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How to get started with Qigong…

Ignoring the elephant in the room that is pre-recorded courses, books and other types of learning that lack the ability for the teacher to interact with the learners (we’ll cover this one in a future post)…

The best advice that I can give is to ignore the warnings and grandiose claims of being the one and only true system. Trust your instinct and give it a go. 

Some systems are going to be more suitable than others for you, some teachers will be better suited to your needs than others, but until you try it, you really won’t know. Having said that, you can and should ask questions of the teacher before joining their class. These questions can fall into three main areas:

  • Is the qigong system you teach martial, medical or spiritual?
  • Is the movement or the intention more important in your class?
  • Do you love qigong?

Martial, Medical or Spiritual?

If you’re trying to decide between styles of qigong, then having an understanding of the flavour of the system and how it meets with your needs is important. 

All qigong is a blend of martial, healing and spiritual practice. If you’re interested in spiritual insight, a system that focuses on martial arts may not be such a good fit, if you’re wanting to improve your martial ability, a system that emphasises the importance of healing may lack relevance. 

If someone says their system covers all of these areas, be a little cautious. In my experience, most systems will be good at one or two of these aspects but not all three…

Movement or Intention?

In broad terms there are two approaches to teaching qigong: 

  • Movement first, mind activity after
  • Body and mind working together

There is a third approach which only focuses on the movement and has no understanding of the mind activity or qi flow. While this approach has some value, it’s not really qigong, it’s more about waving your arms and legs around and looking elegant (hopefully).

If you have limitations with your mobility, it can be better to engage in a practice that engages body and mind together so that you can move beyond your physical limitations more easily.

If you have good mobility, learning the movements first can give a greater sense of achievement in the initial stages of practice before going on to develop your understanding the real purpose of the practice.

Do you love qigong?

Everyone has something interesting to offer, but not everyone has something great to share…

In talking to a qigong teacher, you should be able to get a feel for what the practice means to them and how passionate they are about it. Learning from someone without a passion for the subject will make it dull, learning from someone who doesn’t live their practice will make it less accessible for you, learning from someone who has not devoted themselves to their practice will limit the amount that they can teach you.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had some astonishing teachers who were neither passionate or engaged in qigong, I’ve enjoyed a workshop or a couple of classes with them, then I’ve moved on.

Free, not Flighty…

If there is something that frustrates me about qigong it’s when someone who has tried qigong for a short period of time says, ‘I know all about qigong…’ I’ve been studying for over 25 years and I certainly do not know all about qigong, but I have given myself time to explore multiple systems in some depth and it has been a great tool to help me to achieve a level of insight that I could never have dreamed of when I started out on the journey.

For me personally, this insight has come from being free enough to move from one system to the next, from one teacher to the next, from one experience to the next. When the time is right to move on, move on. 

I’m not advocating skipping around between systems and not giving yourself time to understand how they have, and will continue to benefit you. I’m saying that we need to trust ourselves and step away from one thing and into another in order to enrich ourselves and not get stuck.

Qigong is not always comfortable, it’s not always easy, but there are benefits in the uncomfortable and the difficult. You should find it challenging to both body and mind, and if it stops being challenging, you are no longer learning. Spend time with the teachers who challenge you, enjoy the learning and step away when you need to.

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