In Saturday’s qigong class, we spent a good portion of the time discussing alignment. Vital energy flows best when we find our center through our feet being firmly planted on the ground, our spines connected with the sky, and our arms and shoulders relaxed.
This day, I was the classroom example of what NOT to do.
After our warm up exercises, the instructor commenced reviewing last week’s movements and introducing our next movement. As she lectured and demonstrated, we stood and watched her. I fell into my usual way of standing: leaning into my right hip with my right hand perched on it, and my left foot and leg turned out at a ninety degree angle. As the instructor lectured, she glanced into the mirror that took up one whole wall of the studio. She saw me and turned around. “What is this?” she said, motioning to my legs. “Do you have sciatic pain?” I replied that sometimes I did, and she said, “No wonder. Look at the way you are standing.” She turned to the other students. “Why would her stance give her pain?” And the other students offered their observations about my lack of skeletal and muscular alignment. Then she made us all stand properly: feet parallel, fanny tucked in, knees softened, arms loosely hanging at our sides, and the crowns of our head upright as if they were attached to heaven by a string.
As the class continued, I would unthinkingly fall into my improper default stance and then suddenly snap into alignment whenever I became aware of the instructor looking at me. This was amusing to everyone each time this happened. I did not mind her gentle criticism and instruction, though, since I was there to learn how to stand, move properly and heal my body.
At one point , as we continued to discuss and explore alignment and the flow of vital energy, we segued into a discussion of finding our center of balance. The instructor turned and asked me to “take your usual stance”. I leaned back into the standing position that I had been trying all class period to stop. She said that when we stand in such an exposed way, we are giving away our vital energy and making ourselves energetically and physically vulnerable to others. To demonstrate the physical vulnerability, she walked up to me and said, “if this were a martial arts situation, I could knock you down…” and she took her foot and nudged me on the inside of my exposed knee. This completely unbalanced me and I could see that if she had wanted to she could have landed me on my backside. The message was obvious: Don’t give away your energy!
This led us into a demonstration on the benefits of finding our center and being grounded, both physically and mentally. She had us break into pairs. I paired up with an older gentleman who had been standing next to me. Her instructions were that one of us would start pushing on the other’s upper arm in an attempt to off-balance. The person receiving the push was to resist and push back in order to maintain balance. My partner was not a particularly large man and I thought to myself “Great, I’ll give the poor guy a hernia when he tries to push me over.” On the contrary, when he started pushing me and me pushing back, he quickly knocked me off balance. Then the instructor had us try again — this time not resisting the push, but simply relaxing, finding our center and receiving the push. When my partner started pushing I did not push back. Amazingly, I could not be budged. I felt the energy of the push going right down my legs into the floor. It was the weirdest thing.
Then, we mixed up the pairs and this time I tried pushing this little waif of a girl. I could not move her, not one bit, when she centered and relaxed. By having a firm center, the energy is absorbed by the body and reflected back.
This blew me away.
I guess there is a lesson in this that could apply to just about any circumstance: If we find our center somewhere between heaven and earth and meet resistance with non-resistance, we ultimately are unmovable.
And this blows me away even more.
L. G. (c) 2010