Stand with your feet hip width apart, toes facing forward and heels back. Sit back slightly as if on a tall stool so with a gentle bend in the hips, tipping forwards a bit. Arms hang by your sides but with a little gap under the armpits to allow for breathing into the sides of the body. Focus on the soles of your feet for a few moments, imagining you are on sinky, soft sand. Then focus on the top of your head, as if someone is gently pulling a thread which is attached to the highest point of your head, upwards. Look straight ahead. Breathe smoothly.
After a bit, bring your arms and hands up to chest height, as if you are hugging a great tree, but fingertips don’t quite touch. Your palms face your chest.
Inhale and let the breath which fills your lungs be the impetus for your arms to open, thumbs leading, palms upwards, like doors opening to the sides of you. See your hands in your peripheral vision at the same time as looking ahead. Don’t let the arms open so much that you cannot see them (in other words you don’t stretch the chest and the shoulder blades hardly come together at the back). This movement lasts for the length of that (slow) inhalation.
Then exhale and slowly sweep the arms back to the beginning position, palms down, forefingers leading.
Like a great swan standing up on the water and flapping its white wings.
Overall, it is a very subtle and gentle exercise. There should be no strain or sense of stretching at all. It is an internal, energy exercise, and a very different thing from yoga.
Repeat maybe 5 times every morning. No need to do more for the first few weeks. Then increase if you like it.
Here is a link to a video where I demonstrate the five element chi gung exercises. The Lung is the first one.
My colleague Sally Ibbotson is a good chi gung teacher based in London.
Thanks to the National Wildlife Federation for the crane picture.