In my last post, I described how you can use the Qigong concept of “no straight lines” to enhance internal energy movement. This involved expanding the microcosmic orbit from a vertical ellipse to a much larger horizontal ellipse. You can use the same mind models to gain finer control and more insight into your energy centres. In this post, we will look at three powerful centres; one in your abdomen (Dantien), one in your chest (mid sternum/ Heart) and one in your head (mid skull/ Amygdala).
These three energy points are not only energy centres (chakras) , but gravity centres that lie at the mid points of their respective energy lines. In this post I’ll introduce them to you, but suffice to say there is a lot more that you can do with these centres other than feel internal energy around them.
If you have practiced the microcosmic orbit, you will be familiar with rotating an energy ball or energy flow around your body.
For each of the three energy centres (abdomen, chest, head) try to imagine an energy ball orbiting around a centre point. For example for your head energy centre, imagine the ball rolling vertically around the inside of your skull, up the back of your head and down the front of your head, just like it’s a small section of the microcosmic orbit. You can use the same vertical rotation with the abdominal center, imagining it is the lower section of the microcosmic orbit. Your chest centre can then be imagined as the centre section of the microcosmic orbit.
Once you have practiced these circular orbits, you can extend then forwards and backward to form extended ellipses much as you did with the complete microcosmic orbit (see diagram). Try rotating each elliptical orbit in turn and then try the complete microcosmic orbit again and feel for the nuances.
Your abdominal orbit can make you feel more rooted, your chest one more emotionally stable and your head orbit greater control over your body-mind.
The head orbit has some very powerful uses which you can try to discover – and I’ll write about them in my next post.
A powerful concept in qigong is “never move in straight lines”. An example of this is a straight hand push out from a tucked in position at your side. If you push your hand straight out in front of you, slowly, your micro-movement control can be enhanced by imagining the straight movement as a curve in your mind (top diagram).
The concept of feeling movement inside your body is a strange one for many people. But as more and more people realize that happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment are almost entirely within the grasp of your body-mind, the concept becomes less strange.
What the no straight lines approach engenders is micro-control as your mind checks what your body is doing every millimetre of the move you make.
This principle is powerful for physical movement, and can also be used very effectively for internal movement.
A simple, practical example of this is the microcosmic orbit. If you practice this already your probably already use some form of mind model to imagine a ball or energy flow going around your torso from your crown down your front, around the bottom of your groin area (PC) and back up your spine to your crown.
You can enhance the microcosmic orbit by extending the orbit model from a narrow vertical ellipse to a wider horizontal ellipse (lower diagram). The bigger and slower your ellipse, the more powerful it gets.
You can use this technique daily to not only calm yourself, but also do some useful, meaningful internal (qigong) exercise.
Do try this. If you have any questions just ask, and if you want some more powerful internal training tools, drop me a line.
Your Breath as A Carrier – Part II – MCM Structured Breathing
I’m glad that many people liked the post on ‘your breath as a carrier’, so I thought you might like some additional tools.The WHM is based on a number of key tenants, of which gaining control over the autonomic nervous system is key.
I have also noticed that the WHM uses a 3 phase approach to breathing in: 1) abdomen, 2) chest, 3) head. And Wim also emphasises that the focus is on breathing in and expanding the lung area as much as possible but that breathing-out is just letting go.
Just as focusing on your breath as a carrier allows you to visualize and harness your breath, using structured breathing allows you to get better control of the breathing/ mindfulness process. And the structured breathing is not separate from the breath visualization, it is just another layer, another tool in your tool-kit.
Reading the previous comments, this point is worth emphasizing: there is a difference between training and practice that is evident in most things we do. When training the focus is on big, slow movements – in practice and once these movements have been ingrained, you can make them both smaller and faster – with just as much, if not more, effect! In other words, this stuff takes some effort and focus to learn, but then becomes relatively automatic.
Breathing and movement go hand in hand, but maybe not as you know it. Most people focus on the ribs and diaphragm for breathing, but there is a trigger (trigger action) that brings both of these nicely into action – flexing your spine. And there is a trigger to get your spine flexing – tilting your pelvis.
Practicing structured breathing requires a little bit of set up to get you going:1) Stand gently upright with your knees slightly bent and soft (this allows you to flex your pelvis/ hips better) and let your arms hang loosely at your side. 2) Purse your lips, open your mouth and widen your throat – you are just going to let air flow in and out as it needs to.
Now without moving your head too much, tilt your pelvis top forwards and up (45 degrees) and pelvis bottom back and down (45 degrees). It will cause your back and abdomen to stretch and curve. You should also feel an intake of breath as your lower diaphragm drops. As you continue slowly to tilt your pelvis, you should also feel air being drawn into your chest area as the middle diaphragm drops. As you continue further, let your head go with the flexing of your spine and let it tilt back slightly (at 45 degrees up).
If you practice this slowly you should feel a distinct 1-2-3 phasing to the breath. Abdomen, chest, head. You can add to this feeling by dropping your jaw slightly as you start the flexing and expand your ribs as the flex reaches your chest. As you get to your head you should feel a distinct feeling of your head getting slightly lighter, or as Wim describes it – breathing into your head. At this point just let the breath as a carrier visualization take over the exchange of oxygen and Co2.
I find this next part lovely and relaxing. By tilting your hips, flexing your spine and expanding your rib cage you have nicely built in some elastic, bow power into your breathing cycle. As you feel you need to let your breath flow out, just tilt your pelvis the other way – let your pelvis bottom go forward, your pelvis top go back, and your spine flex the other way (to a forward facing U). Release the air in your lungs and encourage your head to tilt forward (45 degrees). That’s it.
Try this in a slow methodical way a few times and your body should map onto it fairly quickly – it is a natural way of moving and breathing. What you may also notice is the effect on your head and mental feeling. That’s because a few extra treats come with this way of breathing: toning the vagus nerve, pumping your sacrospinal fluid, releasing your ‘front line’, ‘charging your bows’, and of course using your breath as a energy carrier!
I hope you find that this makes a big difference to the control and depth of your WHM breathing and brings the relaxation and mindfulness aspects of it into clearer focus. It might also engender the concept of moving energy at will around your body.
(picture relevance: you might be playing all the right notes … but not necessarily in the right order!)
My out-breath hold length varies depending on whether I am in the shower or lying down. Lying down I can hold my out-breath after the 3 x 40 structured breathing for around 1.5 minutes – standing up for around 1 minute. The addin is on the in-breath hold.
When breathing in, I keep my abdomen flat (i.e. I don’t let my abdomen expand). Then when I have taken the in-breath, I hold it and distribute the air around my body. The way I do this is, what I call, a 5 star mind-model. Imagine that your body is a star shape with it’s centre around your abdomen (dantien) and each part of the star pointing into your feet, your hands and your head. When I distribute the air in my body I push it along the points of the star, going around the star 2 times slowly (i.e. to a long count of ten). This gives a wonderful feeling of moving energy along your limbs and up your torso into your head and a mindful sensation of inflating the fascia around your body.
I think the Wim Hof Method (WHM) is a great new way of spreading the word about some very old principles that had faded into relative obscurity. Personally, I really like the newfound discipline of combining structured breathing and better oxygenation with the system shock management of cold water showers. Many people get it and can just apply Wim’s approach, but others can’t or they want to try different nuances on his method. Here I will share a couple of ‘addins’ from the work I do on moving energy and explain why.
I’ve read a number of discussion posts from people that find the breathing exercises difficult to master. I’ve outlined this before but here’s a more comprehensive description of, what I call, structured breathing: think of your body as having three ‘organic’ balloons centered 1) in your lower abdomen 2) in your chest (mid sternum level) and 3) in the middle of your head (mid-way between your ears).
When you breathe in, 1) tip the top of your pelvis forward and allow air to ‘inflate’ your lower abdomen, and as this fills-up, 2) allow the next batch of air to inflate your chest ‘balloon’ in 3 dimensions – not just raising your rib-cage. Then, even though you may have taken in most of the air you can, continue to feel that your body is expanding, but this time, 3) focused on your head, allow the sensation of expanding to give you the feeling or air going into and inflating your head. As you do this, let your head tip slightly backwards. Together with the pelvis tilt, this will give you a noticeable arched back and neck – try and keep your eyes horizontal as you do this.
Now, the breathing-out is essentially the opposite of the breathing-in pattern. Sigh and relax slowly, then let the balloon in your head contract and your head tip slightly forwards (eyes level). Let the air in the top of your lungs start to come out , followed by the mid-chest balloon contracting and releasing air, and then contract your abdomen as you let the pelvis top tilt backwards. You can practice the pelvis and head movement as being big movements, but after time even small movement will help trigger the movement pattern.