Book: Shaolin Qi Gong: Energy in Motion
By Shi Xinggui
Destiny Books, 154 pages, 2007, DVD included.
Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1594772649/?tag=askdrarca-20
The great teacher Bodhidharma is credited with the creation of Shaolin Temple qi gong and kung fu in the 6th century CE. Motivated by the terrible physical condition of the monks who spent all their time meditating or copying scrolls, his two-part system promoted physical as well as spiritual fitness and became the basis for all the martial and meditative arts taught in the Shaolin Temple. These ancient practices increase physical health and vitality, enhance creativity, and can be practiced well into old age.
Author Shi Xinggui, a Shaolin monk, explains the fundamental principle of qi gong–the art of mastering energy (qi) and moving it through the body–and provides clear demonstrations of all the positions and movements. In order to develop qi attentively, it is necessary to cultivate the art of slowness in both movement and breathwork. Shi Xinggui provides both a short form and a long form of the daily exercises, with lessons on heart centering, organ strengthening, and balancing the energy using the three dantians–the three energy centers of the body. A 53-minute DVD of the exercises performed by the author is also included.
The preceding text is from Amazon; I couldn’t have explained it all any better than that. So what do I think about the book? After simply reading the book, I have to say I thought it was all a bit silly. A collection of very slow, very gentle exercises where you probably wouldn’t break a sweat. From my American background, where people routinely spend hours at the gym and consequently end up seeing a doctor for a sports-related injury once a year, this seemed less-than-productive.
But then I watched the enclosed DVD, and it all became clear to me. He is so slow, and so graceful in these videos that it becomes obvious what the benefits will be. This seems to be just as much about inner peace as it is physical exercise. I have gained a new respect for the topic after watching the video.
The book is a glossy photobook with enough text to explain what’s going on, but not so much as to detract from the many full-color pictures of Shi Xinggui doing the exercises. The text and pictures are large and generous; you’ll be able to understand fully what he’s doing just by looking at the pictures. If not, there’s always the video. The DVD is a professionally-produced disc with attractive printing and various chapter stops. The soundtrack that accompanies the exercises is perfect. All but the last five minutes are videos of Shi Xinggui doing exercises silently. The last 5 minutes are brief biography of him, all in on-screen text- there is no speaking or voice-work at all on the DVD.
If you are looking for a VERY low-impact exercise system that will, at the very least, improve your flexibility and peace of mind, pick this up and follow along. I would imagine people with severe arthritis or similar problems might have some difficulty with this, but if you are simply out of shape or overweight, that should be no hindrance to doing everything in the book.