My experience with Energy Arts and Internal practices began in earnest some years ago with a Qigong form called Opening the Energy Gates of the Body, I bought Bruce Frantzis’ seminal book of the same title and arranged to have a few lessons with an instructor. After a lifelong but sporadic interest in martial arts and health practices, I had begun training in Wing Chun Kung Fu some years earlier. It was described as an internal/external style and the internal part fascinated me (more of that later). I really took to it and was soon training pretty much every day.
Wing Chun has lot of practices that develop sensitivity and the ability to feel, it’s very kinesthetic and requires you to be in the moment and aware. This did wonders for my health and stress levels, and opened a whole new world to me. The relaxed concentration used was akin to some forms of meditation, and I just didn’t worry or churn thoughts whilst training or in class. fantastic!
This led to an interest in the other internal styles – Tai Chi, Bagua, and Hsing I. I wanted to go further down this path and see what was there. I will say at this point that I had never been a physical or sporty person, so to engage in these things and love them was a surprise and a delight.
So what does ‘Internal’ mean? it’s about having your mind in your body, being comfortable, and using your relaxed intention to create results rather than any kind of strain or muscle tension. When you first discover that this really works, it’s quite the experience! So, as feeling and being aware led me into a whole new world, I started to find my health and internal state as fascinating as the martial arts. I also found out that I was in a near constant state of habituated tension, in my nerves and in my body, quite a common experience once you finally get out of your head/thoughts and into your experience a little. I had now taken stock of my situation and was ready to go about improving my health and experience of life… Back to Energy Gates Qigong ….
It starts very simple – You Stand. That’s it, or is it? There is always something going on whilst you stand. You notice where your body is misaligned and start to be able to release ‘stuck’ areas of the body. You also learn to ‘sink your chi’ or drop your natural energy through your body. The first time when I had let go and accomplished this somewhat, there was a mighty downward ‘whooosh’. A huge sense of emotional relief, and the INSIDE of my body started to feel increasingly wet, and well, really nice. Are you able to feel the inside of your body?
The Energy Gates form then progresses to ‘Cloud Hands’, a movement found in most Tai Chi forms. This seemingly simple movement encompasses pretty much all that you do in Tai Chi, so it was very appealing to someone eager to get started. In ‘Cloud Hands’ you learn to link and connect your body together, you move one part and all parts move. Sometimes it feels as if your body is moving all by itself, and some days it really doesn’t!! But it’s something you can drop into at any time of the day, and I consider it to be a mini and portable workshop that I can be in anytime of the day. The progress can be slow connecting yourself internally like this, but those days that you do look back at and see just how much you have progressed feel really good!
From there the form progresses to 3 ‘swings’ and the Tai Chi spine stretch. These exercises are about letting it all go, releasing downwards and outwards, calming the nervous system, and feeling very grounded. The form makes a person very aware of what tension and contraction feels like in the mind, emotions, and body and it slowly makes a habit of releasing it.
‘There are many long and intricate Tai Chi forms out there, Energy Gates is more about the qualities within those movements, your internal state and your alignments.
It feels like you’ve been given a gift (although you are required to do your part to learn it), a little gem you can retreat to anytime, be comfortable and enjoy developing. I’m so glad that I got started on this path and to do my own small part to spread this immensely valuable material. I have invited my teacher and friend Aaron Green over from the US to teach a five-day Energy Gates Qigong retreat in Anglesey, Wales, UK this October.
The retreat will serve as a solid foundation for beginners, and as a chance to go deeper for the more experienced practitioner.
Aaron Green has been teaching Energy Arts for more than 20 years and has trained extensively with Taoist Lineage Master Bruce Frantzis www.energyarts.com. Aaron is a seasoned practitioner and a gifted teacher of Wu style Tai Chi, Longevity Breathing, and various Qigong practices which embody a high level of energetic ability and sensitivity. For the past 10 years Aaron has also been using Craniosacral Therapy and Qigong Tui-Na to help his clients achieve various goals: from improved posture to chronic pain relief and remission of incurable conditions.