The Ultimate Qigong Exercise: Lifting the Sky
Qigong is meditation in motion. The slow, intentional and mindful flowing movements provide stress relief, induce calm and relaxation, and give you the tool for being in the present moment without having to sit still. Studies have shown qigong and tai chi lowers blood pressure and promotes better sleep, strengthens joints and ligaments, amongst many other health and wellness benefits.
Lifting the Sky is one of the best qigong exercises to do and is considered one of the single most important exercises in the art form. Simply put, it changes bodies and lives.
It is the first exercise in two of the most well-known qigong practice sets: The 18 Lohan Hands, taught by the honorable Bodhidharma and the 8 Pieces of Brocade taught by the great General Yue Fe.
It is, therefore, probably the most widely practiced qigong exercise in the world. Qigong and tai chi should be taught by an experienced teacher as there are small nuances with the breath, movement and alignment that will only be seen by the eye of an expert. However, Lifting the Sky is something so simple, it can be tried and experienced without much effort or help at all.
Warm Up In qigong, warming up your body is a very important. It helps to get centered in your body, but also prevent injury. Standing with the outer edges of your feet parallel (it will feel as though you are slightly pigeon-toed) and feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, bend your knees slightly, and gently bounce and shake to settle in your body. With your arms relaxed down by your sides, start rotating your hips and shoulders from one side to the next. Your arms will naturally gain momentum and gently hit your body. The place that the arms land are naturally on energy lines in the body and promote chi and blood flow to the area. Complete the warm up with slow gentle circles of all the joints.
- Bring the feet close together and parallel.
- Open your mouth ever so slightly (relax your jaw).
- Tip of the tongue rests lightly on the roof of the mouth (to complete microcosmic orbit).
- Arms are “alive”, but relaxed down by your sides.
- Posture is upright, yet relaxed with your heart-center open.
- Gaze is on the horizon.
- Palms face down toward the ground.
- Point your fingertips toward the center of the body (with a little space between each finger).
- Arms are as straight (with ease and a microbend to the elbow).
- Head tilts down a bit (as if to look at the hands)
- Shoulders should be relaxed.
- Inhaling, Raise/arc your arms up overhead
- Slowly lift your head up to look at your hands as they reach up to the sky
- Once your hands reach the top, lift slightly up on the heels
- Palms toward the sky fingertips toward each other
- Breathe in gently through the nose as you arc upward.
- Exhaling, slowly through the mouth move your arms softly and slowly down back by your sides (like you are flapping your wings).
- Gracefully return your head back to its normal position.
- Repeat the entire sequence 5-15 times.
Although this exercise is broken up into 4 phases, there is no stopping in the exercise. They are a continuous movement (with a few pauses), moving with the breath. The entire exercise should feel good and never strenuous. Enjoy!