General Principles of Chinese Qigong

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In order to understand Qigong, you must understand several concepts. The first of theseJs ^i. Qi is the foundation of all Chinese medical theory and Qigong. It corresponds to the Greek "pneuma" and the Sanskrit "prana," and is considered to be the vital force and energy flow in all living things. According to the experience of Qigong practitioners, Qi can be best explained as a type of energy very much like electricity, which flows through the human or animal body. When this circulation becomes stagnant or stops, the person or animal will become ill or die.

Although there is no precise Western definition of Qi, it is often referred to as bioelectricity. In fact, it was recognized in the last decade that Qi is actually the bioelectricity circulating in all living things.243

Qi can also be explained as a medium of sensing or feeling. For example, when a person's arm is hurt, the Qi flow in the nerves of the arm is disturbed and stimulated to a higher energy state. This higher energy states causes a sensational feeling that is interpreted as pain by the brain. In addition, the difference in energy potential causes an increased flow of Qi and blood to that area to begin repairing damage. Therefore, Qi, the nervous system, the Qi channels, and the brain are intimately related to each other and can not be separated.

The second concept you should know is that of Qi channels, which circulate Qi throughout the body. For the most part the main Qi channels are found with the arteries and nerves. A glance into any anatomy book shows that large sheathes of nerve fibers accompany the arteries throughout the body. The Qi channels do also. Like arteries and nerves, the Qi channels are protected by the body's musculature, so that they are hard to affect directly. There is one spot on the body where a channel is very exposed, and that is the funny bone. This spot is called Shaohai &) in acupuncture and belongs to the Hand Shaoyin Heart Channel (-f '>" M). Here the channel and median nerve systems coincide. A light tap to this spot will numb the entire forearm, which demonstrates the extreme sensitivity of the channels, as well as the control they exert throughout the body.

Ae€ording_jtQ_ Chinese medicine, there are twelve primary Qi channels (which are thought of as Qi rivers) and eight major vessels (which are thought of as Qi reservoirs) in the human body. The twelve channels (actually pairs of channels, one on either side of the body) are related to different internal organs. When the Qi is stagnant in one channel, the corresponding organ will be

Ren Mai Meridian
Figure 1-3. Electrical Conductivity Maps of the Skin Surface over Acupuncture Points

disordered. One of the major techniques of acupuncture is to stimulate the channel with a needle. This increases or decreases the circulation of Qi, and helps bring the malfunctioning organ back into balance.

Among the eight vessels, two are considered the most important in Chinese medicine. These two major vessels are the Ren Mai (ttAfc) or Conception Vessel, which runs down the front center of the body, and the Du Mai ('y-Jlfc) or Governing Vessel, which runs down the center of the back and the head.

The third concept you should understand is that of acupuncture points, which are also called cavities (Xue, ft ). Along each of the channels (as well as elsewhere on the body) are points where the electrical conductivity is higher than surrounding area (Figure l-3)\ These points, which are called cavities because they can often be felt as small depressions or concavities, are more sensitive than other parts of the body. These are the locations used for acupuncture, and they are also points of attack in the martial arts. Acupuncture recognizes more than seven hundred cavities, although only 108 cavities are used by martial artists. The application of power to one of the 108 cavities can result in pain, numbness of some part of the body, damage to one of the body's internal organs, unconsciousness, or even death. Of these 108 cavities, thirty-six are death cavities. That is, a strike to one of these thirty-six cavities can damage an internal organ, causing death. For example, a strike to the Jiquan cavity on the heart channel found in the armpit, can shock the heart so severely that it goes into fatal spasms. The seventy-two remaining cavities are not death cavities, but striking them can cause numbness or unconsciousness, provided exactly the right spot is hit at the right time.

The fourth concept you should know is that the circulation of Qi is governed by the time of day andthe season ofThe year. Q1 circulates within the body from conception to death, but the part of the body where the Qi is the strongest changes around the clock. However, Qi circulates continuously within the two major vessels jwithout being affected by time. Because of the variability of Qi circulation, you must be knowledgeable about it to use Qigong effectively.

The most important thing to remember is that everything is controlled by the mind. Western science has proven that we use only thirty to forty percent of our brain capacity. If a person could be trained to use more than this amount, he or she would be a genius. Science believes that this can be done through meditation and concentration training. It is well documented that a hypnotized person can do things that are far beyond what is possible when in a normal state. Meditation is a form of self-hypnosis that can lead you toward this sort of increased performance.

In Qigong training the mind controls the flow of Qi, just as it controls other body functions. You may have experienced ways in which the mind causes reactions in your body. Thinking about frightening things can make you sweat. Thinking of a tense situation can cause you to tighten your muscles so much that your whole body becomes sore. In this case your mind caused a chemical reaction, i.e. the generation of acid in your tight muscles. Your mind can also relax your body just by thinking about it. Many people are using this approach to control their pulse or blood pressure without drugs.

In Qigong training, concentration is the key to success. By concentrating attention on the abdomen and doing certain exercises, Qi is generated and circulated throughout the body. This leads to the development of extra energy and its more efficient use; for example, allowing a martial artist to strike with tremendous power and to resist the penetration of an opponent's power into his or her body. The amount of Qi that can be generated is determined largely by the level of concentration.

There are severed common_waysJo raise Qi to a higher energy state. The first way is called Wai Dan (ft ). In this method, Qi is stimulated at a particular location in the body by continued muscular exertion combined with concentration. For example, if you hold your arms extended in one position for several minutes, the shoulders will become very warm from the Qi accumulation. When you relax your shoulders, this higher energy will flow to places with a lower energy state. Wai Dan exercises have been used in China for many centuries. Wai Dan was later coordinated with martial techniques by the Shaolin monks. Chapter 2 will explain this method in detail.

The second way of increasing Qi circulation is called Nei Dan ( fi ft). In this method Qi is accumulated at the Dan Tian, a spot an.inch and a half below the navel. ÔnceTufficient Qi has accumulated, then you use your mindtaguide the Qi to circulate in the two major vessels—the Governing Vessel and-Gonception Vessel. This is called Small Circulation (Xiao Zhou Tian, -1- $ k). After mastering Small Circulation, you then learn "Grand Circulation" (Da Zhou Tian, k tô k ) in which the mind guides the Qi through all of the twelve channels. This method has been practiced by Taijiquan devotees since the thirteenth century. Chapter 3 will explain Nei Dan practice in detail.

The third common way of increasing Qi circulation is through acupuncture. In acupuncture, a needle pierces the skin and musculature and directly stimulate a Qi channel. When the channel is stimulated, Qi builds up and circulates in that channel.

The fourth way is massage, which has also been used in Western medicine. Massage stimulates the muscles, building up local Qi, which circulates more freely because the muscles are relaxed.

The last common way is through friction, in which a particular area of the body is rubbed hard enough to generate heat and stimulate the skin.

There are a few other ways to build up local Qi, including slapping the skin and acupressure, which is classified somewhere between massage and acupuncture. Of the five most common methods mentioned above, Wai Dan and Nei Dan are the only two that can be applied to martial purposes. The others are for improving health, and will be explained in chapter 4.

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