(Part 2 of 2, see Part 1)
Re-educating Your Body
The first step to living pain-free or improving your health is re-educating your body about how to move and perform even minor daily tasks, such as typing on a keyboard. In fact, most people have never received health or physical education that includes information about correct and sustainable body alignments and movements.
Internal energy exercises are designed to provide you with an experiential physical education so you learn how to align your body and refine your movements. This will not only prevent damage, but also initiate the natural and efficient healing process inherent in your body. Once you learn how to prevent strain, then you don’t need to do much more for the body to enact its natural healing capacities. After an introductory period—depending on the degree of repair your body needs—you can amplify the natural effects by using energy exercises to increase your flexibility, vitality and overall state of mind.
What Is Possible from Internal Energy Exercises?
Internal energy exercises are not some new-age fad that was put together over the last few years or decades. This approach to health, healing and well-being was developed in China thousands of years ago and has been practised by hundreds of millions of people who have passed down these sophisticated yet simple exercises in their pure form. You won’t find a healing or exercise system that has a longer history.
The beauty of internal energy exercises is that the information has been kept whole and alive in an unbroken line from the distant past to the present day by individuals and groups that devoted their lives to this work. Through this process a deep, progressive and integrated system has evolved. Anything that didn’t prove useful over the generations has been weeded out and that which promotes the most beneficial results has been tested through the ages. The result is an incredibly effective and sophisticated exercise system.
Internal energy exercises allow you to work on many levels of your health simultaneously, including: the various layers of tissues, joints, nerves, organs, fluids and subtle energy anatomy. The energetic components include cleansing, energising and storing your vital life-force energy so that longevity and total mind-body health can be yours well into old age. In China, most people don’t even start energy exercises until their forties and some as late as their sixties or seventies, proving that it’s never too late to make positive change.
Feeling Your Physical Body
At the beginning stages, your interest is in recognising how to use any given form of motion positively through tuning into and feeling within the depths of your body as you exercise. This ability to feel deeply in the body is critical to both preventing problems from arising and healing existing problems. With the ability to feel what is happening inside you—to your core—the road to recovery and better health naturally unfolds.
Energy exercises train bodily awareness very specific yet they are gentle and relatively easy to perform. Specific alignments and motion allow you to access and engage the iliopsoas muscles (thigh bone to lower spine connection) and the longitudinal spinal ligament. These two components are critical for any internal energy exercise as they deeply connect the spine and legs as one integrated piece and become the engine for your movements. They are keys to deep relaxation during exercise, achieving light but firm stretching of the back neck and spine. This is where you begin moving from the inside out. At this level of the game you are well on your way to creating flexibility and vitality.
Why Bother to Invest Your Effort in Qi Energy Development?
Once you gain access to and control over the psoas muscles and the spinal ligaments, you can stabilise the lengthening open of the spine, which has many potential benefits. Opening the spine in this way releases your back muscles and stretches them open. This dissipates long-term, and accumulated bound tension. Spinal lengthening directly opens up the vertebrae and releases pressure from the intervertebral discs, which prevents the onset of a prolapsed or slipped disc. (It might also heal these problems.)
The potential of simple and gentle energy exercises can be quite amazing when you consider that all your internal organs are directly connected to your spine. So, as you increase the length of the spine, you create more space for your organs. They don’t function properly when they are compressed, twisted and clogged. It is your internal organs above all else that give you life—not your muscles.
With this lengthening process you can also lightly stretch the spinal cord, which improves brain-body communication. This naturally and powerfully upgrades every body-mind function, having a profound effect on your overall health and vitality.
Blood + Other Bodily Fluid Circulation
Once all the physical connections and stretches are sufficiently implemented and established, the next level involves affecting bodily fluids. Western medical views do not recognise these methods and therefore don’t take them into account in the construction of their exercises programmes.
The body is mostly made up of fluid and there are methods to engage and directly affect these bodily fluids to create many beneficial results, including a deeply relaxing internal massage. Although a complex subject, some examples include:
- Lymph fluid—a major part of our immune system that is only moved through exercise via the squeezing and releasing of nodes throughout the body that pump this fluid. Internal energy exercises are designed to specifically amplify this natural phenomenon—another good reason for maintaining proper alignments and form while performing even mundane tasks.
- Blood—it can be pumped away from and drawn back to the heart through proper and deep activation of the vascular system. Modern exercise only focuses on the cardio half of the cardiovascular system. Internal energy exercises operate both, thereby relieving pressure from the heart. Only afterwards do you introduce aerobic exercise to fully activate the cardiovascular system.
- Synovial fluid—it can be activated by correct manipulation of the joints (elbows, knees, hands and feet), creating a rhythmic pulsation that deeply relaxes the mind and body alike.
With dedicated training, this pulsation activates the movement of vertebrae and cerebral spinal fluid, which encases the spine and brain. This fluid serves as a lubricant and nutrient bath that supplies the spine and brain with much of what it needs to grow, repair and remain healthy. Energy exercises upgrade that which is achievable through the tissue stretches dramatically and increases detoxification, flexibility and the release of the nervous system. It generates and supports incredible strength from deep within. This pulsation is what fuels the hidden power behind the internal energy and martial arts, such as tai chi.
Subtle Energy Anatomy
The third layer of working with the back, neck and spine is energetic. There are many layers of energy in the human body and they all need to be active to achieve optimal health. Qi energy runs through channels and these channels run through soft tissue, fluids, nerves, bones and organs (the basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture). When the energy in these channels becomes stagnant, the body closes down and bodily operations are downgraded. This is at least one factor in the cause of disease.
Affecting the first and second layers (physical and fluids) of internal energy exercises begins with opening up and clearing stagnant qi energy. At some point in your training, which may take some time, you begin to feel the energy of your body. When this happens you can make the jump to working directly with your vital life-fore energy. At this stage, you learn how to further clean out the stagnant energy and manipulate the energies that govern, control and power your body. At this level, you develop and supercharge your energy, creating a body that moves smoothly, fluidly and with a springy-like quality. You revert back to the bouncing baby and move less like the elder walking down the street with a cane.
Internal energy exercises have the potential to not only slow down, but reverse the aging process. It takes time and practice, but ancient peoples experienced incredible health well into old age as a matter of life. Its wisdom we have lost in the modern age with our pills, surgeries, creams and salves. Reversing the aging process isn’t necessarily about looking good, but keeping your energy levels up, warding off illness and recovering from sickness more quickly. Increasing your qi energy is what will help you maintain vibrant health and make longevity a living reality.
Simple yet Powerful Daily Exercises
All the internal processes can be built into relatively simple energy exercises that focus on each of the three layers (physical, energetic and bodily fluids) individually and in combination with one another. They cultivate an aware and alive body. This is the necessary foundation for creating positive change in your life.
Initially, it only takes a commitment of 10-15 minutes a day to slowly but surely open up your back, neck and spine, release tension and increase flexibility. Each day you practice brings you closer to a pain-free lifestyle and builds momentum in your own personal insurance policy to prevent illness and injury.
Noticing when something in your system doesn’t feel quite right and having the tools to fix it before it becomes a chronic or life-threatening condition is one of the greatest gifts we have in life. Maintaining a healthy, flexible and vibrant, spine and body fuels your joy for living because pain and disease cause so much negativity. They sap your energy and make even minor daily tasks difficult.
If you don’t have your health you don’t have anything. Just a few minutes of practising internal energy exercises each day can create profound and lasting positive change in your life.