It's been around 6 weeks since I started waking up before 6am and it was a life-changing decision. When you wake up before the day even starts you avoid feeling like you're chasing it all the time. Those early hours are best spent when the focus is on ourselves and we do the activities that calm our mind or energize our body. Meditation is a one of the great ways to start the day.
What I like to do is get outside as soon as I wake up and start walking. I'll usually stop at a place where I can watch the sunrise and spend 10-15 minutes sungazing before I head over to the open gym to do calisthenics exercises.
This time I decided mid-walk to take the bus to the Zemun's quay, a promenade by the Danube river with stone levee that was built to prevent floods. The river is very slow in this section which attracts a lot of swans and other birds to rest near the shore and interact with the humans. Clubs and restaurants dressed like big rafts are anchored all along the shore.
It was such a peaceful morning that I had to take a moment and do my Qi Gong practice. If you are not familiar with it, it's an ancient Chinese form developed to build and strengthen the Chi (our life force energy). It is a beautiful practice for mind, body and soul. It is supposed to be effortless, pain-free and soothing.
It's main focus is getting control of our breath. If you find you are getting out of breath during the practice, you are pushing yourself too hard. Movements always follow the rhythm of the breath, not the other way around. That means everyone will do these exercises at a different speed, depending on how deep their breath is at the moment. Remember to always breath through the nose.
Starting off with foundational exercises is always a good idea. They will help you to start building the Chi and feeling it move through the body. This one is called Compressing the pearl and we start with slightly bent legs and our arms spread to the side with elbows high. The center of gravity should be in the lower abdomen region. Palms are facing each other. Inhale as you slowly rise up, hands lift to the side all the way to heart level. The center of gravity rises and is always in the level of the hands. Repeat these movements and see if you can start feeling the energy.
For this one, known as swimming dragon, start with your elbows in front of the body, hands in the middle, right facing up left facing down, legs slightly bent. Then start moving them in the opposite direction, right goes up, left goes down. They move on the same vertical line (same distance from the body) until one is above your head and the other below your hip. Rotate the arms on the top of the move and do the same for on the other side. Keep the body straight throughout the movement.
Diagonal flying - From the Ma Bu or Horse stance, start with the right hand in front of the throat and left in front of the lower abdomen. Rotate the right hip and knee and extend the right arm to the side (it stays slightly bent), thumb facing forward, hand slightly bent towards the viewer. Simultaneously extend the left arm in front, pretty far from the body. The other knee does not rotate, it stays facing forward. As you inhale shift back into the starting position, as you exhale do the movement on the other side. The main focus of the exercise is opening and closing the hips.
Rest of the workout is a bit more advanced so I'll leave the explanations for some other time. Breathing, form and patience is essential for the Qi Gong practice to take effect and help build and circle the energy towards every cell of the body - which ultimately leads to our increased health and longevity.
Nine Ghosts Drawing Swords
Black dragon displays its claws (alternative version)