Breathing and stretching exercises for healthy practice and living
Compiled for Pianodao by ANDREW EALES
The Qigong for Pianists articles on Pianodao focus on those “secondary benefits” of Qigong which are particularly relevant to piano playing, with descriptive instructions for a few simple introductory Qigong exercises and techniques.
But it is likely that having experienced the initial benefits these bring, readers will want to find out more about Qigong, its background, and exercises. Qigong is a huge and fascinating subject, and there are a great many excellent books and other resources now available to help the Westerner with an interest in finding out more.
If you are keen to find out about the primary benefits of regular Qigong practice, here are some recommended books to explore. Between them they include practical advice, simple exercises for beginner practice, a philosophical grounding and general overview of the history, science, styles and applications of Qigong.
I have included a short description of each, which I hope will help you to select the right book for you. And elsewhere, Pianodao includes a growing number of reviews of other book and Qigong Resources here.
The Way of Qigong
Kenneth S. Cohen
Ballantine Books, 1997. 428 pages. ISBN 978-0-345-24109-8
Kenneth Cohen’s book is nothing short of a classic. Subtitled “The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing”, it provides a comprehensive overview of the core concepts and applications of Qigong, including the use of Qigong as a healing art and an in-depth look at seated meditation.
The book includes instructions for many simple forms, and places Qigong firmly in the context of other Daoist practices, including diet, massage, advanced breathing techniques and even drinking tea. It is an absolute “must read”.
A Complete Guide to Chi-Gung
Shambhala Publications, 2000. 326 pages. ISBN 978-1-57062-543-5
An alternative (or supplement) to Kenneth Cohen’s book, again giving a comprehensive overview of the history, core concepts and practices of Qigong, Daniel Reid takes a fairly populist approach, providing a highly readable account of the subject.
The book includes plenty of practical advice, and is easy to follow. A number of exercises are included, including a very helpful section introducing different breathing techniques. The book also includes plenty of general lifestyle advice which readers will hopefully find interesting, if occasionally idiosyncratic!
The Theory and Practice of Taiji Qigong
Lotus Publishing Ltd (3rd Edition, 2011. 192 pages. ISBN 978-1-905367-32-0
The bulk of Chris Jarmey’s excellent book is taken up with detailed instructions for the 18-step Taiji Qigong Shibashi form, which also provides some of the exercises included here on Pianodao, making it an excellent supplement to the free content here.
Read this book to learn the whole form. And in addition to the detailed instructions for the set, the book includes a superb explanation of Qigong practice and concepts, including some of the clearest guidance I have found for beginners. This is an essential and easy introduction for the Shibashi form.
Eight Simple Qigong Exercises for Health
Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming
YMAA Publication Centre, 1988. 96 pages. ISBN-10: 1-886969-52-3
Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming is a renowned writer and teacher of Qigong, with four decades experience and a large number of publications and videos available from his organisation YMAA Publication Centre.
This particular book includes a very good and fairly easy Qigong set popularly known as Ba Duan Jin or The Eight Brocades, which is the main form I myself try to practise daily. Dr. Yang’s books are characterised by providing an in-depth theoretical background, and there is a huge amount of information snuggling within this deceptively slim volume.
The videos originally produced to accompany the practical instructions are now available as a multi-platform app, which I would highly recommend for use alongside the book itself.
Chi: Discovering Your Life Energy
Master Waysun Liao
Shambhala Publications, 2005, 2009. 156 pages. ISBN 978-1-59030-695-6
This is a little gem or a book which you will read in an afternoon, but I think it is quite brilliant, and one to come back to again and again!
In a popular writing style, the author explains in simple terms what Qi (or Chi) is, and how to connect with yours. The book also includes a photographic introduction to a simple Qigong set, which should be possible for anyone to try out. Great stuff!
Qigong for Pianists
Breathwork has made a significant difference to my quality of life, health and wellbeing, with a beneficial impact on my piano journey.
I hope that by trying the simple exercises in this post you will discover similar benefits and be encouraged to explore the practices further…
In this article, I will build on the foundation of the exercises and ideas previously shared in the article Breathing at the Piano.
Here’s a short video in which I explain and show you how to warm your fingers using a simple, gentle qigong massage technique:
For those interested in Daoism (Taoism) this book of daily essays and insights is the perfect choice …
Are you sure that you breathe when playing the piano? It might seem like an odd question – of course we continue to breathe while playing! But to what extent are we aware of our breath, and how it affects our technique, musicality and comfort at the piano?
Here is a simple qigong practice that provides an easy hack for diminishing the effects of anxiety in our lives. It can help before performing, taking an exam, or simply enable us get through the basics of daily life.
Opening the Chest is the second movement from the 18 Taiji Qigong Shibashi form, and extends the Open and Commence movement previously shared here.
The Open and Commence movement from the 18 Taiji Qigong Shibashi provides a wonderful way to mindfully reconnect with the sensations in the wrist area, developing supple flexibility.
In this exercise you will focus on posture, alignment, balance, breathing, and release of tension. These are all crucially important for qigong practice, and of course for piano playing.
“For me, it is breathing that is vital. You must breathe naturally, like a singer. Pianists and string players often tend to forget the necessity of breathing and they can become very tense; then they get back pains and wrist pains and so on. Usually it can be sorted out through the breathing.”
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