New to Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Bagua or Meditation?
First and foremost, you are welcome to attend just about any public course I offer–unless prerequisites are expressly stated, which is rarely the case. All of my weekend seminars in London, Manchester and Stuttgart, as well as my retreats in Spain, include a parallel curriculum for new and beginning students. So we’re ready when you’re ready!
Attending a Class
Although it may sound counterintuitive, beginners learn almost exactly the same material as experienced practitioners because energy arts training is more about what is being emphasised and at what depth than the exercise per se (e.g., a
qi gong set, tai chi style, bagua palm change or breathing technique). So most courses start out with everyone together in one group—whether you are learning or reviewing the theory and fundamental practices that underlie the more in-depth material to come.
The primary difference is that whereas beginners learn body mechanics that develop qi, experienced practitioners learn energetic techniques that develop the body. It’s two different angles on the same game.
How to Learn Qi Gong, Tai Chi + Bagua as a Beginner
When I teach any movement, set or strand of internal content (known as nei gong), the information is tailored to those present.
Beginners learn the choreography of any given energy art with an emphasis on the:
- Correct body alignments
- Structure of the form
- Movement method
- Quality of motion
Experienced practitioners will also revisit these fundamentals since quite often refinements can be made, gaps can be filled in or feedback can help to integrate various pieces. More importantly, the principle of “separate and combine”—the underlying principle for learning anything of depth—reinforces nei gong training, whereby the practitioner continually seeks to breakdown and re-build exercise components in various weaves and patterns. This process allows the practitioner to improve overall performance by upgrading individual aspects of their form much in the same way that high-performance race cars are built and re-built to upgrade components pieces for the purpose of improving overall output.
Developing Qi Energy for Health, Healing + High Performance
As you develop your mind, body and qi energy from training, I work with you directly to help you add depth to your movements as relevant to your training goals and individual needs by introducing layers of internal content. Forms themselves have little effect without imbuing them with the internal content that is responsible for generating health benefits. Some of the basic internal mechanics and more popular topics that positively affect overall health and vitality so profoundly include:
- Where and how to stretch to release the muscles and fascia.
- Where and how to twist the soft tissues and in which direction.
- When and how to open/expand versus close/gather.
- When and how to release the nerves for deep relaxation and meditative movement.
In some classes, I focus more on the cardiovascular system or nervous system, whereas in others it’s more about energetic, qi-energy development.
As the group practises component exercises to get deeper into the internals, I guage the individual ability and comfort level of beginners. Students either practise on their own or in groups, as it makes sense in the moment. For larger classes, I typically have an assistant who has trained that particular energy art for 10 or more years, and can offer more personal attention and feedback.
At this point, I work with the more advanced practitioners to give them an upgrade because, up until then, most of the material has been a review. Even so, again, it’s generally more about how deep they are practising and the particular piece of material on which they focus rather than how many pieces or external movements are present. This is because the benefits—improved cardiovascular activity, a more relaxed and softer body, detoxification or increased immune response and more—all become activated based on the depth and quality of your practice. Some techniques can be learned in the moment, whereas others might take weeks, months, years or even decades to fully embody and perform accurately. There is no such thing as a perfect tai chi form.
To say more, there are many techniques to improve cardiovascular activity, but if you do one really well you will get a better result than if you do many techniques poorly. In the beginning, you will learn methods at whatever depth you personally can handle in the moment. In time and with practice, you can begin to take any given technique to its next and ultimate level.
When people take up a movement or meditation art, such as qi gong, tai chi or bagua, they often experience a lot of benefit. This is because they actively open up the vascular beds that flood the body with nutrients and dispose of waste material. But there is a big difference between beginning the work and taking it to its full potential. After the vascular beds are active and can be directly opened up at will, you can increase blood (along with oxygen/nutrient) flow, which can have a profound and positive effects on your overall health with a little consistent effort.
However, everyone has stuck places in their body that are clamped shut which, to open, takes time, patience and dedication. Often times, when the practitioner finally clears these old stuck and restricted spaces that sap our energy, they find that their overall health and vitality rise dramatically, as well as a deeper sense of internal space and freedom
The Spherical Nature of Learning Tao Meditation + Energy Arts
Tao meditation and energy arts are about developing and integrating components of internal power for health and healing. Again, these components are known as nei gong. Nei gong training has no beginning and no end. Since it’s not a linear process, there isn’t a single or best starting point, although all practices have foundational and advanced aspects that cover an array of movement sets, forms and modalities.
The nei gong exercises I teach can be practised in five modalities:
- Lying down
- While moving, or
- As partner exercises
In any given course or retreat, we will explore one or more modalities to help you learn techniques in the fastest time possible and integrate them into your daily life because this is where you can multiply potential health benefits. It’s great to relax in your practice, but it’s even better if you can maintain that relaxation while performing your daily activities, and especially when stressful events take place that can shift your baseline.
Nei gong-infused Energy Arts Courses for Beginners
Regardless of which practice you choose—a qi gong set, tai chi style or bagua form—there are about half a dozen internal threads that are present in all internal energy arts practices that you will absolutely want to learn.
These essential threads include:
- Breathing techniques
- Biomechanical body alignments
- Bending and stretching, and twisting the body’s soft tissues
- Sinking qi energy and dissolving blockages
- Opening and closing (also known as “pulsing”)
- Manipulating the wei qi and etheric field
In which order you learn these techniques and through which modality, is not set in stone. You may be drawn to one thread or another (e.g., breathing, pulsing or dissolving techniques), or take a class in whichever one or ones are being offered at a time and location that is convenient for you.
In all classes, whatever the title or subject matter, I cover one or more aspects of this foundational work to help students into the realm of Tao meditation and energy arts. So you typically learn a bit of choreography along with internal content that can be further developed within that exercise set.
Once you’re in the door and you gain a certain level of understanding of this Eastern approach to exercise and health, I can help guide you towards the practices and emphasis that will help you achieve your specific goals—whether it’s a particular health issue, an interest in one aspect of the work or another, or high performance in your business, sport or life in general.
The range of possible directions is infinite since internal energy arts practices can help you develop every aspect of your being. Learning in a spherical way means you can choose which aspects to focus on now to build up your foundation and, later, you can change course by absorbing different aspects of the work according to your needs and growing understanding of how the material influences your life for the better.
Training along the Exercise Therapy-High Performance Continuum
Whatever your reason for training, internal energy arts practices are positioned along a continuum. It’s not so much about what you practice, but how you practise the arts. If you are ill or injured, you would choose practices that best lend themselves to the healing properties you require. You would also ensure that all exercise is gentle while incorporating motions that are simple and repetitive to deepen internal aspects and associated benefits. If, conversely, you are extremely healthy and generally feel good in body-mind-energy, then you might focus on more intense, complex or progressively intricate and precise nei gong techniques that have been used to transform human beings into their ultimate potential for at least four millennia. The practices themselves might be the same, but the way you approach them would be entirely different.
If being very weak and sickly is at one end of the spectrum, then being at the pinnacle of health in body-mind-energy must be its opposite. Of course, most of us lie somewhere in between these polarities, and throughout our lives may slide along the continuum on one or more levels either towards being healthier or less so. The aim of Tao meditation and energy arts is to make you as resilient, vital and malleable as possible, so that you can withstand change and move closer to being exceptionally healthy in the totality of your being.