Chapter The Basic Principles of Qigong

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Empty Qi = Air

Empty Qi = Air

Empty Qi = Air

character for character steam

Bone Qi = Morality

Mn Çnirit

Bone Qi = Morality character for character steam

Mn Çnirit

Good Wok Qi = Good Fresh Dishes (of food)

explain it, it has a different meaning. In order to understand it, you need to experience it. Qi is the same: Qi is not just energy, it is more.

If you accept electricity as the embodiment of energy for modern Western society (I call it external energy), you have to accept internal energy -Qi. Qi is the vital energy that maintains our lives; without it we will become tired and ill, and die. External, internal- the principle of Yin and Yang: the one cannot exist without the other to balance it.

The 'gong' part in Qigong means work or exercise. When you go to your office or factory, this is 'gong'. Work with your mind or your strength in this sense is the same as exercise. So Qigong becomes 'exercise with your vital energy'. Some people call it 'Breathing Exercise', 'Longevity Method' or 'Internal Training', but all these names mean the same thing.

Different types of Qigong

There are many, perhaps thousands of kinds of Qigong but normally they are classified into five schools: Daoist, Buddhist, Confucian, medical and martial art. I feel that true Qigong consists only of the Daoist and Buddhist versions. Daoist Qigong concentrates on soft, internal relaxation and steady, gentle training movements with postures moving from soft to hard. Buddhist Qigong is strong, active, dynamic and external in movement with postures moving from hard to soft. Both, however, aim to achieve an equal balance of Yin and Yang and 'emptiness' of mind. So they are similar and most Qigong follows one of these ways. Confucian Qigong is rare, and the methods are rather basic, indeed simplistic. Medical Qigong is involved with theory, not with practice -it concerns the acupuncture points and channels. Martial art Qigong (such as Taiji Quan, Shaolin Quan, Xing Yi Quan, Bagua Zhang and Wing Chun Kuen) all have their internal training that should not really be considered a separate classification anyway, since any method adopted will belong to either the Daoist or Buddhist schools.

Active and passive Qigong

There are two ways to practise Qigong, one active and the other passive, like Yin and Yang. Active Qigong (Dong Gong) involves movements such as those described in Chapters 8 and 9. The movements relate to our acupuncture points and channels and strengthen the internal organs. Passive Qigong (ling Gong) consists of any kind of meditation -sitting, lying or standing -which helps us to cultivate a1ergy, storing the Qi in the Dantien. It works on the internal body and clears the mind. Some people also work with visualisation. (See Chapter 10 for more on meditation).

Dantien - the centre

Then practising Qigong one part of the body is very important -the centre, known in Chinese as Dantien. It is an area within us that stores our Qi to balance our body - like the sun in our solar system, the father in a family, the capital of a country. 'Dan' means crystal or the essence of energy, while 'Tien' means field or area for the essence of energy. In the beginning when we practise Qigong the Dantien starts to store the Qi energy. At first the Qi stored in the Dantien is gas (air and Qi), which flows around the body causing warm, tingling sensations; then as you progress it becomes liquid, like blood, semen and the milk of a nursing mother. Finally, if you keep practising, the essence of liquid energy becomes crystal (solid) Dan. W'hen high-level Buddhist and Daoist monks die and are cremated, their solid Dan survives and can be found amongst their ashes. Buddhists call this Xie Li Zi. When we first practise Qigong we bring the Qi to the Dantien (see below). After a while, when the Qi becomes strong enough, it will go through the front channel (Ren Channel) and the back channel (Du Channel) to form a circle (Xiao Zhou Tien -microcosmic orbit). After this has happened, the twelve main channels will become clear. These are: the Lung Channel; the Pericardium Channel; the Heart Channel; the Spleen Channel; the Liver Channel; the Kidney Channel; the Large Intestine Channel; the Triple Warmer Channel; the Small Intestine Channel; the Stomach Channel; the Gall Bladder Channel; and the Urinary Bladder Channel.

The Dantien is like a bank account: once you have opened it you can put your money in, and the more money you have the more you can deposit. In Qigong, the more energy you collect, the more you can put into your Dantien, so you become healthy and strong (see Chapter 4).Now we will look at different kinds of training within Qigong. All are aimed at developing your health by collecting Qi and bringing it to the Dantien.

Mind training

This training deals with our thoughts. When practising Qigong, the mind is very important. You should not be thinking of other things, but should concentrate on what you are doing. This is particularly important during meditation, when you should be concentrating on your Dantien to ensure that the Qi will be stored there. However, this can be difficult for the beginner. You may find yourself easily distracted by your thoughts. If this is the case, start off by just concentrating on relaxing and then slowly bring your mind to the Dantien.

Xiao Zhou Tien -The Microcosmic Orbit

Baihui

Baihui

Energy Gates Qigong Images

Yongquan point

Yongquan point

Some Qigong exercises require you to concentrate on special areas of the body -for example on the Yongquan point, an acupuncture point on the sole of your foot. This point is connected to your kidneys and can benefit hypertension and kidney disease. Other exercises might concentrate on the Laogong point, the acupuncture point on the palm, which is related to the heart, circulation and to releasing negative Qi. Some might concentrate on the Shangzhong point for the heart and lungs. The main thing is always to make sure that your mind is clear and calm during your practice; slowly come to concentration and aim eventually to achieve 'emptiness of mind' when you can become one with the universe, when 'heaven and man become one'. Remember that any direction of Qi through the mind could easily cause a problem which would then be hard to get rid of.

Breathing training

This is another very important part of Qigong, whether you are doing movement or editation. Your breathing should be in time with your movements. Inhaling brings the positive Qi to your body and is usually accompanied with an 'opening' movement, while exhaling releases the negative Qi and accompanies a 'closing'. In doing so, we increase the strength of the breathing. And we do not breathe just with our lungs -by combining breathing with movement we can collect the energy through the skin, via the acupuncture points. For many people, breathing with the whole body will be a very new experience.

There are movements other than opening and closing. In general, with rising Qigong movements we inhale and with sinking movements we exhale, whereas movements to the left or right may be done with either.

There are also different ways to breathe, as described below. Whichever kind of breathing you use, don't go too far -take it step by step with natural breathing, then use normal or reverse breathing for certain purposes. In fact, if you can relax enough and just practise and forget the way you breathe, unconsciously your breathing will incorporate both normal and reverse breathing.

NATURAL BREATHING

Beginners should use what is called natural breathing. When practising, the breathing should follow your body's movements or feelings and you should not be aware of your breathing -just breathe naturally. Natural breathing is also used during meditation.

NORMAL BREATHING

When you breathe in using this method your abdomen expands, and when you breathe out it contracts. This method is connected with the Dantien, which, as mentioned before, is located in the area below the navel. Thus the expanding and contracting of the abdomen stimulates the Dantien.

REVERSE BREATHING

Reverse breathing is the opposite of normal breathing. When you inhale the abdomen contracts, and when you exhale the abdomen expands. This method of breathing is actually stronger and a slightly higher level of practice, because it makes the Dantien stronger and stimulates the Ren (front) and Du (back) channels. However, do not think that just because it is a higher level you should use it all the time. It is like sweets -one or two are nice, but if you eat too many you will get stomach ache and lose your appetite or your teeth. Reverse breathing creates fire in your body. We only use it at certain times and for a short while, particularly during meditation (perform it either twelve or twenty-four times only, inhaling and exhaling being counted as one).

Reverse Breathing

Reverse Breathing

Body training

By 'body' we mean posture and movement, and these are very important. If we just concentrate on the mind and do not concern ourselves with movement and posture, we are not doIng Qigong. In Qigong practice your back should be straight so that the Baihui point or Sky-door (on the top of the head) and the Huiyin point (between the legs near the anus) are in line and vertical. This posture allows you to gather the 'heaven' and 'earth' Qi and allows your Qi to flow naturally. You don't lose too much energy and so you won't get tired easily, Bending forwards or backwards suppresses the lungs, causes the breath to be short and results in your losing Qi. Keeping the mouth closed lets the Qi flow down to the Dantien. It also allows the negative Qi to sink down through the legs and release out to the earth. This lets the positive Qi rise up to the lungs, heart, forehead and Baihui point. The area between the Baihui point and the forehead is connected with the brain and known as the Upper Dantien (see page 30). On the forehead is an acupuncture point known as the Sky-eye or Yintang point, which helps to calm the brain and gathers fresh Qi. Relaxing all the joints helps the Qi pass through the entire body just like keeping the motorways clear allows people to travel to different parts of the country. Relaxing the joints allows more Qi to go to the organs and allows negative Qi around a problem area to be released. And, of course, it allows the blood to circulate, which keeps the blood pressure normal. There are a number of other elements to be taken into consideration. For example, sometimes we need to close the eyes or squeeze the toes, lift up the anus, keep the head upright or bend slightly forwards, keep your weight on the left or the right, and so on. All these movements are used in different exercises under different circumstances. But the important thing is to relax your mind and your body, which will allow everything inside you to work naturally and easily.

Practice

Daily practice is extremely important. It is just like brushing your teeth -it should become a routine activity that you never miss. Many people, however, buy a lot of books or attend classes, but they never practise regularly at home and thus do not feel the full benefit.

Practising Qigong is the way to apply all the knowledge you have gained and to experience how Qigong and Qi can help you.

After reading this book, make a timetable for your practice. In the first week, start off with just three exercises and add another three the next week and so on. In just four weeks you can complete the movements of Balancing Gong and, in another six, you can complete the T aiji Qigong sequence.

An important point to remember when practising is that when you have finished your active Qigong, you should choose a meditation to do during which you can gather Qi. Active Qigong opens the channels and meditation collects the Qi at the Dantien. So Yang goes to Yin. For more information on practising Qigong, see Chapter 7.

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