Energy Meditation Mindset Philosophy principle qigong

Motion in Quiescence and Quiescence in Motion

Zhang Guoming; HuangHe Science and Technology College

Motion in Quiescence and Quiescence in Motion run through the entire process of Health Qigong exercise. Motion strengthens muscles, bones, and tendons, promotes blood circulation, and improves functions of the viscera. Quiescence supports healthy energy, regulates the functions and activities of the nervous system, improves sleep, and makes people energetic and happy. This is why an ancient saying goes “motion nourishes the body and quiescence nourishes the spirit”.

The Yin-Yang Hypothesis in the ancient philosophy of China divides all things of the universe into Yin and Yang categories. When it comes to the relations between motion & quiescence and body & spirit, motion represents Yang and quiescence represents Yin. Body represents Yin and spirit represents Yang. With regard to their own properties, motion promotes Yang and the promoted Yang will boost Yin. Quiescence promotes Yin and the promoted Yin will boost Yang. Balance between motion and quiescence will make Yin and Yang promote each other. They will rise and fall and be converted into each other endlessly. Any relative excess or insufficiency of Yin or Yang will cause Yang to be impaired by Yin or Yin impaired by Yang. Yin and Yang will be eventually separated from each other and result in death. Therefore Yu Shu pointed out in Nan Jing Ji Zhu that “if we use sole Yin Qi to nourish Yang, Yang may be isolated; if we use sole Yang Qi to nourish Yin, Yin may be isolated.” In order to nourish both the body and spirit during the exercise of Health Qigong, we should achieve both Motion in Quiescence and Quiescence in Motion. Through well-coordinated motion and quiescence, we can balance Yin and Yang in the human body, achieve simultaneous nourishment of both body and spirit, realize coordinated physical and mental development, and thus adapt ourselves to the natural and social environments.

Quiescence in Motion means to coordinate movements, respiration, and thought during the exercise of Health Qigong in order to gradually smoothen and coordinate movements and gradually relax and calm the thought. In other words, we should keep a moving body and a stationary mind. During the exercise of Health Qigong, the relaxed and serene mind will well adjust the excitement of the cerebral nerves and inhibit and calm the over-excited nerves so that the brain can be properly regulated to a certain extent of excitation. A balanced nervous system will properly regulate the viscera and muscular tissues to fully relax the tissues and organs controlled by exalted nerves. The relaxation of tissues and organs will promote the circulation of blood and Qi and thus promote the discharge of in-vivo metabolic products and toxic and harmful substances. The discharge of in-vivo metabolic products and toxic and harmful substances will reduce the damage to the nervous system. The quiescent cerebral nerves will perform benign regulation of the body and thus form a virtuous cycle. Just as Yi Shu: Yi Xue Su Yuan says: “To prolong life, we should keep a calm and serene mind and stay out of worries.” When the mind is vacant and serene, the spirit will be at ease. When the spirit is at ease, the Qi of the viscera will be well coordinated, the essence and Qi will be abundant, and the body will be healthy. Therefore, it is very important to achieve a gentle body and a relaxed and serene mind during the exercise of Health Qigong in order to maintain the healthy state of the body.

Quiescence in Motion means to maintain relatively stable body postures during the exercise of Health Qigong in order to reduce the blood flow in the limbs and viscera and increase the blood supply for the brain. This will provide the brain with sufficient nutrition, nourish the brains, and further excite the active regulating effect of the brain. In other words, we should keep a relatively still body while maintaining well-organized activities of the brain tissues. The well-organized activities of the brain mean natural activities that meet the physiological rules of the human body. They are pure-natural movements in the internal and external environments of the body which are free of disturbing factors. Although the brain has entered a serene state free of thoughts, it is filled with infinite vitality and vigor. It is a state in which the over-consciousness gradually fades away and the sub-consciousness gradually comes in. It is “still but not stagnant” and “serene but not dead”. “Achieving the ultimate vacancy and adhering to the true serenity” proposed by Lao Tzu in Tao Teh King indicates that during the exercise of Health Qigong, we should maintain the intelligence of the brain. It is only in this way that we can continuously make progress. Once the brain enters a pure motioning state, it should develop towards two directions. One is to guide the thought to the focus of the infection. The thought goes wherever you feel uncomfortable. Use benign psychological suggestions to naturally attach the focus with Qi and imagine that blood and Qi are unobstructed. Once your confidence is consolidated, the disease may disappear naturally. By concentrating the mind on Dantian, the healthy man can enrich the genuine Qi. When genuine Qi is sufficient, the body will be strong, the essence will be abundant, and life will be prolonged. The second aspect is to form a profound understanding of the world and learn the true meaning of life by experiencing and reflecting on life, and thus to form correct outlooks of the world and life, open the mind, and achieve spiritual purification and breakthroughs.

“Motion” and “quiescence” are relative. They are different in form and associated in nature. Motion contains quiescence and quiescence contains motion. Ultimate motion gives rise to quiescence and ultimate quiescence gives rise to motion. They both promote and restrain each other, forming a both contradictory and unified pair of entities. A proper understanding of the relations between motion and quiescence and a mastery of the essentials and extents of Motion in Quiescence and Quiescence in Motion are of important significance for us to balance Yin and Yang of the body, promote coordinated mental and physical development, improve health, and prolong life.

Reference: Motion in Quiescence and Quiescence in Motion during Health Qigong Exercise

Meditation Mindset Philosophy qigong

The Seven Emotions and Qigong

Xia Xuewei; Inner Mongolia Normal University

The seven human emotions, i.e. joy, anger, worry, anxiety, sorrow, fear, and terror are normal phenomena of life activities which do not induce diseases under normal circumstances. However, abnormal fluctuations in the “seven emotions” may directly affect he functions of the viscera, disturb the circulation of blood and Qi, and thus cause diseases. Being affected by these emotions, the exerciser of Health Qigong will not be able to enter a peaceful and calm state free of distracting thoughts. And the results of the exercise will be naturally affected. At the same time, the exercise of Health Qigong also plays a special role in the regulation of the “seven emotions”. Therefore a complete understanding of the physiological and pathological mechanisms of the “seven emotions” is of prime importance and value to the exercise of Health Qigong.

It is believed in theories of the traditional Chinese medicine that: “Anger impairs the liver, joy impairs the heart, worry impairs the spleen, sorrow impairs the lungs, and terror impairs the kidneys.” Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: Su Wen: Ju Tong Lun says: “Rage drives Qi upward, overjoy slackens Qi, excessive sorrow consumes Qi, terror collapses Qi, …… and anxiety causes Qi stagnation”. All of these have indicated that the excessive and over-excited “seven emotions” will impair the mental and physical health of man to certain extents.

Joy is an embodiment of the happy and delighted mind. Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: Su Wen: Ju Tong Lun says: “Joy will harmonize Qi and facilitate both nutrient and defensive Qi.” But over-joy will impair the cardiac Qi, just as Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: Ling Shu: Ben Shen says: “The spirit should be hidden and kept from being lost during joy”, indicating that excessive joy will impair the mind. The heart is the core, commander, and grand master of all the five Zang viscera. It is the key to the health of the body. By practicing Health Qigong, we can regulate the blood-pumping function of the heart and enrich cardiac Qi. For example, the “Second Routine of Wei Tuo Presenting the Pestle” in Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing can directly stimulate the Heart Channel of Hand Shaoyin and Pericardium Channel of Hand Jueyin by seating the wrists and erecting the palms and thus regulate the cardiac functions, promote blood and Qi circulation, improve the microcirculation at distal ends, and promote blood circulation of the whole body. The “Ape Exercise” of Health Qigong•Wu Qin Xi can enhance respiration, massage the heart, and promote the beating function of the heart by lifting and pressing the palms and stretching and retracting the neck, shoulders, and abdomen. In the “He” of Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue, the vocalization of “He” during the piercing movement of palms will expel the turbid Qi of the heart and regulate the cardiac functions. The “Posing as an Archer Shooting Both Left- and Right-Handed” of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin can regulate the Heart Channel of Hand Shaoyin and the Pericardium Channel of Hand Jueyin and increase the cardiac output.

Anger is an embodiment of agitated emotion of man. People get angry and furious when they are discontent and unsatisfied. Generally speaking, proper expression of emotions is important for maintaining the physiological equilibrium of the human body. But persistent rage, fury, and gloominess will cause negative effects on the organism. Gloominess impairs the liver and upheaves liver Qi. Blood will ascend with the upward invasion of liver Qi, congesting the brain and causing discomfort of the body. This will lead to headaches, cerebral distension, hypochondriac pains, chest distress, dry eye syndrome, and even critical symptoms such as faint, hematemesis, and shock. Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: Su Wen: Ju Tong Lun says: “All diseases originate from Qi…… Anger will cause adverse rising of Qi and even hematemesis or diarrhea”. Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: Su Wen: Sheng Qi Tong Tian Lun says: “Excessive anger leads to segregation of QI from the configuration; and blood stagnating in the upper part of the body will cause raged syncope.” The liver controls dispersion and blood storage. It facilitates the functional activities of Qi throughout the body, keeps unobstructed circulation of Qi in the channels of all viscera, stores blood, transports blood, and regulates and controls the blood supply for various parts of the body. By practicing Health Qigong, we can improve the dredging, purging, and blood-storing functions of the liver. For example, the “Blue Dragon Reaching out Claws” of Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing disperses the depressed liver Qi and regulates the emotions through leftward and rightward turns of the body, the outreach of the claws, and the forward and sideways bending of the body. The “Tiger Exercise” of Health Qigong•Wu Qin Xi dredges liver channels and replenishes liver blood through changes in the hand shape and the glaring eyes and down-pouncing movement. In the “Xu” of Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue, the vocalization of “Xu” during the palm-crossing movement will expel the turbid Qi of the liver and regulate the hepatic functions. “Thrusting the Fists and Making the Eyes Glare to Enhance Strength” of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin can stimulate the liver channel and dredge and nourish the liver through the glaring eyes during the fist-punching movement, the wrist-turning movement during the return, and the gripping of the five fingers.

Worry means something or someone that causes anxiety. Excessive worries will have negative effects on the organism, impede the movements of Qi, and cause Qi stagnation. It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that: “anxiety causes Qi stagnation”. It was said in ancient times that: “When the shape is not straight, Qi will not move smoothly. When Qi does not move smoothly, the mind will not be at ease. When the mind is not at ease, spirit will be scattered”, indicating that obstructed circulation of Qi has a direct influence on the spirit of man. Excessive worries will lead to obscure complexion in the spleen and stomach, dyspepsia, insomnia and dreaminess, dizziness, and many other symptoms. By practicing Health Qigong, we can improve the converting, generating, and blood-controlling functions of the spleen. For example, “Nine Ghosts Drawing Swords” in Yi Jin Jing massages the spleen and enhances the Splenic functions through twisting and stretching movements of the body. The “Bear Exercise” of Health Qigong•Wu Qin Xi enhances the converting and generating functions of the spleen and stomach and boosts the nutrient-transporting and blood-transporting capacities of the Splenic Qi through the waist-turning and abdomen-waving movements. In the “Hu” of Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue, the vocalization of “Hu” will expel the turbid Qi and regulate the spleen and stomach. “Holding One Arm Aloft to Regulate the Functions of the Spleen and Stomach” of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin massages the spleen and stomach, enhances the converting and generating functions of the spleen and stomach, and promotes the smooth circulation of blood and Qi through the up-down alternate pulling movements of the left and right upper and lower limbs.

Sorrow (depression) is the embodiment of sadness and depression. Excessive sorrow will impair the pulmonary Qi and cause short breath, just as Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: Ling Shu: Ben Shen says: “sorrow will block Qi and hamper its circulation” and “deficient pulmonary Qi will cause nasal obstruction and asthenia Qi”. By practicing Health Qigong, we can improve the breath-regulating functions of the lungs. For example, both “Wei Tuo Presenting the Pestle 2” and “Pulling Nine Cows by Their Tails” in Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing stimulate the lung channel and enhances the clear-ascending and turbid-descending function and stale-ridding and fresh-intaking functions of lungs. The “Bird Exercise” of Health Qigong•Wu Qin Xi expands the chest cavity, massages the heart and lungs, enhances the blood-oxygen exchanging capacity, and thus improves the cardiorespiratory functions through the bird-stretching and bird-flying movements. In the “Si” of Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue, the vocalization of “Si” will expel the turbid Qi of the lungs and link up the congenital Qi and postnatal Qi, and thus enhance the ability of lungs to get rid of the stale and take in the fresh. The “Posing as an Archer Shooting Both Left-and Right-Handed” of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin can regulate and stimulate the lung channel, increase the lung capacity, and promote the circulation of blood and Qi over the body.

Fear (terror) is the embodiment of apprehensive and fright. Excessive terror will impair the kidneys and cause chaotic Qi in the viscera. Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: Su Wen: Ju Tong Lun says: “Terror collapses Qi……Terror disorders Qi”. By practicing Health Qigong, we can improve the essence-storing and water-controlling functions of the kidneys. For example, in “Three Plates Falling on the Floor” of Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing, the vocalization of “Hi” during the crouching movement will cause the genuine Qi to ascend and descend correspondingly between the chest and abdomen and thus achieve harmony between the heart and kidneys. The “Dear Exercise” of Health Qigong•Wu Qin Xi strengthens the waist and kidneys through the left-twisting & side-bending and right-twisting & side-bending movements of the waist which stretch the vertebral column and muscles in the waist and back. It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that: “Waist is the container of kidneys”. In the “Chui” of Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue, the vocalization of “Chui” during the knee-bending and crouching movement will expel the turbid Qi of the kidneys and regulate the viscera. “Moving the Hands down the Back and Legs, and Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys” of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin strengthens the kidneys and waist through limb movements.

To sum up, all “seven emotions” have important connections with the internal organs of the human body. The “seven emotions” are normal emotional signs of man and do not induce diseases under normal circumstances. And they actually play an important role in maintaining the normal physiological functions of the human body. But over-excitation which exceeds the normal range of regulation of the human body will result in diseases. Exercises of Health Qigong are mainly featured by: Body regulation, breath regulation, and mind regulation. Body regulation is the basis for breath regulation and mind regulation, while mind regulation is the core of the “Three Regulations”. It provides good regulating effects on all the viscera. Therefore the “Three Regulations” have very good influencing, regulating, and controlling effects on the mental state and temperament of man. And the emotional changes of the “seven emotions” will in turn influence the results of Health Qigong exercise. Therefore it is of great importance and value to learn the “seven emotions” and maintain a normal state of the “seven emotions” during the practice of Health Qigong. By doing so we can gradually replenish the “three treasures” of body (essence, Qi, and spirit) to achieve sufficient essence, abundant Qi, and complete spirit and thus truly understand the essentials of health preservation, disease prevention, and body-building.

Reference: The Seven Emotions and Health Qigong

Breath Philosophy principle qigong

Breath Regulation Modes in Various Stages of Qigong Practice

Si Hongyu, Shangqiu Normal University; Li Jun, Party School of CPC Shanxi Provincial Committee

While popularizing and promoting Health Qigong, it is beyond doubt that the instructors or coaches should emphasize the dominating role of natural respiration before the teaching activities. As the exercisers get more and more familiar with the routines, the authors believe that: during the differentiation stage, the instructor or coach should intentionally explain breath regulation and stress its common properties: inhalation is usually used during opening and ascending movements; exhalation is usually used during closing and descending movements. Inhale while lifting and exhale while dropping. First inhale and then exhale. During the automation stage, abdominal respiration and anus-lifting respiration should be consciously coordinated with the limbs so that the exercisers can truly experience the essential properties of Health Qigong.

Body regulation, breath regulation, and mind regulation are three fundamental elements of Health Qigong. Breath regulation means actively and consciously regulating and control respiration in order to change its frequency, rhythm, and depth and thus gradually meeting the requirements and accomplishing the goals of the exercise. Of the “three regulations”, breath regulation is the one of the main criteria for judging the efficacy of Health Qigong exercise. Different exercisers should apply different breath regulation modes in different stages.

Generalization Stage of Exercisers

During the early stage of Health Qigong exercise, the exerciser can only obtain a perceptive understanding according to the explanation and demonstration by the instructor or coach and his own exercising practice and still cannot fully understand the intrinsic motioning rules of Health Qigong. The influences from the external environment will be transmitted to the cerebral cortex through the perceptive organs (especially proprioceptors) of the exerciser and cause excitation of the cells in the cerebral cortex. In addition, as the internal inhibition of cortex has not been established, the excitation and inhibition in the cortex are both diffused. Therefore the conditioned reflex is not stably connected for the time being and generalization is caused. During this process, the muscles of the exerciser will usually be stubborn and poorly-coordinated. Muscles that are not supposed to contract will be contracted and have unnecessary movements which are quite laborious. Therefore the exerciser will begin to sweat after just a few movements. At this point, the instructor or coach should not put too much emphasis on details of the movements or explain the modes of coordination between breath regulation and movements. Too much explanation will cause exercisers to quit for fear of the difficulty of Health Qigong before they even benefit from it. Therefore the starting stage should be focused on the standardization of basic movements and less explanation of breath regulation should be made. The coordination of respiration should be based on natural respiration. And the main form of natural respiration is thoracic respiration, which is characterized in that the breast expands during inhalation and contracts during exhalation. The foothold of thoracic respiration is positioned in the chest which coincides with the natural physiological structure of the human body because the main respiratory organ of the body-lung-is exactly located in the chest. During this stage, Health Qigong exercise is basically not different form any other sports. Therefore it is certain that no “uniqueness” of Health Qigong will be felt. To interest the exercisers and bring them into the next stage of study and practice, the instructor or coach should have certain skills and theoretical knowledge. The development of Health Qigong requires a number of instructors or coaches having the necessary skills and theoretical knowledge.

Differentiation Stage of Exercisers

As the practice goes on, the beginners will form a preliminary understanding of the intrinsic rules of Health Qigong and some poorly-coordinated and unnecessary movements will be gradually eliminated. During this stage, the excitation and inhibition processes of the motor center of the cerebral cortex will be gradually concentrated. Due to the enhanced inhibition process and especially the development of differentiation inhibition, the motion of the cerebral cortex will enter from the generalization stage to the differentiation stage. Therefore most incorrect movements during the practice will be corrected and the exerciser will be able to smoothly and continuously complete the entire exercise. During this stage, the instructors or coaches should explain breath regulation to the exercisers. If they fail to explain breath regulation, Health Qigong in itself will be meaningless. But they should not go into too many details. In this stage, the exerciser can experience the benefits brought by Health Qigong through the simple coordination between the limb movements and respiration, and thus boost their “emotional” demand for Health Qigong. They he or she will naturally enter the next stage of study and practice.

Automation Stage of Movements

This stage is the best embodiment of the characteristics and nature of Health Qigong exercise and a stage in which the exerciser gains the greatest mental and physical benefits. This is because during the automation stage, the exerciser can practice in an unconscious state but the practice cannot be completed without the participation by the cerebral cortex. It is fair to say that this stage is the best moment for the exerciser to practice breath regulation. This is because automation occurs with the exerciser’s practice which provides the “conditions” for the respiratory activities of the conscious and active operation. And actively-handled respiratory activities are only a small part of it, i.e. the part of gas exchange between the lungs and the external environment during external respiration. In addition, the gas exchange between the thoracic respiration and pulmonary capillaries in external respiration cannot be perceived. And the transportation of oxygen and carbon dioxide in blood and the internal respiration can neither be perceived. Therefore they cannot be actively regulated or controlled. Therefore, all kinds of breath regulation can only be based on and act on external respiration, the perceivable part of the respiration process, i.e. the intentional regulation of the gas exchange between the lungs and the external environment. Breath regulation does not result in obvious external and observable morphological changes and cannot be simply imitated like “body regulation”. Peaceful respiration basically results in no significant change sin the external body. Therefore breath regulation in this stage is mainly focused on mastering the internal changes. The internal changes include changes in the mode and position of respiration, changes in the speed, intensity, and destination of respiratory currents, and changes caused by respiration in the sensation of related viscera and muscles.

To sum up, limb movements of different routines of Health Qigong has to be accompanied by conscious active operations during this stage. Breath regulation modes mainly include: Abdominal respiration: Abdominal respiration requires that the exerciser feel the respiration in the abdomen. This feeling can actually be induced during operation but it does not mean that the respiratory Qi has truly reached the abdomen. From the modern scientific point of view, the respiratory Qi can only enter and exit the lungs and will never descend to the abdomen. The so-called abdominal respiration is just the result of the expansion of the lungs that presses the diaphragm and presses the internal organs in the abdominal cavity. Air cannot really go through the diaphragm and enter the abdominal cavity. If it really does, problems will take place. It includes the following two types:

(I) Obverse abdominal respiration: During the practice of obverse abdominal respiration, it is required that the lower abdomen expand during inhalation and retract during exhalation. In other words the respiration is moved from the chest to the abdomen. In order to achieve obverse abdominal respiration, we first need to find the changes in the respiratory sensation. Our usually respiratory sensation takes place in the chest. It is only when we gradually move the up-and-down movements of the chest to the abdomen that we can gradually form obverse abdominal respiration. If we fail to find the sensation that Qi enters from the chest into the abdomen and simply expand and retract the abdomen during respiration, we will not be able to achieve obverse abdominal respiration but have discomforts and mistakes instead, just as the old saying goes: haste does not bring success. With regard to the internal sensation of respiration, the breath of obverse abdominal respiration directly enters the abdominal cavity. The intake breath also goes through the chest cavity but does not stay in it. The chest cavity is only used as a channel for the breath to pass by, like an extension of the nasal cavity. From the physiological perspective, this is a process in which the diaphragmatic muscles actively contract to form negative pressure in the chest and store the air in the lower part of the pulmonary lobes. The descent of the diaphragm will increase the pressure in the abdominal cavity and compress the organs in the abdominal cavity. Externally, this process will be reflected by the expansion of the abdomen. This is the understanding of the basic theory of obverse abdominal respiration. In the practice of Health Qigong, the preparative routine (staring posture with breath regulation) of Wu Qin Xi and preparative routine of Ba Duan Jin are exactly provided with obverse abdominal respiration. The changes in the pressure of the chest and abdominal cavities will powerfully massage the internal organs, improve the blood circulation in the viscera, extend the lung capacity of thoracic respiration, and properly mobilize the functions of the body to lay a good foundation for the successful completion of the following movements.

(II) Reverse abdominal respiration also stresses the operation of the respiratory Qi by the diaphragmatic muscles. It is actually an enhancement of thoracic respiration. The exerciser can effectively cultivate the internal breath and guide it along certain routes in order the exercise both the body and mind. Reverse abdominal respiration means pulling back the abdomen and lifting the anus during inhalation as opposite to obverse abdominal respiration, in order to lift the diaphragmatic muscles, enlarge the chest cavity, and retract the abdominal cavity. During exhalation, the intercostal muscles will be relaxed and the diaphragmatic muscles will descend. An internal breath will be sensed and guided downward and then sent to the abdomen. Breath regulation is a method for lifting Qi and improving Yang Qi. Obverse abdominal respiration is a method for guiding the descent of Qi and can nourish Yin. Therefore when we practice the ending routine of Health Qigong, we should perform reverse abdominal respiration or obverse abdominal respiration according to our own Yin-Yang equilibrium, so as to strengthen the abdomen and improve the practicing results.

There is also anus-lifting respiration which actually means consciously lifting the muscles in the anus and Huiyin during inhalation of reverse abdominal respiration and relaxing muscles n the anus and Huiyin during exhalation. Anus-lifting respiration is applied in the practice of “Ape Lift” in Wu Qin Xi, “Holding the Hands High with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs” in Ba Duan Jin, and “Pulling back Tails of Nine Bulls” in Yi Jin Jing.

To sum up, long-term conscious breath regulation practice during the automation stage will help exercisers better experience the unique features of Health Qigong and further improve the practicing results.

Reference: “Breath Regulation” Modes in Various Stages of Health Qigong Practice

Mindset Philosophy principle qigong

Understanding Vacancy and Serenity in Qigong

Xu Haipeng, Chen Yun

Health Qigong is a Chinese traditional sport integrating posture adjustment, breath adjustment, and mind adjustment. It is very good for both physical and mental health. Vacancy and serenity are the focus of mind adjustment of Health Qigong. For this sake, this paper discusses the knowledge and teaching methods of vacancy and serenity exercise on the basis of literature data and personal teaching experience.

What is Vacancy and Serenity?

First of all, vacancy and serenity is a mental state that must be maintained during the practice of Health Qigong. Good experience in vacancy and serenity plays an extremely active role in the improvement of mental health. The concepts about vacancy and serenity mainly come from ancient literature. For example, Xing Ming Gui Zhi says: “vacancy means keeping the mind empty, serenity means freeing the mind of any thought.” From this we can see that vacancy and serenity mainly refer to two aspects. Vacancy mainly means laying down everything on the mind and temporarily getting out of the complicated thoughts to enter a special exercising state. Serenity mainly means eliminating all kinds of distracting thoughts from the mind and avoiding sudden thoughts. And about the vacant and serene mental state, Xing Ming Gui Zhi also says: “turn a deaf ear to what you hear and blind eyes to what you see. Do not have any troubles on your mind. And you will be able to achieve vacancy. From this we can see that the exerciser of Health Qigong must keep a peaceful mind towards all kinds of external stimulation during the exercise, i.e. “do not get the mind perturbed”. Qi Bu Ming Shu Yao Ji says: “Forget your body and stay calm as if you are detached from everything. This is called vacancy.” It advises us to forget the body and gradually experience a vacant and detached mental state. And “Recover the spirit, swallow Qi, and stay still. This is called serenity.” This indicates that we should transfer the spirit from the outside into the body, focus on the experience in our own life, consciously regulate respiration, and keep a vacant and serene state of exercise.

Functions of Vacancy and Serenity

Xing Ming Gui Zhi says: “Once we achieve the ultimate vacancy and serenity, the essences will be naturally converted into Qi and Qi will be naturally converted into spirit.” From this we can see that “refining the spirit to recover vacancy” mainly means that the mind gradually experiences vacancy and serenity, i.e. the “ultimate vacancy and genuine serenity” mentioned by Lao Tzu. In this way we can exercise the essence, Qi, and spirit by practicing Health Qigong. In addition, Ting Xin Zhai Ke Wen also says: “When our heart becomes serene and our body reaches stability and we forget both motion and stillness, our three temples will ascend and descend naturally and our channels will be naturally smooth. The essence will be naturally converted into Qi, Qi will be naturally converted into spirit, and spirit will be naturally converted into vacancy.” This indicates that the spiritual and physical inaction will help us achieve “smooth channels”. From this we can see that vacancy & serenity does not mean simply doing nothing, but means “doing everything with inaction.” During the process of inaction, the latent functions of the body will be mobilized to cultivate and reinforce the healthy Qi, excite the immune mechanism of the body, and thus improve the immune functions.

Methods of Vacancy and Serenity Exercise

(I) Physical serenity

The serenity of the body is a basic method to realize vacancy and serenity of the heart. Aimless movements of the body during exercise are unfavorable for the serenity of thought. The serenity of the body does not simply mean physical stillness. It also requires the mind to control the body on purpose. The specific method is to keep the body straight through representation training. Have both shoulders, both hands, both hips, both knees, and both feet parallel to each other in order to maintain the harmony of the body.

(II) Thought replacement method

It was said in ancient times that: “The great Tao tells us to stop distracting thoughts in the first place. All efforts will be useless if we do not stop thoughts.” Generally speaking, during the practice of Health Qigong, one will not find himself surrounded by so many distracting thoughts until he is required to keep quiet and eliminate all distracting thoughts. Therefore the exerciser must use some methods to eliminate these distracting thoughts and thus realize the mental vacancy and serenity. Based on his own experiences in practice and in teaching, the author has summarized four methods.

Method 1: If the distracting thought is related to a certain matter, you can handle the matter first before practice. For example, if you cannot keep vacant and serene due to external stimulations during practice, you should timely settle these external stimulations before practice. If the matter cannot be timely handled, the exerciser may imagine all kinds of possible consequences of the matter, especially those worst ones. Do not spare your imagination so that you will find that even the worst result is not that bad. This will ease your mind.

Method 2: For some rational thoughts, you can use the natural way. For example, if a certain plan of work, certain methods in scientific research, or predictions of a certain matter come to your mind during practice, you could pause the exercise for a while and naturally follow these thoughts. Sometimes they may lead to the correct results. And you could resume the exercise once the mental burden is off.

Method 3: For some unclear distracting thoughts, you may try to analyze them with a matter-of-fact attitude. For example, when a distracting thought occurs, you can carefully analyze it to see if it originates from a specific object or position and to find out the possible source of this distracting thought. Through such objective analysis of the distracting thought, you will find it just a phantom which does not actually exist. In this way you will gradually and peacefully enter a vacant and serene mental state.

Method 4: When there are chaotic distracting thoughts, you may try to focus on the intervals between these thoughts. Zhong Yong says: “All emotions are intermittent.” When the previous thought disappears and the next thought is yet to come, the brain will often be vacant and serene. Grasping and feeling this short break will be very good for the exerciser to experience vacancy and serenity.

During the teaching of vacancy and serenity, the teacher should timely learn and understand the mental state of students and choose different teaching methods according to different distracting thoughts. But on the whole, we should let nature take its course. In other words we do not force ourselves to do anything in practice but progress bit by bit. In addition, when you start to practice Health Qigong, do not be hasty to move. You can first stand quietly for a minute to feel the vacant and serene state and try to make yourself calm. Then you will achieve double effects during practice.

Reference: Understanding Vacancy and Serenity in Health Qigong Exercise

Philosophy principle qigong

Answers to the basic theoretical knowledge of the Health Qi Gong

Zhang Zheng

12.What is meridian?

In Chinese medicine, meridian is the network of running the Qi and blood, connecting the Zang and Fu and the other parts, regulating the body function. Jing means the meridian and vessels. Luo means the collaterals and subcollaterals. Regular and complicated intersection of the meridians connects the five Zang and six Fu, limbs and all bones, five sensory organs and nine orifices, skin, muscles, tendons, bones and vessels and turns them into one whole body to guarantee the formal life activity.

13.What consists of the meridian?

The meridian consists of the meridian and vessels, collaterals and subcolaterals as well as their annexed structures. The meridian and the vessels are the longitudinal trunk line and the collaterals and subcolaterals are the branch network of the former whose physiological function is clinically called the meridian Qi of which can act as communicating the different parts of the body, running the Qi and blood, nurturing the Zang and Fu, responding and conducting, keeping and regulating the balance of the body.

The meridian can be divided into twelve regular meridians, which include three yin channels of hand( the lung channel of hand taiyin, the heart channel of hand shaoyin, the pericardium channel of hand jueyin), three yang channels of hand( the intestine channel of hand taiyang, the sanjiao channel of hand shaoyang, large intestine channel of hand yangming), three yin channels of foot( the spleen channel of foot taiyin, the kidney channel of foot shaoyin, the liver channel of foot jueyin) and three yang channels of foot( the bladder channel of foot taiyang, the gall bladder channel of foot shaoyang, the stomach channel of foot yangming) and eight extra meridians of which include the Du meridian, the Ren channel, the Chong meridian, the Dai meridian, the yinwei meridian, the yangwei meridian, the yinqiao meridian and yangqiao meridian.

The collaterals and subcollaterals consist of fifteen larger collaterals of which are the meridians branched out of the twelve meridians and run interior and exterior along with collaterals of ren meridian, du meridian, and larger collateral of spleen), minute collaterals of which is the branch of the larger collaterals, superficial collaterals of which are minute collaterals located at the surface of muscle. The annexed part of collaterals and subcollaterals consist of tendons, skins, branches of the twelve channels.

14.How is the theory of meridian doctrine applied in the Health Qi Gong?

According to the theory of Chinese medicine, all diseases result from the imperforation of the meridians. No pain will occur when the meridians and the circulation of Qi and blood is unblocked and vice versa. The blood will run smoothly under the condition of the heat and condense of the cold. Therefore unblocking the meridians is common precautions taken against diseases in the exercise. For example, minding on some acupoints or parts make it heat to dredge some meridians and nurture the corresponding Zang and Fu. In addition, the exercise can play a role in stretching, dragging, turning and kneading some acupoints and meridians to prevent the diseases as the meridian runs through the four limbs. The action is the same as for the four sets of the Health Qi Gong.

15.What consist of five Zang and six Fu?

It is the summarization of the visceral organs in the doctrine of visceral state in Chinese medicine. The five Zang is the most important system acting as producing and storing the essence including heart, liver, spleen, lung and kidney. Six Fu act as transporting, digesting the food and drink and discharging the waste including gall bladder, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, Sanjiao and bladder.

16.What is main function of five Zang?

The heart is the master of visceral organs and in charge of the blood vessels and mind. It has its outward manifestation in the face or complexion and its specific opening in the tongue. Its corresponding secrete of body fluid is perspiration.

The liver is in charge of storing the blood and soothing the emotions and assisting the digestion and absorption of the drink and food as well as all the tendons. It has its outward manifestation in the nails and its specific opening in the eyes with tears as its corresponding body fluid.

The spleen is in charge of the transportation of the essence of drink and food and transmitting and distributing the fluids. It can govern and keep the blood and distribute the clear refined substance. It is also in charge of all the muscles. It has its outward manifestation in the lip and its specific opening in the mouth with saliva as its corresponding body fluid.

The lung, which is compared to a canopy, is in charge of respiration, keeps the pathway of air unobstructed and disseminates vital energy throughout, cleanses the inspired air and keeps the Qi flowing downward, opens up and regulates the water course. It has its outward manifestation in the skin and hair and its specific opening in the nose with nasal discharge as its corresponding body fluid.

The kidney stores the congenital and acquired essence and is in charge of the reproductive development, bone and marrow, and regulating the water and fluid metabolism and Qi transformation. It has its outward manifestation in hair and its specific opening in the ears and two lower orifices. Practicers of Qi Gong think highly of the kidney as it is the foundation of the inborn constitution. The essence of the kidney is divided into the kidney yin and kidney yang.

17.What is the main function of six Fu?

Six Fu consists of gall bladder, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, bladder and Sanjiao. The gall bladder, stomach, small intestine and large intestine are digestive organs. Bladder is urinary organ and Sanjiao is one specific Fu of which is only used in Chinese medicine with multiple functions.

Gall bladder has the relation of being interior and exterior with the liver and it is annexed to the liver and called the hollow organ containing refined juice as it stores the bile. Man with exuberant gallbladder Qi is courageous and man with deficient gallbladder Qi is timid and overcautious as it manages decision.

The stomach is interior-exterior relation with the spleen and in charge of the intake and digesting the food with its upper orifice called upper Wan, the middle part called the median Wan and the lower orifice called the lower Wan. It is preferable to descending and also called the sea of food and the foundation of the acquired constitution along with the spleen. It plays an important role in taking in the essence of food and drink and nurturing all the body.

The small intestine connects the stomach in the upper part and the large intestine in the lower and is in charge of separating purity from turbidity of which the purity is transported to the spleen and the turbidity is to the large intestine and bladder as the waste. The small intestine is interior-exterior relation with the heart and can be affected by the disorder of it.

The large intestine is in charge of transporting the discharges and interior-exterior relation with the lung. Dysfunction of transportation is likely to result in the diarrhea, dysentery, constipation and dry stool. Disorder of the lung is able to affect the large intestine.

The bladder is in charge of the body fluid metabolism along with the lung, spleen, kidney and Sanjiao and storing and discharging the urine. It has the interior-exterior relation with the kidney.

The Sanjiao is the passage of the energy Qi and body fluids with the function of transporting them. Qi deficiency in some parts is likely to result from the obstruction of the Sanjiao. The dysfunction of Sanjiao transporting the body fluids is likely to cause the disorders of oliguria and edema etc.

18.How to comprehend the basic meaning of the essence, Qi and spirit?

The essence, Qi and spirit are three treasures of human body in Chinese medicine. All those nutrients and substances constructing the body are involved in the scope of the essence such as the blood, fluid, sperm, liquid, the skin and hair, tendons and bones, muscles etc with the yin characteristics. Qi is the active essential substance warming and nurturing the body and the basic dynamic power promoting the life activity. Spirit is dominating and embodying the life with the function of reining the essence and Qi. Its meaning is extensive including all activities of Zang and Fu, meridians, Qi, blood, fluids and their outer manifestations besides from the psychological activity.

19.How to comprehend the Qi and blood and fluid?

The Qi, blood and fluids run all over the body through the meridians to keep the life activity in Chinese medicine. Qi has multiple physiological function such as promoting, warming, guarding, holding and transforming of Qi characterized as yang. Xue is basically the blood itself with the main function of nurturing and enriching the body. The fluids is generalized concept of all normal liquid inside the body including the inner body fluids of visceral organs and all normal secretions. Its main physiological function is to enrich the skin and hair, orifices such as eyes, nose and lips etc. It is closely relative with the health, weakness and diseases as it is the basic substance constituting the blood.

20.What can the exercise of the Health Qi Gong do for the Qi, blood and fluids?

The exercise can strengthen the waist and kidney to play a role in refining, nurturing and holding the essence. It can enhance the production and transportation of vital Qi to have got enough rest for the brain and body and the health effect of balancing the yin and yang. It can improve the activities of all systems including the nerve, respiration, circulation, digestion, motion, uropoiesis, reproduction and endocrine and turn them into the stable dynamic equilibrium, which can play an active in inducing, arousing and enhancing the vital Qi, as it can decrease the base metabolism and the oxygen consumption and increase the energy storage. Therefore, the practicer is able to rid of the diseases by ways of running the Qi in the opinion of the ancient people.

21.What are outer cold caused by yang deficiency and inner heat caused by yin deficiency? What can the exercise of the Health Qi Gong do for the condition?

Generally, the body is in a state of balance of yin and yang, integrity of figure and spirit, and whole harmony. Diseases will ensue as soon as the balance is destroyed. Yang deficiency is a state of decline of vital gate-fire, insufficiency of vital yang and decline of function and manifested as chilliness, pale facial complexion, lassitude, loose stool, clear urination, deep, thready and feeble pulse. The practicer should mainly do the active Gong of which can produce the Qi and yang to dredge the meridians.

Yin deficiency is insufficiency of yin fluids of which can result in the water being unable to press the fire to cause the inner heat. It commonly manifests as baking-fire, being fidgety, dry mouth, constipation, palpitation, insomnia with much dream. The practicer should do the quiet Qi Gong to increase and nurture the yin and fluids and get the effect of ridding of the diseases and health-keeping through the exercise of combination of motion with quietness.

22.What is the Sanjiao in Chinese medicine?

Sanjiao is one specific word in Chinese medicine including the upper, middle and lower jiao and subject to six Fu. Generally, it is considered as one Fu containing all visceral organs as well as the basic concept dividing the part of the body, that is to say, the part over the diaphragm is upper jiao containing the heart, lung; the part between the level of the diaphragm and the umbilicus is middle jiao containing the spleen and stomach; the part below the umbilicus is the lower jiao containing the liver, kidney, bladder, small and large intestine etc. Its function is to dominate the Qi transformation and the passage of the nutrients and fluids.

23.What is six Yin in Chinese medicine?

Yin is over or excessive by word. The change of six kinds of climate including the wind, cold, summer, damp, dryness and fire in nature is called the six Qi in Chinese medicine. They are called the six Yin as soon as they become the etiological factors under the condition of abnormal and abrupt change. They are called the six evils when they attack the body and cause the exogenous diseases. The common characteristics of the diseases caused by the six evils are as follows: It has relation with the season; for example, there are more diseases caused by wind in the spring, summer-heat diseases in the summer, damp diseases in the long summer, dry diseases in the autumn, cold diseases in the winter; the six evils can simultaneously attack the body such as the wind and cold causing the common cold, the wind and damp causing the arthralgia, damp and heat causing the diarrhea, etc. The six evil can be transformed each other. For example, the cold evil can be turned into the heat evil inside the body; prolonged summer-heat can injure the yin due to the production of dryness. The common passage is from the surface of the skin and the mouth or nose. So we should guard the body from the invasion of the six evils according to the different seasons.

24.What do the seven emotions consist of?

The seven kinds of emotion of human body are called the seven emotions including happiness, anger, sorrow, anxiety, sad, horror and terror. Generally speaking, the change of emotion is psychological activity of which won’t cause diseases under the normal condition. Only sudden, drastic and prolonged bad emotion stimulation will result in the diseases when it is beyond the modulation of body.

Different emotional change will affect different organs just as it is recorded in Huangdi’s internal classics•plain questions•discussions of yin and yang classification: anger will injure the liver, happiness will injure the heart, anxiety will injure the spleen, sorrow will injure the lung and terror will injure the kidney. It is called internal injury of seven emotions as it directly injures the Zang and Fu.

25.What is the main mechanism of seven emotions injuring the five Zang? What does the exercise of the Health Qi Gong do for that?

Abnormal seven emotions mainly affect the activities of Qi to result in the disorder the Qi and blood circulation and abnormal ascending, descending, coming-in and going-out of Qi. Anger drives qi upward. Rage will cause the disorder of the soothing of liver Qi and result in the upper punch of blood and Qi of which will block the upper orifices and cause the coma. Over happiness will cause the scatter of the heart Qi, absentmindedness and abnormal mind. Over anxiety will cause the block of the middle Qi activity and result in the digestive dysfunction and insomnia. Over sorrow will cause low-spiritedness and the exhaustion of the lung Qi and result in fatigue and lassitude. Over horror or terror will cause the cave-in and weakened renal qi and result in urinary and fecal incontinence or even abnormal mind.

The exercise of the Health Qi Gong is able to keep the practicer calm, happy, open-minded and rid of the disturbance of abnormal seven emotions to enhance the health of the body and mind.

26.What are five kinds of strain and seven kinds of impairments?

Five kinds of strain means that prolonged watching will injure the blood, prolonged sleep will injure Qi, prolonged sitting will injure the muscles, prolonged standing will injure the bone and prolonged walking will injure the tendons written in Huang Di’s internal classics-the plain questions-the extrapolation of five Qi. Sometimes five kinds of strain still mean five kinds of strain of liver, heart, spleen, lung and kidney of which is closely related with man’s seven motions. Seven kinds of impairments are generally thought to be satiation injuring spleen, rage causing Qi reverse to injure liver, overstrain weight lifting and prolonged sitting in the wet injuring the kidney, chill and cold drink injuring the lung, sorrow and over-thinking injuring the heart, wind, rain, cold and dampness injuring the body, great fear injuring the mind recorded in the general treatise on the etiology and symptomology of diseases. However, it is also thought to be that over seven motions injure five Zang.

27.Why is it said that prolonged watch will injure the blood?

The so-called prolonged watch injuring the blood means that prolonged watching something will not only result in the fatigue of both eyes and vision reducing but also the damage of blood. According to the theory of Chinese medicine, Liver can store the blood and regulate the blood volume to nurture the whole body and suppress the flare-up of liver Yang; in the meantime, it can regulate the distribution of different parts of body and transport the blood to where it is needed. It is thought to be that the outer connected orifice of liver are eyes and eyes are the outer demonstration of liver as the meridian of liver is connected with the eyes and man’s vision depends on the soothing of liver Qi and nurture of liver blood. Therefore the overstrain of eyes will injure the liver and further affect the regulation of the blood. That is why prolonged watch will injure the blood.

28.Why is it said that prolonged sleep will injure Qi?

The so-called prolonged sleep injuring Qi means that lying in bed for a long time will result in mind stupor and dispiritedness and Qi scattering unable to transform into the spirit for a longer time. That is why prolonged sleep will injure Qi.

29.Why is it said that prolonged sitting will injure the muscles?

Prolonged sitting injuring the muscles means that immobility with sitting for a long time will wound the muscles and textures in the neck and back etc to result in the local fatigue. As muscles in the neck and back must keep tension to balance the body when man is seated, sitting for a long time will certainly cause the fatigue of muscles in neck and back. In addition, that blood circulation in the muscle texture pressed by body and limbs is bad will result in the regression of their function even the muscle wasting in the long run.

30.Why is it said that prolonged standing will injure the bone?

Prolonged standing injuring the bone means that bones of human body will strain because of supporting the body with immobility of long standing. Generally, moderate standing will be helpful to increase the density and enhance the rigidity of bone. That bone can’t be stimulated by propping without some standing activity will be likely to cause osteoporosis. But long standing will cause the fatigue of muscles propping the bone and result in the development malformation or dysfunction of bones or joints.

31.Why is it said that prolonged walk will injure the tendons?

Prolonged walk injuring the tendons means the prolonged walk will cause the injury of tendons and muscles. As walk mainly depends on the pull of tendons and muscles for the bones, prolonged walk will be likely to cause the injury or strain of the soft tissue such as ligament, tendons and fascia etc around the joints of lower limbs.

32.What is the relation of five strains with seven emotions?

Five strains are separately overstrain of the liver, heart, spleen, lung and kidney. Seven emotions are seven kinds of feeling display including happiness, anger, sorrow, anxiety, sadness, horror and terror. There is close relation between the five strains and seven emotions of which means that roused seven emotions will cause the injury of five Zang. In the Chinese medicine, the activity of seven emotions will directly affect the five Zang. That is to say, anger is liable to cause the upward invasion of liver-Qi and pain and distension of head; happiness is liable to cause the scatter of the heart-Qi and absentmindedness; horror is liable to cause the entanglement of heart-Qi; sorrow and anxiety is liable to cause the stagnation of spleen-Qi and digestive dysfunction; sadness is liable to cause the exhaustion of lung-Qi and fatigue and short breath; terror is liable to cause the descending of kidney-Qi and unconsolidation of kidney-Qi.

33.What consists of the human body in anatomy?

The human body consists of the head, neck and nape, the trunk and four limbs.

34.What consists of the human body physiologically?

The body consists of nine systems including the locomotor system, alimentary system, respiratory system, circulation system, uropoiesis and reproduction system, nervous system, endocrine system, sensory organs and immune system.

35.What consists of the locomotor system and what is their function?

The locomotor system includes the bone, cartilage, joints, muscle, ligament and tendon etc of which constitute the basic sketch and can sustain and protect the visceral organs.

36.What consists the human alimentary system and what is their function?

The alimentary system is divided into the alimentary tract and digestive gland. The alimentary tract starts from the oral cavity and runs to the throat, oesophagus, stomach, intestine, colon, and rectus and till the anus. The digestive canal includes salivary gland and many glandules in the liver, pancreas and the wall of alimentary tract. The basic function is to take in the food and decompose and absorb the nutrient and discharge the waste.

37.What consists of the respiratory system and what is their function?

The respiratory system consists of the air passage including nose, throat, larynx, trachea and bronchus and the lung and the assistor including the pleural membrane and pleural cavity. Its main function is to inhale the oxygen in the air and exhale the carbon dioxide inside the body.

38.What consists of the circulation system and what is their function?

The circulation system consists of the heart, artery, capillary vessel, vein and lymphatic vessel. Its main function is to transport the nutrient, oxygen and hormone to the organs and tissue for metabolism and discharge the metabolite and carbon dioxide through the lung, kidney and skin.

39.What consists of the nervous system in the body and what is their function?

The nervous system consists of the brain, spinal cord and cranial nerve, spinal nerve and nerve ganglia annexed with the brain and spinal cord. It is the main system dominating the activity of other systems. Firstly, it control and regulate the activity of other organs and systems; in the meantime, it make the body reactive to the environment through the analysis and synthesis of the nervous system.

40.What consists of the uropoiesis and reproduction system and what is their function?

The uropoiesis and reproduction system consists of the kidney, ureter, bladder and urinary canal. Its main function of the uropoiesis system is to discharge the internal metabolites and the function of reproduction system is to multiply.

41.What consists of the endocrine system and what is their function?

The endocrine consists of those glands distributed all over the body and their function is to regulate the function of the organs, tissue and cells through the hormone and the relative substance secreted from the glands to keep the internal environment stable.

42.What consists of the sensory organs and what is their function?

The sensory organs are the specific organs connected with the sensory nerve ending and consist of the organ of vision, vestibulocochlear organ, organ of smell, organ of taste and skin as well. Their main function is to receive all the stimulus and transform it into the nerve impulse and transport to the nerve center through the sensory conduction passage to produce varieties of sense.

43.What consists of the immune system and what is their function?

The immune system consists of immune cells, which include lymphocyte, plasma cell and macrophage etc, lymphatic tissue and lymphatic organs. Lymphocyte include T cell, B cell and NK cell. The main function of the immune system is to produce the immune response reaction to educe the function of immune protection, immune surveillance and immune homeostasis through identifying the self and non-self.

Reference: Answers to the basic theoretical knowledge of the Health Qi Gong

Exercise Mindset Philosophy principle qigong

Inverted-Sequence Exercises in Qigong

Hu Xiaofei; Beijing Sport University

What are Inverted-Sequence Exercises

Inverted-sequence exercises refer to exercises like handstand, crawling, backward walking, and barefoot walking. These exercises provide body-strengthening, health-improving, and disease-removing effects for which they are deeply welcomed by people. Inverted-sequence exercises were carried out in our country as early as the ancient times. Various forms of inverted-sequence exercises were included in “Wu Qin Xi” composed by Hua Tuo in the Han Dynasty and recorded in Daoyin Illustrative Plates unearthed from Mawangdui and General Treatise on the Cause and Symptoms of Diseases written by Chao Yuanfang in the Sui Dynasty. These exercises not only provided guarantee for the health and longevity of our ancestors with their body-strengthening and health-improving efficacy, but also played an important role in the life, multiplication, and evolution of the Chinese Nation with their unique biological efficacy. And inverted-sequence exercises are easy to practice and deserve to be popularized.

Inverted-Sequence Exercises in Health Qigong

Health Qigong exercises are based on theories of bionics. And man is the most fully-evolved and advanced creature in the biological world having many habits and body postures that are quite contrary to those of animals. This result in many inverted-sequence exercises in Health Qigong, such as “Nine Ghosts Drawing Saber”, “Pulling Nine Cows by Their Tails”, “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey”, in “Swinging the Tail” in Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing, “Tiger Exercise”, “Deer Exercise”, “Bear Exercise”, “Ape Exercise”, and “Bird Exercise” in Health Qigong•Wu Qin Xi, “Hiding the Head and Shrinking the Neck” in Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue, and “Swinging the Head and Lowering the Body to Relieve Stress” and “Both Hands Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist” in Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin. All of them will provide good effects on the exercisers of Health Qigong during their practice.

Functions and Principles of Inverted-Sequence Exercises

(I) Balancing nervous systems and removing fatigue

Most of the daily activities of people are done with a straight body or adductive, head-lowering, or forward exercises. Therefore the nervous systems controlling such muscle exercises will be constantly in a highly excited state on a long-term basis. On the other hand, the nervous systems controlling the body-bending, abducing, head-lifting, and backward muscle exercises will be in a low-excitation state. The long-term excitation imbalance among the nervous systems will inevitably cause tiredness in local muscles and nerve centers and thus result in sub-health and even diseases. Researches have shown that “inverted-sequence exercises can comprehensively regulate the nervous systems of the body and establish a new balance”. Therefore the crawling movement of “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey”, the body-unfolding movement of “Tiger Pouncing”, the backward-leaning and abducing exercises of “Nine Ghosts Drawing Saber” and “Bird Stretching”, the backward movement of “Ape Picking”, the head-hiding and neck-shrinking exercises of “Si Zi Jue”, and the looking-back movement of “Looking Backwards to Prevent Sickness and Strain” in Health Qigong can effectively stimulate those muscles that seldom move, exercise the nervous systems more comprehensively than normal exercises, and thus help the exerciser eliminate nervous fatigue and establish a new balance.

(II) Dredging the Twelve Channels and protecting the health of viscera

According to the Channel Theory, the fingers are the start and end points of the three Yin and three Yang hand channels, and toes are the start and end points of the three Yin and three Yang foot channels. For example, the Lung Channel ends at Shaoshang and the Large Intestine Channel starts at Shangyang. They serve as connecting links in blood and Qi circulation and most origin acupoints of the Twelve Channels are distributed around the wrists and ankles. According to the theory of the traditional Chinese medicine, “diseases in the Five Viscera shall be treated at their twelve origins” and “pains are caused by obstruction”. Stimulating these points can effectively dredge the three Yin and three Yang hand channels and improve the functions of the viscera. In the “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey” exercise of Health Qigong, it is required to exert the fingers, wrists, toes, and ankles in order to effectively stimulate the start and end points of the tree Yin foot channels and three Yang channels and thus dredge the channels and protect the health of the viscera.

(III) Improving systemic circulation and promoting metabolism

The lower limbs of the human body are the major active organs and blood tends to flow into the lower limbs when a man moves with an upright body. In this case, the heart has to work against the pull of the gravity of blood in order to drive the upward circulation of blood and return blood to the heart. This will add to the burden on the heart and cause reduced blood supply for the heart and organs above the heart, exposing the body to the risks of diseases like CHD, AS, varicose veins, arthritis, and haemorrhoids. Exercises such as “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey”, “Swinging the Tail”, “Tiger Pouncing”, and “Both Hands Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist” in Health Qigong effectively lower the heart, promote blood flow into the heart and parts above the heart, and thus improve the blood circulation of the entire body and facilitate the control and prevention of above-mentioned diseases. When one reaches the middle age, the deficiency of blood and Qi and lack of exercise will prevent blood and Qi from reaching the distal joints and thus result in the stasis and obstructed circulation of blood and Qi. And the “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey” exercise of Health Qigong can effectively enhance the stimulation on the wrists, fingers, ankles, and toes of the exerciser, open more capillaries, improve the microcirculation of the human body, and reduce the blood pressure. This is of more significance for the old and middle-aged people.

(IV) Strengthening muscles and bones and benefiting the brains

Long-term bad habits will cause injuries to local bones and muscles of the human body. For example, bending over the desk for a long time will strain the neck, shoulder, and back muscles. Together with the invasion by wind-pathogen and cold-pathogen, it will cause muscle injuries and local disorder of facet joints. In addition, long-term upright postures will also cause injuries to the vertebral column and especially the lumbar vertebra. Relevant researches have shown that: when looking at a the profile of the vertebral column of a normal person standing upright, the gravity center of the upper part of the body is located in front of the vertebral spine. The gravity line of the body usually goes through the ventral side of the center of the fourth lumbar vertebra. In other words, all segments of the vertebral spine bear a constant anteflexion moment. Therefore the pressure on the vertebral spine is not only from the weight of the human body itself, but also from the convergent force of the back muscles used to balance the gravity. When the human body is upright, the vertebral body and the intervertebral disks almost bear all the pressure. The pressure on different segments of the vertebral column gradually increases from bottom to top. Therefore people standing upright all the time will easily suffer from diseases in the vertebral column and especially the lumbar vertebra, such as lumbagos and back pains. And the crawling movement of “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey”, the body-unfolding movement of “Tiger Pouncing”, and the backward-leaning and abducing exercises of “Nine Ghosts Drawing Saber” and “Bird Stretching” in Health Qigong will not only effectively help the exerciser relieve the tension on the above-mentioned parts of the body and improve the local circulation of blood, but also disperse the gravity of the body to the four limbs to greatly reduce the load on the spine and lumbar vertebra. And they are very good exercises for the waist and back muscles and especially beneficial for old and middle-aged people suffering from diseases in the waist, back, and vertebral column. They can also stimulate “Dadun” of the liver channel (liver governs the tendons) and “Yongquan” of the kidney channel (kidneys govern the bones) to drain the liver fire, enhance kidney Qi, improve the hepatic and renal functions, and thus slow down the aging process, strengthen the bones and tendons, boost the spirit and energy, and benefit the brains.

(V) Promoting the peristalsis of the stomach and intestines and preventing constipation and piles

The upright posture of the body will impose pressure on the stomach and intestines, cause difficulty in their peristalsis, and due to their low positions, add to the difficulty of venous reflux. This will easily lead to constipation, rectocele, piles, and endless accompanying trouble. By lowering the body position and inverting the sequence of exercises, “Tiger Pouncing”, “Swinging the Tail”, “Both Hands Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist”, “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey”, and “Bear Carrying” in Health Qigong can effectively stimulate the stomach, intestines, and anal sphincter, promote the blood circulation, improve venous reflux, and thus prevent the above-mentioned symptoms.

(VI) Eliminating weak links and preventing accidental injuries

Unbalanced forces on muscles will cause local injuries to the muscles. For example, taking a sneeze may cause a sudden sprain the lumbar region, stepping on a stone may spray the ankle, and looking back may injure the neck. To prevent these injuries, we have to strengthen the local muscles. The “Nine Ghosts Drawing Saber”, “Plucking a Star and Exchanging a Star Cluster”, “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey”, “Deer Wrestling”, “Hiding the Head and Shrinking the Neck”, and “Looking Backwards to Prevent Sickness and Strain” exercises in Health Qigong can effectively strengthen the local muscles, eliminate the weak links, and thus prevent injuries.

Matters to be Noted about Inverted-Sequence Exercises

(I) Carefully choose exercises

There are a lot of inverted-sequence exercises in Health Qigong, and different people have different conditions. Therefore it is not advisable to practice aimlessly. The best way is to choose inverted-sequence exercises under the guidance of specialists and according to the specific conditions of the exerciser in order to suit the exercises to the symptoms. Inverted-sequence exercises are against people’s habitual movements. Therefore physically weak and disease-susceptible exercisers shall use caution while choosing such exercises. For example, physically weak and powerless people shall use caution while choosing “Crouching Tiger Springs on Prey”, patients with severe high blood pressure shall use caution while choosing “Swinging the Tail” or “Deer Wrestling”, patients with severe cervical spondylosis shall use caution while choosing “Nine Ghosts Drawing Saber” or “Looking Backwards to Prevent Sickness and Strain”, and patients with severe lumbar disc herniation shall use caution while choosing “Swinging the Tail”, “Tiger Pouncing”, or “Moving the Hands down the Back and Legs, and Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys”.

(II) Make full preparations

Since inverted-sequence exercises usually mobilize the nerves, joints, muscles, and tendons that we seldom use under normal circumstances, we need to take proper warm-up activities to excite the nerves, warm up the muscles, reduce the viscosity of muscles, activate the tendons, and lubricate the joints in order to improve the practicing results and avoid injuries.

(III) Make progress step by step

Inverted-sequence exercises have high requirements on the difficulty of movements, intensity of practice, and amount of exercise with regard to the practicing methods, nervous systems, and organs. Therefore inverted-sequence exercises shall be practiced in a step-by-step and gradually way. This means to: 1. Progress from easier methods of movements to the more complicated ones.. 2. Progress from lower difficulty levels of movements to the higher ones. 3. Progress from lower intensity of practice to higher intensity. 4. Progress from smaller amounts of exercise to larger ones. It is only in this way that we can gradually master the techniques, improve our skills, improve the balances between nerves and the motor system, and thus protect the body and improve health.

(IV) Perseverance

Peoples living habits are not formed within a day or two. And specialization of work is also something we need to carry through on a long-term basis. Therefore, many problems such as mental fatigue and weak muscles cannot be easily alleviated or solved and gradual transition will be required. That is why we need to achieve our goals through repeated practice. Specifically, we should practice 2 to 3 times per week and use 4~8 repetitions for each movement or body part.

(V) Reasonable sort-out

The inverted-sequence exercise involves a certain intensity and workload. Failure to take any sort-out or relaxation after the exercise will reduce the practicing effects and may even cause new fatigue and injures. Therefore, it is necessary to sort out and relax all parts of the body by patting, massaging, shaking, stretching, and swaying. Physical methods of relaxation such as hot water bath after the exercise are even better.

Reference: Inverted-Sequence Exercises in Health Qigong

Mindset Philosophy qigong

On Basic Essentials of Health Qigong

Wei Yongzhong; Tangshan College

The second basic essential of Health Qigong is to enter serenity. Compared with the first essential “relaxation”, serenity is mainly focused on the regulation of mental activities. Entering serenity mainly means reducing and stopping the conscious activities of the brain or, in Qigong terms, attenuating and eradicating the postnatal conscious spirit (also known as “external mind” or “external spirit”).

Consciousness is acquired during social activities. It is specific to the human kind and influences and determines other natural instincts of man. Therefore it is an essential quality of man. Whenever we are awake, the brain always thinks one thing or another. On many occasions it will keep thinking even if you don’t want it to. And the thinking is completely irregular. This can be seen from both the ECG and EEG. When one gets excited, the mind will be difficult to calm. When one gets troubled, many thoughts will possess the mind. Therefore it is really difficult to enter serenity, which seems to be against the instinct of man. But the real problem is even worst. The so-called conscious spirit includes the thinking spirit and the lust spirit. In other words, we should not only eradicate conscious activities, but also eradicate emotional experience during Qigong exercise. The former belongs to IQ and the latter belongs to EQ. They are owned by all normal people and should be cultivated since childhood. Animals also have emotions and feelings. Isn’t it against the nature to eradicate them? Why do we have to enter serenity above all?

The direct purpose of serenity is to mobilize and enhance our self-regulating functions or, in Qigong terms, excite and activate the congenital primordial spirit (also known as “internal mind” or “internal spirit”). The primordial spirit exactly controls and regulates itself. This function is inherent with everybody and should not have to be excited. But it has been inhibited and even degenerated by the strong postnatal consciousness and excessive lust spirit of man. Therefore it has to be mobilized and excited. We will not be able to preserve health unless we manage to do so. And we will not have Qigong if we fail to do so. How to mobilize it? It is excited just the way it has been inhibited. As it has been inhibited by the mutual growth and reduction, it should be activated through mutual growth and reduction. In the basic Chinese terms, it is called mutual growth and reduction between Yin and Yang. Among the various types of spirit in the human body, the conscious spirit belongs to Yang and the primordial spirit belongs to Yin. To boost Yin or to excite and activate the congenital primordial spirit, we need to reduce Yang or, in other words, attenuate and eradicate the postnatal conscious spirit.

It seems difficult to eradiate the conscious spirit. Therefore some people completely give up the idea of entering serenity. They think: “It will be OK if I don’t think about anything!” As a matter of fact “thinking about nothing” is just the hardest part, and thus the highest degree of serenity. All Qigong exercises involve serenity. Any exercise without serenity does not belong to Qigong. This is an inevitable step. Relaxation and serenity are like two thresholds to the hall of Qigong. The first threshold is low and we can easily cross it. The second threshold is high and easily daunts us. But it is the most important and critical basis essential. Why is serenity the most critical essential? We have to analyze the reason from the perspectives of both health preservation and Qigong.

First let’s take a look at health preservation. Health preservation is a modern term. In ancient times it was referred to as “physical cultivation”. Qigong is called “life cultivation”. In the introductory chapter of “Xiu Qi Zhi Ping” in The Great Learning, the first of the Four Great Books, it says: “Self-cultivation is the foundation for all people from the emperors to the common people.” But it also stresses: Self-cultivation should be carried out on the basis of a righteous mind.” This is because “the heart is the master of the body.” (annotated by Zhu Xi). This is no longer Confucian but involves medicine. Nei Jing explicitly says: “the heart is a monarch organ.” A monarch gives orders. The heart does not give orders; the brain and the central nerves do. How come the heart becomes the monarch? This is because “the heart is the container of spirit” and “the origin of spirit”. The spirit in the brain is originally stored and originated from the heart. This is why we call it primordial spirit. Let’s make a metaphor. Although the spirit works in the brain, the heart is its home. And this home cannot be changed. Therefore spirit is the master but when it comes to organs, the heart is always the monarch which governs the entire body. Being in charge of the entire body, can it have a rest? No. Even if it takes a nap, “all internal organs will be endangered”. Therefore the heart does not have a rest for even one second. The cerebrum, cerebellum, and all other organs have rests and at least work shifts. Now that the heart is the master of the whole body, we should never ignore the health of the heart and erase it from the list of our health-preservation items. Otherwise, health preservation will be just a joke. We have always wanted to realize “Fitness of the nation” and the United Nations have also proposed “Health for all” and made new annotations of “Health”. But health is far from being realized. When will it be realized? How? As far as I am concerned, mental regulation is the key to health preservation and health. Some Health Qigong specialist have long pointed out that: The life of a man is a contradictor yet unified entity dominated by the mind. The key words here are “dominated by the mind”. This means the main aspect of the mind-body contradiction is the mind rather than the body. And it also annotates the “simultaneous cultivation of both Xing and Ming” which has been pursued by Chinese Qigong exercisers since the ancient times: Cultivation of Xing and mind is dominant and cultivation of Ming and body is auxiliary.

The same conclusion will be reached when it comes to the treatment of disease. But we have to begin with the dialectics of traditional Chinese medicine. According to traditional Chinese medicine, diseases are caused by “seven emotions from the inside and six evils from the outside.” The endogenous factors are in the first place and the exogenous factors are in the second place. This is because endogenous factors are the basis and the exogenous factors are the conditions. The exogenous factors do not take effect unless through endogenous factors. Western medicine does not explain pathogenic factors this way. It only involves germs and viruses. However, traditional Chinese medicine never mentions these. It focuses on wind, cold, summer heat, damp, dryness, and fire, the “Six Forms of Heaven Qi” and “Six Forms of Earth Qi”. They fill up the entire universe and do not carry benign or malignant properties. They do not harm people unless they are surplus. Surplus leads to excess, excess leads to pathogens, pathogens lead to toxicity, and this is how harm is eventually done. However, if we do not have excessive emotions, we will never be affected by the six excesses. If we preserve health according to the four seasons, we will never get sick. This is why Taoists believe “life is controlled by oneself instead of God”. And as a matter of fact, there were many Taoists and doctors who did manage to master their own lives and lived long lives until their painless deaths. How did they manage to do so? They did not rely on sterilization. On the contrary, they knew that many germs were good even if they were toxic, as toxic things could be utilized to counteract toxin. Therefore they did not try to kill them but did whatever they could to find and utilize them. As a matter of fact, such things have always been with us or inside us since the very beginning of our history. They could never be eliminated. If we do want to kill them, they will get stronger and stronger and more and more diverse until they completely go out of control. And us human beings will be victims when that day comes. Taoists and doctors of China would never get the worst of it, neither would the Confucians, Buddhists, or the I-Ching practicers. The key to their longevity was: avoiding being impaired by the seven emotions. Emotions originate from the heart. The seven emotions are activities of the mind.

This is also true when it comes to happiness. Happiness does not lie in excellent material conditions but lie in the delightful feeling of the mind. Therefore, a person always in a good mood is far happier than another person having delicious food and drink everyday. As the saying goes “laugh and grow fat”, we will never feel at east or happy if we do not have an open mind.

From this we can see that the mind is always the dominating one in the physical-mental entity under any circumstances. Therefore we need to cultivate our mind if we are to preserve health. This is the key that we have to grasp. Then why do we have to enter serenity before mind cultivation? To answer this question, we need to start with some detailed information of Qigong.

Qigong is the manipulation of Qi. Once the body is relaxed, Qi will start to circulate. This is easy to understand. But how do we master, control, rein, and apply Qi once it starts to circulate? This is a complicated but most critical issue. Fortunately, many health-preserving schools of ancient China, such as Qigong, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, I-Ching, medicine, and Wushu, have provided us with clever methods to rein and control Qi. There have been countless grand masters that had profound knowledge about the mechanisms of Qi. Even if we ignore the time before the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, there were Guan Zhong, Lao Tzu, Kuei Ku-tzu, Confucius, Yen Hui, Bian Que, Wang Qiao, Qu Yuan, Liezi, Chuang Tzu, Mencius, Hsun Tzu, Dong Zhongshu, Wang Chong, Wei Boyang, Zhang Zhongjing, and Hua Tuo between the Spring and Autumn Period and the Qin and Han Dynasties. After the Wei and Jin Dynasties, there were fewer grand masters but numerous famous masters. And we had many hermits who concealed their identities or left their works but not their names. And countless ancient people knew how to control Qi. Below are just some examples:

The Guan Zhong, the great politician of the 7th century BC wrote in Nei Ye Pian that: “Qi cannot be spoken, seen, or heard.” This indicates how difficult it is to control Qi. “Therefore this Qi cannot be stopped with force but can be calmed with virtue. It cannot be vocalized with the mouth but can be expressed by the mind.” “When the mind is serene, Qi will come into order and stay inside you”. “By cultivating our mind and tranquilize our thought, we will be able to achieve Tao.” This indicates that Qi can be controlled. But how do we control it? With “serene mind” and “cultivated mind and serene thought”. What Guan Zhong meant was that: Qi cannot be spoken, seen or heard. Therefore this Qi cannot be stopped with force but can be calmed with virtue. It cannot be vocalized with the mouth but can be expressed by the mind. But we can calm it with virtue and cater to it with thought. When the mind is serene, Qi will come into order and stay inside you. And when you cultivate your mind and enter serenity, you will achieve Tao and Qi and be able to control Qi.

Mencius is as good as Guan Zhong with it comes to the Qi-driving skills. Although he too though it was “difficult to explain” what was “the Great Qi”, when asked by his disciples he still dared to say: “I am good at nourishing the Great Qi.” The Great Qi is “extremely tremendous and firm” and “fills the entire universe”, while Mencius were able to “nourish it without being harmed” and convert it into “filling material of the body”. How did he manage to do so? Mencius says: “Aspiration is the master of Qi” and “focused aspiration will help control Qi and focused Qi will help control aspiration”. Aspiration is will. Nei Jing: Ling Shu: Ben Shen says: “persistent intention is called aspiration.” Put in a modern way, aspiration is very similar to intention. In other words, Mencius use focused intention to control Qi, driving the endogenous factors with exogenous factors and converting external Qi into internal Qi. It should be noted that according to Mencius, Qi and aspiration are interactive. (See Mencius: Gong Sunchou I)

According to Chuang Tzu: Ren Jian Shi, Confucius also used focused intention to drive Qi. One day Yen Hui asked him what was “pre-occupation”, he said: “Maintain a perfect unity in every movement of your will, You will not wait for the hearing of your ears about it, but for the hearing of your mind. Let the hearing (of the ears) rest with the ears. Let the mind rest in the verification (of the rightness of what is in the will). But the spirit is free from all pre-occupation and so waits for (the appearance of) things. Where the (proper) course is, there is freedom from all pre-occupation.” From this we can see the keys to pre-occupation and serenity. And we can also see that the Qi-driving techniques of Confucius described by Chuang Tzu were more than a health-preserving method or a Qigong exercise used to cultivate the mind and build up the body. They are a great way to master everything, properly treat everything, adapt ourselves to everything, and contain everything. And they are also the life philosophy of both Taoist and Confucianism. This was exactly why Chuang Tzu named this Chapter as Ren Jian Shi. How did they realize the great leap from a health-preserving method to great Qigong? They grasped the common things between Qi and mind, the coupling joints between Qi and mind, and coordination between Qi and mind. According to Mencius, Qi and aspiration are interactive and coordinated. None of Guan Zhong, Mencius, Chuang Tzu, and Confucius was a scientist and none of them knew any physics or systematic sciences. But they all knew coordination-the great coordination between Qi and mind and between nature and man. Only these great thinkers could manage to do that.

All roads lead to Roma. The Qi-driving techniques and methods of the great thinkers came from various origins but were based on the same mechanism. This can be summarized with four words: “Driving Qi with spirit”. This sentence was frequently seen in many Qigong classics such as Zhou Yi Can Tong Qie and Xing Ming Gui Zhi. The spirit referred is only the primordial spirit that lives in the monarch organ. And to sum up the Qi-driving mechanisms of all Qigong schools, we can describe them with a single sentence in Nei Jing: “A tranquilized mind will cause vital Qi to flow normally in the body.” According to my understanding, quiescence, peace, vacancy, and inaction are four levels of serenity in ascending order. In other words, we should first achieve quiescence, and then move from quiescence into peace, from peace into vacancy, and finally vacancy into inaction. Inaction is the ultimate level that we need to climb up to. Buddhists call it “void”, Taoists call it “inaction”, and common people call it “having nothing on mind”. This is the highest level of serenity. And all the way to serenity, Qi will follow you. The word “follow” means Qi only follows you when you try to enter serenity. And it will not follow you and listen to your orders if you do not enter serenity.

From this we can clearly see the critical role of serenity in the entire system of Qigong. “Driving Qi with spirit” and “Vital Qi in the body flowing normally” are both based on serenity. Therefore once you circumvent this threshold, you will never enter the hall of Qigong.

As a matter of fact, it is not difficult to enter serenity. Since it is easy to learn the rudiments of Qigong, it is totally possible to go further. Readers may still remember the rudiment keys to Qigong that I presented last time. Now we may name them as “Trilogy of Relaxation”: 1. Calm the mental state; 2. Coordinate respiration; 3. Command the intention. The first and the last steps are all about serenity. It has also been mentioned earlier that the neck is the key and has to be relaxed in particular during the practice. Why? Once the neck is relaxed, an expressway from the brain to the heart and from the heart to the brain will immediately come into being. And the spirit will be able to go home from time to time with ease. Once it’s home, the conscious spirit is returned to its original position and serenity will be achieved. In addition, relaxation of the neck will drive the relaxation of the brain. And once the cerebral cortex is relaxed, serene you will immediately be. This is because once the cerebral cortex is relaxed, Qi will start to circulate there and driving power will come in to convert essence into Qi and Qi into spirit. And spirit will be able to get home in no time. In other words, serenity is a natural process which takes place with the relaxation of critical parts of the body.

However, serenity of Qigong is an attenuation of the conscious spirit. It has to face complicated factors such as the brain, spirit, thought, and emotions. Therefore it is easy to achieve rudimentary serenity, difficult to achieve in-depth serenity, extremely difficult to achieve ultimate serenity, and desperately difficult to maintain the ultimate serenity. It is most difficult to maintain and experience the ultimate serenity everyday.

Now that serenity is a prerequisite of Qigong, how can we enter it better? What are the methods to enter serenity? Generally speaking, there is no definite method. But we can learn from the experience of predecessors in Qigong and may make our own innovations. Next I will offer five methods.

I. Internal and external consignment. This means to consign all your thoughts to a certain place inside or outside the body. Inside the body, it may be the tip of your nose, the area between eyebrows, the arch of your foot, Dantian, a Zang or Fu viscus, the Ren or Du Channel, or the focus of a disease. Outside the body, it may be the sun, the moon, a mountain, a river, a flower, a grass, a sweet moment, or a beautiful scene. Internal consignment is also called “internal concentration”, “inward vision”, “internal scene”, “aperture adherence”, and “pivot adherence”. External consignment is also called “external concentration”, “external scene”, and “mental consignment”. Both of them are called “mind concentration”, “consignment of thoughts”, “consignment of mind”, and “meditation”. Nei Jing says: “When mind is concentrated inward, how can disease take place?” This is just an example of the health-preserving and disease-preventing effects of internal consignment and internal concentration. External consignment and external concentration are also a good and indispensable method to capture, collect, and input benign information. However, as the methods to achieve serenity, both internal consignment and external consignment are elementary approaches to temporary replacement of multiple thoughts with one single thought. And such methods are optional and differ from person to person. However, any method will contribute to your accumulation as long as you use it to enter serenity. Even the elementary exercises may lead to perfection after being practiced again and again. They may also be universal and good for the cultivation of both the mind and the body.

It should be noted by readers, and especially foreign readers that: The intention of oriental Qigong does not equal thinking or consciousness, even if they all belong to the spiritual world. All Qigong intentions are peaceful and between adherence and non-adherence. They seem to exist and yet not to exist. And they are half-hidden and always kept at arm’s length. As Mencius put it, “neither forget it nor support it”. As Lao Tzu put it, “keep between concentration and absent-mindedness”. The so-called mind concentration means concentrating the mind to a certain place instead of having distracting thoughts on the mind. Otherwise you will not be entering serenity, practicing, or cultivating spirit. On the contrary you will consume life and spirit. Some hold that: mind concentration also includes rich imagination which enhances attention and imagination. This is wrong. Mind concentration should never involve imagination, let alone rich imagination. The “richer” you get, the far away you will deviate from Qigong. In one word, the boundary between thought and consciousness must be clearly defined. Although the mind concentration is described as a method to enter serenity, it is actually directly used to control Qi. All techniques of Qigong are Qi-driving techniques. And it is the thought rather than the consciousness that drives Qi. The primordial spirit rather than the mind drives Qi and the heart rather than the brain drives Qi.

II. Coordination of mental activities and breathing. This is also called mental and respiratory interdependence. In other words the mental activities are dependent on respiration and coincide with the breathing process. This is advocated by almost all schools of Qigong. Liu Zi Jue and the Buddhist “Liu Miao Fa Men” are both based on coordination of mental activities and breathing. The practicing process is divided into six stages and six levels: Counting breaths, following breaths, stopping breaths, observing breaths, returning breaths, and clearing breaths. Counting breaths means counting silently how many times you breathe. By replacing all other thoughts with this one thought, you will be able to reach serenity. Following breaths means no longer counting breaths but having the mind follow the exhalation and inhalation to ascend & descend, open & close, or enter & exit. Stopping breaths means stopping the thought at a certain position where the breaths pass by and keeping it from leaking. It may be stopped at the tip of the nose, between eyebrows, in the bottom of the heart, or in the lower abdomen. Observing breaths means meditation and inward vision of your own respiration. For example, you can observe exhalation when turbid Qi is exhaled from the body and observe inhalation when genuine Qi is inhaled into the body. Returning breaths means returning to the source of breaths. The source of breaths is the congenital Qi of the universe. Clearing breaths means clearing all breaths and thoughts. This is the ultimate result of Liu Miao Fa Men. In addition, Chuang Tzu says: “immortals breathe to the ankles while common people breathe to the throat.” Then is “inhaling to the top and exhaling to the bottom” no more than the mental-respirator interdependence of these “immortals”?

III. Kung fu comes from outside the exercise. The great Qigong master and poet Lu You enlightened his sun by: “Kung fu comes from outside poets.” This is of profound meaning. The serenity Kung fu of Qigong comes from outside Qigong. The key to the practice of Qigong is mind cultivation. Serenity only calms the mind. Therefore a man with a dirty mind will be stuck in obstacles during the practice of serenity. And people with bad moral characters or selfish thoughts will find it difficult to enter serenity. And if we become capricious during practice, we should know how to restrain and lock the distracting thoughts.

Looking back into the history, we will find that the best practicers of Qigong were philosophers, great writers, medical masters, thinkers, and politicians. “Ge Wu” has existed in China since the ancient times. This is science. The Great Learning says: To cultivate the body, we must clear our mind. To clear our mind, we must be sincere. To be sincere, we must get informed. To get informed, we must learn science. In other words, the entire “Xiu Qi Zhi Ping” is based on science. Philosophy is the highest level of thinking but it is by no means unfounded thinking. Thinking comes only from learning. The philosophy of Lao Tzu was exactly obtained by “learning Tao”. Body cultivation, mind clarification, and sincerity are all within the framework of Qigong but learning and science are outside Qigong.

How to make efforts outside Qigong? We can start with the following three aspects. The first is mental cultivation, the second is moral cultivation, and the third is daily cultivation. Mental cultivation includes philosophy cultivation and science cultivation. All these three levels of efforts are based on both learning and mental exercise. Therefore both the inside Kung fu and outside Kung fu belong to one Kung fu. And philosophers are often Qigong masters too. Daily cultivation is called “mental refinement through things”. Exercise is different from refinement. Exercise is like bleaching a silk cloth with water, while refinement is like smelting metal with fire. I’m afraid that the human mind has to be both bleached and smelted. Cultivation means learning. Learn proficiency for officialdom. Chinese Qigong was called refinement in ancient times but now considered an exercise. But if we only exercise the body and fail to refine the heart, it will be like strengthening only the body and ignoring the spirit. And the tradition of cultivation and refinement is not an ordinary culture or spirit. It is a symbol of the civilization and spirit of the Chinese nation. Refinement is very difficult, we need to be serene, clear, precise, and humble and persevere on a long term basis, so that we could be pure, noble, generous, and good for others.

IV. “Achieving the ultimate vacancy and adhering to the true serenity”. In the strict sense, this is more a goal than an approach. It is the ultimate serenity that can be hardly achieved by normal people. Adhering to the true serenity is more difficult than achieving the ultimate vacancy. The ultimate serenity of Chuang Tzu is “utterly dead mind”. But this mind has to be revived for if it does not, serenity will be absolute. And as we know, serenity is always relative. Just as there is no absolute quiescence in the material world, there is not absolute serenity in the spiritual world. But Chuang Tzu did not say how long we should adhere to it before its revival. The longer we adhere to it, the closer we get to the “immortal” state of health preservation. And this is surely difficult to achieve. “I’m number one in the universe”. This is true. He might be the first one in the world’s history to interpret the dialectics. Was Chuang Tzu the second one in the universe? As a top philosopher under the sun, he also made it to the ultimate serenity. This is a secret in which methods are hidden.

V. Assume a humble attitude. As far as I’m concerned, these four words are both keys to the elementary hall of Qigong and the keys to the serenity of Qigong. And they are a clever way of cultivating the mind and body, preserving health, prolonging life, and staying happy and delighted. Why do we have to be humble? This is because “Human hearts are evil”. This maxim was said to have been spoken by Shun when he handed over his crown to Yu in the ancient times. Evil is height. And height is evil. Our great ancestors knew the human heart profoundly. Human hearts are even higher today. Many children are customized as scientists when they just enter the kindergartens. Their parents wish they could sign a contract. Some country kids were forced to answer to the question “who will you make money for when you grow up” when they don’t even know how to speak. They parents wish they could make money right now. Why are human hearts so high? This is because the heart belongs to fire and fire easily leads to inflammation. However, Shun also said to Yu that contrary to the human heart, “the Taoist heart is humble”. The Taoist heart is also surrounded by shadows and contains pure essence. Taoists also pointed out that we should be as noble as water, which facilitates everything but does not snatch anything. Here is the solution. Water restraints fire. However, we cannot live without fire. We cannot keep the kidney and heart in balance unless we have both water and fire. It is just that we have to keep the water on the top and fire on the bottom in order to cook rice thoroughly. This is also the case with us human beings. We will not be “mature” unless we lower the fire-natured heart. If one can remain as mentally serene as water, he will definitely be able to find Kung fu in the finest places and get closer and closer to the Taoist heart. Taoists heart is not only humble, but also very, very low. It always stay when it belongs. Besides the Taoist heart, the Confucian heart is also low. It’s just that Confucianism did not come into the world in the times of Shun and Shun could not speak it. Mencius believes that we should just lower our hearts. Lowering our hearts means lowering our attitude.

To sum up, the key to the serenity of Qigong is to overlook the bottom of the heart from a philosophic perspective. As Taoists put it, we start with action, return with inaction, and thus achieve “No willful action and nothing without willful action”.

Reference: On Basic Essentials of Health Qigong

Mindset Philosophy principle qigong

How to Enter a Relaxed, Serene, and Gentle State of Exercise As Quickly As Possible

Zhang Caiqin; Inner Mongolia Normal University

The key to the practice of Health Qigong is to stay indifferent to fame or gain and keep a vacant heart, control genuine Qi, and contain the essence and spirit.”In order to “control genuine Qi”, the exerciser must first clear the mind, calm the spirit, and eliminate the distracting thoughts and ideas. And physical relaxation can promote the quiescence of mind. Once the body and mind enter a relaxed, quiescent, and gentle state during the exercise, the breath will be naturally even, fine, soft, and long. In such a state, the harmonious Qi within the body will be activated and circulate between the grain of skin and the texture of the subcutaneous flesh, were pathogenic Qi will have no place to stay. This will promote the activity of Qi, strengthen the body, and prolong life. It was said in ancient times that: “The mind will be harmonized only when the body is quiescent; when the mind is harmonized, Qi will be harmonized; when Qi is harmonized, form will be harmonized; when form is harmonized, everything will be harmonized.” If the mind is restless during the exercise, the respiration will be unsmooth, the body will be rigid, blood and Qi will be obstructed, and Health Qigong will not provide any disease-eliminating and life-prolonging effects.

By summing up my practicing experience over the years, I have created a method to practice relaxation and quiescence. By following this method in our practice on a long-term basis, we will be able to quickly enter a relaxed, quiescent, and gentle practicing state. And on the other hand, the functional activities will gradually change from energy consumption to energy reservation and thus provide “self-repairing” and “self-regulating” effects on the organic body during the practiced of relaxation and quiescence.

Practicing Method

The relaxation of Health Qigong involves relaxation of the body form and relaxation of the spirit. The quiescence of Qigong is “a special quiescent state of the waked man and the optimal state for physiological functions and activities”. It involves “motion in quiescence” and “quiescent spirit and moving Qi”. In this state, the Yang Qi of the human body will be placid and smoothly reach the four limbs, so that the Primordial Qi (Genuine Qi) is plentiful, Yin Qi is harmonious, and Yin and Yang are well-coordinated. This will improve health and lead to a good mood. Relaxation and quiescence promote and supplement each other and are closely connected. They cannot be separated and must be practiced simultaneously.

During the exercise, the body posture and respiration shall be as follows: lie on the back. Naturally straighten the legs. Put them together or keep them a little bit away from each other as long as you feel comfortable. Lay flat both hands on both sides of the lower abdomen with the palms facing downward. Slightly bend the fingers and slightly close eyes with just a small seam left. Take natural and smooth breaths. The mental requirements of relaxation are as follows: After setting the body posture and evening respiration, imagine that the head is relaxed and take a deep breath. Slowly exhale the breath and relax the facial muscles so that they are light and soft. At the same time clear the distracting thoughts from the mind and relax the head. Naturally breathe for a while, and then image the relaxation of shoulders. Take a deep breath and while slowly exhaling the breath, relax both shoulders from top to bottom and relax the neck, chest, back, and lower abdomen along with it at the same time. Naturally breathe for a while, and then image the relaxation of arms. Take a deep breath and while slowly exhaling the breath, start the mind-guidance from the upper arms down to the fingers. Naturally breathe for a while, and then image the relaxation of hips. Take a deep breath and while slowly exhaling the breath, start the relaxation from the hips down along the thighs to the toes by way of knees and shanks. It is required to lead the thought along the different parts of the body during the slow exhalation. Where the thought goes, the appropriate body part shall relax accordingly and drive the adjacent parts to relax in a transferring manner. After a relaxed state is achieved, mind concentration on acupoints is used to achieve quiescence: mind concentration on acupoints means to concentrate the mind on certain acupoints of the body during practice in order to “replace all thoughts with one thought” and thus to inhibit the generation of distracting thoughts. This helps the exerciser to enter a relaxed, leisurely, peaceful, and quiescent state. The acupoints to be concentrated on include: Dantian in the lower abdomen below the navel, Laogong Acupoints in the centers of both palms, and Yongquan Acupoints in the most dented parts of both soles. Requirements on mind concentration are: Stay between concentration and non-concentration, do not adhere to a certain point, and constantly switch between three positions.

Relaxed and Quiescent States in Different Stages of Practice

The practice of relaxation and quiescence is divided into three stages. The exerciser needs to enter the stages according to the progress he has made in Health Qigong. Not every exerciser needs to start with the first stage. Exercisers that have already made high achievements in Health Qigong will quickly enter the Stage 3 relaxation and quiescence even when practicing this method for the first time.

Stage 1: when one takes Health Qigong exercise for the first time, the distracting thoughts and disturbances from the outside world will always prevent the body from fully relaxing and the mind from being quiescent. The exerciser cannot experience the comfort of relaxation and leisure of quiescence. This is an inevitable process of the exercise. As long as the exerciser strengthens the conviction and keeps practicing, the due efficacy will be naturally achieved in the long run. While using the mind to guide relaxation, the beginner first needs to constantly eliminate the distracting thoughts and focus as much attention as possible to the position where the thought goes during the relaxation process. Distracting thoughts will keep tangling the mind when the exerciser tries to concentrate the mind on acupoints. In this case, the exerciser should just eliminate those distracting thoughts he is able to and give up on those that he cannot cope with. Do not insist on it and always treat it with a peaceful mind.

Stage 2: After the relaxation and quiescence exercise in the first stage, the exerciser will naturally enter the second stage. When an advanced exerciser practices this method for the first time, he will directly enter the relaxed and quiescent state of this stage. During the practice, he will be able to basically control the train of thoughts, actively cease the distracting thoughts, and relax all parts of the body under the guidance of the mind. The exercise should best be done right before sleep at night, as Yang Qi is restrained and concentrated in the body at this moment, which is quite suitable for quiescence cultivation. Lie on the back in a bed and follow the method of relaxation and quiescence exercise to relax the entire body from the head to the feet under the guidance of mind. Then gently close eyes and relax the brain. Assume a leisurely and comfortable look on the face and keep the body in a basically relaxed state. Start to concentrate the mind on Dantian, Laogong, and Yongquan. We can stay at Dantian for a while, switch to both Laogong Acupoints in a moment, and then switch to both Yongquan Acupoints. Sometimes we can also focus the mind on two acupoints (e.g. Dantian and Laogong) at the same time. When distracting thoughts begin to flock in, pull the mind back to the acupoints. As the mind gradually enters a focused state, the thoughts in the brain will continuously fade away and the spirit will be gradually relaxed. Occasionally, the exerciser may achieve a relaxed form and a clarified brain. At this point, the brain will be free of all distracting thoughts and worries and the mind will be in a state between thinking and non-thinking. And the exerciser will experience the relaxation and happiness brought by relaxed form and quiescent mind.

Stage 3: Try not to take deep breaths in the beginning. Slowly relax the different parts of the body according to a sequence of head, shoulders, arms, and hips under the guidance of mind. During the relaxation, distracting thoughts may come in from time to time. But the exerciser will be able to dispel them immediately and keep a light and serene face. With the constant progress in skills, the exerciser will gradually do without mind guidance. During the entire relaxation process, the respiration will be naturally and smooth and the exerciser will no longer need to perform local relaxation with the help of deep respiration. Whenever lying in the bed before sleep, the exerciser will naturally begin to practice relaxation and quiescence before he even notices it (except when the exerciser is angry or has something on mind), and both the interior and exterior of the body will be completely relaxed in a matter of seconds. Then concentrate the mind on Dantian, Laogong, and Yongquan and stay between adherence and non-adherence. When distracting thoughts flock in, the exerciser will be able to timely pull the mind back to the acupoints. After entering this stage, the exerciser will gradually switch from brain-based mind concentration to intuition-based mind concentration. Sometimes the exerciser will glimpse all three acupoints in just one thought and start to understand the essences of “the state between adherence and non-adherence”. At this point, the acupoint of Dantian on which the mind is concentrated will become clearer and clearer. The exerciser will unconsciously lock the position of mind concentration at Guanyuan Acupoint which is right below the navel by 3 Cun or Qihai Acupoint which is below the navel by 1.5 Cun. But the specific position may differ from person to person. For example, when somebody concentrating mind on Dantian first feels numbness, heat, or distention around Qihai Acupoint (numbness: a physical phenomenon caused by brain cells sending out bio-radio wave information during the mind application process; Heat: a thermal reaction caused by the unobstructed blood and Qi abrading the walls of blood vessels after nerve cells are excited; distention: a comfortable feeling of slight numbness and hot distention; it reflects the expanding capillaries and unobstructed blood and Qi circulation over the body during practice), the mind will naturally reach Qihai when he practice mind concentration on Dantian in the future. During the latter period of the third stage, the exerciser may sometimes feel indistinctly that even the brain cells are relaxed with the mind concentration. Occasionally, the exerciser will feel that the relaxation begins with the exterior of body parts and gradually infiltrate the cells. All of a sudden, a subtle perception will cross the mind¬as if all cells of the body are suddenly released and all burdens on the body and soul are completely relieved in a second. At this point, the mind will be tranquil, the expression on the face will be leisurely, and the harmonious Qi will fill all the body. In the moment of relaxed form, tranquil thought, and peaceful mind, a door to wisdom seems to be opened all of a sudden in the brain and the exerciser will gradually learn the true meaning of “If we stay indifferent to fame or gain and keep a vacant heart, the genuine Qi will follow us, the essence and spirit will be contained, and diseases will be prevented.” This perception is fast like a lightning across the sky. So we should let it be and not seek it on purpose.

Reference: How to Enter a Relaxed, Serene, and Gentle State of Exercise As Quickly As Possible

Mindset Philosophy principle qigong

Adherence to Quiescence

Li Jinlong and Jia Meiying; Shanxi University

Health Qigong is a traditional sport of our nation with body movements, respiration regulation, and mental regulation as the major forms of exercise. It has carried the essences of the excellent traditional health-preserving culture of the Chinese Nation for thousands of years. The practice of Health Qigong is focused on the “strengthening of mind”, and the key to the strengthening of mind is “adherence to quiescence”. The mind guides the body and the body is used by the mind. The well-combined mind and body and a healthful and harmonious life are the goals of Health Qigong exercises. Just as Lao Tzu says: “All the flourishing things will return to their source. This return is peaceful. It is the flow of nature.”

Main Idea of “Adherence to Quiescence”

With regard to the idea of adherence to quiescence, quiescence is relative to motion. In the broad sense, they represent two opposite states in the physical phenomena of the nature. In the narrow sense, they refer to the stationary and dynamic, resting and moving states of man. Seeking “quiescence” and adhering to “quiescence” are the inevitable way and basic method to preserve health. Reflected in the practice of Health Qigong, they mean to seek balances between the mental state, movements, and respiration. Secondly, from the perspective health preservation (body building): The sources of all life functions grow in “quiescence”, just as any animal or plant in the nature draws the energy of life from “quiescence” for its growth. This is especially true with the human life. It is only through the never-ending circulation of quiescence and motion that we can obtain vitality that with each passing day. This is basically equivalent to the ideas of “Dhyana” and “Meditation” in Buddhism. In reality, however, people usually feel confused about being unable to feel “quiescence”. Therefore they make every endeavor to seek a method to “adhere to quiescence”. As a matter of fact, Man Huaijin said: “Quiescence is quiescence. We just need to seek it with our heart. If we deliberately use any method to seek it, won’t it cause more disturbances?” If that is true, it will seem impossible for us to seek quiescence. In fact, however, people are just getting too used to the moving state. They keep moving both physically and mentally all the time. Therefore they have different feelings. For this sake, the best way is to pay no special attention to quiescence. For example, we don’t see the dirt in a cup of water when it is turbid. But if we add some clarifying agent to it and rest it there for several days, we will be able to find the sediment in the cup. This is not because this cup of water generates dirt in the stationary state, but because it already has dirt which cannot be found until it is rested. Therefore when we are trying to “adhere to quiescence”, we don’t do it on purpose. It is important to do it with a normal and calm state of mind. Everything is subject to the rules of nature. Where water flows, a channel is formed, and we will be able to experience the mystery of “quiescence”.

Embodiment of “Adherence to Quiescence” in the Health-Preserving and Body-Building Essentials of Health Qigong

The thought of Health Qigong can be traced back to Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine and the legend of Pengzu who lived for 800 years. It originated from the ultimate wish of the human kind-to find a way to immortality, and the greatest quest of the human kind-to learn the principles of life and the origins of Heaven, Earth, and Man. These two factors have also become the initial approaches to seek detachment from reality and sublime the spirit. Ji Kang once proposed and theoretically proved that the meaning of Immortality Art (also an origin of the thought and forms of Qigong) lied in health preservation instead of immortality. In other words “eliminating diseases and prolonging life mean that a man has to learn and practice a great deal of knowledge necessary for health preservation, so that he can live happily without any disease or pain and die smoothly without causing troubles to himself or anybody else. This is the ultimate happiness of life which is most difficult to achieve”. These are the essentials of body building and health preservation. They are just in concert with the awareness of people about “Qigong everywhere”.

Health Qigong is based on harmony and mind regulation. The exerciser needs to seek “Unity of Nature and Man” on the outside and self-content and self-consistency on the inside. Adherence to quiescence, contemplation, introspection, harmony, mental relaxation, and quiescence of mind shall be the major goals of practice so that the exerciser can maintain a good state of mind and perform reasonable metal control and behavior control of himself. How to preserve health? Pengzu says: “control motion with quiescence and close eyes to rest the mind”. In everyday life, we should try the best not to “exhaust the ears or eyes or sit or sleep too long”. On the whole, we should not seek fame and wealth or be fierce, but remain peaceful and calm. In this way our spirit will naturally be at ease and our body will naturally be healthy.

In is expressed in the very introductory chapter of Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine that: “Ancient sages said: To treat deficiency pathogens, we need to avoid wind with good timing. If we stay indifferent to fame or gain and keep a vacant heart, the genuine Qi will follow us, the essence spirit will be contained, and diseases will be prevented. ” They advised people to stay indifferent to fame or gain, keep a vacant heart, and contain the essence and spirit. The essence belongs to the kidneys. It is only when the kidney essence is sufficient that the mind can be calmed. And it is only when the mind is calmed that health can be ensured. The “regulating health according to the four seasons” and “adjusting to the four seasons and climate changes” in traditional health preservation are emphases on the harmony between man and nature. Intrinsic harmony is concretely and commonly sought in health preservation. It is a part of the theoretical basis for Health Qigong and determines the emphasis on “contemplation”, “application of thought”, and “interior practice” features of Health Qigong. The guiding theory of Health Qigong involves “using the mind to practice”, “keeping the essence and spirit in the interior”, “pay independent attention to spirit and integrating the muscles”, “entering the quiescent state”, and “achieving the ultimate vacancy and adhering to the true quiescence” which are all embodiments of the characteristics of this “introversion” culture. Mencius advocated “deliberately cultivating the mind and moral characters to behave ethically”, which is also an embodiment of the introversion spirit. “Feeling the Way with your mind and understanding the unity” in the Taoist Culture and “clarifying the mind to see the disposition”, “depending on yourself instead of depending on others”, and “seeking Buddha dharma from inside instead from outside” in Buddhism all indicate that the practice of Qigong should be more inclined to the quiescence and cultivation of the interior world.

Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine also says: “The heart is the master of all viscera. When the heart moves, all viscera will sway.” The “heart” here refers to the mind. This indicates that all mental activities and emotional changes of man may influence the functions of the interior body. It is therefore said that “overwhelming joy impairs the heart, and terror overwhelms joy; overwhelming anger impairs the liver, and sorrow overwhelms terror; overwhelming thought impairs the spleen, and anger overwhelms thought; overwhelming worry impairs the spleen, and joy overwhelms worry; overwhelming terror impairs the kidney, and thought overwhelms terror”. This also indicates that all kinds of extreme emotions will stimulate the mind, impair the internal organs, affect the activity of Qi, and prevent people from being adherent, quiescent, and happy, causing all kinds of diseases. Therefore, we should eliminate the distracting thoughts and achieve the quiescent and concentrated state of mind as much as possible during the practice of Health Qigong. This is exactly “adherence to quiescence”. Just as Zhuangzi: “I venture to ask what that fasting of the mind is,’ said Hui, and Kung-ni answered, ‘Maintain a perfect unity in every movement of your will, You will not wait for the hearing of your ears about it, but for the hearing of your mind. Let the hearing (of the ears) rest with the ears. Let the mind rest in the verification (of the rightness of what is in the will). But the spirit is free from all pre-occupation and so waits for (the appearance of) things. Where the (proper) course is, there is freedom from all pre-occupation.” This means we need to eliminate the distractions from the sensory organs, listen to the bounces and vibrations of our heartstrings, and quietly experience the softness and harmony of Qi. The “fasting of mind” and “adherence to quiescence” are two approaches to the freedom from pre-occupation and quiescence. When it comes to health preservation, their essences belong to the quiescence-adherence and mind-regulation parts of Qigong. Zuo Wang Ming written by Zheng Xuan of the Ming Dynasty says: “Constantly contain the Primordial Qi to prevent impairments, reduce the distracting thoughts to preserve wisdom; keep away from anger to harmonize the spirit, keep away from vexation to clear the mind; do not fabricate or flatter, do not stick to foolish ways; keep away from greed to enjoy a normal life, and do the right things to be not afraid of law suits.” These words are good food for thought and can be considered as the keys to physical and mental health. And when the mind is adjusted to an ultimate vacant and quiescent state, it will bring spiritual enjoyment that transcends the physical world. Xu Fuguan perfectly summed this up by saying: “The Way mentioned by Zhangzi is a lofty artistic spirit when it comes to life”. From this we can see that the vacancy and quiescence practice of “freedom from pre-occupation” actually presents an artistic life of the spiritual world. Then how to achieve “freedom from pre-occupation” and “Zuo Wang”? Zhuangzi believes that we should first achieve “vacancy”, “quiescence”, and “clearness”, i.e. mind regulation.

In addition, Lao Zi further considers Qigong exercise as an important method to understand “the Way”. He says: “To experience without intention is to sense the world; To experience with intention is to anticipate the world. These two experiences are indistinguishable; Their construction differs but their effect is the same. Beyond the gate of experience flows the Way, which is ever greater and more subtle than the world.” This means that it is only by focusing the mind on Dantian and achieving ultimate quiescence that we can see the ultimate changes of “the Way” and understand the subtle and unpredictable “Way”. Zhu Guangqian says: “When focusing on an object (natural or artistic), man will forget the ego and the outside world and then achieve a unity between them. The life and flavor of life will be ‘radiated’ or transferred to the object so that the object that originally had no life and flavor will have human-like activities and the originally physical things become humanized.” In other words, if we can achieve “freedom from pre-occupation” in the mind regulation of Health Qigong, we will be able to feel aesthetic joy. This is one of the reasons whey it can preserve health. With this “mind regulation” before the practice of Health Qigong, the exerciser will be able to merge into the imaginary state, change the thought with the form, move Qi with the thought, and thus to regulate the viscera, promote the circulation of blood and Qi, and achieve both mental and physical health.

Embodiment and Importance of “Adherence to Quiescence” in the “Thought Regulation” and “Routine Posture” Exercises of Health Qigong

Both the practicing tips and routines of four Health Qigong exercises currently being promoted are based on quiescence, relaxation, gentleness, and true hardness and hardness out of softness. For example, the foremost requirement of Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing is to “relax the spirit and unite form and thought”. It is not allowed to be absent-minded or obsessed. And the first requirement of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin is to “be relaxed, quiescent, and natural”. “Relaxation, quiescence, and nature” are the fundamental points and basic rules of the exercise. “Relaxation” means both mental and physical relaxation. Mental relaxation mainly means to relieve the physical and mental tension. Physical relaxation mainly means to relax joints, muscles, and viscera until the mind is light, comfortable, and free of nervousness. “Quiescence” means both the mind and emotions shall be smooth and at ease and all distracting thoughts shall be eliminated. Relaxation and quiescence supplement and promote each other. A “natural” state in the practice is the good mental foundation for practice. There are both relaxation and tightness requirements on all kinds of rotating, twisting, stretching, butting, lifting, and crouching movements in the exercise. The transitions between movements have to be smooth and both hardness and softness need to be coupled. For example, the “Pulling Nine Cows by Their Tails” in Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing involves step-by-step rotations from the legs to the waist. And “Bowing Down in Salutation” involves step-by-step pulling, bending, and stretching by way of the head, neck, chest, waist, and sacral vertebrae. In “Tiger Posture” of Health Qigong•Wu Qin Xi, the vertebral spine wriggles from a folded state to an unfolded state. In “Deer Wrestling”, the waist bends sideways and twists by a large margin. Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue lays emphasis on respiration and together with the rotation, stretching, and contraction of the body, relaxes and strengthens the body and mind. All the routine postures require that the exerciser ease the mind, calm the spirit, and put the focus on the transition of movements or respiration or both. All of them require “adherence to quiescence”, just as Zengzi says in The Great Learning: “When you know where to stop, you have stability. When you have stability, you can be tranquil. When you are tranquil, you can be at ease. When you are at ease, you can deliberate. When you can deliberate you can attain your aims.” All these are rules of things that people have learned from nature. It is only through quiescence that we can focus and then attain our goals. If we still have many distracting thoughts in the practice and cannot be quiescent enough to gather our mind and thought, we will never be able to experience the subtleness of the routine postures and their stimulation and effects on the body. And we will not even be able to memorize or recall the most basic routing postures. Without mind, quiescence, and focus, such exercise will be just a waste of time without any achievement. And it will even cause doubts on the efficacy of Health Qigong itself. The subtleness and secrets of things cannot be learned unless we carefully feel them after we remove all distracting thoughts. “Adherence to quiescence” is the most important key to the problem.

The most fundamental characteristic of Health Qigong exercises is the control of thought and the accurate and proper mastery of the rules of “deliberation”. And “quiescence of mind” is the precondition of “deliberation”. It requires the exerciser to do the exercises by practicing Qi, achieve a vacant and quiescent state, master the mind, control Qi circulation with the mind, and transport Qi throughout the body. The thought, spirit, and mental state of man are used as the basis for cultivation. The mental state, the movements of the exercises, and the cultivation of Qi and spirit are unified to coordinate movements, thought, and respiration under the guidance of thought, so that the “internal Qi” in Dantian can be moved and used at will. Both the interior and the exterior are coordinated to achieve a relaxed, quiescent, and natural state of harmony and unity between the form, Qi, and spirit, so that “form and spirit can be unified and body and mind can be harmonized” and that the mental state can be balanced. Here the role of “adherence to quiescence” is even more prominent. If the exerciser cannot achieve quiescence of mind and often gets disturbed by “thoughts” about external things, he will not be able to focus the thought on the practice or smoothly coordinate thought with form. And it will be difficult to achieve any good result of practice. In the worst case, the disturbing thoughts may even cause straying or stagnant Qi. Stasis will lead to obstruction, and obstruction will lead to pains. The exercise will damage health instead of improving it. Therefore removing all distracting thoughts during “deliberation” to “adhere to quiescence” is the most fundamental and important precondition for the practice of Health Qigong.

Reference: About the Basis of Health Qigong-Adherence to Quiescence

posture principle qigong

Posture Adjustment and Health Preserving in Health Qigong

“Posture Adjustment” is one of the three important elements of Health Qigong exercise. It means that the trainee regulates and controls the basic body shapes and limb movements so that they meet the requirements of the exercise. It is also known as body-shape alignment which is realized through reasonable relative motions between tendons, membranes, bones, and muscles. The earliest record of the term “Health preserving” appeared in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: Divine Axis: Benshen: “therefore the health-preserving activities of the wise must be in accordance with the four seasons and climate. Through the regulation of Yin and Yang and adjustment of hardness and softness, these health-preserving activities will prolong life.” Health preserving is also known as regimen. It is a preventive treatment of diseases that strengthens the body constitution, prevent diseases, and prolong life through all kinds of approaches. The earliest record about the relationship between Posture Adjustment and health preserving appeared in Lüshi Chunqiu: Chapter of Ancient Music, which recorded the treatment of diseases “where muscles and bones are shrunk” with “dances” having “draining” effects. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine also recorded information about Posture Adjustment and health preserving, such as “Obey the law of Yin-Yang and adopt varies methods for health preserving”. From this we can see that Posture Adjustment has been used to achieve health-preserving goals. This is evident in different name of health preserving, such as guided health preserving and athletic health preserving. The Posture Adjustment of Health Qigong is different from simple limb motions. It is focused on “adjustment”. In other words, special body shapes and limb-regulating methods are used to achieve health-preserving goals.

Using rotating, bending, and stretching motions to regulate viscera and dredge channels

The emphasis on rotating, bending, and stretching motions is one of the outstanding features during the Posture Adjustment of Health Qigong. There are many rotating, bending, and stretching movements especially of the trunk in the four Health Qigong exercises.

The rotating, bending, and stretching motions of the spinal column are emphasized in many postures in Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing. For example, rotating strength is used from the legs to the waist and then to the arms in “Pulling back Tails of Nine Bulls”. Joint-by-joint drawing, bending, and stretching motions are used for the head, neck, chest, waist, and sacral vertebrae in “Bowing Posture”. The movements of the body trunk fully reflect the characteristics of the five animals in Health Qigong•Wu Qin Xi. In “Tiger Posture” for example, the knee-bending, abdomen-drawing, chest-drawing, knee-stretching, hip-forwarding, abdomen-arching, and backward-bending movements are completed at one go so that the spinal column has worm-movements from a folded state to an unfolded state. In Deer Wrestling, the waist is bent and rotated sideways with large amplitude. In Deer Running, the back is arched and the abdomen is drawn in. In Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue which lays more emphasis on breathing, the trunk does not move much, but straightening adjustments are also reflected in all character formulas, such as the leftward and rightward rotating movements of the trunk in “Sh” character formula, and the shoulder-squaring, chest-expanding, and head-shrinking movements in “Hiss” character formula. In “Shaking Head and Tail to Dispel Heart Fire” of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jing, the spinal column is bent sideways and rotated to pull the tail bones and the neck. In “Both Hands Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist”, the spinal column is bent forward and stretches backward to create benign stimulation on the trunk.

Regular rotating, bending, and stretching motions of the trunk can regulate viscera and dredge channels. According to theories of the traditional medicine of our country, the trunk is where all channels of the body goes through. These channels connect viscera with the rest of the body. “All ways of the five viscera come from channels” (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: Suwen: the Channel Theory). “These 12 channels belong to the viscera inside the body and connect the limbs and joints on the outside” (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: Divine Axis: the Sea Theory). All of this has clearly pointed out the relationship between viscera and channels. All of the Ren and Du Channels and channels distributed on both sides of the spinal column or running across the spinal column and circulating all over the body are closely related to the spinal column. Therefore once the channels are unblocked, the blood and Qi circulation will be smooth and the viscera functions will be strengthened. According to modern medicine, exercising the spinal column will not only improve blood circulation, strengthen muscles, prevent pathological changes in the surrounding soft tissues, and prevent hyperosteogeny, but also promote the regulation of the viscera because the preganglionic neurons that regulate the autonomic nerves of the viscera are located inside the lateral corners and anterior corners of the spinal cord. The postganglionic neurons are located on both sides or on the frontal surface of the spinal column. Therefore spinal column exercises will have a direct influence on the autonomic nervous system and thus influence the functions of the visceral system. Health Qigong exactly uses all kinds of rotating, turning, stretching, and extending movements of the trunk to regulate viscera, dredge channels, and achieve body-building and health-preserving goals.

Moving the distal ends to coordinate Qi and blood and strengthen muscles and bones

It is another feature of Health Qigong during Posture Adjustment to strengthen the movement of small joints and small muscle clusters at distal ends of the body. There are many regular movements of fingers, toes, wrists, heels, elbows, and knees in Health Qigong

, such as the forced opening of lotus-leaf palms, the powerful wrist-erecting and palm-pushing movement, and the ground-grabbing movement with ten toes of both feet which are completed at one go in “Showing Claws and Wings” of Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing. Another example is the conversions among the natural palms, dragon claws, and clenching in “Blue Dragon Reaching out Claws”. In Health Qigong•Wu Qin Xi, the coordination between the tiger claws and tiger pouncing with fingers as hard as steel hooks, the engagement between flexible Ape Hooking and the heel-lifting movement, and the coordination between the nimble Bird Wings and the balance upon the knee-lifting movement have all reflected the regular motions of the distal ends of upper and lower limbs. In Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue, the motions of wrists and fingers are also manifested in different ways. For example, the palm-erecting, wrist-rotating, and abducting movements in “Hiss” character formula embody the motions of the distal joints of limbs. Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jing gives more prominence to the exercise of distal ends of limbs. The wrist-bending motion of Bazi Palms, the finger-erecting motion, the palm-opening motion, and the clenching and adduction of the side-drawn hands in “Drawing the Bow with Both Hands like Shooting an Eagle” complement each other. The fully outward rotation of both arms and palms in “Eliminating Five Strains and Seven Impairments” and the coordination of the palm-rotating motion, fist-clenching motion, and ground-grabbing motion with ten toes in “Clenching Fists and Glaring Eyes to Increase Qi and Strength” all reflect the multi-directional and multi-strength motions of the small joints and small muscle clusters at distal ends of limbs.

Moving the distal ends to coordinate Qi and blood and strengthen muscles and bones. According to theories of the traditional medicine of our country, the tips of fingers and toes are starting or ending points of the 12 channels. For example, the Hand Taiyang Channel of the Small Intestine Begins from the tip of the little finger. The Foot Taiyang Channel of the Urinary Bladder ends at the outer side of the little toe. The source points of the 12 channels are located near the wrists and ankles. The theory of the twelve source acupoints (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: Divine Pivot: Nine Kinds of Needles and Twelve Source Acupoints) applies in the event of diseases with the five viscera. For example, Taiyuan, the source acupoint of the Lung Channel of Hand Taiyin, is located in the dent of the radialis of the transverse grains of the palm (facing upward). Qiuxu, the source acupoint of the Gall Bladder Channel of Foot Shaoyin, is located in the dent in the lower front of the outer ankle. The elbows and knees are where the internal Qi is easily blocked. For example, when there are there are problems with the heart and lungs, internal Qi will be stagnated in the elbows. When there are problems with the kidneys, internal Qi will be stagnated in the back sides of both knees (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine•Divine Axis•Pathogenic Factors). From this we can see that regular movements of distal joints can dredge channels and coordinate Qi and blood. According to theories of modern medicine, movements of distal ends of limbs will improve peripheral blood circulation of distal ends, promote the return flow of venous blood and lymph, boost Qi and blood exchange, and strengthen the ability to control and regulate the peripheral nerve of limbs, muscles, and the coordination between brain nerves and the motions of distal ends of limbs. To sum up, Health Qigong uses all kinds of regular movements of the fingers, toes, wrists, elbows, and knees to coordinate Qi and blood, strengthen muscles and bones, and achieve body-building and health-preserving goals.

Combining relaxation with tightness, adjusting Yin and Yang, and balancing the organism

The combination of relaxation and tightness is also one of the main features during the Posture Adjustment of Health Qigong. Relaxation means that the muscles, joints, central nervous system, and viscera are relaxed during practice. Tightness means appropriate strength is used in a slow manner during practice. The combination of relaxation and tightness is an embodiment of the Yin-Yang theory of traditional medicine in Health Qigong exercises. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine has made the following comments on the relationship between Yin-Yang and health: “When Yin and Yang are in a relative equilibrium, the spirit will be in good condition” and “when Yin and Yang are well-balanced, the body will be full of vitality”. This means Yin and Yang are in a unity of opposites. A man will be free of diseases only when the Yin-Yang balance is maintained in the human body. Health Qigong adjusts the Yin and Yang inside the human body through its unique exercising mode-combined relaxation and tightness.

Health Qigong realizes posture adjustment with a combination of relaxation and tightness in a gentle and slow state. In “Pulling back Tails of Nine Bulls” of Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing, both arms are adducted and rotated until they are gradually pulled to the end points. At this point they are in the tight state which belongs to Yang. The arm muscles, muscle clusters on the back and abdomen, and some muscle clusters of lower limbs are doing work in a contracted state. Later, the waist is turned to drive both arms to reach out until the next arm adduction and pulling movement. At this point they are in a relaxed state which belongs to Yin. The muscles at joints of the lower limbs, waist, abdomen, shoulders, elbows, and wrists are relaxed one by one. Another example is “Drawing the Bow with Both Hands like Shooting an Eagle” in Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jing. We should display a state of serene mind, relaxed body and be natural and at ease when starting to take the step. This state belongs to Yin. When drawing the bow to shoot the eagle, we should slowly tension both arms and maintain the drawing posture to create an agitating feeling. This state belongs to Yang. In “Seven Movements of the Back to Eliminate all Diseases”, the toes grab the ground and heels are lifted to keep a short-term balance of the body in a relatively tensioned state of muscles all over the body. Then relax the body and drop the heels to slightly hammer the ground. The posture adjustment with combined relaxation and tightness is implemented throughout the four Health Qigong exercises.

Combination of relaxation and tightness, adjustment of Yin and Yang, and balance of organism reflect the inner requirements on the movement guidance of Health Qigong and follow the basic theories of traditional medicine, such as mutual growth and reduction between Yin and Yang and mutual conversion between Yin and Yang. Remedying defects, rectifying errors, aiding the weak, and restraining the strong are all meant to coordinate the relative equilibrium between Yin and Yang in the human body and thus to strengthen the body. According to theories of modern medicine, the relaxation-tightness exercise with all parts being relatively relaxed benefits the contraction and relaxation of muscles, helps trainees to relax the mind, adjusts the nervous system, improves or balances the physiological functions of the organs of various systems of the human body, and thus achieves the body-building and health-preserving goals. (Ding Liling)

Reference: “Posture Adjustment” and “Health Preserving” in Health Qigong

Exercise Mindset Philosophy principle qigong

Using a Five-step Relaxation Method to Regulate Your Moods

When we feel down, depressed, or distressed, we need to fully exert our subjective initiatives, strengthen our self-control, control the nervousness, anxiety, and pain through our self-consciousness, and do the best to eliminate the adverse effects of passive thoughts. We can use the five-step relaxation method for the adjustment. Choose a suitable posture by sitting on a chair or standing naturally.

(1) Inhale through the nose and slightly turn your face upward. Keep still other parts of the body. Keep yourself relaxed. Exhale through the mouth and pronounce “ha”. Relax the head and neck and put them back to the original position. At the same time imagine that the back of the body is slowly relaxed with the exhalation-vocalization until the tail bones are relaxed. Repeat this step for 3 times.

(2) Inhale through the nose and keep your body in the original posture. Keep yourself relaxed and do not take any movement. Exhale through the mouth and pronounce “ha” without moving the body. Imagine that the front of the body is slowly relaxed with the exhalation-vocalization from the chest to the lower abdomen. Repeat this step for 3 times.

(3) Inhale through the nose and slightly turn your face upward. Raise both arms from both sides of the body until they are higher than the head. The palms centers should face downward during this process. Relax other parts of the body and keep the original posture. Exhale through the mouth and pronounce “ha”, and return the head and arms simultaneously. At the same time imagine that upper limbs and body flanks are slowly relaxed with the exhalation-vocalization. Repeat this step for 3 times.

(4) Inhale through the nose and turn your face upward. Arch the waist and cock up the tail bones. Raise both arms towards the front. Slightly bend the legs (You don’t have to move legs if you are sitting). Exhale through the mouth and pronounce “ha”, and return the entire body to the original position simultaneously. Slowly lower the arms. At the same time imagine that the entire body, especially the legs, is slowly relaxed with the exhalation-vocalization. Repeat this step for 3 times.

(5) Inhale through the nose. Close the lips and teeth. Raise both arms from the flanks of the body until they are higher than the head. The palm centers should face each other at a certain angle as if hugging something. Keep still other parts of the body and keep yourself relaxed. Exhale through the nose and close the lips and teeth. Bend the elbows at the same time and press down with both arms from the front of the body to the lower abdomen. The finger tips should point at each other during the process. Then relax them naturally and return them to the body flanks. Repeat this step for 3 times. Be gentle and slow with the movements. Do not use strength. Keep yourself relaxed. (written by Hermit of Mt. E’mei)

Reference: Using a Five-step Relaxation Method to Regulate Your Moods

Exercise qigong

In-bed Health-preserving Morning Massage

“In-bed health-preserving morning massage” is very simple. We hope that middle-aged and elderly friends could make use of the precious moment in the morning to take good care of your bodies and thus to make yourselves cheerful throughout the whole day.

1. When you wake up in the morning, do not open your eyes immediately, but rest in the bed for 30 seconds so that the body could get prepared for the wakeup. Next, rub your hands until they get hot. Then cover your eyes with the hot hands and begin to massage eyes in circles. Complete 36 circles in the clockwise and anticlockwise directions respectively. After that, slowly rotate your eyeballs from top to bottom, from left to right, and finally in circles. Repeat the eye-rotation for 18 rounds. Then open your eyes and stare at the ceiling for about 1-2 minutes. After completing this part of the massage, you will have a bright eyesight and feel refreshed, comfortable, and vigorous.

2. Rub your hands until they get hot. Then cover both of your auricles with the hot hands and begin to massage them in circles. Complete 36 circles in the clockwise and anticlockwise directions respectively. The movements should be slow, light, and comfortable. After the massage, gently insert the tips of both middle fingers into the exterior earholes (finger nails must be trimmed and smoothed beforehand), and massage in circles. Complete 36 circles in the clockwise and anticlockwise directions respectively. After the massage, gently cover both of your auricles with the palms and use the finger pulps to softly tap your head. This will refresh the brains and improve or maintain your good hearing.

3. Rub your hands until they get hot. Then cover your cheeks with the hot hands and begin to massage them in circles. Complete 36 circles in the clockwise and anticlockwise directions respectively. Rub your hands again until they get hot. Then cover your forehead, mouth and nose with the hot hands and begin to lightly massage them in circles. Complete 36 circles in the clockwise and anticlockwise directions respectively. After that, you will feel refreshed and rejuvenated. This provides natural and cheap self-beautifying effects.

4. Rub your hands until they get hot. Then gently cover your face with the hot hands. Slightly butt your middle fingers against the nose wings on both sides, and gently massage the face from bottom to top. The massage route may cross: Mouth, nose, eyes, forehead, hair line, and Baihui Acupoint on the top of the head. Then move the palms across the back of your head, the occiput, the upper hind neck, the cervical vertebrae, the lower mandible, Chengjiang Acupoint, the mouth, and the philtrum. Repeat this process for 8 circles. This will improve your looks, refresh the brains, restore the spirit, promote blood circulation, and dredge channels.

5. The four massage steps described above can be completed while you are lying on the red or sitting on the bed. After the exercises, sit on the bed and have a rest for 30 seconds and then stand still on your feet for 30 seconds. This will completely ease the body. (Zhang Zhongbin)

Reference: In-bed Health-preserving Morning Massage

Philosophy qigong

Nutrition Philosophy of Qigong

Health Qigong is an embodiment of the excellent health-preserving culture of China, which has a history of thousands of years. As a health-preserving exercise, Health Qigong is based on traditional theories such as the Man-Nature Unity Theory, the Yin-Yang Theory, the Theory of Five Elements, and the Channel Theory. Its unique motion modes and rich theoretical content have determined the unique nutrition mode of Health Qigong.

1. Nutrition philosophy of Man-nature Unity

Man-Nature Unity is both a basic concept in the Chinese philosophy and an important theoretical basis for the Health Qigong Theory. “Nature” refers to all objective things in general, including the nature and human society and the rules of their variation. As a component part of the natural, man is inevitably subject to the influence of the changes of nature. This is why people say “one who wants to preserve health must carefully respect the nature”. A “nourishing Yang in spring and Yin in autumn and winter” health-preserving theory was first proposed in Huangdi’s Internal Classics.

And the concept of Man-Nature Unity has been fully embodied in the traditional food culture of our country. Internal Classics has clearly pointed out that proper dietary control is the key to longevity. For example Internal Classics: Suwen holds that flavors in compliance with the season rules are the guarantee for health, such as acid flavor in spring, bitter flavor in summer, spicy flavor in autumn, and salty flavor in winter. In addition, it is also believed in theories of traditional Chinese medicine that the dietary structures and dietary behaviors of the human kind must in concordance with the four seasons and the weather; otherwise they will have adverse effects on human health. Suwen: Antediluvian Primitive Theories points out that: “wise ancient people abode by the rules of Yin and Yang, followed the correct approaches, properly controlled their diets, led a regular life, and seldom overstrained themselves. Therefore they were able to preserve both the body and the spirit and live to the natural span of their lives.””

2. Nutrition philosophy of Yin-Yang Theory

Yin-Yang Theory states the unity of Yin-Yang opposites. It is a world outlook and methodology used to learn all things in the universe. In the field of Health Qigong, Yin-Yang Theory is used to account for the tissue structure, physiological functions, and pathological changes of the human body. And it is used to direct various kinds of training with an emphasis on the principle that “Yin and Yang must be clearly differentiated in the regulation of Qi flowing in channels”.

In traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed that all diseases of the human body, no matter how complicated, can be divided into Yin and Yang categories. The Yin and Yang natures of food need to be paid attention to in the nutritional mode of Health Qigong. Generally speaking, cold and cool foods are Yin-natured and provide heat-clearing, fire-purging, blood-cooling, and poison-neutralizing effects. Warm and hot foods are Yang-natured and provide cold-dissipating, channel-warming, vein-dredging, and Yang-boosting effects. The warm or hot nature is opposite to the cool or cold nature. All foods (e.g. ginger, fistular onion stalk, parsley) applicable to symptoms such as anemofrigid cold, fever, cold-aversion, running nose, and headache, foods (e.g dry ginger, black tea) applicable to symptoms such as stomachache, vomiting, and hot-drink preference, and foods (e.g. capsicum chilli and liquor) applicable to cold limbs, cold intolerance, and rheumatic joint pain are warm-natured or hot-natured foods. All foods used for hot-natured body constitution and symptoms are cool-natured or cold-natured foods.

For example when we practice Routine 1 “Swinging the Head and Lowering the Body to Relieve Stress” of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin, we can stimulate the Du Channel by crouching on both feet and swinging the coccygeal end and stimulate Dazhui Acupoint by swinging the head and thus to dredge the channels, reduce the heat, and remove excessive heart fire. If the practicer has great internal heat, we can add more Yin-natured foods to the diet such as duck meat, spinach, and bitter gourd, which will often boost the body-building effect.

3. Nutrition philosophy of the Theory of Five Elements

The five elements herein referred to are Wood, Fire, Metal, Water, and Earth. The Theory of Five Elements is a theory that explains the interrelations between things with the boosting and restraining relations between the five elements. In Health Qigong, the complicated things and phenomena exhibited in the life activities of man are categorized by means of analysis, classification, and deduction according to the characteristics of the five elements.

And the inter-promoting, inter-complementing, inter-restricting, and inter-checking relations between the liver, heart, spleen, lung, and kidney systems during the body-building and health-preserving process are explained and explored according to the inter-promoting, inter-complementing, inter-restricting, and inter-checking rules of the five elements. In traditional dietary health preservation, foods are divided into acid, bitter, sweet, spicy, and salty types that correspond to the five elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. The Book of History: Hongfan states that: “Salty food is used for mild laxation, bitter food is used for fire reduction, acid food is used for correction, spicy food is used for transformation, and sweet food is used for sowing and reaping.” This explains the one-on-one matchup between the five elements and the five flavors. Internal Classics also states that: “spicy flavor provides dispersing effect, acid flavor provides astringing effect, sweet flavor provides relaxing effect, bitter flavor provides solidifying effect, and salty flavor provides softening effect”.”

For example, the “XU” in Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue can release foul Qi from the liver and regulate the liver. Sufficient blood in the liver will benefit heart Yang and sufficient heart Yang will warm the spleen and remove damp. However the spleen prefers dryness. Excessively strong Yin blood in the liver will be actually adverse to the spleen Yang. Therefore we could eat some food that disperses the depressed liver energy and regulates the flow of Qi while practicing, such as celery, crowndaisy chrysanthemum, tomato, turnip, orange, pomelo, tangerine, citron, and finger citron to regulate the liver, and hyacinth beans, sorghum rice, pearl barley, buckwheat, chestnuts, lotus seeds, gordon euryale seeds, Chinese yam, jujube, carrot, cabbage, pumpkin, tangerines, and oranges to invigorate the spleen.

4. Nutrition philosophy of the Channel Theory

Channels include trunk channels and branch channels. They are passages that carry blood and Qi of the entire body, link internal organs, limbs, and joints, and connect the upper, lower, interior, and exterior parts of the body. The Channel Theory is the theoretical basis for both traditional Chinese medicine and Health Qigong.

It is believed in Health Qigong Theory that the Qi, blood, and body fluid of the human body cannot nourish the viscera and tissues until they are transported by the channel system to all parts of the body. Therefore we can dredge channels and regulate the viscera by properly stretching and turning limbs from time to time. Many exercises of Health Qigong are performed under the guidance of the Channel Theory.

For example, “Holding One Arm Aloft to Regulate the Functions of the Spleen and Stomach” of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin stimulates the related channels in the abdomen and sternocostal parts and Shu Acupoint in the back through the alternating up-down stretching motions of the left and right upper limbs. And eating some warm-natured or hot-natured food such as beef, mutton, onion, leek, ginger, or jujube during the practice will warm the body, excite the physiological functions, increase the vigor, and dredge the channels.

To sum up, perfect combination of the features of Health Qigong exercises with nutriology will boost the body-building effects of Health Qigong and further promote the development of Health Qigong. (Ding Yu)

Reference: Nutrition Philosophy of Health Qigong

Exercise Philosophy principle qigong

A Brief Analysis of Preparatory Exercises before Practicing Qigong

Health Qigong is an auto-exercise based on the perfect combination of posture regulation, breathing regulation, and mental regulation. The practicer is required to stay focused and take natural and long-lasting breaths during the practice. But physical exercise not only bears gentle and slow movement features but also contains tendon-stretching, bone-drawing, firmness-gentleness alternating, and forces-to-the-ends movements with wide ranges. Hence we need to get fully prepared both mentally and physically before the practice in order to prevent damages due to limitation of joint motions and excessive viscosity of muscles during practice, avoid deformed movements due to stiff muscles, inertial viscera, and absent-mindedness, excite the central nervous system, bring the response, comprehensive analytical ability, and differentiating ability of the brain into an appropriate state, promote the coordination between the motor centers participating in the activity, and thus naturally enter the practice of Health Qigong and achieve good practice effects.

Unfortunately, observation results show that most Health Qigong instructors and amateurs have an inadequate understanding of preparatory exercises before Health Qigong practice. They do not know the purpose, significance, and rules of preparatory exercises, let alone a complete set of effective routines and methods. In most cases they merely do some random conditioning exercises or casually press legs and mobilize joints before practicing Health Qigong. Both the form and contents of such exercises are simplistic and mechanical. To be worse, some practicers even take it for granted that since Health Qigong movements are slow and gentle, preparatory exercises are not even important. As a result, such practicers often give up preparatory exercises completely. This will not only affect the practicing efficiency of the practicer but also cause strains to the locomotor system of the practicer or, in some serious cases, cause certain injuries and thus impede the further implementation of Health Qigong activities.

Functions of preparatory exercises

1. Regulating the mental status before practicing; Preparative execises can bring the excitedness of the cerebral cortex to an appropriate level. Before Health Qigong practice, the practicer can use autosuggestion and meditation to focus the mind, relax the brain, enter a state of peace and quietness, and thus get prepared for the unity of “Three Regulations” in practice.

2. Promoting the functional levels of internal organs in the circulating and respiratory systems; Preparatory exercises promote the functions of the respiratory system and leave elevated-excitedness marks in the respiratory center of the cerebral cortex. Entering the formal movements on top of this elevated excitedness will increase the pulmonary ventilation volume and ensure the sufficient oxygen supply during formal practice.

3. Promoting the coordination between centers involved in movements; Preparatory exercises can connect multiple conditional reflexes related to motor skills so that the practicer has more reasonable rhythms, more accurate movements, more precise postures, and more coordinated motions during Health Qigong practice.

4. Improving the metabolic level and raising the body temperature; Preparatory exercises can raise the body temperatures of the practicer and thus reduce the muscular viscosity, increase the contractive and diastolic velocities of muscles, and strengthen the muscle power. Under a higher body temperature, hemoglobin and myoglobin will release more oxygen and thus increase the oxygen supply for muscles. Due to the increased level of substance metabolism, the excitedness of nerves and muscular tissues will be widely increased. In addition, the increase in muscle temperatures will dilate the small vessels, reduce the peripheral resistance, and increase the blood supply for muscles. At the same time, increased body temperature will add to the extensibility of muscles and tendons, increase their tenacity, and prevent sports injuries.

Requirements of preparatory exercises

The purpose of preparatory exercises is to cause a trace effect in organs and systems of the body. This trace effect relates to the post-excitation effect of the nervous system, the secretion of some hormones in the internal secretion glands, and the temperature effect of increased body temperature.

The length of time that this “trace” stays in the body depends on the degree of stimulation by the preparatory exercise and the interval between the preparatory exercise and the formal exercise. Therefore the workload and intensity of the preparatory exercise and the interval between the preparatory and formal exercises are crucial factors. Generally speaking, the preparatory exercise shall last 10~15min and its intensity shall be so that the practicer feels warmed-up and sweats a little bit without any heavy breath. Due to the “Three Regulations” requirement of Health Qigong, the interval between the preparatory exercise and formal practice should better be no longer than 3min.

Notes about preparatory exercises

1. The exercise shall be both comprehensive and clearly targeted. Except Liu Zi Jue, all exercises of Health Qigong require movements of the entire body and alternating firmness and gentleness. Therefore their preparatory exercises shall be able to warm up the muscles, joints, and tendons. Moreover, Health Qigong exercises involve particular requirements on different parts of the body. For example, Ba Duan Jin involves high requirements on the strength of lower limbs, Yi Jin Jing involves high requirements on the flexibility of the spine column in all directions, and Wu Qin Xi involves high requirements on the coordination between the nervous system and the body. Therefore different preparatory exercises shall be chosen for different formal exercises to be practiced.

2. The preparatory exercise shall be simple, less intensive, and easy to learn. This is because a preparatory exercise is meant to get the practicer prepared for the formal exercise. Compared with the formal exercise, it should be basically auxiliary and secondary. In addition, the both the physical and mental loads of the human body should better be raised in a bit-by-bit manner. Therefore the preparatory exercise must be so arranged that it is easy to learn and not very intensive. Only in this way can a preparatory exercise truly mobilize the practicer both mentally and physically, prevent injuries and cardiovascular accidents, and serve the formal exercise.

3. The amplitude shall be moderate and movements gentle and slow. The preparatory exercise needs to warm up all related joints of the body, stretch relevant muscles and tendons, and raise the service level of the heart and lungs. But at the beginning of the exercise, the practicer’s body is usually not hot enough and the heart and lungs are very inertial. Therefore the preparatory shall be provided with a moderate amplitude and gentle and slow movements. This way it will both warm up the body and prevent muscle strains and a series of problems caused by inertia of the internal organs.

4. The body shall be warmed up in an orderly manner from head to foot. The purpose of the preparatory exercise is to make sure that full-body movements are done under a relaxed physical and mental status. Therefore we should carefully consider the sequence of activities while arranging the preparatory exercise, so that the practicer won’t be confused or have to go out of the way to consider what the next movement is while practicing.

5. The full body shall be stretched with moderate strength. The warm-up exercise shall not only warm up the joints and activate the functions of internal organs, but also warm up muscles related to the formal exercise. This will add to the extensibility of muscles and the amplitude of movements and prevent injuries to muscles and joints. And the exercise of Health Qigong will involve 90% percent of all muscles, including both big and small muscle groups. Therefore, while arranging the preparatory exercise, we should consider stretching all muscle groups of the entire body but with gradual and moderate use of strength so as to prevent injuries to muscles and joints.

6. The “Three Regulations” shall be well combined and relaxed appearance with mental tension is required. The preparatory exercise is in the service of Health Qigong and therefore has to bear the features of Health Qigong. As a result it must both present the characteristics of the traditional sports of our nation and accord with the principles of modern science. And the most distinguishing features of Health Qigong are the approaches of posture regulation, breathing regulation, and mental regulation, the combination of these “Three Regulations”, and the practicing style of relaxed appearance with mental tension, which are quite different from the features of warm-up exercises of modern sports. (Hu Xiaofei and Zhuang Yongchang)

Reference: A Brief Analysis of Preparatory Exercises before Practicing Health Qigong

Mindset Philosophy principle qigong

A Brief Discussion of the Three Stages of Qigong

Zhang Guoming; HuangHe Science and Technology College

Health Qigong is a traditional sport of our nation with body movements, respiration regulation, and mental regulation as the major forms of exercise. By practicing Health Qigong, we can dredge the channels, harmonize Yin and Yang, strengthen the body, eliminate diseases, and prolong life. And during the practice of Health Qigong, body regulation, respiration regulation, and mind regulation must be coordinated in order to exert the health-preserving effect of Health Qigong and achieve harmonious development of both body and mind. Therefore the practice of Health Qigong shall be divided into three stages. The first stage involves body regulation; the second stage involves coordination between body regulation and respiration regulation; the third stage involves coordination of body regulation, respiration regulation, and mind regulation. Through these three stages, the three regulation items can be gradually integrated.

Stage 1: Body Regulation Plays the Principal Role and Respiration and Mind Regulation Play the Supplementary Role

Body Regulation Is the Focus

In the initial stage of body regulation, the exerciser often attends to one thing and loses another. He or she tends to forget the next movement while doing the current one or forget certain details while doing a certain movement. With the increase in the number of repetitions and duration of exercise, the exerciser gradually masters the essentials of movements and no longer focuses on the memorization of movements but the accuracy and coordination of movements, and begins to enjoy the comfort brought by the exercise to the body. At this point, the exerciser will occasionally coordinate some movements with respiration and thought but still be in a twilight state. During this stage, the exerciser shall pay special attention to relaxation. Relaxation involves the following two aspects: physical relaxation and mental relaxation. Physical relaxation helps relax the blood vessels and promotes the circulation of blood and Qi. Mental relaxation helps the brain to enter quiescence, promotes the excitation of nerves to achieve a moderate balance, enhances the interoceptive feelings of the brain, strengthens the perception and control of the brain on the body, and thus improves the accuracy, coordination, and appearance of the movements of the exerciser.

Stage 2: Body and Respiration Regulation Plays the Principal Role and Mind Regulation Plays the Supplementary Role

Coordination between Body and Respiration Regulation is the Focus

When the movements become accurate, well-coordinated, and good-looking, the exerciser needs to move on to the exercise of coordinated body regulation and respiration regulation. The movements shall be carried out to the extent that the timing of inhalation and the time of exhalation are perfectly coordinated with the movements. During the coordination exercise of body regulation and respiration regulation, the exerciser is required to move gentle and slowly and breathe evenly, softly, and deeply. Do not take over-fast or over-deep breaths in case of suffocation, chest distress, and hyperventilation. The coordination between body regulation and respiration regulation cannot be natural and harmonious without a long period of efforts. Therefore, during this stage the exerciser needs to practice step by step according to his own specific conditions and by strengthening the regulation of respiration, increase the oxygen intake of the body, discharge the waste gas from inside the body, enhance the regulating functions of the sympathetic nerves and parasympathetic nerves, improve the functions of internal organs and central nervous system, and thus further improve the health of the body.

Stage 3: Coordination of Body Regulation, Respiration Regulation, and Mind Regulation

Gradually Achieving an Integration of three Regulations

After body regulation is naturally coordinated with respiration regulation, the mind regulation shall be stressed so that body regulation, respiration regulation, and mind regulation can be well coordinated. Good coordination shall be achieved between the timing of inhalation during movements and the focus of thought and between the timing of exhalation during movements and the focus of thought. Through long-term practice, organic connections between the Three Regulations will be gradually created to promote the coordination and synchronization of the Three Regulations, and rhythmic movements will be gradually formed. With the constant improvement of skills in the coordination of the Three Regulations, the organic connections between these Three Regulations will completely replace the conscious practice and the exerciser will enter an advanced state of integrated Three Regulations. At this point, both the body and mind of the exerciser will make qualitative leaps forward and the movements of the exercise will proceed with the relaxing and contracting forces that naturally connect the Three Regulations.

The three basic elements of Health Qigong are body regulation, respiration regulation, and mind regulation. Body regulation means to regulate the limb activities, respiration regulation means to regulate the respiratory activities, and mind regulation means to regulate the mental activities. The coordination and integration of these Three Regulations have to be achieved through a gradual and step-by-step process. If we emphasize the close coordination between the Three Regulations at the beginning stage of Health Qigong exercise, we will easily attend to one thing and lose another or spoil things by excessive enthusiasm. Therefore during the practice of Health Qigong, we have to follow the fundamental rules of the exercise and practice in different stages and steps in a gradually way in order to achieve the best exercising effects.

Reference: A Brief Discussion of the Three Stages of Health Qigong