YOU DON’T KNOW SQUATS!
Squats can be a very powerful tool to support your health and to strengthen your body and mind. Qigong squats can be used to gain inner calm, strengthen the body and focus the mind. See how this ancient practice also works as a well-tried home remedy in daily family life:
What is the difference between a squat and a Qigong squat?
You may have learned squats at the gym – hips back, chest up, knees not beyond toes, good for glutes, hip flexors, quads, etc. – but there is quite a difference between the athletic version and Yuan Qigong squats.
When I first saw a Yuan Qigong squat, what captured my interest was watching others squat to the ground and curl up like a ball in a graceful, repetitive motion….up and down….nothing complicated, no strain. ‘That looks easy enough’, I thought. Then I tried and could only bend and curl to about my chest. I’d heard that Qigong squats were like a wonder drug, so I was determined to keep at it and see if I too could reap some of the reported benefits, such as:
- opening and strengthening some of the major joints in the body
- increasing flexibility in conditions of the lower back, spine, and lower limbs
- alleviating mental and nervous disorders, and even migraines!
Why are squats so beneficial?
Making these Qigong squats part of a daily practice can be very beneficial and is well worth the flashback to gym class! They are used as a powerful tool to strengthen body and mind in various disciplines like Yoga and other sports. The Chinese have long understood squats to be an indispensable exercise for keeping Qi channels in and around the spinal and lumbar region open. In fact, they can almost be used as a way to reconnect the consciousness with the body, which in turn helps reconnect with and strengthen Qi (life force/energy) and Shen (mind/consciousness). When done with the proper intention squats become sort of an ‘in place’ walking meditation. Very methodical and very natural…..
How to squat?
After weeks of focusing on the movement, trying to execute the method perfectly (while contending with expectations of how it was supposed to look, along with some physical discomfort), I realized my efforts were only taking me so far. It felt like I was missing something integral to this seemingly uncomplicated practice. Where was that grace I’d watched others exhibit? I just wasn’t feeling the connection…it seemed robotic.
Then I realized I was completely ignoring the vital component of Qi. Duh. Considering the fact that Qigong literally means ‘working with Qi’, it stands to reason Qi would be a key factor in all the practices…not just some of them. No wonder there was no flow or grace! I was concentrating on my limitations and trying to push myself from a place of ‘accomplishment’ rather than connecting with the practice from a place of patience and ease.
How to get through the initial phase of ‘I can’t do that’!
I began to heed the saying ‘Qi flows where the mind goes’ and experimented with keeping my mind on the connection to Qi and its movement in the body, instead of what my body was doing. I looked for changes and noted challenges but stopped getting caught up in either. The minute my mind wandered I anchored on either Baihui (point at the top of the head) or Lower Dantian (energy center in the lower abdomen). That acted like a magnet and I was able to gently wrangle my attention back to Qi, not letting discomfort or distraction get the best of me.
That’s when things began to flow….
With a light focus on lower Dantian, I began to envision Qi flowing from above my head through the center of my body (like a carousel pole) running through to the bottom of my spine as I lowered to the ground. Focusing on Baihui, I envisioned Qi moving from below my feet, back up that pole, with the center of attention on top of my head as I unwound. The movements became effortless and the up/down motion became like a metronome, keeping my mind in check as my body opened up and dissolved without restriction. Now, when I really get in the zone I’m not even aware of initiating movement – I’ve found that elusive hypnotic grace I’d been searching for!
Squats have become a great tool to help me move through different layers in my awareness. Initially, I go through the awareness of my mind being scattered, into the awareness of aches and pains in my body and finally into the awareness of being more than just a body and fully unifying Jing (body), Qi (energy), and Shen (mind).
Practicing squats during the day can perform miracles
Now I use Qigong squats during the day as a quick pick-me-up. If I’ve been sitting too long (thank you, pandemic 2020!) squats are a perfect solution. 10 to 15 min of squats helps relieve tension in my shoulders and lower back and I feel more energy as well as more grounded and focused when finished.
Squats are safest and most effective when used as a supplement to the basic Yuan Qigong methods. They are a wonderful supplementary practice e. g. before doing DI YUAN – the Yuan Qigong standing form. Squats can have a very powerful effect on your body, Qi, and mind. For safety reasons we strongly recommend not to do Qigong squats without proper guidance from a qualified Yuan Qigong teacher, especially when pregnant or if you have injuries. For elderly people, it is recommended to learn and do squats with a teacher and, if necessary, to use a chair as an aid to keep the balance.
Qigong Squats are taught properly as an additional practice in the second method of our At Home Learning Program: Di Yuan – Nourishing Qi.
Join the REN XUE community and start practicing Yuan Qigong!