Getting the Most from a Qi-Gong Class, Part 1

Oftentimes I hear people say that they took a movement (dance, yoga, qigong) class and they ‘hated’ it. Upon questioning, I find they hadn’t really analyzed what it was that caused their reaction.

Was it something about the teacher or what she or he did? Did they have a preconceived idea of what the class was, how it was supposed to be conducted or its contents? Was it the energy of the class? The setting? Was there incense, music or gongs? Was it something so unfamiliar or esoteric that they were uncomfortable? Were the movements easy or was the class too advanced? Did the teacher not break down the movements enough so that they could learn them at a comfortable pace? What was the student’s position in the room in relation to the teacher? Did they position themselves so that they could see the teacher or expect the teacher to move so they could see him or her? Did they do the movements at their own pace or level rather than do or hold a position too strenuous for them? Did they ask questions? Was the person the newest one there, in an ongoing class and felt out of place?

Let me address some of these here:

A lot of people come to a class with a preconceived idea of how the class “should” be or how they think the teacher “should” be or what the class is “supposed” to do for them. Very often they’ve taken a movement class with the same name and expected all yoga or chi-kung classes to be alike.

When I asked an acquaintance how she liked a qigong class she had attended she said, “So, what about it? I didn’t feel anything.”

Questioning her further, she told me she was expecting to feel something “magical.” Where did this idea come from? If I can get people in touch with their own bodies, feeling and emotions, to me, that’s “magical.”

You may want to understand that there are various forms of dance, yoga, t’ai ch’uan and chi-kung (qigong). No two teachers will teach even the same form or routine exactly alike, even a student of the same teacher. Each person brings themselves to the class. Also, the energy of the class and the length of time the students have been together will play a part in how the class is conducted. I teach my ongoing class (14 years) differently than I do a beginning six-week series. If I have a new student in the ongoing class, I do many things differently than I normally would. Many teachers teach by rote — the same thing no matter what’s different about the class, and then again many teachers will teach as the situation or energy compels them.

If the teacher says something you don’t understand, ask what she or he means. In many classes, there will be a new vocabulary, and if the class is an ongoing one, many of the students will already know it. The teacher may be so used to using these words he or she may forget to explain them to a new student.

Many people say they feel “stupid” when they don’t know something their first time in a class or don’t seem to learn as fast as the fastest person there (it’s funny how they always compare themselves to the fastest learner).

The reason one goes to a class is to learn what you don’t know. The best way to find out what something means or how to do a move is to ask. You will often assist others whose self-esteem is low and who are unwilling or afraid to ask questions. A good measure of the teacher’s capability is how he or she responds to the question.

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