In this edition of Ask Sifu Anthony, you’ll find questions about the number of repetitions in qigong, practicing qigong under stressful circumstances, practicing tai chi and qigong together, neigong vs. qigong, qigong for insomnia, and a timeline for future Flowing Zen projects!
I believe that students should be able to get the answers that they need. That’s why I work so hard answering questions in our Facebook group, inside my online programs, in our webinars, and here on the blog.
Seeing other students asks questions that you might have asked yourself – and then reading the answers – helps too! This helps us all to feel connected to a global qigong community. It also helps those who are too introverted or too shy to ask a question.
Question 1: Asandra
Although I don’t know your specific version or practice, I studied with Qigong teachers for 9 yrs in California & have been practicing a total of 11 yrs. My question is: I practice 5 to 7 days a week and worked up to 36 repetitions for each movement. I generally do a total of 9 movements so probably similar to what you teach. How many repetitions do you advise for each movement?
Hi Asandra. First of all, congrats on practicing qigong 5-7 days per week. That’s wonderful! Keep up the good work.
The way that I teach is quite different than what you’ve described. The heart of my method is called the 5-Phase Routine, which is described in my book and also taught in the bonus course that comes with it.
The actual qigong movements go in Phase 2 and make up just 1/5th of this routine. With the 5-Phase Routine, we don’t worry about the number of repetitions. Instead, we devote a rough amount of time to the entire routine, and then divide that among the phases. Keep in mind that these are rough estimates. For example:
Spontaneous Energy Flow
How many movements do we do in Phase 2? Typically, I advise the following:
- Beginners should choose 1-3 favorite qigong patterns.
- Intermediate students should choose 1-6 favorite qigong patterns.
- Advanced students should choose 1-12 favorite qigong patterns.
So if you’re a beginner, you’re doing 1-3 movements in roughly 5 minutes. If you’ve been practicing for a year or two, then you’re doing 1-6 movements in 10 minutes. And so on.
But how do we split the time? It depends on the qigong pattern. Some patterns can be done for several minutes, like Lifting The Sky or Hugging Tree. Others are too challenging to do for more than a minute or two, like Iron Bull Ploughs Field.
If you’re using one of my guided meditations, then I time the transitions for you and tell you when to change. But with experience, you’ll discover which exercises you enjoy doing a little longer or a little shorter. Over time, you’ll develop a natural feel for each session without the need to count repetitions.
Qigong schools that don’t use the 5-Phase Routine will typically need:
- more patterns per session
- more repetitions per session
Why do they need more patterns? Because they don’t practice a rare technique called Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow (FBSW) in Phase 3 that circulates the energy freely through the meridians. Because they don’t practice FBSW, they need to rely on the qigong movements (Phase 2) for circulation, which isn’t as efficient.
Why do they need more repetitions? Because they don’t take enough time to enter into a Zen state of mind (Phase 1). Instead, they rely on the qigong movements to slowly get them into a meditative state. Again, this is less efficient.
Question 2: Mark
Hello, I’ve recently been scammed out of my life savings and worked up huge debts. Total amount being £79,000. Is there anything I can do with dealing with my stress and emotional struggle and pain that I’m feeling? My time is so limited so I don’t have much available. Any advice would be great.
Oh god, that’s awful Mark. That must be incredibly stressful. I’m sorry that you’re going through this.
Right now, your Monkey Mind is probably obsessed with the past and the future. It probably rushes from thoughts of being scammed and the things you could have done differently, to worrying about the future. This back-and-forth between the past and the future is part of why you’re experiencing so much emotional struggle and pain.
Mindfulness is the solution, and qigong is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness while also getting health benefits. From your submission, I know that you’re in your 30s, you’re relatively healthy, and you haven’t yet learned the 5-Phase Routine. With this info in mind, I think we have a clear direction to go.
Read my book, learn the 5-Phase Routine, and then begin to implement it. This is a small investment of time with a potentially huge return over the remainder of your life. The value of this investment is impossible to calculate, but I can say with confidence that it’s worth far more than £79,000.
Once you finish the book, all you’ll need is about 15-20 minutes per day to start feeling the effects. I wish you luck on this journey!
Question 3: Amy
Should I separate my classes, Tai Chi & Qigong or mix the arts together? I’m currently only teaching Tai Chi. Once I have gotten your 101 class under my belt, then I’ll have enough to go forward with more Qigong. Thanks for your help.
Hi Amy. In my opinion, tai chi should never be taught separate from qigong. Without some skill in the cultivation and manipulation of qi, tai chi is just a strange, slow-motion dance. It will still bring you some benefits, but these will be about the same as going for a walk or learning to dance.
However, many of the so-called “warm up” exercises that are taught in tai chi schools are often just qigong exercises in disguise. Do you have your students rotate their knees, or swing their hips, before doing the tai chi form? If so, those are both qigong patterns!
If we’re not careful, then qigong can also become a slow-motion dance without much energy cultivation. The key is to teach it as an internal art. If you want to know what that looks like, then my book is a great choice.
You don’t need to wait for the 101 to reopen in January. Instead, you can join the 201 when it reopens in June. But first, read the book and go through the free mini-course that comes with it. That will get you up to speed for the 201!
Question 4: Steve
Qigong is based on physical forms worked in a relaxed state of mind and body. It seems to smooth the passage of qi through the body. Neigong seems more alchemical: a means of opening your orbits and extraordinary meridians, and sublimating jing to qi etc. My question is, how is it that the Neigong methods I have been taught seem almost identical to those of qigong, but with an emphasis on ‘feeling’ your qi? Or are my assumptions all wrong?
Hi Steve. This is really just a matter of semantics. The answer to your question depends on how a particular teacher defines neigong and qigong. Let’s look at the two words:
內 (inner ) 功 (cultivation)
氣 (qi) 功 (cultivation)
As you can see, the 2nd character (gong) is the same for both words. In both cases, we’re talking about cultivating a skill over time through personal practice.
But qigong is a more modern term. Since 1949, it has been used as an umbrella term for many different qi cultivation arts. I myself use it as an umbrella as well. For example, I call the Small Universe (Xiao Zhou Tian, 小周天) qigong rather than neigong. But if anything qualifies as neigong, it’s the Small Universe.
Some teachers use qigong to refer to dynamic qigong exercises, like Lifting The Sky and reserve neigong for more quiescent exercises with less obvious movement, like the Small Universe. Again, this is just semantics.
I can’t really criticize teachers for using different terms. For example, Lifting The Sky and the Small Universe are pretty different even though they both fall under the umbrella of qigong. So if teachers want to call one of them qigong and one of them neigong, that’s their prerogative.
As an aside, I think that Lifting The Sky is more useful for regular people. The Small Universe is powerful and sophisticated, but it takes years to master. For a beginner who just wants to be healthier and move their body more, the idea of sitting cross-legged while imagining a stream of energy that they can’t even feel go around a loop of meridians that they don’t understand isn’t very helpful. In this sense, it doesn’t matter whether we call it qigong or neigong; the key here is pedagogy.
Question 5: Tanya
Hello! My question is, do you have a short routine for helping with getting to sleep to do before bedtime? I have trouble both getting to sleep and staying asleep. Eagerly awaiting your book which I have special ordered through a local independent bookstore.
Your insomnia is probably caused by a blockage in with one or more of your meridians. Don’t worry — almost everyone has blockages in their meridians! My point is that we need a holistic practice that helps to unblock all of our meridians.
My book will teach you the theory of qigong, both from a Western and Eastern perspective. Then the book bonuses will teach you the 5-Phase Routine, giving you something to practice immediately. And the good news is you don’t need to identify the blocked meridian to start getting results!
I recommend that you start by practicing the 5-Phase Routine early in your day. Don’t do it too close to bed or else it may keep you up. Later, once you’ve fixed the blockages and the insomnia, you can do your qigong at night as well. For example, I can practice qigong right before bed and still fall asleep. In fact, it helps me fall asleep.
Just adding the 5-Phase Routine every morning may be enough to clear your blockages. But remember to be patient. Changes like these don’t happen overnight.
Question 6: Ann
What is your reason for not teaching and practicing taiji chuan anymore? I am an avid taiji chuan practitioner who benefits greatly from it, both mentally and physically.
Hi Ann. I still practice tai chi. I also have a mini-course on tai chi that is part of my 101 program. But I stopped teaching longer tai chi classes for a few reasons.
First, because qigong was my priority, and remains so. There’s already a lot of tai chi out there, but I think that quality qigong instruction is lacking, especially online. That’s why I’ve put so much effort into my Qigong 101 and 201 programs over the last few years. And soon we’ll have a 301 program.
Second, because qigong is what people need. Many of my students have tried tai chi and found it stressful. This is more of a teaching problem than a problem with tai chi specifically, but it’s still a problem that needs a solution.
My book is now published and even hit bestseller status on Amazon for a week. This was my #1 priority for the last 2 years. Next comes a 301-level program. We already did part of it last year with a short course on Cosmos Palm. More coming soon.
After that, I will likely work on a qigong teacher training program. And then, after all of these programs are flowing well, I think I would like to do a Tai Chi 101 program.
If you know of a way to clone me so that I can get 2x the work done, then please let me know! From the heart, Sifu Anthony