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Arron Collins-Thomas - Episode 3 - Qigong

Watch Episode 3 here

If you would prefer to read Arron's latest vlog - check out the video transcript below


Amy Williams:

Hello, it's Amy Williams here for the U Perform channel. And we are back with Arron our U Perform fitness expert. And today we're going to talk about Qigong. Is that, how would you say it? Have I even said it right?

Arron Collins-Thomas:

Yes, you did actually that time, you said it wrong a number of times when we were rehearsing.

Most people get it wrong because of the way it's kind of spelled with a Q and an I. So Qui gong, I get quite a lot. But it's like C H I, Qigong. Qi is energy, right? So Qi is that kind of vitality, that life force that flows through us. So that it can be the heat that we feel in our body. It can be that electricity that flows through us, that kind of magnetic field that we have, or just kind of that zest for life, that energy we naturally have. So that's what Qigong is.

Gong means practice or play. So we're literally working with your energy or playing with your energy to kind of keep yourself healthy.

Amy Williams:

So take it back a little bit. How did you find this? How did you suddenly from your fitness guy lifting your weights in the gym, go to this holistic, Eastern practice?

Arron Collins-Thomas:

Yeah. Everyone thinks it's a bit strange that I do it because it's typically a practice that's only done really in China. It's a bit like Tai Chi. So everyone when I talk about it goes "don't old people do that" and they don't really see where I've come from. I mean, I still play a bit of rugby lift weights in the gym. I do this as well. And it was like that doesn't really make sense. That's not really where I would put you.

But I've found it through a really good friend of mine. Katie Brindle, who's a Chinese doctor. She introduced me to Chinese medicine and got me kind of quite hooked on it. It just made sense to me, some of the stuff she was talking about. So I decided to study something called Tui na, which is acupressure massage.

When we were doing that course. They taught us some Qigong moves to help kind of keep our energy strong and to look after our bodies if we were healing people who were ill. These really simple moves had such an amazing benefit on my body. And I was like, okay, well maybe there's something a bit more in this. And I was studying a bit more Chinese medicine. So I decided to go to Thailand to a retreat there where they do Chinese medicine practices, acupuncture, and in particular they do Qigong there.

And so every day we did Qigong and I just got hooked. It just made sense to me. I felt great. It was so simple. And I knew that there was some way that I could help kind of get this into the public eye because most people have no idea what it is. I've never even heard of it or even want to try it necessarily. Because I think "Oh, it doesn't seem like it's doing much", but it's so much more powerful than people realize. And so in the last kind of eight years, I've been integrating that with my personal training clients. I've got some amazing results.

Amy Williams:

So it's for everyone then? Who's your typical person that can do it? How would you get the normal person involved?

Arron Collins-Thomas:

I mean, it is for everyone. Every age, every demographic. Yes, we generally see older people doing it or versions of it like Tai Chi because it's a slow gentle movement, but it's not always slow. Everyone kind of sees that side of it, but there is a harder style as well, which is something I also teach known as the five animals.

Each animal has like a different kind of fitness attribute. So one's about balance. One's about strength. One's about agility. You learn these key parts to fitness that can help kind of improve all aspects of life. So it's not just about the slow bit, the Yin style stuff. You also have that kind of more Yang. You get that balance of Yin and Yang then. So anyone can do it just depends on which part of the spectrum you want to join.

You can do the harder stuff or you can do the lighter stuff. So I think people need this kind of exercise in their lives right now. Something that's a bit more gentle rather than feeling like they have to go to the gym every day and slog it out and actually put more stress and strain on their body and probably on their health overall.

So Qigong I think has come at a good time. We're getting out there really spreading the word and throughout lockdown I've seen 300 probably in the last 12 weeks, all over Zoom. So there's obviously a need and a want for that now. People are realizing that their health is internal and in their mind, not just how they look on the outside.

Amy Williams:

People have had that time haven't they at home if they haven't been working. That slower pace of life. So you said there were different styles a bit like yoga; there's different types of yoga that you can go to. What style is it that you do?

Arron Collins-Thomas:

Okay. So yeah, you're right. There's loads of different forms and styles of Qigong. It just depends on where you are in China or where you learnt it. What kind of linear do you follow? It's normally passed down through the generations and you'd spend your time learning that specific style.

So I teach something called 'The 12 Rivers'. That's my main style that I teach. And basically in Chinese medicine, there's 12 main organs that they witness. So, each of those has an energy channel that flows through the body. So if you've ever had acupuncture or any acupressure massage or anything, they'll be working on the energetic channels of the body when they flow down one side and not the other.

If you imagine that one flows into the other and so on, and they go in a specific order. If there's a blockage in one of those channels, or the energy is disturbed in some way that would affect the flow of energy and it will then affect the flow of energy to the next one and that will then affect how your organs are functioning. So this style aims to move energy along those pathways to make sure there's no blockages just to keep your energy healthy, to keep everything working well, internally.

The other thing, is that our organs hold onto our emotions in Chinese medicine. The postures and moves that we do are all about realigning the postures that will be in our emotion. So for example, if you have sadness or heartache, the posture might be internal here. You might be crunched in from the chest, like if you had a stabbing pain in your heart. So the move would be aiming at opening that area up to find balance in the emotion so that you can witness the emotion healthily rather than being stuck in one.

So once you realign the postures of the body through your emotions, then aches and pains start to go away. Shoulders loosen off. Then the circulation helps with things like arthritis. I've had some amazing testimonials in the last few weeks with people kind of saying the aches and pains have gone. Their sleep is getting better. Their digestion's better. They just have more energy, more zest for life. There's a whole myriad of things that people are healing themselves with it. It's been amazing to me to help people.

Amy Williams:

Sounds like I need to actually sign up. I'm already thinking, right. I know I have digestion problems. Bloatedness sore back, dodgy this, dodgy that, sciatic problems. I'm thinking... ooh I wonder where my blockages are?

How can we sign up? If someone like me wants to come along, maybe have a few mates, sit around. Can we sign up on Zoom or would you normally then be doing it on a weekend course? How does it go?

Arron Collins-Thomas:

So at the moment I'm running week long courses, Monday to Friday, you have an hour a day and you learn those 12 moves. And then you have to put that together to create your own sequence to suit you. I suppose the beauty of it is that you don't actually need any equipment. You don't need a yoga mat. You don't need any special clothing or any weights. So it's really accessible and anyone can do it. All they need is a computer or a phone, and it's all done over Zoom. So people sign up to the course through the website which is @hayoufit.

There's an Instagram channel as well, where we put a load of free videos and things. And in fact, I think I will show you a few moves to get you guys started. So you know what you're letting yourself in for.

Okay. So time for some Qigong moves. Are you ready? Ready to get a little bit weird? People often think Qigong is a bit strange, some of the moves are a bit funny, but we're just going to have fun with it. It's about having a bit of a laugh, enjoying your body and enjoying the way that you move. So first thing we do is about breath work, we've got to calm our bodies down. We lead these stressful lives.

So the breath work is we do three dragon breaths. I'll show you that in a minute and five inner smiles. You're going to have fun with this one.

So a dragon breath is you take a deep breath in. I'll go first, then you can follow. And then as I breath out I stick my tongue out and go... And I try to empty everything from the bottom of my lungs. Clear out any stress, any stagnation.

Sticking the tongue out isn't just to make you look stupid. It actually has functions. If you stick your tongue out your mouth, it releases the tension in your jaw. It's very difficult to clench your jaw with the tongue hanging out. You can try that if you want.

And then we do five inner smiles. Inner smile, as you breathe in through the nose and then out through the nose or mouth and you just smile into your face and you smile into the body and get some positive vibes. Okay? So we're ready to go. So 3 dragon breaths and five in a smile. So in through the nose, out through the mouth tongue out. In. One more. In. Inner smile, into the nose, out through the mouth, smiling into the face, smiling to the body, let the body relax. And again, in and out. We're doing five of these, just get slower each time. In. Two more. In. last one. In.

Hopefully you weren't too stressed coming into this, but you might feel a bit more relaxed and really easy breath, but it just takes you down a bit. If you had a stressful call or an argument with someone and your kids have stressed you out, just take a step away and do that one. Probably not in public that stuff, it's a bit weird, but you can do that on your own. And that's great.

So the next move we do is shaking. We start by shaking your wrists, shaking your shoulders. We're going to shake everything in the body. What we're doing here is we're moving stagnation. Start to shake your legs. If you can't stand on one leg and shake, you can just, wiggle your thighs like this? And get the shaking going on all out to the toes. The more stupid you look the better, really? So get the arms up. Whatever feels good for you. You're laughing. You're feeling good. Shakeout stress, shaking out the shoulders. We tend to sit quite a lot. We are quite still in our bodies. We know that our bodies need movement to stimulate digestion, to stimulate lymphatic drainage. Just let everything go, let the shoulders go, whatever feels weird and wonderful.

I've done this on camera loads of times. Okay. Then when you relax what you might feel your whole body is tingling and buzzy. So if you do that for a little bit longer, a minute or two, if you're ever tired, that will really wake you up. It's just because you've disturbed the Qi you've moved the energy of the body. We've moved blood, removed stagnation. Moved lymph. So it's really good for overall health, that one, and just waking you up when you feel that you need lots of good benefits.

Then the next move we can do is something called spinning mandarins. We don't actually have any mandarins with us, so we're going to be spinning active collagen. So this is really good for shoulder mobility. Great for the back. Great for the core, take it slow to start with until you warm up into the move and then you can do it deeper and deeper.

Okay? Keep this on the palm. You can do this with anything when you're home, you can do it with a piece of fruit, just something small that you don't mind dropping. So you're not going to break it or damage anything. What we do is; both hands at the sides with your right hand, you're gonna reach out to the left. You're going to sweep around in front of the body, watching the hand as you come around the back of the head, try and keep that palm open and walk through that all the way round and coming through around the back of the body. And then as you warm up, you can do a bit more range of motion so we can sweep right the way through leaning back into it. You've got to keep going as well.

Good. So that's it. Try and keep that wrist right. So it's really good for shoulder mobility. Opening that up. Great for the back. Great for the core. And it's a really nice flowing move. If you breathe in through the nose and out through the nose and focus on the areas that are tight, that when we get around the back here often, it feels like you want to hold your breath, breathe up through that, releasing some of the tension and stress of the body. Keep flowing through. Just do one more on that side and then we'll change hands. Yeah. Sweeping all the way around, So you start to release the shoulder, release the back. Great for mobility. And we talk about free flowing, like having a bit of a free flow state.

When you breathe and meditate into this, there's no beginning or end to the move. We reach out to the right and sweep round. Good. Palm stays open. Come round the back of the head. Try to watch that hand. If you can keep that wrist flat, good. Having something in your hand makes you really focus on the move and make sure that you do it right. It's going to make sure your shoulders really open up. Good. We'll do a couple of these on this side.

Really simple movement, really effective. If you have been sat at your desk all day and your shoulders are stiff, you've got really poor posture coming into this move will release all that, and will just open you up. So it undoes the effects of sitting. Remember to breathe. It's a natural reaction. So think about breathing in as we move around here, last one, I'm going to breathe out through the tough bit, all the way around the back of the head we breathe in when you come around again and then we breathe. Nice.

Just one last move. You can do any of these moves as long as you want to. Just going for them and spending some time four or five minutes on each move, or just do one. When you've got the time to do it. This one's really simple. Just soften the knees feet about hip width apart, palms facing upwards, and we have to move forward. So I'm going to breathe in as I come up, pushing the sky and let the hands float down as you breathe out. We've got to breathe in on the way up. Look gently up through the hands and then breathe out on the way down. And so you slow this move to your breath. You breathe in on the way up in, through the nose. Then ideally out through the nose on the way down soft with the limbs, really nice and relaxed. Breathing in and breathing out.

Do a couple more of these. What we're doing here is we're balancing yin and yang balancing the body out on the front and the back of the body. Breathing out. Good. As we breathe in, the energy comes up through the body. As we breathe out, energy flows back down towards the feet. Two more, breathe in, energy, flows up, breathe out, That energy comes down the last one in and then out. Nice.

Amy Williams:

It's like meditative in the sense that I actually wasn't thinking of anything else while I was doing it, or the thing I thinking about was would you advise people to see that energy, like visualize it as a certain thing, like a light or to actually physically see it as you're doing it.

Arron Collins-Thomas:

Yeah. People would describe it and feel it in different ways, but yeah, this energy and this light that flows through you, when you breathe in and imagine this kind of bright light filling up the body, when you breathe out imagine it flowing down. So you are just kind of moving this energy and wherever you take your attention to your body, where your mind goes, energy flows. So if there's certain areas of your body that is stiff and sore, you can take energy to it by just thinking about it as you move, like constantly think about releasing it and breathing into that space will be really helpful, but it's so simple. The moves are so easy. You don't need any equipment, not really any space. You can do it, any clothing you want to, and you can just do two or three minutes when you feel like it, or you can do a longer sequence of half an hour, it's just up to you. So it's really easy just to fit into your day. Like I said, if you're stuck on the computer all day, you're stiff just do a couple of minutes of this, each side and your body will get moving and you'll release it, all that tension. And you'll just feel that it's better

Amy Williams:

Yeah, I feel great. Well, you know what Arron, I feel very calm and relaxed yet kind of buzzing at the same time. So thank you. That was awesome. Tell us again, how can other people sign up?

Arron Collins-Thomas:

So the website is Hayoufit.com. And on there you'll find 'The 12 Rivers' course which I have just spoken about. You'll find 'The Animals', which is a bit more on the active side of things. And we also have a load of meditation work and breath work as well. So there's something for everyone depending on what your fitness goals are.

Amy Williams:

Love it. I find it really, really fascinating. It's great learning about new health, fitness benefits. Next week, Arron and myself, we're going to be talking about cardio and weights. Which one do you do first when you rock up to the gym? Do you get on the cardio machine first before you lift your weight or vice versa? So if you want to listen to whether Arron suggests doing weights or cardio first, then please set that reminder and subscribe and we will see you next week.


Tune in next week for Episode 4

See you then!

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