“To study and at times practice what one has learned, is that not a pleasure?” -Confucius
Qi (pronounced CH-EE) is the Chinese word for “life force or life energy”. It is the inherent power that flows through all living things, including inanimate objects like mountains and rocks. For humans, having healthy Qi involves having an abundance of vitality but also having the Qi flow smoothly and unimpeded through ones body.
Gong is translated as “work”, but not with a solely negative connotation as modern western society often uses the duality of “work vs play”. Gong here relates to the benefits gained through continuous practice; I like to say “the pleasure of focused attention”.
So Qi Gong means working with life energy, learning how to control the flow of qi in body, mind, and spirit to improve health and well-being.
Qi Gong includes a wide ranging of practices that include meditation, visualization, breathwork, acupressure, energy healing, sitting practices, moving practices, spiritual practices, and Tai Chi. The Chinese way of cultivating Qi, flow, and awareness also include the arts like calligraphy, painting, music, painting, acrobatics, poetic reflections, and community service.
For those of you familiar with Tai Chi, its principles are based on Qi Gong. Tai Chi is a modern version of graceful choreography with the purpose to lubricate all joints of the body and create the free flow of Qi. Many of the effects of Tai Chi are similar to Qi Gong, a main difference is that Qi Gong forms are generally much shorter than Tai Chi.
One main principle of Qi Gong is: Where Intention Goes, Energy Flows. So where you focus your mind and bring your attention and awareness, the Qi will flow more freely. When Qi flows, our body’s innate circulation always flows more efficiently: our blood, lymph, and nerve flow. So when there is pain, the Qi is stagnant/stuck there and so is blood flow. Qi Gong is a safe practice with powerful results.
Qi Gong always begins with a focus on the body as the body and the senses are a gateway to focus and self-awareness. The practice of being in the present moment also becomes a practice of the mind.
My earliest exposure to the practice of Qi Gong was from my father. I was living in Honduras, so I was in middle school. I’m not sure what prompted him to teach me some of these ancient Chinese techniques, but I clearly remember the core lessons: horse stance, the importance of both feet feeling stable and connected to the ground, resting the tip of the tongue on the top palate to connect the body’s energy line from tailbone to head, and correct posture for proper flow of Qi. I remember liking the lessons even then, I liked them because I could feel the effect of the practice; I can’t describe nor remember in what way I liked how it made me feel, I just liked it. Thus, I continued practicing Tai Chi when I went to college, then in Oriental medicine school, then the 18 Luohans with Nina Jo Maier (a 20 minute Qi Gong form originating from DaMo, the transmitter of Buddhism from India to China) for 6 years.
It is no surprise, looking back now, that I have made Chinese medicine my practice and my life, of which Qi Gong and the understanding of Qi is a bit part of. That was over 20 years ago and I still enjoy practicing the basics for its simplicity but profound effects, as well as having learned a lot of other fun Qi Gong exercises that I look forward to sharing in class.
Since 2014, Li-Lan and her multi-instrumentalist husband have created Tones for your Bones, an experiential workshop embodying the principles of Qi Gong and the Chinese Five Elements, set to live acoustic music. The course can include Qi Gong, principles of Chinese medicine, acupressure, practice reflections, and nature-based rituals. In 2020, Tones for your Bones has become a five week virtual course offered through Armonia Health LLC as well as other online platforms.
Reflection from student in the spring 2015 series: “I really am glad i was able to get a nice foundation in the Qi Gong. It was such a nice way to fully shift out of the work day. Sometimes I stay in work mode, so I really noticed the difference from how I felt when walking in vs. leaving. I taught it to my mom this weekend and hope to do some videos for her so she can remember.”
Reflection from a student of the 5 week virtual May 2020 virtual series of how the material was helpful and relevant:
(1) It was grounding and inspiring to meet with others during this time. I enjoyed getting to know folks gradually over the five weeks and have made at least one new friend as a result of the class. It was also fun to get to know not only Li-Lan but Alex a little bit better this way! Social gatherings are really important right now and this has been one of my very favorite. (2) I loved the way the content build gradually week to week. Things were structured in bite-sized pieces so they were easy to absorb, relax, enjoy, remember, and practice. (3) I really enjoyed the way the class sessions were structured, with advance materials, and a blend of acupressure, qigong, sharing of info and insights, live music, and reflection/discussion. It was heaven, like a treat for the senses, so many different playful and informative angles on the same themes. So much fun! (4) It was great to start the week with these classes on Monday, and having two session choices was awesome. (5) I really appreciated being able to go back to the recordings of the class sessions; and to have ongoing access to other materials after the conclusion of the class. All in all, it was really an outstanding experience.
To follow and interact on facebook: @tonesforyourbones