Question re: Pain during Standing, Sinking Chi

Home Forums Archive The Five Keys to Taoist Energy Arts Week 6 Question re: Pain during Standing, Sinking Chi

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    Again, thank you for this excellent and very helpful course, Paul. I’m finding the information deeply helpful and enriching.

    I’m wondering if there’s anything you might be able to suggest regarding a situation I’ve been having for many years. I have a severe scoliosis that began around age 4-5 yrs. Now, with advancing years and a diagnosis of osteoporosis, the lower thoracic/upper lumbar curve has increased and I’ve consequently been having increased nerve compression with a high level of fire-like pain that gets worse the longer I’m vertical and – until now, with the full tail squat – has only decreased when I “get horizontal.”

    I was AMAZED by the relief that the full kwa squat has provided. The first time I did the full kwa squat, it truly felt like a miracle! Thank you so very much for this! The pain does return with gravity / being vertical, but now I can relieve it with the full kwa squat, sometimes for as long as a few hours!

    My question concerns doing Standing Training and Sinking Chi simultaneously. Less than five minutes into the standing training the lower thoraco-lumbar pain begins. I can feel the chi coming up from the lower lumbar area and then, when it hits the blocked spot (possibly a fused area), the fire pain begins full force. This also happens during t’ai chi practice. The remedy I have usually used with this was to bend from the hips and just “hang” to stretch out the compression, which has always given only minor and very temporary relief. Now I do a couple of full kwa squats and can then continue to stand. There is some pain, but it is not disabling like it was before I knew about the squat.

    I’m thinking that the chi ascending up the spine during the standing meets the blockage of the fusion and that the consequent pain is due to the resistance to the conductance of the chi. And I understand the sinking chi to be water chi. Is this correct? If so, if the vertebrae are fused (I’ve been told that some of them are), it would take quite a long time and much struggle with the pain to break down / dissolve the fusion so that the spine can straighten. Most medical doctors and health practitioners say that it’s impossible to break down the fusion. And my experience with my training since 1990 along with weekly acupuncture treatments through 2011 would seem to bear that out. But perhaps the sinking chi practice could do this?

    I have trained in weekly hour-and-a-half classes with a third generation Wu Master from 1990 to 2009. During that time I was able to stand for an hour a day, sometimes longer. In more recent years I stood for 40 minutes a day for several months. With the increase in pain in recent years, however, I stopped doing the standing. I have resumed gradually with this class, working my way up to 20 minutes per day. The standing I did before, however, was not using water chi. So I have the thought that perhaps the sinking, and then the dissolving practices might be effective, along with the current nei gong training we’re doing in this course.

    I love the training. With rare exceptions, I’ve trained daily since beginning in April of 1990. It always helps me feel better. This body has made 71 trips around the sun. Any thoughts or suggestions?

    Thanks for your time and thought in responding.
    Marcia Cotton


    It sounds like the kwa squat is really working for you. I’m pleased.

    Concerning standing, the idea is to raise the upper thoracic and drop the tailbone-sacrum, which should open up the vertebrae in between. When the pain comes on strong, chances are you’re compressing some vertebrae. This is because the body’s habitual patterns become reinstated after a very short period of time. Generally, I advise that every two to three minutes you re-raise the upper thoracic and re-drop the sacrum-tailbone to maintain an open spine. If you find this does not alleviate the problem, then it’s fine to do two or three kwa squats in the middle of your standing practice to relieve the pain. But please be aware that this is not the ideal and is only an interim solution, until you can make the necessary adjustments to your spine–without using the kwa squat.

    Concerning sinking qi, it is necessary to hold the upper thoracic spine still in space while you sink your qi down through your entire body. Let this qi grab the back of the pelvis, sacrum-tailbone and really draw it down towards the earth. This will be immensely helpful for opening up the spine. If you feel there’s any pressure in the knees due to the pelvis descending, open up the backs of the knees and raise the whole spine. Then, once again fix the upper thoracic in space and drop the back of the pelvis. Repeat this process throughout your standing practice and don’t push yourself trying to do long sessions!! Do shorter more regular practice, and only increase your practice time when you’re not getting pain anymore.

    If some of your vertebrae are fused, chances are standing, sinking and/or dissolving will not be enough to release the vertebrae. There are higher level neigong practices that MAY be able to help, but they will absolutely require that you have gained control over your spine (as best as you can) before attempting those techniques. What the dissolving might do is clear the condensing energy from the spine that is causing the problem in the first place and pave the way for the higher-level material.


    Thank you for your helpful reply, Paul. I feel more clear about how to do the standing/sinking practice now. When I incorporated this in my standing practice yesterday it was very helpful. I only had to stop and do the kwa squat w. tail tuck once, toward the end of the 20 minutes. Today I didn’t have to do the k.s. at all to relieve pain. Each time I felt the hint of pain starting, I lifted the spine and dropped the pelvis, sacrum, and tail. I am amazed at how simple this is and how quickly it works! Thank you again!

    I also have a lot of pain in the right should – in the sh.’s nest, the sh. notch, the muscles across the top of the shoulder and to the left of the sh. blade (liver reflex area). Also, in the elbow and wrist, mainly at the lung meridian points. So, when I sink chi down the arms, should I just send it through the space between the hand and the floor, or does it go through the leg since the alignment has the hand slightly touching the thigh?

    You say, above, that the “higher neig0ng practices…will absolutely require that (I) have gained control over (my) spine….” How will I know that I have that control? What does that control consist of me experiencing or being able to do?

    Again, thank you for your time and attention in responding to my questions.



    As you go through your qi gong practice, especially in standing,
    you will find all sorts of aches and minor pains throughout your body. First, standing
    engages the tension that already resides in your body and, from ongoing
    practice, you can slowly release it. As for the arms, you simply drop the qi
    out of the fingers as low as you can go.

    What I mean by “gaining control over your spine”
    is that you can open the spine upwards, while simultaneously releasing downwards
    the sacrum, tailbone and for that matter the rest of your entire body.  Also, no matter how long you stand, your spine
    will not condense, contract or distort. These are the fundamental principles
    that you’re developing in your standing and you don’t need to project your mind
    forward into the future about what might come into play down the line. Instead,
    focus on what you are practising in the here and now. Just relax, stay present
    and take it easy on yourself!


    Thank you, Paul, for your reply. I understand better now what you mean by “gaining control over your spine.”

    Staying present is an ever-present challenge, no?

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