On Seniors & Ch'i Kung
- Howard Slatoff
When I asked a healthy and robust man of eighty-seven plus years what is the best thing about getting up in the morning, he replied, "Getting up in the morning." But once that proceedure was accomplished, he added, there was much more. It is the implications for seniors in the term, 'getting up' whether it is morning or from an afternoon nap that are important.
Ancient Chinese sages and practitioners of Chi Kung (life force exercises) and the healing arts have always believed that slow unhurried and gradual rising from bed is far more beneficial and certainly less stressful than the bounding leap to the floor generally considered to be morning protocol in western society.
Don't statistics show that more heart attacks occur in the morning upon rising from bed than at other times ?
Chi Kung, the advocate of gentle slow movement and internal change, is the antithesis of the bounding leap. Its concepts emphasize the slow, deliberate and gentle. All its movements whether in an exercise or merely a single variation are based on deliberate and self-directed slow involvement. This is just as valid upon waking as at any other time. Chi Kung begins the moment you open your eyes in the morning.
Upon waking, Chi Kung practice advises that you lie quietly on your back for a moment. Keep your hands at your sides and close your eyes again. Breathe through your nose, deeply and consciously filling the diaphragm. Slowly bring the breath up into your lungs. Hold it there a second and feel the air circulating around your body. Now breathe out very slowly through your mouth. Repeat three times.
This breathing method is the first step in your morning Chi Kung exercise program even before your feet touch the floor.
A stimple movement of arms and legs can follow. Spread your legs apart shoulder width with your heels touching the bed. Your hands are at your sides. Very slowly, as you breathe in through your nose, raise your arms, palms down until your fingers are pointing to the ceiling and you see the back of your hands. Do not strain, how high your arms are raised is not as important as your comfort level. You are practicing Chi Kung, not participating in a competitive event.
Lower your arms very slowly, exhaling through your mouth. The slower the better. You have now returned to the original position.
You will find that just this simple relaxing movement will unknot some of the kinks, add a bit of flexibility to the limbs, and ease early morning breathing problems. It is the internal movement of the Chi within your body, circulating and providing both energy and a positive preparational set for facing the day.
Of course full Chi Kung routines offer a wider variety of movements complimentary to the above introductory exercises. But all routines have the common theme of slow, gentle and stress-free experiences. And there are always the Chi Kung stretching warm-up movements that await you once your feet do touch the floor.
It is the magic and wonder of Chi Kung; its infinite soft and subtle variations of movement, breathing and thought that makes it and its philosophy a life time's study.
But we seniors know that !
The late and much-loved Howard Slatoff, professor emeritis in the California State University system, practiced and taught diverse arts such as T'ai Chi, and Chi Kung. He authored a series of books and tapes on Chi Kung for Seniors, available through Plum Publishing.