Warrior Practise: Dragon & Tiger Prt 2

What is the most effective way to learn the layers of Dragon and Tiger?

Dragon and Tiger is a meridian-line Qi-Gong, and sometimes called “medical” Qi-Gong here in the West. This means that it works primarily with flows in your meridian-system, and in this case mostly with the Eight Extraordinary Meridians. In the beginning you don´t need to focus on them in your training; there are many other things that need to fall into place before you get into moving energy in the different yin/yang-flows or through the Eight. Unless your body is reasonably soft, you will be trying to force energy like forcing water through a garden-hose with knots on. This holds true further down the line when you get deeply into working with your wei qi in Dragon and Tiger; the body then becomes more stable (internally strong) and relaxed. For a general overview of D&T please read PART 1 of this 2-part post.

Nobody is going to the hospital with a relaxation attack – Bruce Frantzis

So below are some pointers to help you with your practice.

Step 1: Practice movements slowly to create smoothness, the smoothness will the give rise to rhythm and fluidity.

Step 2: Let yourself soften while doing the movement

The next step is simply that once you are reasonably comfortable with a movement, you start focusing on getting that movement progressively softer and more relaxed. Both step 1 and step 2 will continue to go in cycles in your training: over time they simply weave together at ever stronger and deeper levels of knowledge, softness, precision, and health-effect. Relaxation is a word that is almost impossible to use in the West, as it has acquired so many connotations that aren’t useful. Our intended meaning here is that you have learnt how to release unnecessary tension, and have an intention of becoming softer and more alive over time, slowly letting the deep internal landscape of your body to open more. For any deep health benefits one must relax and then move rather than move and then relax. The deeper you get into your body the more you will get in touch with your physical and energetic alignment. That feeling of strength that we are so addicted to in the west suddenly has a soft fluid quality to it rather than stiffness and compactness.

Step 3: Remember that your Internal Exercise (Qigong) training must be relaxed for your nervous system

See if you can slowly become more aware of how you feel when you practice. This is the first of many steps in how you eventually learn to work directly with your nervous system and thus deeper aspects of your physical and mental health. But in the beginning all that matters is if you can start getting a little inkling of how you feel. If you feel tense or stressed, this might be because of two things: the first is that you are letting your daily stress-patterns take over your training. See if you can release this, and slowly change it, since it’s really not good for you. The other is that you are trying to do too much in your training, which will release the same stress-patterns you began training to get rid of, and which you probably don’t want to make stronger.

If you notice that you are tensing up, do less. Do only the arm-movement, or only the foot-movement, or only one arm, until you feel that you are at a level where you can remain in your body and slowly get softer.

Step 4: Play a little with what you learnt in the workshop or class

Step 5: Never mind the breath-work – just keep relaxing

Breathing-practices are the most misunderstood training-techniques that exist in the West. In the old, more complete traditions of breath-work it is incredibly precise in how you build up the training, which layers you work with and in which stages, so as to make it work well and safely for your health. Most westerners really should not do breathing-practices until they are about five to ten years into the training; only after this are they usually relaxed enough to do it. But of course being a ‘must have now’ culture you can guarantee we will try and try to transform breath practice for health into exercise, which will only lead to problems in the internal organs, nervous system and digestive tracts. Then following the normal chain of events we will debunk traditional practices saying that they cause problems. We have seen this already with Yogic practices and some aspects of meditation and mindfulness based approaches. We simply do not want the steady approach to our wellness. It’s too slow. We’d rather ‘go big or go home’, and then wonder why we’re still anxiety ridden.

We westerners have so much upper-body tension that our lungs and internal organs barely have any space to move at all. So, at the start of your training, never mind the breath. Just relax; the more you relax, the more your breath will relax, and it will be organic, natural, without force or mental strain. Avoid linking the movements to breath until you are quite good at both subjects individually. Just follow the steps we have outlined here. You will breathe until the day you die. There’s no rush. Some folks often say that the Chinese are good at this stuff as they have practiced it all their life. I say, all of us have been breathing all of our lives and we are still rubbish at it. (Of course, any one of us can get respiratory problems) This is may be because we don’t practice it as a separate subject and also because we don’t understand the relationship between the state of our mind and the state of our breathing. So slowly, slowly to catch a monkey, as Master Ma would say.

Dragon and Tiger is a forgiving exercise. Even when done imperfectly and within a limited range of movement, it brings great benefits. Those who are ill or injured will want to stay within 50 percent of their capacity, exerting no strain at all. Those who are in pain will want to practice so gently that their pain will not increase.

For those who are healthy, practicing the full sequence once a day will help to maintain health and prevent injury. Those who are ill or injured may want to practice the sequence several times a day for up to four or five hours, always observing the 50 percent rule.

Whether it is for martial arts, health and fitness, recovery from illness, or calming the mind and spirit, Dragon and Tiger Qigong is well worth incorporating into one’s daily routine. Over time, those who do will find themselves moving easily and sinuously, like the dragon, and feeling very alive and totally relaxed, like the tiger.

The advice in the list here above is something you can practice for years, and it will give you an incredibly good, vibrant effect for health – especially for the internal organs. This is also the kind of slow, steady build-up of your Internal Arts training that will make traditional Qigong really flower for you in the long run, and evolve and go deeper as effectively and safely as possible. I hope you have found this text useful…and wish you the very best with your training.

These exercises are not a substitute for qualified medical advise. If you are worried about your health please seek advise from your doctor or GP before considering undertaking any movement practice. Happy Practice