Typically, the first cycle through the Five Element nei gong takes around 10 years, allowing two years of dedicated training for each of the Five Element qi gong sets to embody their distinct characteristics. This process is either completed by starting with Energy Gates Qi Gong and working through the other elemental qi gong sets to Gods Qi Gong in two-year periods; or more commonly by spending three, six, nine or 12 months on each set—returning to Energy Gates and cycling through to Gods multiple times.
The safest and most reliable method for training the five qi gong sets is to alternate between Energy Gates Qi Gong and Heaven + Earth Qi Gong a few times (or more), and then move on to Gods Qi Gong. This strategy allows you to build a strong, well-assimilated foundation, as well as a resilient and flexible body. Then, you would continue to cycle through these three sets for a few years, while clearing stagnant energy and bound tissues before introducing Fire or Metal Element qi gongs. This process allows for the smoothest progression and mitigates risk factors as you develop both physically and energetically.
Whatever path you choose to embody the Five Elements, the aim is to take any practice, set or component to the point of diminishing returns, and then shift into the next phase. Some aspects of training only take a few months to complete, whereas other components can take nine months to a year to grasp and fully stabilise in your being. By layering your practice, you can fulfill the first cycle of nei gong training, which is designed to teach the various and specific qualities of each set. Then and only then would you look in the direction of folding in neigong components from the higher qigongs into the lowers sets. If skipped, you will likely mix the qualities of the elements and create a mish-mash that prevents you from contacting the essences of the individual elements.