Two Balancing Exercises
for a Healthy Body + Mind

Paul Cavel + Pete Jenkins Practising Bagua Dragon Arm Exercises

Balancing the body is a continuous process as that which is more or less closed now may become more or less open later. This is especially true when you actively engage in the process of unbinding your body. As you focus on any bound place or part of your body and become successful in opening it up, you’ll notice how it becomes looser and relatively more flexible than other body parts.
In qi gong, tai chi and bagua there are many postures where one hand/arm is on top of or in front of the other; for example, Cross Hands in tai chi, several moves in Gods Playing in the Clouds Qi Gong and the Bagua Single Palm Change. These postures are good for establishing balance in your body.

Balancing Exercise for the Upper Body

It goes like this: First, you perform a symmetrical move where the hands or wrists cross on the centerline of your body and observe which hand naturally arrives on top or in front of the other.

Whichever way it is, reverse it so the opposite hand is on top or in front of the other. If you haven’t paid much attention to balancing, it’ll probably feel weird. That’s because the more restricted side is being asked to open up a bit more. It’s good though as it gives you access to the place(s) that are restricted inside of you.

Now don’t force the restricted area/side to open, but don’t be lazy either. Remember the the Rule of Thirds: the one about not doing too much or forcing, and staying within your comfortable range of stretching.

After practising for some months you should test yourself again to see if anything has changed. Maybe you have opened up the body on the restricted side and must reverse which arm is on top or in front of the other once again. This process continues over years—changing left to right to left as the body slowly opens up and releases bound tissue.

Balancing Exercise 2: The Pelvis Is a Different Story

The balancing act is all good for the upper body, but for the pelvic area and lower organs we need something a little more subtle. The weight shift and pelvic turn from Energy Gates Qi Gong is ideal. This move can give you a realistic read as to the degree of openness and balance of your hips, spine and lower organs.

Stand in a normal stance with some kind of markers on the floor to measure how much you can open. Mark or note the place from which you start. Sink your weight into one leg so you can lift the other one slowly and without losing balance. Then, gently stretch your unweighted foot to the side and place it down again. By how much did you increase your stance? Note it and repeat on the other side.

Are they the same? Is one side smaller and therefore more restricted?

Next, whichever side is the smallest repeat and hold the extended stance. Then, shift all your weight to one leg while facing forward and turn the pelvis slowly towards the weighted leg. Don’t rush or force, or turn from the upper body arms or head as you will distort and possibly damage your body. Keep your knees still and fold into the ingunal grove or hip fold. See how far you can turn. Measure or mark the angle and repeat on the other side.

Is there a difference? If you have basically the same size stance on both sides and the same angle of turn, then for now at least the body’s lower structure is quite balanced.

If, however, there is a noticeable difference (which is normally the case), then when doing any stepping and turning work it’s governed by the restricted side. What does this mean? Well, for sure you don’t make the tight side do what the looser side can do! You want to only stretch or turn as far on the more open side as the restricted side can go. Put a little extra effort on the tight side and remain very relaxed on the loose side so that there is symmetry between the two. Of course you still mind the Rule of Thirds and don’t go beyond your two-thirds ability in body, mind or qi energy.

The Slow Road Leads to Success

If you practice these exercises correctly the tighter side will slowly but surely open up—too much force and you could damage your knees or lower spine. So be careful and progress slowly yet steadily. After a few months, you can check again to see where you are and how successful your efforts have been.

Remember when you push too hard your nerves close and shut down the body. Tao energy arts practices are about encouraging the body open by relaxing and softly stretching to release bound tension. The nerves are keys to the let go of any bound tension, so don’t get so focused on the tissues that you miss warning signs of strain or fatigue in the mind or emotions.

Balancing Exercises for Mind + Body

Habit aided by neuronal reinforcement leads us to use one side to do most things. So try using your other hand for repetitive tasks like cleaning your teeth or your shoes (but not with the same brush)!

You can also train your other hand for fine-motor control by learning to eat with chopsticks or even handwriting. The Chinese practised calligraphy and I suspect this was one of its functions.

Also, watch your habits like folding your arms or crossing your legs the same way every time. Change. (In fact, crossing your legs is not good as it twists the sacrum in the illiac joints and can destablise the spine, so just stop doing that.)

In your practice, watch for how much effort you put into the upper and lower parts of your body and balance them. Most people will put an immense amount more energy into the arms and hands over the legs. What’s your pattern? Time to change it.

These methods and many others open up both sides of your brain by creating a balance mentally. It stimulates new neuronal connections where normally you would continue reinforcing predominant pathways. In fact, this is why nei gong energy arts like qi gong, Circle Walking and bagua are repeatedly practised on alternating sides.

Check out more blogs and how-to videos on balancing exercises…

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