The Role of Stances in Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin Practice

Xu Haipeng; University of Shanghai for Science and Technology

Bao Qi Stance is an important link between the transitional movements of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin. In many transitional movements of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin, the quality of Bao Qi Stance has a direct effect on the smooth transition between movements and on the presentation of the movement features of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin.

To practice Bao Qi Stance: Start with the preparative posture and stand with both feet put together. Lower the hips and bend the right knee to crouch so that the left foot is naturally lifted (Note: The left foot is not lifted on purpose but as a result of the bent right leg). Spread the feet shoulder-width apart towards the left and stand with both feet parallel to each other. First land the tip of your left foot and then gradually set the entire sole. Slowly transfer the gravity center to between the legs simultaneously with the movement and naturally stand on both feet. Rotate the arms inward and then open them sideways at an angle of 45°. Immediately bend knees and pull back the buttocks. Relax the waist and the abdomen. Draw the chest in and straighten the back. Rotate the arms outward and then gather them up towards the abdomen as if embracing something. Lean the back backward and lower the gravity center along a vertical line. Relax the shoulders and lower the elbows. Relax the neck muscles and slightly lift the head as if propping up something. Naturally look downward at the tip of the nose and aim the nose at the navel. Have shoulders work in concert with the hips, the elbows work in concert with the knees, and the hands work in concert with the feet in order to regulate the form. Take soft, even, deep, and long breaths and settle Qi in Dantian in order to regulate the breath. Set the thought between adherence and non-adherence to Dantian and keep it with you all the time in order to regulate the thought. The duration of the stance practice differs from person to person and shall be to the extent that the exerciser feels slightly tired. Avoid being exhausted. Beginners may practice for a duration of about 5 minutest and then gradually extend the duration bit by bit as their skills improve. To do the closing form, close both hands inward and push down. Then slowly straighten the knee joints.

The practice of Bao Qi Stance of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin can help the exerciser master the thought, Qi, and form in the movement exercise of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin. Below are its detailed effects.

Regulating the Exterior Form

The theory of traditional Chinese medicine says: “When the form is not right, Qi will not move smoothly. When Qi does not move smoothly, the thought will not be at ease. When the thought is not at ease, the spirit will be scattered.” Therefore, the standard exterior form is a basic precondition for the good practice of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin. Besides paying attention to the start and end points, angles, and routes of movements, we can also use Bao Qi Stance as a very good method to regulate the exterior form in the practice of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin. This is because the static exercise of Bao Qi Stance can help the exerciser more accurately experience the proprioceptive sensations of the body parts and more accurately control the small joints of the limbs. In addition, Bao Qi Stance plays an important role in enhancing the Qi sensations in various parts of the body. Ancient people said: “One stance is worth a thousand exercises.” This shows the important role of stances. Bao Qi Stance helps the exerciser concentrate the thought to various parts of the body in a relatively quiescent state, and constantly enhance such concentration in order to transfer the requirements on different parts to the practice of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin. Long-term practice of static stance exercises can remove the rigid forces of the body and achieve a “gentleness amidst rigidity” state. Since the practice of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin also has the inherent requirements of “guiding Qi to make it harmonious and leading the body to make it gentle”, rigid forces must be removed with congenital and natural forces in the practice of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin. And stances are an effective method to remove rigid forces.

Regulating Respiration

The following three breathing patterns are most frequently used: natural respiration, abdominal respiration, and reverse abdominal respiration. Reverse abdominal respiration is required for the practice of Ba Duan Jin. But it cannot be accomplished at the very beginning and it is especially difficult to coordinate it with the movements when the exerciser is not very familiar with the movements. Reverse abdominal respiration provides important effects in the practice of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin. Correct reverse abdominal respiration also has positive effects on the control and prevention of all kinds of chronic diseases. The “drawing in the chest, straightening the back, relaxing the waist, and pulling back the buttocks” requirements on the stance can help the exerciser directly guide the breath from the chest to the abdomen and achieve natural, gentle, and slow abdominal respiration. And abdominal respiration is also an inevitable stage in the practice of reverse abdominal respiration. On the basis of abdominal reparation, the exerciser will easily experience the essentials of reverse abdominal respiration by raising the abdominal Qi to the chest and lifting the anus at the same time during inhalation. Therefore the correct posture of Bao Qi Stance can help the exerciser quickly settle Qi into Dantian and properly feel the ascent and descent of Qi. The subtleness of respiration regulation can only be sensed in a very quiescent state. It is only during the quiescent stance that the exerciser can more efficiently regulate respiration and master the essentials of reverse respiration. Coordinated with the movement practice, it will provide twofold results with half the effort.

Regulating the Spirit

The peace and quiescence of the spirit are another requirement on the practice of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin. It is difficult to feel and grasp the exterior characteristics and interior verve of Ba Duan Jin if the exerciser cannot stay focused during the practice. Therefore peace and quiescence are the mental requirements on the exercisers of Ba Duan Jin. However, if we directly practice Ba Duan Jin according to the requirements on the spirit, it will be easier for the exerciser to understand then to meet them. It is only through the quiescent state of the stance, the self-induction effect of words, the feeling of the body, and the perception of the nature that the exerciser can experience a quiescent state and achieve “unity of the interior and the exterior”. The perception of peace and quiescence obtained through self-experience is far more impressive than external persuasion and education. On the one hand, the exerciser is required to eliminate all distracting thoughts before stance exercise. On the other hand, a series of approaches such as the adjustment of the body form, control of respiration, and self-induction of words during the stance will directly promote the peace and quiescence of the exerciser. And these psychological characteristics can be transferred to the practice of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin.

Generally speaking, the stance exercise already contains the basic characteristics of form regulation, respiration regulation, and mind regulation in Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin. The stance exercise can help the exerciser correct the bad body postures, wrong respiration patterns, and unfavorable psychological factors. Therefore proper practice of Bao Qi Stance before or during the practice of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin will be of great benefit to the practice of Health Qigong • Ba DuanJin.