Nei Dan Meditation Training

Small Circulation (Xiao Zhou Tian) -V ffl

Meditation Breathing. The first and most important step for effective meditation is proper breathing. There are two basic methods in use in Chinese meditation: Daoist and Buddhist.

Daoist breathing, also known as Reverse Breathing (Fan Hu Xi, &.°f '-5.), is used to prepare the Qi for circulation, and its proper development is crucial. In Daoist breathing the normal movement of the lower abdomen is reversed during inhalation and exhalation. Instead of expanding when inhaling, the Daoist contracts, and vice versa (Figure 3-6). Never hold your breath or force the process. Inhale through the nose slowly, keeping the flow smooth and easy, and contract and lift the lower abdomen up behind the navel. When the lungs are filled, exhale gently.

Inhalation is considered Yin and exhalation is considered Yang. They must operate together like the Yin-Yang symbol, one becoming the other smoothly and effortlessly in a fluid circular motion. As exhalation occurs, slowly push out the Dan Tian or lower abdomen. The area of the Dan Tian is where the Qi is generated and accumulated in order to start Small Circulation. Because of this, the muscles around the Dan Tian must be trained so that they can sufficiently contract and expand while you inhale and exhale. At first, expanding the lower

Abdominal Motion

Figure 3-6. Abdominal Motion During Breathing

Buddhist: A - Inhale B - Exhale

Figure 3-6. Abdominal Motion During Breathing abdomen while exhaling may be difficult; but with practice the muscles learn to expand more and more until the entire lower abdomen expands upon exhalation from the navel to the pubic bone. Do not force the Dan Tian to expand, but work gently until success is achieved.

This whole process of Daoist breathing is a form of deep breathing, not because the breathing is heavy, but because it works the lungs to near capacity. While many people who engage in strenuous exercise breathe hard, they do not necessarily breathe deeply. Deep breathing causes the internal organs to vibrate in rhythm with the breath, which stimulates and exercises them. The organs would not receive this type of internal exercise without deep breathing. Many forms of strenuous exercise only condition the external muscles, while doing very little for the vital organs.

In the Buddhist breathing method, the movement of the abdomen is the opposite of the Daoist. When you inhale, expand your lower abdomen, and when you exhale, contract it (Figure 3-6). This kind of breathing is called Normal Breathing (Zhen Hu Xi, £ "i •&). It is the same kind of breathing a singer practices.

Both methods use the same principle of Qi generation. The main difference is that the coordination of the abdominal motion and the breathing is opposite. In fact, many meditators can use either method, and switch very easily.

Meditation and Qi Circulation. Once you can breathe adequately according to the Daoist and Buddhist methods, you can take up sitting meditation to begin the process of Qi circulation. The first goal is to achieve a calm mind while concentrating on deep breathing. You create a type of hypnotic state to do this. You should stay at this stage until you can expand and withdraw your Dan Tian while breathing with no conscious effort, and without your attention wandering.

When the muscles around the Dan Tian can be easily controlled, the process of breathing acts like a pump to start a fire, which is Qi production, in the furnace of the Dan Tian. This whole process of generating and accumulating Qi in the Dan Tian is called Lower Level Breathing (Xia Ceng Qi, & ), while simple exhalation and inhalation in the lungs is called Upper Level Breathing (Shang Ceng Qi, *.). One system aims at building Qi as energy, while the other aims at building up Qi as air. The over-abundant Qi in the Dan Tian will cause the abdominal area in most people to twitch and feel warm. The pump (the deep breathing) has thus caused a fire (an accumulation of Qi) in the Dan Tian area. When this occurs, the Qi is ready to burst out of the Dan Tian and travel into another cavity.

In order to insure that the accumulated Qi passes into the correct cavity, the sitting posture must be correct (legs crossed). When the Qi is ready to burst from the Dan Tian, it must not be allowed to travel into the legs. By having the legs properly crossed, the Qi is partially blocked. If the Qi does go downward, it may stagnate in some of the cavities. If you are a novice meditator, this is dangerous, since you do not have enough experience with or understanding

Zhineng Qigong Sleep Pose
Figure 3-7. Breathing and Qi Circulation—Two Breath Cycle

of controlling Qi with your will. This Qi residue in the cavities will later affect the Qi circulation in your legs, and might, in extreme cases, cause paralysis. When Qi goes into an undesired Qi channel and causes problems, it is called Zou Huo ) or Fire Deviation. Therefore, during any serious meditation session in which you attempt to circulate Qi, your legs must be crossed. Only after Small Circulation has been totally achieved and you are attempting Grand Circulation is it permissible to uncross the legs.

In order to correctly initiate Small Circulation, the Qi must pass into the Weilu cavity, located in the tailbone. Thus, the Qi passes from the Dan Tian down through the groin area, called the Bottom of the Sea (Haidi, and into the tailbone. The Qi does pass through other acupuncture cavities on the way to the Weilu (Figure 3-4), but the Weilu will offer the greatest resistance because the bone structure narrows the channel.

During meditation your mind must guide the Qi consciously throughout its circulation. Without the mind consciously leading the circulation of Qi, there will be no consistent or smooth circulation. It sometimes happens that the Qi will pass from the Dan Tian into the Weilu without conscious effort, but the mind must actively guide the Qi for further results. Starting from the Dan Tian, the mind remains calm and fully concentrated only on guiding the Qi past the Weilu. This process must never be pushed. Simply keep the mind on the next cavity and let the Qi get there by itself. The requirement of concentration is one of the reasons why simple relaxation will only promote local circulation. For the larger circuits, the Qi must be guided by the will.

In Daoist breathing, the secret of bringing the Qi to the Weilu is to tighten the anus gently while inhaling. This is called Bi Gang (Close the Anus, M V- ) in meditation. When exhaling, the anus is relaxed and Qi is guided to the Weilu. This is called Song Gang (Relax the Anus, ). This coordination should be done even after Small Circulation has been completed.

After the Qi has been successfully guided to the Weilu, it moves up the spine to the next major obstacle, the Jiaji (Squeezing Spine, A ) or Mingmen (Life's Door, ^ pi). This point is located on the back directly behind the heart between the spinous processes of the sixth and seventh thoracic vertebrae (Figure 3-4). As mentioned earlier, this same cavity is called Lingtai (Spirit's Platform, to) in acupuncture. When Qi flows to this area, it will usually cause the heart to beat faster, which can interfere with concentration. To lose concentration at this point might result in the Qi dispersing in this area, which can cause a cold sweat, tensing of the nerves, and rapid breathing. If the Qi remains in the surrounding area, it will stagnate the Qi flow in that area, and disturb the heart function. However, if you relax, concentrate on the cavity, and remain calm, there is usually little resistance to the Qi flow here.

Once the Qi passes the Jiaji, the last major obstacle on the spine is called the Yuzhen (i&), or Jade Pillow by meditators, and Naohu (86 r ) by acupuncturists. This cavity is located at the base of the skull on top of the occipital bone (Figure 3-4). Because of the skull structure, the channel is constricted here. If the energy does not pass smoothly through, it may pass into other channels on the head or into the brain. If this happens, you may experience headaches or feverish thinking.

Once the Qi enters the head, the sensation of Qi circulation is different from that of the circulation on the back. Circulation on the back causes the large spinal muscles to tense, and it is easy to feel. However, when the Qi enters the head, where the muscle layer is very thin, you will feel no muscle tension. What you will feel is a tingling sensation, like insects walking on your scalp, that will travel over the top of your head to the front of your face.

The above three major cavities are called the Three Gates or San Guan (s M ) in Chinese meditation.

After the Qi passes through the Yuzhen, your mind guides the Qi up over the top of the head, down the middle of the face and chest, and finally back to the Dan Tian, where the cycle starts over. Once you have achieved a complete Small Circulation cycle, then the whole process is done continuously. Achieving Small Circulation requires three sessions of meditation each day for a period of ninety or more days. Grand Circulation may take years to achieve.

Up to this point, little has been said about breathing during Qi circulation. The cyclic movement of Qi must coordinate with deep breathing. Figure 3-7 shows the basic pattern of Daoist meditation, which consists of guiding the Qi through one cycle of Small Circulation during two sets of breaths (Table 3-1 lists the names of the important points and their corresponding abbreviations on Figures 3-7 to 3-9). This is the cycle that beginners should attempt.

To begin, during the first inhalation your mind guides the Qi from the nose to the Dan Tian. Next, exhale and guide the Qi from the Dan Tian to the Weilu. Then, inhale and lead the Qi up to the point at the top of the shoulders, called the Shangbei ( _h # ) or Dazhui (Gv-14)( k ft )(see Table 3-1). Finally, exhale and guide the Qi over your head to your nose to complete one cycle. Continue circulating the Qi, one cycle every two breaths.

After you are proficient with the two-breath cycle, you can circulate Qi in a one-breath cycle. This cycle is the basis for using Qi as the energy source in the martial arts. Figure 3-8 shows the one-breath cycle. You guide the Qi to the tail-bone while exhaling, and then to the nose while inhaling.

Some beginning meditators say they cannot feel the Qi flow, while others say they feel it is stopped at a particular point. The response to both of these comments is to continue doing the cycle. At first, it will be mostly your imagination and not much Qi, but with perseverance the flow will become stronger, more complete, and more perceptible. Remember, the Qi is always flowing or you would not be alive. Since Qi follows the mind, keeping your attention

Flow The Body Tai Chi Chuan
Figure 3-8. Breathing and Qi Circulation—One Breath Cycle

moving will keep the Qi flowing through the channels and gradually open the constrictions.

Advanced students can try reversing the current of Qi in Small Circulation so that the Qi travels up the chest, over the top of the head, down the back, and then to the Dan Tian. In reverse circulation, the transition points of Qi between inhalation and exhalation remain the same. Thus, inhale and guide the Qi from the Dan Tian to the nose; next, exhale and guide the Qi over the head to the Shangbei. The next step is to inhale and guide the Qi to the tailbone (Weilu).

Figure 3-9. Breathing and Qi Circulation—Buddhist Method
Table 3-1








Dan Tian (T ft ® )

Qihai 1 IL & ]

One and half inches below the navel


Haidi ( % & )

Huiyin ( t Ifc )

Pelvic floor


Weilu (4M)

Changqiang ( -jfc & )



Mingmen ( fl )

Lingtai [té)

On the spine behind the heart


Shangbei ( _t * )

Dazhui ¡k ft )

Upper back


Yuzhen | i it )

Naohu ( J$ )

Base of the skull


Tianlinggai t JL )

Baihui (ft)

Crown of the skull



Suliao )



Duqi |AtJ*|

Shenque ( # M )


Finally, exhale and guide the Qi to the Dan Tian. The one-breath cycle follows the same principle. This reversed circulation can help heal injuries and can clear blockages that the regular circulation has difficulty passing through.

Included with the one-breath cycle described above is the Buddhist system of Qi circulation (Figure 3-9). The Buddhist meditator inhales and guides Qi from the nose, down the chest through the groin to the tailbone. Then he exhales and guides the Qi up the spine, then over the head to the nose. Buddhists can also reverse the direction of the cycle. Remember that in the Buddhist method, the Dan Tian expands during inhalation and contracts during exhalation.

There are also methods of meditation that do not use the Dan Tian as the source of Qi. Some systems use the solar plexus, the forehead, or other points, and generate Qi through concentration alone, without breath coordination.

Novice Meditators. If you are coming to meditation seriously for the first time, you should not attempt to circulate Qi from the very start. The primary goal of the beginner must be to train the muscles around the Dan Tian so that the Daoist method of breathing is easy and natural. The training of the muscles is achieved through the preliminary practice of reverse breathing. Once your muscles have been adequately trained and your mind sufficiently calmed, you may then attempt to circulate the Qi.

Pre-meditation Warm-up. Before meditation, you should spend three to five minutes calming your mind. Once your mind is calm you can begin concentrated meditation with better results. Calming your mind before meditation may be thought of as a warm-up exercise. For more experienced meditators, the warm-up takes less time.

Posture. Two common cross-legged postures appropriate for meditation are shown in Figures 3-10 and 3-11. Pick the one that is most comfortable for you. In any posture, your back should be straight without being bolt upright; do not slouch. It is easiest to sit on a cushion about two to five inches thick with the knees or feet on the floor at a lower level. This helps to keep the back straight without strain.

If your legs become numb while sitting, uncross them and relax. With continued practice you will be able to sit comfortably for longer and longer periods. This usually takes several weeks. Sitting cross-legged restricts the normal flow of blood and Qi, and the body needs to learn to adjust to the new position.

In both sitting positions your hands should be held at the Dan Tian, one on top of the other, with the tips of the thumbs touching. This position helps you to feel your breathing as you expand the Dan Tian, and to coordinate deep breathing and Qi circulation.

Embryonic Breathing
Figure 3-10 Figure 3-11

Geographical Positioning. While meditating, you should face east in the morning and face south at night. This common practice was most likely established because experienced meditators discovered that their Qi circulation was more fluid when they faced east in the morning. This may be because the rotation of the earth enhances the flow of Qi slightly, and also because of the energy of the early morning sun. Meditators face south at night because the earth's magnetic field originates from the South Pole. If you face the south, you obtain energy nourishment from the earth.

Time of Meditation. Ideally, you should meditate three times a day for one half hour at a time. The best times to practice are fifteen minutes before sunrise (facing east), one to two hours after lunch (facing east), and one half hour before going to sleep (facing south). With this schedule you can, if you remain calm and concentrated, achieve Small Circulation in about three months.

These three times are the best because the morning and evening meditations take advantage of the changing of the body's energy from Yin to Yang, and vice versa. The afternoon is the best time to calm the mind and cool the body's excess Yang state.

If you can only meditate twice a day, skip the afternoon session. If only once, then meditate in either the morning or evening. Reducing the number of sessions means taking longer to achieve Small Circulation. Do not be discouraged by this. Instead, enjoy what you are learning and doing, proceed with care, and you will achieve your goal.

Thoughts. During meditation your mind should focus on the Dan Tian and on the Qi circulation. The whole purpose of meditation is lost if your mind wanders. You must achieve a relaxed hypnotic trance; this is easily done by concentrating on the rhythmic pattern of your breathing. If your attention does stray, or if thoughts arise, simply return your attention to your breathing.

If you have too many day-to-day worries bothering you during meditation, do not meditate and do not attempt to circulate Qi. Instead, breathe deeply for relaxation. Attempting to circulate Qi while emotionally agitated can only harm you.

Position of the Tongue, Teeth, and Eyes. During meditation, your tongue should lightly touch the roof of your mouth near its center. This touch creates a bridge between Yin and Yang and allows the Qi to circulate in a continuous path around the body. Take care that your tongue is neither too far forward nor too far back—both will hinder meditation. Too far forward causes sleepiness, too far backward hinders relaxation, and the tension obstructs the Qi flow.

The tongue bridge also allows saliva to accumulate in your mouth. Swallow this saliva occasionally to keep your throat from getting dry. In addition, your teeth should touch lightly.

You can keep your eyes closed or half open during meditation. Do not let yourself become sleepy if your eyes are closed.

The Mechanics of Meditation.

Cautions—Here are a few general rules that will prevent you from causing yourself injury, and will help you speed the process of meditation.

1. Don't smoke. Because meditation involves deep breathing, your lungs must be able to function adequately.

2. Don't drink to excess. Too much alcohol will hurt the nervous system and hinder Qi circulation. Naturally, you should not drink just before meditating. Alcohol can affect your neutral judgment.

3. Wash before meditation. However, you should wait at least fifteen minutes so that your body temperature resumes its normal state. This will help relax your mind.

4. Wear loose, comfortable clothing, especially around the waist.

5. Meditate in a well ventilated area.

6. Men should avoid sex twenty-four hours before and after meditation.

7. During their periods, women should not concentrate on the Dan Tian, but instead on the solar plexus.

8. Meditate in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.

9. Wait at least half an hour, and preferably one or two hours, after eating to meditate.

10. Do not meditate if you are worried or ill.

11. Never hold your breath.

12. Always remain relaxed while meditating.

13. Always concentrate on the Dan Tian and on the Qi flow.

14. If you repeatedly feel bad or get strongly unpleasant reactions during meditation, stop. Do not proceed without the guidance of a qualified and experienced meditation master.

Common Problems:

Numb legs: This problem affects nearly everyone who begins sitting meditation, especially those who are unused to sitting cross-legged. It is caused by a reduced flow of blood and Qi to the legs. The problem gradually goes away by itself. Until then, you should stop meditation when the numbness disturbs your concentration. Stretch out your legs to open the channels and use acupressure or massage on the arches of the feet to speed recovery. As soon as feeling returns, resume meditation.

Cavity pain: Some meditators experience pain in the tailbone, at the kidneys, at the Life Door (Mingmen, Gv-4, ri ), or at the joints of the inner thighs when Qi circulation reaches these spots. It is caused by increased pressure at that point, often because of Qi stagnation. The sensation is normal and can be relieved through relaxation. Ordinarily, this kind of pain will only last two or three days, or until the circulation has passed that spot.

Headache: This is caused by tension, worry, fatigue or when circulation first reaches the head. If it is caused by tension or worry, stop meditating until you calm down. If you are too tired to concentrate, it would be better to take a nap. If it is the result of excess Qi flow to your head, simply relax more and pay attention to your breathing and to the Dan Tian. Some of the pain can be relieved by using the massages described in the next section.

Backache: Backaches can be caused either by improper posture or by a residue of stagnant Qi. If your posture is too stiffly erect, or if you slump, there will be too much tension in the back muscles and a backache will result. To assume a comfortable posture, sit up very straight, stretching upward as far as possible, then relax without bending forward.

A residue of stagnant Qi is sometimes dangerous and should be treated with heavy massage. See the next section for a description of effective massage techniques.

Drowsiness: Drowsiness is a result of being too tired, in which case you should stop meditating. Take a nap until you feel alert enough to meditate again.

Sweating: If sweating is a result of the environment, that is, if the place where you meditate is too hot or too humid, try to change it. If the sweating is not a result of environmental factors, there are two kinds of sweating—hot and cold. Cold sweats may indicate an injury to one of the cavities in the path of circulation. Consult a meditation master who can help to clear the obstruction. Hot sweats are usually caused by circulating the Qi without concentrating, and go away with improved concentration and relaxation.

Grand Circulation (Da Zhou Tian, k ffl k)

After you can circulate your Qi at will in the two main vessels (i.e. Small Circulation"), you can begin the practice oi Grand Circulation, in which you circulate the Qi generated at the Dan Tian through all the Qi channels in your body.

By this time you should be able to feel the Qi generating and flowing around your body through the Governing and Conception vessels. With this experience as a basis, you should be able to accomplish Grand Circulation easily and safely through mental control of the Qi.

To circulate Qi to your arms and hands using Grand Circulation, you can either sit in a chair or stand up. In Grand Circulation training, your whole body should be relaxed. Hold your arms out in front of your body, with the elbows slightly bent. Hold your hands so the palms face forward and your fingers point up. In this exercise, the thumb and little finger of each hand should be slightly tightened by pulling them back in order to restrict the Qi flow and force it to the palms.

As you inhale, bring the Qi from the tailbone up your back to the top of the shoulders (Figure 3-12). inhaling also prepares the Qi on the front of the body for a new cycle. As you exhale, guide the Qi not over your head, but into your arms. At the same time that the Qi flows into your arms, your Dan Tian expands,

Nei Dan Qigong
Figure 3-12. Grand Circulation

starting a new cycle by moving the new Qi into the tailbone. When you inhale again, guide the Qi to the upper back while preparing for a new cycle on the front of the body. Thus, the Qi cycle is a one way path, in that it does not travel in a complete circle, but in a line that ends in the hands. This cycle is repeated continuously until you can feel the Qi flow to the center of the palms, to a cavity called the Laogong (P-8, # t) cavity. (In fact, the Qi does circulate back to the Dan Tian, but concentrating on a one-way flow pushes the circulation out to the hands sooner and more strongly.)

When the Qi approaches your palms, you should be able to sense it and feel the warmth. After this is achieved, you should then try to guide Qi to the fingertips. There are many methods of practicing circulation to the upper limbs. You should refer to the next section for descriptions.

To circulate Qi to the lower limbs, a common method is to lie on your back and relax the leg muscles, which opens the Qi channels. Inhale and contract your abdomen, then exhale and guide the Qi through the legs to the Bubbling Well point (Yongquan)(K-l, >8 £) on the bottoms of your feet (see Figure 3-13). Normally the Qi channels in the legs are open wider than those in the arms. Consequently, it is easier to circulate Qi to the legs than to the arms. When the Qi approaches the bottoms of your feet, they will feel warm and numb, and this feeling may persist for several days the first time you experience it.

Some teachers recommend following certain paths to and from the feet and hands. This is not really necessary. If you lead the Qi into your feet and hands, it will find its own way there, and in time will fill your limbs, moving through all the channels, both Jing («) and Luo (&). Keep in mind, too, that leading (i.e., guiding the Qi with your mind) is always gentle and relaxed.

Because the leg channels are open, it is sometimes possible to circulate Qi while standing, even though the muscles are slightly tense. This is the reason that Taijiquan practitioners can accomplish Grand Circulation through the slow motion exercise of Taiji.

After you can circulate Qi to the arms and legs, you have achieved Grand Circulation within your body. This can take six months to achieve, or many years, depending on you and the time you have available for practice.

Beyond Grand Circulation, you can develop the ability to expand the Qi to the arms and legs simultaneously ( Four Gates Breathing, es «f ); to expand the Qi in the form of a ball larger than the body (Skin Breathing, It -fe - It A-); and to take in Qi from outside the body, or direct the Qi at will to specific parts of the body, such as the joints, fingertips, or the area of an injury.

If you learn to transport Qi beyond your body or to take in Qi from outside, then you may be able to use Qigong to cure illness and injuries involving Qi disturbances. However, this should not be attempted without training from an experienced instructor. To take outside, disturbed Qi, called evil Qi (Xie Qi,

Figure 3-13. Yongquan Cavity W fc.) into your body without knowing how to get rid of it is dangerous. By the same token, if you extend your own Qi into another body without knowing the proper stopping point, you run the risk of Qi exhaustion.

Continue reading here: Qi Enhancement and Transport Training

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  • Declan Donaldson
    What is the inhale in neidan?
    3 years ago
  • retu
    Do you meditate on one dantian each session?
    5 years ago
  • lori boyce
    How much should one small circulation meditation?
    6 years ago
  • makda yusef
    Why alcohol hinders qi?
    8 years ago
  • Costantino
    Does sleeping cross legged stop qi flow?
    9 years ago
  • drew
    When do you meditation facing south?
    10 years ago
  • natalino
    How qi flows through body?
    10 years ago
  • petra
    Where can i receive a nuru massage in Rhode Island?
    10 years ago
  • leonide
    Can you face south and meditate?
    10 years ago
  • cristina
    What happens when you stop meditating chi?
    11 years ago
  • Teppo
    When meditating face south?
    11 years ago