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Too Nervous to Practice Outside?

Man and woman kungfu winter snow sparring
Sifus Markus and Nessa Kahila of Shaolin Wahnam Finland enjoying an outdoor sparring session.

Fall rolls around and brings with it drier air, cooler temperatures, and color everywhere. This is one of my favorite times of year to practice outside. When I get to practice kungfu outside, not only do I have lots of room to move around, but I also have the benefit of the uneven ground to really hone and challenge my rooting in my stances and kungfu patterns. As for qigong, remember that Cosmos Qigong is based on taking in energy from the cosmos for building and circulating. That being said, the Qing Qi, or the clear Qi in the air all around us is much more abundant when we are outside, even more so when we’re out in nature. This is all well and good if you’re tucked away out in the country or have a privacy fence in your yard, but what if your outdoor spaces are limited to public parks or in full view of all of your neighbors? Self-consciousness can definitely come into play.

Nearly all of the years I’ve been practicing kungfu and qigong I’ve had to avail myself of public spaces when I want to practice outside. Believe me, I’ve encountered the full gambit of the peanut gallery when training, among other challenges; people hooting, yelling “hai ya!!”, inquisitive children, bees landing on my fingers while standing in Golden Bridge…There was once a guy in a ninja costume yelling something about a golden calf at the full moon. Seriously. All of this was however, the exception to the rule. For the most part, people were either respectful and curious, or utterly uninterested.

So, how do you get over your discomfort so you can enjoy practicing outside? The short answer is really to just do it. Start small and within your comfort zone. Practice Lifting the Sky outside and enjoy Flowing Breeze Swaying Willows rather than go into a full Qi flow, or keep your Qi flow gentle until you’re comfortable enough to let it go outside. You’ll find that the more you do it, the more it becomes a normal activity and it becomes easier and easier to truly relax and enter into a qigong state, even with other people around. Eventually, even a crowded airport boarding gate (been there, done that) becomes a space to practice.

While all of my outdoor experiences are true, the simple fact is that most parks are full of people who will largely ignore you or simply ask what you’re doing because they’re interested. Most of the things about which we’re self-conscious aren’t even noticed by others, so the more you train outside, the easier it gets. We talk about how and where to structure practice in our weekly classes, which is a great place to receive encouragement from others so you can do just that. Happy fall everybody, enjoy the great outdoors!

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