Before starting any Qigong practice the mind needs to be in the right headspace and the body needs to be relaxed. While jumping into a Qigong practice without some type of calming or warm-up exercise will not hurt you, doing so will allow you to cause you to be more stiff and tense than if you prepared, much like the feeling if you avoid stretching before a workout or yoga session. Therefore, it is important to add a minute or two of “pre-Qigong” exercises that will calm the body and enhance the flow of Qi before starting active exercises.
In the Spring Forest Qigong School, founder and head teacher Chunyi Lin has students begin by bouncing on the heels up and down with the arms and hands in the air. This looks strange to the outside observer, but the mechanics behind it are interesting. Firstly, putting your arms up in the air and allowing the hands to dangle above the head opens the lung channels. When the arms are down the lungs are contracted but when the arms open the lung channels open more, allowing the body to activate energy in the area. Meanwhile, as the feet are bouncing on the ground the energy generated in this exercise allows the legs and many other parts of the lower body to loosen. The stomach meridian is also activated in this exercise since it is connected to the feet, so many people find that bouncing allows one to digest easier and promotes increased metabolism.
You should then bring the bouncing slowly to an end and come to a comfortable position with your hands near your side. At this point in the SFQ school you can raise your arms to enter the Formation of the Universe pose, which is the beginning stance as if entering the SFQ Level 1 exercise Moving of Yin and Yang. However, you can also add visualization from another school of Qigong that doesn’t interfere with SFQ’s before raising the arms to begin the Formation of the Universe, which is the visualization of the body disappearing. Starting from the head, imagine every part of the body disappearing until you get down to the toes. Repeat this 3 times, with each time performed slower and in a more relaxed fashion. By the end your mind will be calmer, the body more relaxed and you may even perhaps feel tingly. These are all signs you are starting to activate Qi and that your body is ready to get the most from the active exercises.
After you finish whatever active exercises you prefer, we now need to “Harvest the Qi,” which means we need to take the energy generated from the practices and spread it out for the best results. The harvesting is the closing or finishing exercise of Qigong like stretching after a workout. You could also think of it like taking a glob of peanut butter out of the jar and putting it on a slice of bread. You could eat it that way, but it would be better if it were spread out evenly across all four sides. Your body’s energy is the same. Therefore, the SFQ School recommends that when finished you clap your hands together and rub them until they are warm, and then proceed to rub your face lightly. This is both relaxing and activates various meridian and muscle areas in the face. Following this, you comb your fingers across your head and tap the top all the way to the back, repeating 3 times. Finish by patting the arms, the sides of the torso, the chest and the back from the kidney area down to the tailbone. Finally, lift up from your heels and drop down similar to how you bounced in the beginning exercise so the energy goes down to the lower parts of the body.
These sequences may seem like a lot but each one actually only takes 10-20 seconds once you get the hang of them. They are crucial to any Qigong exercise and are highly recommended for anyone who is practicing or wants to practice SFQ. Other schools of Qigong have closing exercises built into them but the movements are much more complicated. SFQ is all about simplicity and these opening/closing exercises are something anyone can do without needing to receive special instruction from masters.