Thursday, March 03, 2016

Swinging Arms Chi Kung Exercises

Swinging Arms Qigong Exercises.  By Mike Garofalo.  Notes, bibliography, quotations, descriptions of exercises.  

1.  Swinging Arms Exercise - Form One
Swinging the Arms Forward and Back, Up and Down
Swinging to Connect the Kidneys and Lungs
Pendulum Swing

1.  Stand with your feet at a hip width distance apart, less than shoulder width, feet pointing straight ahead.  Keep the knees slightly bent.  This standing stance should be comfortable.  Release tension in the body, soften, stay loose, open the chest, keep an open mind - in short, maintain Sung

2.  Keep your head over your shoulders, and the head in line with the spine.  Lift the crown of the head and tuck the chin a little.  Shoulders are kept relaxed, but don't slouch.  Maintain central equilibrium.  Keep an upright posture. 
3.  The feet are grounded and rooted into the earth.  Feet remain flat on the floor during the entire exercise.  The feet should point straight ahead.  The knees are over the feet.   
4.  Look forward, soften and widen your visual focus.  Take in the whole practice scene.  Don't try to block sensory feelings, zone out, or escape being fully present in the simple here and now.
5.  Arms should be loose, relaxed, and hanging gently at the sides of your hips.  Hands should remain soft and relaxed. 
6.  Gently raise both arms up in front of the body, palms facing down.  Raise the arms up to about shoulder height or less, depending upon the mobility or comfort range of motion for your shoulder joint.  The arms are fairly straight with only a slight bend in the elbow. 
7.  Allow the arms to gently move down and back to the sides of your hips.  Continue to lift the arms up behind the body, palms facing up, to a height you are comfortable with, depending upon the mobility of your shoulder joint.  Most people draw the hands up behind the back at considerably less than a 30 degree angle up from the hips.  Then bring the arms downward until the hands are along sides of the hips.  The arms are fairly straight with only a slight bend in the elbow. 
8.  Continue moving both arms at the same time from the hips, up to about shoulder height or less in front, down to the sides of the hips, and up the back, then down to the hips.  Be gentle.  Take your time.  Both arms will gradually begin to effortlessly swing up and down, forward and back, up and down.  Relax!  The arms are fairly straight with only a slight bend in the elbow. 
9.  Breathing is natural, comfortable, effortless, unstrained.  Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.  The tongue rests gently on the upper palate.  
10.  The knees will gently begin to bend and straighten slightly as the arms swing forward and back.  A swinging rhythm will establish a bending pattern and movement flow in the knees.  Don't keep the knees stiff, locked, or rigid.  Go with the flow. 
11.  Continue to swing the arms forward and back until you have warmed up your body, loosed the joints, and established a comfortable and flowing motion of swinging your arms.  Slowly increase the pace of your swinging. 
12.  Avoid rapidly snapping the lower arms or hands as you draw you arms downward from the front.   
13.  Enjoy swinging your arms forward and backward for as long as you like.  Start with a swinging practice of two to four minutes, and gradually increase the practice time as your body becomes conditioned to the exercise, your stamina increases, and you find benefits from doing this exercise. 
14.  As you near the end of the exercise period, slow the swinging pace down and reduce the range of motion in the swing.  Gradually slow down and finally stop.  Stand and rest for awhile.   
    This dynamic stretching exercise helps various parts of the body and is an excellent warm up exercise.  It stretches the biceps as you draw the arms back and up.  It stretches the triceps as you swing the arms up and forward.  The relaxed fingers and wrists are stretched on the downward fall of the arms (a nice counter to the flexed and tensed positions of the hands on a keyboard).  The shoulder joint and tendons benefit from the gentle range of motion activity, and the deltoid muscles are exercised.  The pectoral muscles are stretched on the backward movement of the arms.  Strength gains, although very modest, are primarily in the deltoids, latissimus, quadriceps, and trapesius.  If the swinging arms activity is continued long enough the heartbeat will increase slightly.  This kind of rhythmic activity has a calming effect on the body and reduces stress.  Stephen Sinatra, M.D., claims this exercise will benefit the thoracic duct and help the heart.  Chinese Qigong masters claim that Qi flow is enhanced and the body energized, blood pressure is reduced, and various diseases are prevented or healed. 

    There are alternative versions of this Swinging Arms exercise practiced and recommended by different folks.  Some people like to quietly count the repetitions on the forward up swing as it helps them to focus and maintain a regular breathing pattern.  Some people just swing one arm forward and back, and alternate between the arms.  Guo Lin's Qigong, a Walking Qigong, for cancer patients, alternates the arm swing from side to side, but the elbows are bent more and the waist turns from side to side as the arms swing upward.  Some people enjoy stepping in place or walking forward in a coordinated manner (e.g., Yang Jwing Ming) as they swing their arms forward and backward, up and down.  Swinging the arms or pumping the arms during brisk walking is a popular exercise.  Some swing the arms higher up in the front, up to face level or higher.  Some rise on their heels as they swing the arms up.  Some rock the toes up and down, or the heels up and down as they swing their arms.  Some like to talk with others as they swing their arms, others prefer being quiet.  Some hold very light dumbbells or kettlebells in the hands while doing this exercise for greater strength gains (forward dumbbell raises), although repetitions are kept low.  

Here are the instructions for this exercise found in: 
The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: 12 Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart, and Sharp Mind .  By Peter M. Wayne, Ph.D., and Mark L. Fuerst.  Boston, Shambhala Press, 2013.  Index, detailed notes, 336 pages.  A Harvard Health Publication.  ISBN: 978-1590309421.  VSCL. 

Swinging to Connect the Kidneys and Lungs, p. 72:
     "This gentle movement also loosens up the body, provides moderate aerobic activity, develops dynamic balance, and stimulates deep breathing.

    Maintaining a comfortable shoulder-width stance, begin by raising up your arms overhead, and then release them down, surrendering to the simple pull of gravity.  As your arms swing upward and slightly outward, allow a gentle opening of your chest and ribs, a lengthening of your spine, as well as a lengthening of your arms from the shoulder blades to the fingertips.  Also, shift about 70 percent of your weight to the balls of the feet (stand a little more forward).  And, if it's comfortable for you, lift you chin and the gaze of your eyes slightly as your arms move up.  Imagine your lungs opening and stretching with this shape, and breath in during the upswing. 

    Each time your arms come down, bend the knees slightly and sit into the kwah, shift about 60 percent of the weight in your feet to your heels, and exhale.  As you "sit" into this posture, relax your hips and pelvic area (kwah), feel the slight opening of the lower spine, and feel the gentle stretch and massage in your lower back muscles and kidney region.
    Repeat the upward and downward swinging, stimulating and connecting the lung and kidney region, 9 to 36 times.  If your balance is stable, and/or if you want gradually to challenge and improve your dynamic balance, slightly raise your heels off the ground during the upswing, and return to a flat footed position (slightly more weighed in the heels) on the downswing.
    Begin with smaller movements, and as your tissues and joints warm up, gently let the movements get larger.  But never force any movements, and stay within 70 percent of your maximum range of motion.  Do even less if you have shoulder or back injuries.  Do not bend your knees more than 10 percent; this is not a deep knee-bending exercise.  Focus more on folding or sitting into the kwah.  If coordinating your breath with the movements creates any discomfort, such as shortness of breath or light-headedness, simply breathe naturally and focus on the quality of the movements." 

The kwah is the area of the body located in the groin, where the hips meet the legs.  The major anterior muscles in the kwah area are the psoas major, illio psosas, and adductor muscles.  The posterior muscles in the kwah area are mainly the gluteus.  Whole books have been written about the Posas:  The Vital Psoas Muscle: Connecting Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Well-Being, by Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones, North Atlantic Books, 2012.

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