Pros: Wide variety of exercises; well-detailed
Cons: Not really the first book I’d recommend to a beginner
Rating: 4 out of 5
First posted 12/22/2000
For the purpose of this review, I’ll quote the back of this book. For an in-depth discussion of what qigong is, please see my review of The Way of Qigong.
Qigong – an ancient Chinese system of breathing techniques and exercises that strengthen the mind, body, and spirit as they balance and augment Qi, or ‘life force.’
Qigong is believed to promote good health in some fairly impressive ways. If you haven’t heard of qigong you’ve probably heard of T’ai Chi, which is a specific sub-category of qigong.
This book calls itself “Beginning Qigong,” which implies that it would make a good first book for someone who is interested in qigong. While it certainly wouldn’t make a bad first book for qigong, neither do I think it’s the best first book. I’d more suggest it as the ideal companion to something like “The Way of Qigong,” which is heavy on theory, meditation, and useful detail and not so heavy on interesting exercises.
This book provides some useful diagrams of the meridians (channels along which qi is supposed to flow) and the major points on those meridians, but the pictures aren’t entirely clear. So they’d be more useful to someone who already had a vague idea of how the meridians worked than to someone just starting out in qigong. Also, some of the exercises refer to holding your breath between inhalation and exhalation (and vice versa) for 7-8 seconds. This can be a long time for someone just starting out who’s also trying to learn the movements and abdominal breathing at the same time.
To their credit, they do point out that you can do it for less time if you need to. I just think that if they’re going to put the word “beginning” in the title, then they’re better off suggesting that you start with 2-3 seconds and work your way up, rather than suggesting 7-8 with starting lower if you need to. The only two things that really make this particularly suitable for beginners are the non-threatening small thickness of it, and the clear, detailed descriptions of the movements.
There’s a wealth of exercises in here, starting from some very basic stretches that most of the other books just don’t cover. Now, while you want to have a certain amount of consistency to your qigong practice, it doesn’t hurt to devote one portion of your practice to trying different exercises out, particularly if you’re like me (in other words, you get bored too easily).
This book contains the six-part Warming Up Qigong Exercises. Everyday Stretching Qigong comes in three sections (which you are advised to learn and practice a bit at a time rather than all at once); section one has 10 parts; section two has 12 parts; and section three has another ten parts. (These alone could keep you busy for quite a while.) These are somewhat more stretching-intensive than most of the qigong I’ve encountered before, which is sometimes nice. Certainly it’s helpful to have the option to work with that.
Life-Prolonging Qigong comes in 20 parts, and includes some comparatively complex movements. The Thirteen Grand Preservers comes in the obvious number of movements (yes, 13), and also includes some much more complex movements. I haven’t felt up to trying these two brands of qigong yet, but I’ve read through them and I’m looking forward to them.
You’ll also find a good handful of breathing exercises, as well as some self-massage. About the only thing it really wants for is a good meditation section, but if you’re using this book in conjunction with “The Way of Qigong” then you already have that covered.
The movements are covered in great detail. You won’t feel confused by most descriptions, I believe. The pictures that come with the descriptions are likewise detailed and clear. Some of the movements even have individualized descriptions of what health-related benefits they are supposed to impart. Certainly each major set includes a summary of the benefits attributed to that set. In addition, you’ll find a chart near the back that sums up which sets of exercises are meant to help with what conditions. That way, you’ll know what you should do if you have poor circulation, need help breathing correctly, have fatigue that needs to be relieved, and so on.
This is probably not the first book you should buy when starting your qigong practice. But it is the second or third.