Nourishing the Heart Qigong
Christmas time is once again upon us, and that means one thing for sure: it's time to get stressed. The normally busy people of London are becoming super busy, panicking about this and that, trying to manage everything at once. Walking anywhere in the city now one can just feel the loss of grounding, everything up in the air, energy dispersed in all directions... when we should be doing the exact opposite.
The trees know better; now's the time to focus on the roots, bring energy down below ground. Hibernate, sleep. Conserve and preserve, action in inaction. Wu wei.
One organ in the body which easily becomes affected by all this external turbulence is the heart. While the physical heart might be strong and continue pumping blood day and night without stopping, there's also another heart: the inner Heart where the flame of our being resides. That heart needs to be protected and treated kindly, as it is highly sensitive. The Heart becomes easily upset, unhappy and out of balance. We all too often treat our delicate engine too harshly, and then become surprised when it suddenly starts complaining. Insomnia, restlessness, agitation, stress, palpitations, high blood pressure, worries of all sorts - we haven't been listening.
The Chinese have a name for this - Xin Huo, literally "heart fire". In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) the Heart is the organ of Fire and heat, and heat has a natural tendency of rising upwards. The Fire needs to be controlled in a gentle way, otherwise the Xin Huo symptoms might present themselves. The heat will go up, gather in the brain, and stay there. Our head will then become like a hot air balloon. Or a boiling kettle without a valve. We say the "brain has overheated" but we don't know why.
There are specific Qigong exercises aimed at balancing and easing the Xin Huo symptoms, and generally making the Heart happy again. One of them is the 5th movement in Baduanjin called "Shake the head and swing the tail". I present here another exercise called Nourishing the Heart.
Nourishing the Heart is a wonderful and easy method of balancing the Heart. It requires minimum space, and results can be felt even with a short amount of practise (5 minutes on a daily basis). This exercise can also be seen as a type of mudra or sacred hand gesture for healing.
Ready? Ok, let's begin.
Seat yourself comfortably in a chair, but keep your back straight. Make sure to drop the shoulders down, no tension whatsoever in the arms or hands. Slightly pull the chin in, so that the head becomes aligned and neck slightly straightened (Baihui becomes the highest point). Also, gently sink the chest 1 to 2 centimetres in, this will open the upper back and move shoulders slightly forward. Lastly, lift the top of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth (keep it right behind the upper front teeth, where it will feel natural and relaxed). Relax the whole body. Also, make sure your feet are touching the floor.
1. Lift your left hand in front of the heart. Keep the palm facing in, with fingers together. Again, no tension in the hand - relaxed, open palm.
2. Bring right hand under the left hand, to support it. Left hand is now resting in the right palm, both palms facing in. Keep elbows down.
3. Start opening and closing the left hand, gently, in a slow rhythm. Breathe in and out through the nose. Keep both the breathing and the left hand movement natural, don't force anything.
4. Start rotating the right hand around the left hand in a slow, deliberate manner. Imagine your left hand being a ball, and the right hand is circling around that ball. Don't worry about which direction to go with the right hand, just keep it moving around the left hand.
Keep going as long as you wish, preferably at least for five minutes. Focus on the warm feeling generated, both between the hands and inside the body. You can keep eyes either open or closed. After you finish, bring both hands in your lap, and rest comfortably for a moment, before returning to your daily activities.
Happy Heart nourishing!
Here's a video which shows the Nourishing the Heart Qigong: