Turtle Spirit Playing in the Water
Updated: May 11
This video is the 11th in a series of 16 that will explore each Snake & Turtle movement in a little more detail. It is a resource for beginners to learn the basic motions. Later, I will present more advanced methods of cultivation and deeper layers of skill that can emerge from this practice, step by step. Please take your time to study each of these exercises in detail, and only begin following my practice sessions once you've grown comfortable with the instruction.
Turtle Spirit Playing in the Water
靈 龜 戲 水 (líng guī xì shuǐ)
The instruction video: https://youtu.be/0AFpeW5MyL8
Turtle Spirit Plays in the Water is a journey through the world of spontaneity and play. Throughout Snake & Turtle, we explore methods and movements that disentangle physical tension and inflexibility. Each joint is allowed to explore a full range of motion, and entirely new possibilities in our bodies are investigated. While this exercise continues that trend, it asks you to soften something else entirely: mental & emotional rigidity.
Standing comfortably, imagine that your body takes on the characteristics of a turtle floating in the water. Begin by feeling that your back is covered with a strong & nourishing turtle shell. It has the nature of supporting your spine and allowing your musculature to relax under its protection. Take your time to feel this quality as it corrects your posture.
The shell embraces & unites your whole spine, allowing it to remain stable while your waist is allowed to move freely. Notice how it helps your tailbone sink, and your head supported upward, lengthening your whole spine.
Spare a moment to allow these aspects of your body to transform and be revitalized by your fortifying shell, a tiny turtle smile on your lips.
Imagine that your turtle body is immersed and suspended in warm water. Floating in this liquid is nourishing and comforting. Feel the drifting currents that swirl around and through your body and notice how you naturally begin to drift along with them. The more you let go, the easier it becomes to experience. How does it feel to allow these undulations to lead your actions effortlessly?
As a form of spontaneous qigong, there are no set movements to follow. You are free to explore whatever motions feel satisfying for your body. Take as long as you'd like to integrate this new style of circulation as it flows through those areas that are usually dry and stiff. Even your breath becomes more nourishing as your torso is saturated.
With the buoyancy of the water holding you up, release the weight of your body to fall through your torso, hips, legs, and a meter beneath your turtle feet. Let gravity and the currents move through you without the need to catch and hold it anywhere. Weightless.
Begin allowing the water to move you freely around. As though you are swaying alongside seaweed in the ocean, your waist rotates gently from side to side, and your arms follow the same currents. Expanding, returning, swirling up and down, side to side. Liberate your feet to move lightly and without inhibition as you are carried around. Notice the type of intuitive listening required for this style of expression. This listening will play an essential part in your healing and cultivation. How can we heed the signals sent by our body and our environment unless we can hear and understand them? Learn to be sensitive & quiet. Maintain a consistent thread of awareness of your navel during this practice.
As you discover the freedom that comes from getting out of your way, notice how good it feels to be weightless and uninhibited. Have some fun pretending to be a turtle. The need to be serious during qigong is a kind of tension that will inhibit every movement, and the cure is found within play. What motions would feel particularly good to express at this moment? What about an activity that is just silly and expressive? Find a way to blend listening and following the flow of the water with a release of your creative instinct.
Experiment with swimming upward through the water, your head and shoulders becoming light and free.
You can also investigate what it feels like to swim downward, your feet and lower body becoming soft and nourished. It's as though your upper body is cool and light, and your lower body is warm and full.
Try swimming as though you are gathering water in toward your belly. As your breath and body soften, feel the water gather gently into that space behind your navel. Slowly taper your movements as the water keeps you feeling light and buoyant. Hover your palms for a moment in front of your abdomen before resting your hands there.
I had great difficulty with this practice for several years. It was challenging for me to let go of my sense of control and need for perfection. This form of mental-emotional tension deeply impacted my body and ability to relax. Many of my clients suffering from anxiety have experienced a similar difficulty, and learning to be silly and playful has been wonderfully healing and transformative for us. As you practice, ask yourself how much of your physical tension results from your own need to control. Learn to listen instead of insisting, let go instead of command, and play instead of work. You will find that this can transform your life.
The Next Step:
Continue studying each of the Snake & Turtle exercises at this basic level until you begin a daily practice of the entire series. Begin to practice these movement principles at all times. Sitting, standing, walking, and lying down are opportunities to cultivate softness within structure and to take yourself a bit less seriously. Later videos will explore every aspect of these principles in various practices.
Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang was an incredibly skilled and knowledgeable instructor who inspired an entire generation of qigong practitioners. Perhaps his most important skill was his ability to be comfortable and light-hearted during training. He had a settled mind and an easy smile even while cultivating at the highest levels of skill. He told his students that for every repetition focused upon improving our skill, we want to balance it with six repetitions while letting go of effort. Enjoy your practice, and keep that equilibrium in your life, too!
Feel free to share the most joyful moments in your practice in the comment section, and remember to record them in your journal whenever they occur.
Let your inner child come out to play. Happy training!
Remember that this is only a tiny part of a more extensive system and sequence of teaching videos. Subscribe to my channel to learn more!
Make sure that you begin your practice at the beginning of the sequence
Ready to train? Follow along with traditional practice sessions
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