your belly and back warm as well, because chilling your Lower Dantian and kidneys will severely restrict your Qi circulation, which is the exact opposite of what you are trying to do through the practice of Qigong.

Menstruation and Pregnancy

It is good to practice basic Qigong during menstruation or pregnancy, because it will improve circulation of Qi, blood, and the other body fluids. However, avoid the more advanced methods and stick to natural breathing. Also, if you have a very heavy period, it is better to focus on the center of the chest (Shanzhong: Ren-17), rather than Dantian in the lower belly, because focusing on Dantian may increase the flow still further.

Pregnancy should give you a heightened awareness of your belly and of your “earthiness.” Qigong also gives you a heightened awareness of your belly and grounds you. Therefore, pregnancy could be an opportunity to naturally improve your Qigong. Practicing Qigong during pregnancy is also an excellent opportunity to “connect” with your unborn child through that belly-centered focus.

Other Considerations

If you are at home with plenty of time and about to embark upon a serious session of at least half an hour, it can be useful to have a quick brisk shower, followed by a brisk drying off with the towel. This will in itself freshen up your Qi. However, you should never feel that doing Qigong is a hassle, so the shower is not crucial; it’s just an extra ingredient, and it would be silly to skip your Qigong session just because you didn’t feel like showering.

Being distracted by hunger will not help your mental focus and determination, so if you are hungry, eat something light. Don’t practice straight after a heavy meal because your Qi will be diverted into your digestive system, leaving very little to circulate elsewhere. Particularly avoid alcohol if you are about to practice: this will make you feel tired, weak, maybe dizzy, or even sick. If you get distracted and feel you should stop your session, close with the Balancing Qi movement (Movement 18—see page 144).

More Excerpts From Theory and Practice of Taiji Qigong 4th Edition