This article recounts my first experience of spontaneous qigong…
What is spontaneous qigong?
Spontaneous qigong is a lesser-well known type of qigong practice. This is where instead of purposely leading the body’s qi by performing set exercises (similar to tai chi), instead the body’s qi-energy is allowed to move freely in the body.
What this means is that the body starts to perform all sorts of unusual movements – bends, twists, shaking motions, sometimes even dancing or yoga-type asanas. However, you do not control these movements. It is the qi (body energy) that leads the body. It all sounds somewhat esoteric and probably quite strange to people unfamiliar with this level of energy work.
One of the supposed benefits to spontaneous qigong is that it helps open up and widens the energy channels in your body and encourages a smoother flow of Ki-energy. This can benefit your health and help you to maintain a youthful state.
There is something shamanic about spontaneous qigong. It must be the same kind of movement as tapped into by the so-called ‘primitive’ societies. It is an ancient type of healing.
The spontaneous qigong effect on your body
If you are not at all familiar with the spontaneous qigong effect, it may seem scary. You have to trust in it. Or to be precise, you must learn to trust in your own body.
This may seem a strange thing to say but in reality, many people are disconnected from their bodies. We prioritize our minds and ego over our bodies. External beauty is more important than internal spiritual purity. Some of us (including myself) sedate ourselves with food, drink, drugs (illegal or prescription). Pains or health problems are drugged away or chopped out.
Spiritual or emotional desires are suppressed in some. Careers and money are put ahead of dreams and deep internal desires. Mental or emotional hurts are locked away in our musculature or our internal organs.
All of this restricts the smooth flow of Ki energy in the body and can lead to disease. To release this requires trust. We must learn to trust our body and the great self-healing potential our bodies have.
Let the boss fall
I suppose the best analogy is that clichéd corporate exercise, where company workers go on a weekend training course. At one point they are made to do the ‘trust’ exercise. This is where one member stands in front of another member and closes his eyes. He is then instructed to fall backwards. The member behind him must catch him. The falling member must trust that the person behind him doesn’t hate him enough (more than his job is worth) to let him fall.
Tuning into your body
In some ways this is the same with your body’s relationship to spontaneous qigong. You must close your eyes and let yourself go. Your body will catch you.
You (your mind) must trust in your body that what it wants to do is good for it. You must trust that no matter how bizarre the movements it wants to take – that it will not injure you. And some of these exercises are quite unusual. They may also seem more than you are capable of.
For example, it is quite common for a person practicing spontaneous qigong movements to be drawn into a backbend. Except they will go further than they would be able to go normally and when conscious. Yet, when you follow the spontaneous qigong movement, it will not hurt or injure you.
When you can and can’t control the spontaneous qi movements
There is one observation I have noted between self-practice of spontaneous qigong and when the spontaneous qigong effect is set off by someone else.
When you practice spontaneous qigong by yourself, you have full control. If you want to bring your practice to a close, you can do so by consciously bringing your energy back to your dantian (belly). If you don’t feel comfortable with a particular movement (eg. the backbend) you can usually redirect your body’s qi to move elsewhere and do a different movement.
On the other hand, when the spontaneous qigong effect is set off by someone else. For example a spiritually powerful acupuncturist sets it off with needles; then you have less control over the movements. The qi will be activated for a set period of time (in my case – an hour) and you will not be able to stop it. You will not be injured or hurt. But you must let the effect run its course. Afterwards you will feel much better and be on the path to healing.
For the first time a person experiences such an effect, it will seem weird and even scary (especially if you experience it when practicing alone). But just go with it. It is all good.
The rest of this article recounts my first experience of spontaneous qigong…
Designing my own qigong practice
Following on from Part 3 of this series of articles, during this period I was a university student. At the time, I was hooked on trying out various different qigong classes in London as well as reading many books on the topic. My motivation was primarily to heal from a digestive illness I suffered from.
After this period of study, I eventually learnt a simple qigong routine that I could practice daily in my room by myself.
My session was simple. I would start off with some gentle warm up exercises – rotating the shoulder joints, neck, waist and knees. Then I would do a variation of the qigong set – ‘The Eight Pieces of Brocade’. I repeated each of these 8 exercises, 8 times. This would take me 15 minutes.
To conclude my session, I would then do the standing exercise – The ‘Holding the Balloon pose’.
I was quite inspired by the set of exercises as described in the Qigong book ‘The Way of Energy‘ by Master Lam Kam Cheun. This simple book teaches a set of standing and moving Qigong exercises. This book became my Qigong bible and I practiced all the standing poses in it, sometimes for up to an hour each day.
I made a qigong video with a colleague performing some exercises from the 8 pieces of Brocade and a standing qigong pose. These exercise are carried out by acupuncturist and martial artist – Eitaro Hamano. Here is the video:
There are some other qigong videos available on the Qigong Video page. Check them out.
Qigong can be deceptively challenging
The first time I did the ‘Holding the Balloon’ pose for 20 minutes, my legs were aching. I was trembling and sweating. It was like a real workout but I persevered. Pretty soon, I was able to practice for up to an hour, sometimes more. The only challenge was not listening to the mind when it told me to stop and do something else.
I continued with this practice for several more weeks daily. One time in my qigong set, I was doing the 6th movement in the Eight Pieces of Brocade (Ba Duan Jin). This is what What Master Lam calls – “Touching the Feet with Both Hands, Reinforces the Kidneys and Loins”.
As I did this, I became aware that as I squatted down and stood up again, there seemed to be a strange quickness and ease to the action. Usually squatting can be physically challenging as you are lifting your upper body against gravity. However in this instance, it was almost like my body was bouncing up effortlessly.
Here are pictures of this movement from his book – The Way of Energy:
Exercise 6 of Ba Duan Jin
Going with it
So I just went with this movement letting it bounce me up easily. But then the movements started to intensify. I started squatting over-and-over again more quickly and without feeling tired. It was almost like I had a spring inside me and also felt like I was no longer in control of the movement. The movement was in control of me.
So I continued doing this and then my body entered another stage of movement. My arms started shaking quite dramatically and made lots of flaying movements. I also found myself bending over backwards and forwards and twirling my spine on an axis. My backbends were quite low. Much lower than I would be able to do usually.
Let go worries
This series of movements was quite bizarre as well as a bit scary. I was worried that I would not be able to stop these movements Yet at the same time, I was excited by it all and so resisted the urge to try to stop (in other words – to control). I wanted to see what else was going to happen. I carried on with these movements and just let it be.
Coming to a natural end
Eventually after about 45 minutes, I felt that I’d had enough and decided I needed to bring this to an end. I didn’t know how best to do this, so I simply told myself it was coming to an end and I laid my hands on my hara. It was kind of like I was taking back control after having my body on autopilot, just by flicking a switch.
Soon after I did this, the movements ceased and I took a few breaths to compose myself before trying to make sense of this strange effect. I wondered just what that was all about? It had been a little scary but also really invigorating at the same time. I had never known of such things before.
After I got over the initial excitement of this first occurrence, I found that I could enter the state again during subsequent qigong practices. For example, when I was doing a standing qigong pose, I would become aware of a gentle swaying movement in my body. This is a fairly common observation, as I have seen the same movement occur subtly in other qigong practitioners when they do the standing pose.
Once I noticed this sensation, then I would consciously lower my stance and become more grounded into the floor. For me, this would then set off the spontaneous movements and then I only needed to relax and go with the movements again.
The spontaneous movements seem like they can continue indefinitely, but after about 45 minutes, I would bring the exercises to an end. These days I can quickly activate and end these movements whenever I require. I also did a 30 day trial of spontaneous qigong in 2018 to explore what was possible with spontaneous qigong self-practice.
As I practiced these spontaneous movements, I experienced lots of different actions, e.g. – spinal twists, turns, backbends, arm waving, squats. I can even focus the energy into different parts of my body by adjusting my posture or directing my mind to a specific area.
For example, if I wanted the qi to move more in my waist, I need only bring my mind to my waist area.
Or if my body was set in a specific movement – e.g. spinal twirls, then if I altered my posture in some way by lowering my stance or straightening up, then the movements may move to a different area of my body. You just need to take some time to figure out how to direct the qi.
Advice on attaining a spontaneous Qi state
When trying to enter a spontaneous qigong state, it is not necessary to use the mind to direct the qi. In fact, it is necessary to do the opposite. You let your qi direct your body. This means letting go. You surrender and trust the natural rhythm of the body.
We all have a natural rhythm. The qi flows through the energy channels of our body constantly, but we do not feel it, unless you start a regular qigong practice. When you start practicing qigong, some people may feel an unusual sensation of pins and needles or a a kind of energetic ‘whirring’ sensation in your legs (Channels) at any time of the day.
It is the same way that we do not usually feel the blood pulsing through our veins, yet that does not mean there is no circulation.
Years, ago I came across a bodywork book in a second-hand bookshop. I dont recall the title, but the author referred to something called “the dance of the body” and recommended to tune into it. I believe that author was describing the spontaneous qigong effect.
Quiten and tune in
Qigong or meditation practice, means that we become quiet and tune into the natural rhythm. Then once we feel it, we give it space to express and allow it to move. All we need to is simply follow its swaying motion.
Gradually the movements become stronger. It is at this point, we have a choice. Either we can take control and direct the body to ignore these movements. Or we do the opposite and let go. We allow the movements to gradually intensify. Then they can become more dynamic. Our limbs may want to move or our body starts to sway more from side to side. We need only go with it. Let the mind take a backseat and just observe for once.
In the beginning, the movements may be erratic, we find ourselves twisting and turning in no specific pattern. We may bend over and straighten repeatedly or perform simple twists and turn to the side. Our arms may sway or rotate in circles.
Each of these patterns is a way for our body to unblock the channel pathways and encourage qi flows. The movements will be different for everyone as our blockages will be unique to us. Our body knows where the blockages are and will let the qi clear them. Our minds do not, except on an intellectual level.
Spontaneous Qi movements become more refined
For more advanced patterns of movement, you may find yourself led into elaborate dance movements, spinning, qigong or tai chi-type exercises, even kung fu poses. You may even find yourself making all sorts of noises – grunts, shouts, laughing. This is a type of qi gong practice best carried out privately, so you don’t have to feel self-conscious.
Usually these types of elegant movements occur in people where the initial blockages have been cleared and the Channels are wider. Although, they can occur earlier in people who have a regular bodywork practice like yoga or dance. This is because their Channels will already be relatively clearer.
During a period when I was practicing quite regularly, I found the spontaneous qi movements became more refined. On one occasion, I found myself carrying out tai chi type movements. Whilst, I have had the odd class of tai chi before in the past, I have never practiced regularly enough to memorize any particular tai chi set. These spontaneous qi movements were unlike any practice I had previously done. They were natural and seemed quite creative.
Teachings from God?
It is at this time, I realised that perhaps tai chi exercises were not just designed consciously by the ancient Chinese masters. Some of them may have evolved unconsciously from meditative/qigong practice.
On another occasion, I found myself practicing kung fu movements. Again, whilst I have dabbled in martial arts, I have never practiced any of them long enough to create ‘muscle’memory’. Also, I have also not practiced any of the ‘striking’ arts – i.e. punching, kicking – that kind of thing.
On another occasion I experienced a whirling movement. I will discuss about that in a later article.
Body, mind, ego and control
I know that in some people, spontaneous qigong can manifest as specific yoga movements. Whatever the movement, what is apparent is that this is a connection between your physical body and your energy. It is necessary to let go the mind in order to be in this state. The mind, which represents the ego is all about control. The mind also imposes beliefs on out lives. Some of which can be downright false, imposed from societal conditioning or a suffocating upbringing. So in this way, letting the qi flow naturally can be antidotal for our lives.
Our mind and ego is designed to protect us and to help us survive in this world. For that purpose it is necessary. On the downside, Our mind can set incorrect beliefs upon us, which by their very nature imposes limitations on us. These limitations also manifests as physical and bodily restrictions. This in turn can impede the smooth flow of Ki-energy. Practicing spontaneous qigong regularly can help us to connect to our body, to put the mind and ego into a hibernation state and release some of these bodily restrictions we have.
End of Part 4.
Part 5 to come soon.
Woman dancer in front of light – 123rf.com: ID 79741553 (S)