THE EARTH ELEMENT
The Earth element is about caring for ourselves, for others, and for the environment and Mother Earth. If your Earth energy is strong and in harmony, you will be a practical, intellectual, studious and strong-willed person. You will be healthy, have strong muscles, and enjoy exercise. You will have good relationships with people, and especially so with your mother.
To strengthen this element, stand in the basic Qigong stance ( feet parallel shoulder-width apart; knees slightly bent; arms by your side like a cowboy ready for a pistol duel; mouth closed with tongue touching upper palate; look at distant horizon ) then bend one leg ( left for men, right for women ) fully backwards and grab the foot with both hands. Breathe in ( relaxed abdominal breathing ) as you pull the leg and stretch your body. Breathe out as you relax without letting go of the foot. Repeat 3 to 6 times. Then slowly let go of the leg and repeat with the other leg. Be careful not to lose your balance!
Then kneel down on the floor. Let your body fall gently backwards and support your weight with your hands. Let your head hang backwards. Breathe in as you lift your hips and stretch your body. Relax as you breathe out. Repeat 3 to 6 times.
If you have healthy knee-joints, you can proceed to the next exercise ( if not, skip this ). From the above position, slowly lie down on the floor, with the knees fully bent, with your feet beside ( not below ) your buttocks. Do 3 to 6 cycles of Qigong breathing ( relaxed abdominal breathing while being aware of your breath, your posture, and your surroundings ). Feel your connectedness to the Earth. Be in harmony with yourself, all the people, and the space and structures around you. Carefully get up from this position ( you may need assistance if you are overweight! )
The Earth element is related to the stomach and spleen meridians, and these are stimulated by the exercises above.
THE METAL ELEMENT
A strong and harmonious Metal element means that you have confidence in yourself and also respect others at the same time. This element is about clarity of thoughts, about handling the boundaries between us, and about retaining and letting go emotions, prejudices, habits and beliefs. A disharmonious Metal element would cause you to be weakened by the inability to have peace within due to the entangled thoughts and emotions which you cannot change or let go. This will cause chronic stress and will alter your breathing, without you even realizing it. If unchecked, you are likely to be a heavy smoker, drinker, constipated, have breathing problems, and have difficulty in your relationships.
To strengthen this element, stand in the basic Qigong stance. Breathe in and look up as you bring your stretched arms towards the sky ( palms facing upwards ). Breathe out as you bring the arms down ( palms downwards ). Repeat 3 to 6 times.
On the last repetition, bend down ( as far as possible ) at the waist as you breathe out, and lift your outstretched arms backwards ( as far as possible ), locking the thumbs together with the index fingers pointing at the sky. Do 3 to 6 cycles of breathing in this posture. Then, slowly straighten up and lift your arms upwards again as you breathe in, and finally breathe out as you bring your arms down.
The lung and large intestines meridians are important for this element. Breathing gives us life and healing energy. The breath is our prime source of qi – the life force – which comes from the cosmic reservoir. The large bowel is the main elimination organ. It reflects your ability to eliminate toxic food wastes, as well as mental and emotional wastes.
THE WATER ELEMENT
This element is wholly about ourselves – where we came from, what we are now, and where we are going. It relates to our genes ( parentage ) and our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual constitution. A strong Water element means being healthy in all aspects – sturdy body, good posture, bountiful energy, enthusiasm, ambition, courage and success.
To improve Water energy, stand in the basic Qigong stance, and then turn your palms outwards just slightly raise your arms upwards ( not higher than your waistline ). Pay particular attention to your posture. The lower spine should be as straight as possible, and the upper spine relaxed but not overly hunched. While you do 3 to 6 cycles of relaxed breathing, imagine the cosmic life-giving and healing energy ( Qi ) from the heavens entering the top of your head ( the energy centre there is called Bai Hui ) down your neck to the bottom of your spine, giving health to your brain, the spinal cord ( and therefore all the organs it innervates ), and the spinal column itself. Imagine the Qi as brilliant white light continually flowing down through you.
Next, sit down on the floor with legs stretched in front of you. Bend slightly forward as you stretch your arms forwards ( palms facing outwards ). Breathe in as you slowly swing your arms sideways ( like swimming in butterfly style ) and straighten your back. Breathe out as you bring your arms close to the chest and then forward again. Repeat 3 to 6 cycles.
The relevant meridians are the kidney and bladder channels. Apart from the obvious connection to our “waterworks”, they are also related to the health of the back. Back problems bother many people and adversely affect their lives at home and at work.
THE WOOD ELEMENT
A strong Wood element means you lead your life to the fullest – living freely, in high spirits, full of energy, charged with optimism and making full use of what life has to offer. It reflects freedom, creativity and flexibility.
To improve this element: from the basic Qigong stance, bring one foot in front ( right for women, left for men ) and then turn your body 90 degrees to the opposite side, swinging your arms along as you do so. Breathe in as your slowly twist around to face the other side, swinging your arms along. Breathe out as you reverse the motion. Imagine you are doing it in between the trees in the forest, or the freshness of the lake gardens. Repeat 3 to 6 times.
Next, return to the basic stance. Breathe in as you lift the left arm sideways upwards ( palm facing up ) over your head towards the right side while you slightly bend your body towards that side. Breathe out as you reverse the movements, now bringing up the right arm and bringing down the left. Females can start with the right arm. Repeat 3 to 6 cycles.
This exercise can also be done while sitting down on the floor with legs stretched apart. The arm that is down is stretched to reach the corresponding foot while the other arm is stretched up.
The liver and gall bladder meridians govern this element and are stimulated with the bending and twisting. Stagnant Wood energy leads to stiffness of the body and joints. These stretching exercises are great for all of us.
THE FIRE ELEMENT
The Fire element is about our connection to our inner selves, and to the Universe. This is best exemplified in Yoga philosophy, which is about union of the Self with God/Universe. But you cannot make that connection with the Universe if you are not in connection with your inner self first. Qigong at the highest level is meditative ( and spiritual ) in nature. Good Qigong masters meditate while doing the still Qigong postures. Meditation is pure concentration and connection. Awareness and consciousness breathing are meditative exercises.
A harmonious Fire element means being at peace with oneself and the Universe. You will be leading a calm, balanced life, in spite of the hustle bustle and chaos surrounding you. You are in total control. You are likely to be religious, spiritual, and even psychic. You are loving, compassionate and full of empathy for others. You appreciate beauty and goodness, but do not waste time, money or energy on useless and material pursuits. You speak and live from the heart.
To balance this element, sit in the meditative posture ( lotus or half-lotus, or however according to your ability – even on a chair if you have to ) with your hands resting on your knees ( palms facing upwards ). Breathe in a relaxed manner while you contemplate on love, sharing and compassion.
Next, bring your heels together ( make your soles touch each other ) in front of you ( some may not be able to do this. If so – just continue in your previous posture ). Bring your hands in front of your chest as in the eastern prayer/greeting posture. Gently bend forwards in respect and humility each time you breathe out. Repeat 3 to 6 times.
Finally, in the meditative posture, breathe out towards your heart as you fully bend down, crossing your arms as you do so. Hold your breathe and stay in that posture while you make a resolution to be more loving, more caring and more respectful to yourself and to others.
May you all have fun and be charged with Qi as you try these exercises!