A synopsis by Todd Plager
Qi Gong exercises are roughly defined as “energy exercises” where “qi” means “air” though in this context is translated as “energy” and “gong” means “exercise”. Red Palm is a Qi Gong system that can be beneficial in opening the channels between the five limbs and the dantien. The five limbs are the two arms, two legs, and the neck-head. As the dantien is the storage area for qi, opening these channels will help the flow of qi reach the extremities. Enabling the flow of qi to the two palms (the lao gong points), the soles of the feet (the yong quan points) and the palette (roof of the mouth) will also benefit those practicing taijiquan.
Those practicing Red Palm may notice that their palms have indeed turned “red”. This condition and that of leaving a red mark on an opponent (sometimes this mark may appear at the point of impact as well as on the opposite side of the body!) provides the adjective from which this system derives its name. Red Palm is an “internal” form of qi gong. In contrast “iron palm” is the external form of this type of qi gong. In addition to opening energy channels of the body, Red Palm practitioners will build a stronger awareness between their bodies and the environment.
The seminar given by Mr. Yan on June 5th, 2004 focused on the first five postures of the Red Palm system – known as the Tiger Section. The Tiger Section is only one part of the extensive Red Palm Qi Gong System. After completing some warm-up exercises (in this case Eight Pieces of Brocade) the seminar focused on two sections:
1. Meditation Exercises
2. The Tiger Section
In movement training, such as taijiquan, the common thread of focus is posture. In meditation, the focus is on the breath. These preparatory meditation exercises will assist those new to focusing on the breath, and help to connect the breath with the body. One can sit in a chair, crossed legged on the floor or in a lotus or half lotus posture. Practice each of these exercises in order for 5-10 minutes each. In between each posture you may stand and stretch. If you have difficulty with any exercise, go back to the previous exercise, work on that one and then move forward in the series again.
Place your hands over your dantien (men place left hand over right – women place right hand over left) – the area just below your navel. You may also rest your hands palms down on your knees or over the area where your legs cross.
Focusing on your breath, count each time you exhale up to ten. Then start again, each time counting to ten. If you lose your place or your mind wanders, just come back to the count. Remember to focus on the exhalation of your breath – not the inhalation. Do not match your breathing to your counting, rather match your counting to your breathing. This exercise will help bring awareness to the act of breathing and begin calming the mind and body.
Position your body as in Exercise #1. Continue to count each time you exhale. Now focus on how you are breathing – the feeling of the breath coming through your nose down into your lungs. Notice how fast or slowly your breath is coming and how shallow or deep the breath is. Do not try to control or alter your breath, just bring your awareness to it.
Again, position your body as in Exercise #1. Continue to count each time you exhale. Now focus on the connection between the belly and the breath. Bring your awareness to the feeling of breathing and the feeling of the belly moving.
Place one hand on your upper chest and your other hand on your belly. Continue to count each time you exhale. Release the tension in your chest and relax as you breathe. Let your inhalations happen as they will and each time you exhale relax the chest and let the belly relax outwards. Use your hands to provide sensory feedback on your breathing. As you practice the upper body will get lighter and the breath will sink lower in the belly.
In this exercise, place your hands palms up on your knees. Follow the same instructions as in Exercise #4. As your chest relaxes bring your awareness to the middle of each palm – the lao gong point. You may feel some warmth in your palms at this point in the series.
Maintain the same posture and follow the same instructions as in Exercise #5, but now turn your palms face down. This exercise is a “link” to Red Palm Meditation.
Maintain the same posture and follow the same instructions as in Exercise #6, but now turn your palms face out in front of your body. The tips of your fingers rest at shoulder height. Be sure to keep your elbows dropped and your shoulders relaxed. Again, upon exhale feel out to the center of your palms. This is the final preparatory exercise before beginning Red Palm Qi Gong.
RED PALM QI GONG
The Tiger Section
There are two styles of internal Red Palm Qi Gong: a soft style and a hard style. The seminar focused on the soft style. The order of the exercises is important, so be sure to practice them in the order given. As a preparation for Red Palm, stand in Wuji meditation with the hands at sides for 3-5 minutes. Be sure to “return to wuji” in between each of the different exercises resting the hands over the dantien for a moment. These exercises can be practiced with the emphasis on the exhale or inhale, though beginners are advised to start with the exhalation.
As you breathe focus on keeping the chest relaxed and the belly soft as in the meditation exercises detailed above.
When practicing the series and focusing on the exhalation you should feel as if your palms are extending outwards – without actually moving! When practicing for inhalation, one should feel as if the palms were “grabbing” – again without actually moving.
The series works in multiples of seven. Each posture should be held for seven exhalations. The fifth posture is a movement cycle and should be completed seven times. When you want to increase the length of each posture add seven. So, you would start with seven, then: 14, 21, 28, 35, 42 and 49. 49 is the maximum number of exhales or repetitions for any single posture. After completing all five postures for the given number of repetitions, one may do a second set focusing on the inhalation.
Stand with your feet hip to shoulder width apart. Place your hands at your sides with palms down towards the ground. Be careful not to kink your wrists. Focus and count each exhalation to seven. Relax your chest and allow your belly to expand upon each exhalation. Bring your awareness to the center of your palms and feel as if your palms are extending. Return to wuji.
Stand as in Posture #1. Bring your palms up in front of you until your finger tips are
about shoulder height. Remember to keep your elbows dropped and shoulders relaxed. Breathe as in the previous exercise. . Bring your awareness to the center of your palms and feel as if your palms are extending.
Stand as in Posture #2. Bring your palms up over your head so that they face towards the sky. Do not bend the body backwards or look upwards. Breathe and feel as in the previous postures.
Stand as in Posture #3. Bring your palms down and out towards your sides. Remember to keep the elbows dropped and the shoulders relaxed. Feel as if you were extending your palms outwards. Breathe and feel as in the previous postures.
The fifth posture is actually a movement cycle incorporating all of the previous four postures. It is performed in one continuous movement. Start in Posture #1, move to #2, then #3 and finally #4. Then repeat the cycle for a total of seven times. Let your body breathe as it will, but continue to focus on the exhalation. Be sure to perform the cycle in the order described above.
After completing the entire series you may choose to do a second set with emphasis on the inhalation.