Circle Walking is a remarkably effective practice that can be an empowering addition to your qigong repertoire. There is a rich history and a variety of ways to practice circle walking. I was introduced to Circle Walking many years ago when I was learning Ba Gua Zhang, an internal martial art closely related to Tai Chi Chu’an.
When I started studying qigong with Jane Jin, she taught a Circle Walking practice that was quite different from what I had learned earlier. It was surprisingly informal, light-hearted and filled with immediately felt benefits. We now practice this at all our workshops and retreats, sometimes twice per day. Many students have gotten long-lasting benefits from completing 100-day gongs of Circle Walking.
Why practice Circle Walking?
On a physical level Circle Walking activates and enhances digestion especially when practiced after eating. It regulates body weight and helps loosen up your lower back while also keeping you nimble and fit. Circle walking enhances qi and blood circulation in the lower limbs and generates qi in lower dantian, which strengthens your whole being.
Circle Walking is also a type of meditation that quiets and focuses the mind. Its continuous, simple and repetitive movement regulates breath and calms extreme emotions. People often feel deeply grounded and in harmony with their surroundings during and after Circle Walking. It is a unique and gentle way to practice allowing all thoughts and emotions to arise.
On a deeply energetic level, Circle Walking provides us an opportunity to connect with the spiral energy of nature. Through our movements we are mimicking the double helix spiral structure found in our DNA and throughout the universe.
“The spiral in a snail’s shell is the same mathematically as the spiral in the Milky Way galaxy, and it’s also the same mathematically as the spirals in our DNA. It’s the same ratio that you’ll find in very basic music that transcends cultures all over the world.” – Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Circle Walking Method:
It is recommended that Circle Walking be done after eating so that absorption of nutrients from food will be enhanced. Stand facing the center of the circle. Keep baihui lifted up gently and the back of your neck flat. This will allow qi to freely flow up and down. Tuck in your chin if needed to help flatten the back of your neck. Hollow your shoulders. Drop your elbows. Relax your whole body.
Turn to the right and begin walking in a counter clockwise direction. Walk in this direction for a minimum of five minutes, however, 10 minutes is recommended for most benefit. Then turn to walk in a clockwise direction for the same amount of time. Always begin in the counterclockwise direction and always walk the same amount of time in each direction. A complete practice would include walking 10 minutes in a counterclockwise direction and 10 minutes in a clockwise direction alternating so we go both directions twice.
To change directions there are a couple of methods to choose from. The easiest is with your outside foot forward pivot towards the center of the circle, continue until you are facing the opposite direction and begin walking. It is important to always turn to the inside to conserve qi.
As you walk hold your palms as if the center of your palms are holding a qi ball in front of your navel. Just walk at a natural pace, not fast or slow. Put one foot directly in front of the other. The bottoms of your feet greet the earth gently with each step. Steps should be gentle and relaxed.
While walking, withdraw your focus inward; you may softly watch the heels of the person in front of you. Breathe naturally in the beginning; after some time of practicing you can coordinate your breathing with your steps if you like. And/or you can chant the HYLT mantra quietly as you walk.
Whether walking indoors or outdoors, adjust the circle size to one that is convenient based on the space you have and the number of people walking. It is fine to walk in a very small circle; even as small as 6, 8, or 12 steps. When several people are walking, place 2-3 chairs in the middle of the circle for people to sit and enjoy the strong spiral energy in the center. While sitting in the center place your hands over your navel.
Always complete the practice of Circle Walking with about 10 minutes of Yang Qi (conserving qi) to absorb the spiraling qi. First-timers are often surprised by the internal sensation of spiraling qi and how good they feel afterwards. Once in a while someone may feel dizzy or queasy the first few times they practice. This will dissipate quickly with regular practice.
After some time of practice you may begin to notice what a treat it is to walk in circles accessing the healing benefits of nature’s spiral energy with your qigong friends. It is common for people to have strong feelings of gratitude arise while Circle Walking. That has certainly been my experience.
See you in the circle!