Welcome to my new “Ask Sifu Anthony” series. This is a bit of an experiment. I’ve done this for years on Facebook and vial email, so I’m pretty sure that y’all are going to enjoy it. If you do enjoy it, then please let me know in the comments, or by liking it on Facebook and Twitter.
There’s a lot of research that suggests that asking questions is an essential part of learning. My experience says that this is true. I always take time for Q&As in my classes and workshops because I feel that it’s an essential part of bringing Qigong, Tai Chi, and Meditation into the 21st century.
Here’s how the “Ask Sifu Anthony” series will work.
- If you have a question for me, then post it in the comments section below.
- I’ll answer your question in NEXT month’s “Ask Sifu Anthony”.
- Comment below if you have follow-up questions to one of my answers, even if the original question wasn’t your own.
- Comment, like, or share this blog post if you’d like to see more of the same in the future.
For this edition, I’m using previous questions that were asked on Facebook, or via email. These are real questions asked by real people — some of them students, and some of them strangers.
Now let’s get to it!
Sifu, how does drinking alcohol affect qi flow?
If you’re asking how alcohol affects your Qi while practicing Qigong and Tai Chi — well just go drink a beer and find out for yourself! Since you’ve been practicing for a long time, you’ll probably find that there are both negatives and positives to this. You’ll probably be more relaxed, but your mind will also be dulled. Since the mind aspect is so important, this poses a problem. In other words, don’t drink and Qigong.
But if you’re asking how alcohol in general affects your health and your Qi over time — there are a lot of theories out there. There’s no question that it taxes the Liver Meridian, and can also cause chronic dehydration (which would in turn tax the Kidney Meridian). There’s also evidence that suggests that alcohol, especially wine, can be a health tonic.
The question is — how much does is too much?
In Chinese medicine, the answer depends on the individual person, their age, their overall health, and their lifestyle. There’s no strict rule because every person is different. If you drink too much for YOU, and you do that on a regular basis, then yes, you’re going to create problems with your Qi.
Full disclosure: I drink glass or two of wine with dinner. Is it too much for me? I don’t think so. Could it be too much for someone else? Definitely. Might it be too much for me if I didn’t practice Qigong and Tai Chi daily? Yep.
How can a Qigong practitioner get the best benefits of external exercise and regular Qigong practice ? Is internal and external development between the two mutually exclusive, or can they be complimentary ?
The concept of “integrating internal and external” is one of the Ten Essentials of Tai Chi Chuan (according to Zhang San Feng). So no, I don’t believe they are mutually exclusive. But they must be integrated and balanced. Too much internal training, and you’ll get fat and weak; too much external training, and you’ll get bulky and blocked.
That’s why I love Tai Chi Chuan — we need strength, flexibility, balance, agility, and of course, internal power. If you practice it right, then you’ll have it all!
For external training, I enjoy body-weight exercises, as well as methods like CrossFit that focus on functional, holistic strength. I also really enjoy challenging my balance and jumping abilities.
Running, biking, swimming — these are fine if you enjoy them. (If you don’t enjoy them, then stop torturing yourself and find something enjoyable.)
The key to external training is to use a holistic approach, like past Kung Fu masters. Don’t over-train, don’t push, don’t rush. Be sensitive to how you feel after training, and adjust accordingly.
Full disclosure: I personally enjoy doing Power Lifting (mainly dead lifts, back squats, and military presses) as well as body weight exercises (push ups and chin ups) as a complement to my Qigong and Tai Chi. I also like to practice jumping and balance exercises.
I see you have been trying out different diets. Could you comment on the effect that different ways of eating has had on your health, energy, and mind?
I wouldn’t say that my wife and I have been trying out different “diets”, but rather tweaking our general way of eating. We’ve been doing this for years. Our approach is to take the principles of Chinese medicine and then match them to modern theories about nutrition.
To answer your question — nutrition matters. Even if you practice Qigong, what you eat has a big impact on your energy and your health. Quite simply, the better I eat, the better my Qigong practice, and the better I feel.
And it’s not only what you eat, but how you eat. If you eat in a relaxed manner, chew well, and enjoy your food, then you’ll get more nutrition out of the mean than someone who hurriedly scarfs down a quick bite in a few gulps.
Hi Sifu Anthony! My question is this: Is a Qigong state of mind the same as being mindful / mindfulness?
Good question. First of all, I prefer to call it a Zen state of mind rather than a Qigong state of mind. Calling it a Qigong state of mind is confusing because we use the same state of mind (i.e. Zen) during Qigong, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, and sitting meditation. It’s not limited to Qigong.
Secondly, there are similarities between a Zen state of mind and what is often called “mindfulness” in the meditation community. But I wouldn’t say that they are exactly the same. If you want to read more about my thoughts on mindfulness, then read my article entitled: What You Should Know About The Mindfulness Craze
Are there specific Qigong exercises one can do for a specific health problem or does Qigong work in all areas?
Yes, and yes. Certain Qigong exercises help with certain issues. And certain Qigong exercises will help with everything.
Although I teach all 5 Categories of Qigong, I emphasize Medical Qigong as the base. Not all teachers know all 5 Categories, nor do they necessarily use Medical Qigong as a base. (Martial Qigong teachers, for example.) And that’s fine. But it’s not my approach.
With my approach, students start with general exercises, like Lifting The Sky, that are holistic and work on everything. In fact, I discourage fresh beginners from trying to target specific problems. It’s more important to let the body’s natural healing intelligence decide what order to heal things.
This is in line with the principles of Chinese medicine. Although you may THINK your problem is in your knee, for example, the underlying problem may be somewhere else, like your Liver Meridian. An acupuncturist will do a thorough diagnosis to get to the bottom of this.
With Qigong, we let the Qi naturally flow where it needs to go. In other words, rather than try to specifically fix the knee, we do holistic exercises to maximize all of the body’s healing ability.
Later, we can also add targeted exercises, but not before we establish a solid practice of general and holistic exercises.