I am also amazed at the number of people who sought advice although they had been to orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, osteopaths, sinsehs, bomohs, physiotherapists, etc. but their spinal problems remain. I am not an orthopedic specialist and my advice is not restricted to what is medically known about the subject. Qigong is certainly mumbo-jumbo to many doctors, but many patients have benefited from qigong therapy. A famous nutritionist ( Udo Erasmus ) says the answer to good health lies in common sense, and not in rocket science! Sometimes we rely too much on cutting-edge technology, and forget about the goodness of natural therapies and remedies.
A holistic approach to health involves looking into all the spheres that affect health – body, mind, emotions, and spirit. For specific problems and diseases, we look at all the factors that resulted in their occurrence, and all the factors that influence their progress or reversal. These factors always include diet, nutrition, lifestyle, and exercise.
For spinal problems, we look at other factors as well, which may include – posture ( in particular, spinal alignment ), nature of work, bone strength ( bone mineral density ), inter-vertebral disc integrity, suppleness and joint flexibility, hormone levels ( many hormones directly or indirectly influence bone metabolism ), and others, depending on the case.
X-rays and MRI are usually ordered by the orthopedic doctors for complete evaluation, and these are important diagnostic information even for alternative / complementary therapists.
In Chinese medical theory, qi has a very important role in the health of the spine. Today I will teach you how to energize the spine to keep it strong and free from problems.
CHARGING THE SPINE FROM THE EARTH
The Earth is an enormous reservoir of qi and this can be tapped to charge the spine. You need a good power of visualization for this exercise to be effective.
Stand in the basic Qigong stance. Then slowly lift both arms upwards until the shoulder level as if you’re about to hug someone. Your hands should be about 10cm apart, with the palms facing you and fingers slightly spread apart. This is called the Mother Posture ( a variation of the Wu Chi posture ).
Breathe in a relaxed manner through the nose while you visualize drawing the qi from the Earth, rising up into your toes, through the front of your legs, then along the inner thighs to your perineum ( a point in front of your anus ), then backwards and upwards along the spine right up to the area at the top of your head ( Bai Hui or crown chakra ). Visualize the energy as a current that charges each vertebra as it flows upwards. If you have an area that is painful, charge that area more with the qi. Some of the qi will also flow to your arms and you may feel a tingling sensation in your fingers.
Do it for at least 1 minute, gradually increasing the duration up to 5 minutes with practice. The qi will not only strengthen your spine, but also energize the internal organs that get nourished by channels branching from the main spinal channel. Frequent practice of this exercise also helps calm the mind and emotions.
This exercise is best done barefooted on the ground, but if that is not possible, you can still do it wearing shoes, provided the soles are thin.
With more practice, you should be able to do the spinal breathing exercise and send the qi in waves and pulses along the vertebrae and the inter-vertebral discs that make up the spinal column. This energy wave will then spread along the channels that branch out from the main channel or meridian to the inner organs. The spinal cord and the accompanying nerves are also bathed in the healing qi.
Stand in the Wu Chi Posture. As you inhale, stretch and straighten your spine. Straighten the cervical spine by lifting the back of your head and pulling in your chin. Tilt your pelvis gently forwards to straighten the lower spine. Visualize the qi wave traversing the full length of the spinal column upwards as you stretch. Relax as you exhale and feel the qi wave traveling downwards. The qi wave will also travel along the arms and cause a tingling sensation. Repeat for 1 to 5 minutes.
This exercise will gently massage the bones and the discs of the spine, and will gradually and painlessly correct minor misalignments.
REMEDIES FOR SPINAL MISALIGNMENTS
This is the third article concerned with the spine, and the prevalence of spinal problems requires much emphasis on the possible remedies. No wonder, apart from conventional orthopedic doctors, there are chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists, traditional massage therapists and others offering various options to the many people affected by the problem.
I know of a medical doctor in Denmark who gave up his medical practice to devote full-time to re-aligning crooked spines. He actually uses a hammer and a blunt chisel in his work! I was amazed to see him hammering away at the crooked spines of his patients. I was more amazed to know how many of us actually have crooked spines when the spinal column is actually traced out. The technique was taught by his former patient who was frustrated that he ( and many other doctors and complementary practitioners ) could not resolve her spinal deformity which caused her intractable pain. So she bought a skeleton and hung it in her room and studied it thoroughly until she decided that the only hope was to ask someone to knock her misaligned spine back into position.
There are also gifted healers who specialize in correcting spinal misalignments and injuries. I remember having injured my lower back about 12 years ago. At that time I was just learning Qigong and did not have much knowledge and confidence in the ability to heal myself. Although the pain subsided after one day, it persisted and was bad enough that I agreed to take a two-hour journey by car to see a certain old man in Masjid Tanah, Melaka, who was recommended by my mother. It was a torture having to travel with the painful back. Upon reaching his house, I had to wait another two hours. When my turn finally came, he held my feet, did a gentle twist, and said “You’re okay now”. And yup, the pain was gone. Two days of pain, two hours of travel, two hours of waiting, and it took him barely two minutes to cure me. My family members would shoot straight to Masjid Tanah to see him whenever they had spinal or joint problems. Unfortunately he has retired due to old age. I am sure there are many other gifted healers, and anyone knowing such persons should inform others who may need their services.
Qigong can also help those with spinal problems. Those with minor problems should try to heal themselves by doing the prescribed Qigong exercises. They should also do exercises that strengthen their back muscles. Those with chronic or severe problems can try Qigong therapists who specialize in treating spinal ailments. But like everything else, prevention is better than cure.
In previous articles I have stressed much on cancers, which is the second most frequent cause of deaths in Malaysia and most developed countries. The number one killer, however, is cardiovascular diseases, and I will devote the next few articles on Qigong exercises for the heart and blood vessels.