Learning to Relax

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Some of the people who enquire about classes at my Studio want to know if bagua is as relaxing as taijiquan is, incorrectly, reputed to be. They seem to find it problematic when I tell them that bagua is about stretching and lengthening, that this can eventually undo chronic tension, but that the practice is initially anything but relaxing!

The muscle tone and efficient body mechanics required in bagua are relaxing in the sense that real relaxation is related to creating postural integrity which encourages deep abdominal breathing, and loosens and stretches the body's connective and muscular tissue. In traditional terms, this encourages the Qi to flow in an unimpeded manner throughout the body.

In Western medical terms, rhythmic exercise, by the alternate contraction and relaxation of muscles, improves circulation and avoids or minimises the pain and fatigue caused by muscle tension. It accomplishes this primarily by dispersing accumulations of lactic acid, a by-product of chemical energy production in the muscles. It is also true, particularly for older students, that doing the form provides a weight-bearing exercise that can slow or prevent osteoporosis.

However, it is more likely that the first few months of classes will serve only to elevate the stress levels of the average beginner as he or she discovers that learning qigong or the fundamentals of form is not as effortless as it looks. Even with adequate and sincere instruction a novice is more likely to leave class tense and frustrated if he or she is unhealthy or unused to regular physical activity.

Patience, perseverance, good instruction, regularity and moderation in your personal practice outside of class time are particularly essential in the first few years.

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