What: An ancient healing system which focuses on the restoration of holistic balance through gentle breathing techniques and slow movements
Origins: Qigong can be traced back some two thousand years in ancient China.
Benefits:Qigong can harmonise, strengthen and have a healing effect on the functioning of all the internal organs and bodily systems. It increases the supply and flow of energy throughout the body, can have a variety of rejuvenating effects and is believed to increase longevity as it induces calm mental and emotional states.
Day 2, 16/09/11: Discovering Qigong - China
Within seconds of boarding my flight I received my first lesson; an opportunity to get intimately exposed to the fragrance of China.
The guy next to me had breath more toxic than battery acid. Luckily I'd forgotten to exfoliate so was blessed to receive an 11hr intensive face peel. Each impromptu cough and splutter penetrated further, no pore was left untreated.
Midway through the flight, in fact just after the meal he began picking his nose. Now I use the word 'picking' however 'digging' would have been more appropriate. In a frenzied search for hidden treasure he furiously poked and prodded; stopping only momentarily to sniff his fingers - very attractive before resuming his search.
At one point I couldn't contain my revulsion and before I had time to elicit any control over myself the words, 'that's gross' effortlessly tumbled. With bewilderment he looked over and whilst nodding resumed his quest.
I felt my body convulse, my posture was becoming more animated and just as I was about to utter the sacred words, 'for f*cks sake'... he exhaled, his breath immobilising me in my tracks.
As I arrived in Beijing a sudden familiarity flooded me. Finally I understood where the design inspiration from Purang in Tibet originated. Big concrete blocks rose up, each shop front a characterless facia. Thinking on that now, perhaps they weren't 'characterless' but that this was merely a representation of the character here. Not necessarily better or worse just very... rigid.
As we made our way passed fallen buildings and heaped rubble we were heading on a direct collision course with two solid, red gates. As we approached, as if triggered by an impulse the doors opened.
Inside a band of merry students were playing a tinny chord that resonated. We met Daisy, Master Wan and were briefly introduced to his students' en mass.
After a quick turnaround we were each ready for our first treatment; hmm let's hope it's not a skin peel!
Master Wan read my pulse(s) and checked my tongue; I filled out a form stating the problem area(s) I wanted to address. Without any thought I wrote down the first things that entered my head; which of course could have been quite scary after an 11hr flight. On the form in front of me I penned, 'circulation and holding tension in my neck/shoulders'.
Unsure of what was going to happen and with absolutely no time to fantasise I was seated upright in a chair and told to 'relax'. In the background, the familiar sound of Om Mani Padme Hum and the Mantra of Avalokiteshvara gently played; it was like coming home. My hands were placed, one on each knee with my palms facing the sky.
As the treatment began, the penetrative heat was intense. Even with my eyes closed I could feel the location of the transmitted energy. As I sat motionless my mind began to wander, back and forth stopping off in the Himalayas where I had previously experienced reiki.
As I drifted deeper the words, 'OK... finish' startled me and after a quick tap I found myself lying face up on a bed. By now I was already feeling pretty drowsy so naturally I thought, '...Ooo this is going to be lovely'.
As one person began to massage me I felt comfortable; relaxed. Then all of a sudden a number of different hands fell upon me, pulling and rubbing me in different directions, conflicting directions.
I experienced the movements as chaotic; rough. They were so contradictory that my sense of self-control was overwhelmed. Just like I can't focus on several areas of pain nor can I apparently monitor, control, and regulate my response to being pulled, yanked and rubbed in different directions.
Appreciating that my greatest shifts have arisen from states of chaos I stayed with it, or at least I tried as best I could.
I so desperately wanted to scream out, to say, 'stop'. As my brain closed off, a number of emotions surfaced; this was undoubtedly the result of not being able to elicit any control or protection over my own body. I tried to stay present, relax but the shock had sent my body rigid and it wasn't long before I started to dissociate, an all too familiar pattern.
As they worked their way down my body (which now had the suppleness of a plank), they made contact with my left leg.
It was like a wake-up call; as if my body was desperately trying to tell me something but I've no idea what. I remembered back to a reiki treatment I had with Suzy in the Himalayas. This experience was nearly identical. It felt like my left leg was being pulled up in the air, that if I didn't stay rigid I would lose contact with the bed, with myself.
It's pretty amazing when I consider it because in both instances I can recognise the point of dissociation. I guess the trick is to work out why I do that and therefore explore what would happen, or what do I think would happen if I let myself go beyond that point.
Eventually the hands slowed before coming to a stop, '...thank goodness for that'.
...Cue the foot massage...
Ouch, ouch, ouch. Clearly I can't call upon the ability to dissociate whenever I want because if I could then this would've been the time to activate it. I think I must've picked the tiniest girl there but wow did she have a hidden force; she was a barbarian.
As she worked her thumb up the side of my right Achilles my body squirmed. Obviously feeling the significance of that region she continued to work over it, pressing over and under; again and again. For me it felt like an intense burning, similar in heat to a tattoo needle but the pain coursed through my entire body.
With a sympathetic smile she watched me squirm, all the while saying 'relax'. '...Yeah like it's that easy?!'
By the end of the treatment I was practically floating, my wooden body had now become even more taught and rigid than ever before (if that's possible). Wow, two weeks of this, jeez I need to learn to let go quickly otherwise I won't be able to cope.
After an enjoyable evening meal, I began to relax. With tired eyes I headed to my room. Exhaling fully I let my body fall backwards onto the bed.
Clunk...'F*ck, that's hard...'