INTENTION: A Key Aspect in QiGong practice
Updated: Aug 10
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” - Shunryu Suzuki
In order to achieve the desired effects with the practice of QiGong, we need to approach the practice with the right intention and attitude.
This is quite difficult to describe with words, as it is not only abstract but also quite subjective. That is why I started this article with a quote that belongs to the Buddhist Zen tradition and that it can give us a glimpse of what this is about; a beginner’s mind. With this intention we can approach the practice of meditation, QiGong, Yoga or actually any other discipline that demands to be fully aware and conscious; even daily life.
Essentially, when practicing QiGong, each movement should be done as if you were exploring it for the first time. Do not take it too seriously. Play like a child, exploring your own body…
Since we repeat movements, sometimes referred as ‘QiGong sets’, it is very easy (in my opinion) to get caught in a mechanical practice. Just going through the movements does not mean that we get the full benefits of the practice. If we miss this attitude, where the mind is completely focused and the body is as relaxed as possible, the practice won’t bring any effect more than the movement itself…
Since we are working with the nervous system, the brain and the mind, we need to achieve a very relaxed state and move as if each movement had a very special meaning for us. In that state is where the brain can be changed, a concept known as neuroplasticity*. In that state we unlearn dysfunctional habits that we have created. In that state we get rid of tension, not magically, but because we start using the body more efficiently. In that state we heal injuries, just because we are more aware on how to use the body properly. In that special state, we also activate the parasympathetic nervous system also known as “rest and digest” system, so don’t be surprise if also you digestion, evacuation, appetite, sexual energy, menopausal symptoms and sleep get better.
Entering and working from “this state”, can have tremendous effects, and I do believe this is what makes a huge difference in the practice. After knowing it, you understand why so many disciplines can be used for healing and why even cooking or walking can be approached as a healing practice. Eventually what we want from this type of awareness is to permeate in our daily life. In every single action. Every time we walk, talk, write something down, and specially when dealing with stressful situations.
On the other hand, improvisation and variety are great concepts to keep in mind for your QiGong practice. Try to avoid exactly the same routine over and over. Even though, you may be repeating a certain QiGong set, try to do a different warm-up, different way to cool-down afterwards… Try the difference between going for a walk versus laying down on the floor after the practice. How does this small change affect your body? We all have felt how some things feel so good when tried for the first time, but then this sensation fades away as we keep repeating it.
If we can approach each practice with a fresh mind, with no expectations, with innocence, feeling totally like a beginner, observing the body and being conscious of our own breathing, then the practice will have a tremendous impact in the whole body, and sometimes will also have miraculous effects.
* Neuroplasticity, also known as neural plasticity, or brain plasticity, is the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization. These changes range from individual neuron pathways making new connections, to systematic adjustments like cortical remapping. Examples of neuroplasticity include circuit and network changes that result from learning a new ability, environmental influences, practice, and psychological stress.
Neuroplasticity was once thought by neuroscientists to manifest only during childhood, but research in the latter half of the 20th century showed that many aspects of the brain can be altered (or are "plastic") even through adulthood. However, the developing brain exhibits a higher degree of plasticity than the adult brain. Activity-dependent plasticity can have significant implications for healthy development, learning, memory, and recovery from brain damage.