I did the full series of postures and movements I know this morning. It took about 45 minutes, which means that I’m going too fast today. But I have to be at work early on Fridays, so I guess that’s OK.
This isn’t a term I’ve used before: “Full series”. So let’s begin with an explanation of that. I did the qi gong form called Eight Pieces of Silk, and followed that with the other qi gong form I know, Five Golden Coins. When I awoke, I was stiff. I’m getting older, and parts of me are not waking up in a state of readiness and easy movement like I used to. That has to change. So I did what I think of as the easier qi gong movement series first. Eight Pieces of Silk has eight different movements, performed eight times each. That’s 64 movements, which amount to eight shoulder and leg stretches, eight spine twists, eight shoulder stretches, eight neck stretches, eight spine and shoulder movements, eight toe-touches, eight squats, and eight ankle-and-knee stretches. I was a lot more limber when I was done.
Then came Five Golden Coins. This movement series consists of five movements done 16 times each. That’s 80 movements, and so even though it’s fewer postures, it’s a great stretching series. The first movement limbers up the spine along the vertical axis; the second through the spinal twist left to right and right to left; the third works on the forward reach. Then the fourth flexes the full stretch of the spine from the toe-touch to the arms fully extended above the head, and the fifth is squats.
By the end of both series I was considerably more flexible. The stiffness in my right ankle was gone, and in my right elbow. And with that I was able to move on to doing the tai chi form, four times.
I’m getting better about recognizing where I am in space. When I started, I only did tai chi facing east. I was kind of obsessive about it. Now I do it four times, facing each of the cardinal directions in turn: East, South, West, North. I started by doing this to honor my druidic work, but it’s becoming its own thing. This morning I worked in the office, and as I go through the form, I turn past and around each part of the room. Here in the southeast corner is my drawing table and painting easel, which is also the sewing station. In the southwest is the little woodworking table, which is about to go into the basement (although the tools will stay in the tool chest and go up and downstairs with me when I need to do woodworking… the basement is a little too public). The northwest corner is the filing cabinet and the bookshelves. The northeast corner is storage for the mechanical parts for a machine I’m building. To the north is my desk, to the east is the mantlepiece filled with photographs, to the west are more books. This room is a kind of microcosm of my intellectual and artistic life: painting and woodworking, building, and reading and writing. As I do tai chi, I rotate through these domains. And I can see at a glance what is stale, what is disordered, what needs fixing, what needs renewal.
It’s very soothing to work through the tai chi form in here. By the end of today’s series, I’ve broken into a light sweat, gotten some exercise, and I feel ready to face the day. Which begins in about twenty minutes.
Time to get a move on.