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Try Qigong for a stronger body and a calmer mind

Shifu Kanishka Sharma from the Shaolin Temple teaches the basics of Qigong.

QigongQigong, a Shaolin training method which calms the mind and makes the body stronger and fitter has been in practice for centuries. Similar to yoga, it has several health benefits. Shifu Kanishka Sharma is the first Indian to receive the prestigious title of Shifu (master) from the Shaolin Temple, He has also trained several Bollywood actors including Akshay Kumar and Shah Rukh Khan. In this article, he explains the finer concepts of this martial arts form along with basic exercises to warm up to Qigong.

Qi (pronounced Chi) in Chinese means breath or energy, which in yoga is known as prana, and Gong means movement. Shaolin Qigong is 'meditation in movement', based on the concept of Yin and Yang (hard and soft), a strong body and a calm mind. But before one delves deeper into it, ones must understand the concept of LIU HE (six harmony).

What is six harmony?

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Traditional Shaolin training method of Qigong enables one to raise the Qi from the dantian (a point located three fingers below ones navel) for internal healing. This manipulation of the Qi can also produce an explosive power guiding it to a particular part of the body. These movements of the Qi in one's body are led by the control and focus of the mind. Only when the mind is purified and combined with the intent can one achieve the power to manipulate the Qi to flow smoothly through the nerves.

Just like one cannot eat food out of a dirty plate, similarly, to practise Qigong one must cleanse one's mind and body to attain the maximum beneficial effects of it. To achieve this, one's XIN (heart), YI (intent), QI (breath) and LI (power) must be combined properly. First, to cleanse the body we begin with Zuo Chan, a form of meditation in which our focus is on our breath inhaling and exhaling. This is done for five minutes followed by warm-up.

Warm-up exercises

Ankle rotation: Clockwise and anti-clockwise (10 times each).

Neck rotation: Clockwise and anti-clockwise gentle rotation with eyes open.

Labei (back stretching): Limbering forward, stretch your back stretch with eyes slightly open. Bend your back forward, relax your back and touch the floor with your hands.

Shauan wao (waist circle): The aim is to make a complete circle with your upper body beginning with the Labei position and swing your upper body full circle thrice (clockwise and anti-clockwise).

Qyan Hou fu Yao (waist warm-up): Legs apart, bring your arms together right over your head. Bend down from the waist forward, your hands go between your legs and sway three times, bring your torso back and your hand should come up and arch your back while looking at the sky. Keep your knees slightly bent and stretch your back looking up at the sky.

Stretching exercises

Shang-La-Jian (upper stretch): Interlock your hands then take them up as if pushing the sky. Inhale and exhale looking at the back of your interlocked hands.

Zuo La jian and You la jian (left and right stretch): Keeping your hands interlocked bend your upper body to the left side as much as possible. Keep your elbows straight, inhale and exhale five times. Repeat the same on the opposite side.

Qian la jian (forward stretch): Keeping your feet apart, interlock your hands, inhale and take your hands up, exhale and bend forward. Keep your body parallel to the floor looking at the back of your hands. Inhale and exhale 5 times.

Bao Fo Jio (hold Buddha's feet): Get your legs together then take your hands to your ankles holding them from behind and touch your head to the knee. Inhale and exhale 10 times.

Wu Bu Quan (the five stances)

Wu Bu Quan is a basic fundamental training of Shaolin kung fu and is also known as preparation form. This training helps in strengthening your legs, builds your coordination, balance, power, and focus.

Mabu (horse stance): Open your legs apart and squat down with your thighs parallel to the ground (a position depicting sitting on a horse's back) and hold your hands together in front of your chest in a prayer position. Hold for 30 seconds.

Kumbu (bow and arrow stance): Get to the Mabu position and turn your legs and hips to the left side, keeping the knee of the back leg straining and the thigh of the front leg parallel to the ground. Hands to be clinched into a fist, and on your waist. Hold for 30 seconds.

Pubu (skimming stance): Stand straight, make a fist, and draw it to your waist raising your left knee up straight and toe pointing down. Bend your right knee while opening your left leg out towards the left side parallel to the ground and squat down shifting all your weight to the right leg until the left leg is straight on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds.

Xiebu (cross stance): Stand straight and draw your fist to your waist, turn your head to the left. Take your left leg behind the right knee and squat down. Hold for 30 seconds.

Xubu (hollow stance): Stand straight and draw your fist to your waist while looking straight. Raise your left knee up with your toe pointing down. Gently squat down on your right leg keeping 70% of your weight on it. Gently place your left leg in front of the right leg with 30% weight.

Practise these basic exercises to get ready for Qigong. Watch this space for more articles on this Shaolin martial arts form.

Shifu Kanishka Sharma is a member of the Shaolin International Association. He began training at the Shaolin Temple in 2001. He has trained eminent Bollywood personalities such as Shah Rukh Khan, Arjun Rampal, Boman Irani, Priyanka Chopra, Anil Kapoor, Akshay Kumar, Madhuri Dixit and Abhishek Bachchan and has choreographed action sequences for projects such as 'Don', '24: The series', 'Gulaab Gang', 'Game', to name a few. Apart from Bollywood, Shifu Kanishka has been actively involved in training the Indian Armed Forces, training them in the deadly art of Pekiti Tirsia Kali - a Filipino martial art and in-fighting combat system against multiple opponents based on the use of blade.

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