“I am letting go to the right. I am letting go to the left.” These few words coax me along as I swing into a simple standing movement that has become a real go-to for me. It is a warm-up I almost always teach in my classes because it does more than prepare the body for yoga class — it also clears the mind.
To start, stand with your feet apart. Place them wider apart than your hips, which might be anywhere from 10 to 30 inches apart, depending on the length of your legs. You want to feel comfortable and stable.
Soften your knees and let your arms relax like they are “empty coat sleeves” hanging from your shoulders.
Begin to swing the body to the left, turning at the waist and bringing the hips into the turn as you spin onto the ball of the right foot and lift the right heel. Let your arms and hands swing and follow the momentum of the body. Then repeat on the other side. Go back and forth at a pace that feels right for you. It could be gentle and slow one day and a bit faster another. This gives a lovely full body twist.
A lot of people find they have a tendency to hold their arms and hands stiffly, so they don’t release and swing fully. Unclench all that and let your breath follow the movement, breathing in as you twist to one side, breathing out on the other. This is where my “I am letting go” mantra comes in.
Once you feel you are relaxing and your arms are swinging loosely and easily, you can add an energy massage to this movement. Make gentle fists with your hands and allow the hand that swings back to gently tap your lower ribs as it swings. At the same time, allow the front hand to gently tap the top corner of the chest as it swings forward. Now you are stimulating two important meridians (energy channels) in the body. This is a Qigong exercise.
Qigong is an ancient practice, like yoga, to enhance health and spiritual development. It has its origins in China, though, while yoga comes from India. I find the two practices complement each other.
This twist balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The two symmetrical sides are responsible for the different ways we process sensory input. Conventional theory has long held that the right brain is associated with creativity, emotion, and abstract thought, while the left hemisphere is associated with being analytical and methodical, which makes the idea of seeking harmonic balance between the two sides appealing.
Recent research is showing that the right-left split is not so exact, and it is becoming clear that complex functions are better explained in terms of networks that may spread across large areas of the brain. All the better to stimulate both sides of it.
Besides, seeking balance in all ways is important at this rich time of year. There is so much to do. And there are so many more people around us. My town, Truro, goes from a population of about 2,400 to some 18,000 during the summer. All of this can be overstimulating at times. My yoga practice helps me to slow down enough to enjoy the moment. The Qigong provides refreshment.