Monday, October 18, 2010

Qigong Breathing Exercises for the Lungs and Five Element Theory

Five Chinese Elements - Diurnal Cycle The Five Elements and the Diurnal CycleThere are specific qigong exercises, three that are mentioned here, that help bolster the energy of the lungs when they are deficient in qi. Disorders that are indicators of deficient lung qi include asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and various causes of shortness of breath (dyspnea). Respiratory exercises are important to increase the flow and movement into the tissues of new qi, and to correspondingly allow the stagnant qi to leave.

Using the Five Element Theory to Help Heal the Lungs

According to the five element theory in medical qigong, when your lungs are deficient in qi, your overall energy is less because the lungs feed the kidneys with qi.  In order to improve the lung qi, you need to nourish the qi in your spleen and allow it to move to the lungs.  One way of doing this is to visualize the color yellow and the sound "who" during inhaling.  Take in the yellow-colored qi into the spleen (which is in front of the left kidney in the middle of the body).  You can also visualize the elements associated with the spleen and lungs: earth and metal, respectively.  Do this 9 or 18 times, and afterward, visualize the qi moving to both of your lungs while breathing normally and relaxed.  Let it move and do not force it.  Do this 2-3 times a day when you are challenged by any of the disorders mentioned above.  Beginners should use 9 repetitions.

The color for the qi of the lungs is white and the sound is "Tzzzzzz."  Breathe in the color white for the healing energy of this color, and on the exhale make the sound to allow the vibration to release toxic qi within the lung tissue.  You may do this 9 or 18 times.

Either of the above exercises can be done lying down, sitting or in a standing wuji posture.  When doing the sitting or standing posture, maintain an erect but supple spine and suspend the head from the neck, tilting it slightly down to open up the occipital area.

Finishing Standing Exercise for Tonifying and Clearing the Lung Channels

This exercise is done standing.  Stand with the feet parallel and shoulder width apart and assume a relaxed wuji posture.  Inhale and move the arms out to the side of the body and arch backwards slightly, inhaling the white qi.    On the exhale, bend down (to your comfort level) and bring the arms down, swinging and crossing them back and forth while breathing out and making the lung sound.  On the inhale, bring the hands up the legs and body, following the right extraordinary channel with the right hand (palm up), and the left channel with the left hand.  When the hands reach the nipples, make a beak hand (all fingers and the thumb are connected) and extend the arms outward following the lung channel down the arm to the thumbs.  When the arms are fully extended, open the beak hand with the palm upwards and thumb back, and exhale.  Repeat the movement 9-18 times.  For beginners, start with less repetitions.

 Note: The Taoist method of breathing (in qigong and tai chi) that is most common for healing is normal abdominal breathing.  In this type of breathing, the diaphragm drops and allows the lungs to fill with new air.  You will know if you are doing it right if your belly and sides of the body move outward when inhaling.  On the exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and allows stagnant air to leave.  Correspondingly, the belly contracts when exhaling.  Also note that, in healing exercises, the inhalation is through the nose and exhalation is through the mouth and it is not forced.  Inhale and exhale at only 70-80% of your capacity.
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Monday, October 4, 2010

Taming the Monkey Mind

Most of what the mind does is to churn the same thoughts over and over. One of the goals of Taoist meditation and Qigong is to tame this "monkey mind" so we can complete one of the three main goals of practice: regulation of the mind (the other two are regulation of the breath and body). Without regulation of the mind, regulation of the breath and body are impossible. This is why Taoist meditation practices are important as a component of a program for improving health and energy.  The ultimate goal is much deeper, however. "Attaining the Way" is that ultimate goal which is sought by Taoists.

Tranquility of the mind and tranquility of the breath are inextricably linked.  That is why many of the meditation approaches devised by Taoists use the breath as a vehicle for realizing the Way.  Dr. Jwing-Ming Yang has published the excellent book, Qigong Meditation.  Embryonic Breathing, which is an invaluable resource for understanding ancient documents which describe the meaning and intent of meditation breathing practices that have been historically employed by Taoist masters.  He points out that the first goal is to attain a peaceful mind.  Deep, profound breathing via the lower dantien is a means of achieving this goal.  The lower dantien, centered in the body below the navel, functions as the major center for breath origin and circulation of energy up (Du meridian) and down (Ren meridian) the torso.  This circulation helps regulate the spirit (shen) by cultivating space within the mind.

I was listing to an audio presentation by Dr. Wayne Dyer, a couple of days ago.  This presentation is a part of his book, Getting in the Gap.  This is another approach to help tame the monkey mind, and the image of returning to the space between thoughts is useful to illustrate that meditation methods are designed to create this sense of openness, space and tranquility.  As the mind becomes more tranquil, the breathing becomes more regular, relaxed and the respiratory rate is reduced.  For those who have trouble using the breath as a vehicle, I recommend his method or other methods that return the mind to one central point, like vipassana.

A helpful resource for learning how to use the breath as a vehicle for transformation is the audio presentation by Bruce Frantzis, Tao of Letting Go.  In this audio tape, the listener is guided in a progressive series in how to experience the use of the breath to obtain inner transformation via the water method of Taoist meditation.  This method is a gentle but very powerful method of practicing and allowing tranquility to manifest in your body, mind and emotions.  I have attended several of Bruce's workshops and highly recommend this tutorial for obtaining mental tranquility and spiritual advancement.

Use these methods to tame the monkey mind for obtaining psychological as well as spiritual maturity in your life.  The world can use more people who are capable of using the power of tranquility to deal with the difficult situations that life sometimes presents us.  And life regularly presents difficulties.  These inner transformation methods are essential tools for helping us along the the Way, or Tao, and for seeing our difficulties as transient and possible sources of opportunity. 
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Monday, September 6, 2010

Qigong Meditation

Yin and yang stones
"Qigong meditation" is a redundant phrase, because if you are doing qigong, your are engaging in a form of meditation. Static meditation postures are probably more familiar to most, sitting cross-legged or in a chair. In the qigong tradition, there are also static standing postures, or zhan zhuang.

The principles used in static meditations are carried into the movement forms, where practitioners observe tranquility and maintain internal awareness to become familiar with the emptiness within movement and the interplay between yin and yang energies as they practice the forms.

A meditative mindset is aided in the movement forms by focusing on centering the movements from the lower dantien and by doing them in a mindfully - mindful of the physical movements and how they are being performed, the state of mind, the internal aspects including the energy flow and the breathing.

Meditation can be done on a single physical aspect of a movement over fixed periods of time so that one makes stepwise improvement in awareness and ability, much in the way that sitting meditations often focus on a single aspect, such as following the breath.  Once this is mastered, one can progress to a more advanced practice like abdominal breathing. In moving practices, repeating a movement oven and over is helpful, but it is also helpful to focus on one aspect of a movement, such as movement from a single part of the body like the wrists or elbows.

Another aspect of Qigong Meditation in the Water Tradition is that there is no force.  Force has no role within this tradition, rather, it can hinder your progress.  Use your intention in a gentle fashion to bring you back to your practice when distractions occur. Return back to your central point of meditation.  

So, if you are doing qigong and you aren't meditating (or focusing in a relaxed manner), you are just dancing or doing free-form movement. Not that this wouldn't improve your health or result in healing (it would help with flexibility and mobility at least) but it does not include the internal aspects of meditation and energy development that are the principle benefits of Chinese qigong practice.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Qigong Healing Methods for Lower Back and Neck Pain

If you are suffering from lower back or neck pain, I suggest you look up the instructional series that Lee Holden has prepared. I have personally met and known Lee Holden during qigong workshops that have been held in Portland, Oregon. Lee is an advanced practitioner of Chinese martial arts has the training and ability to demonstrate effective methods for opening up the spine and neck so that they can heal and function normally. For your convenience, I have included Amazon links to his materials so you can check out his materials. Check them out and see what they can do for you.

Qigong and Science

I was looking at a physics forum the other day and was interested in the nature of the discussion regarding qigong and science. However, I found that this particular forum (, which was dedicated to the topic "Chi - A Real Force, was placed under the category of "Skepticism and Debunking." I have found other sites on the web that are similar, such as Quackwatch, where opinions and personal experience regarding qi, qigong, tai chi and other alternative healing practices do not have a welcoming audience. My thought was, why waste time posting information about personal experience in these forums if it is set up from the start as forum for negative attitudes that are based on a lack of experience? It amounts to mental claptrap that says nothing other than a rigid adherence to professional ignorance.

I have a scientific research background and have looked up many of the research articles that have been done regarding the effects of qigong and Tai Chi. There have been an overwhelming number of studies that have been done that have demonstrated a positive effect of qi practices for health improvement. A significant number of these studies may have used better experimental designs; however the sheer number of these tests have demonstrated healing for many different medical disorders provides a body of evidence that cannot be ignored. Except for professional skeptics or those with blinders.....

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Standing Qigong Meditation

As Taoist lineage master Bruce Frantzis says, standing qigong is the million-dollar secret to qigong energy practice. It may not seem like one is doing anything by "just standing," but both gross and subtle changes occur while engaging in this practice. One must follow the proper postural recommendations and let the breath change from chest to abdominal breathing. During the course of standing, the body becomes both physically and energetically balanced. Relaxation and qi blockages (physical, emotional and spiritual) can be dissolved. It is from the physical and energetic foundation that is derived from this practice that one can advance further in moving qigong or Tai Chi forms.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Qigong Breathing and Internal Awareness

Qigong breathing practice begins with a simple method called Following the Breath. This practice introduces you to internal awareness and training of the mind to stay focused in a relaxed manner. Once you have practiced this for a couple of months, you can advance to abdominal breathing.

When you first start abdominal breathing, you may not notice any movement in your dantien area. If that is the case, keep visualizing a ball of energy in the center of your body in your lower dantien. Visualize the ball massaging the sides of your lower torso and lower back as you are inhaling and exhaling.  Over time the perineum area will also expand and contract.  Don't use force, instead, allow the breathing to open up areas that are tight or without feeling. Over time, perhaps a period of several weeks or a couple of months, the energy ball in the dantien will grow and will open up your lower back and the sides of the abdomen and you will feel the physical sensation of expansion as well as the energy.

You may also encounter blockages on the way down to the dantien.  Let the breath do the work, just following it as it goes in and out.  Let go and release tension and energy blockages on the exhalation,  Doing without doing will facilitate your advancement in your practice.  For a detailed manual on advanced practices in qigong breathing, read the book by Yang Jwing-Ming on Embryonic Breathing.

Another resource for beginners to consider is a guided meditation CD by Bruce Frantzis, a Taoist Lineage Master.  This meditation, called the TAO of Letting Go: Meditation for Modern Living. Frantzis guides listeners in meditations that allow feeling contractions and other types of blockages within the body. As the CD progresses, he also teaches the methods to dissolve physical as well as emotional blockages that are encountered. Frantzis also has published another CD called Taoist Breathing for Tai Chi and Meditation: Twenty-Four Exercises to Reduce Stress, Build Mental Stamina, and Improve Your Health, which has 24 qigong breathing exercises for increasing internal awareness.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Qigong Healing Through Breath Exercises

A fundamental reason why qigong healing occurs is abdominal breathing. Just from a mechanical perspective, when you breathe using your diaphragm fully, this natural breathing method that we are borne with allows a massage of your organs in your abdominal area. And, because the pericardium is attached to the diaphragm, there is also a massage of the heart. If you can breathe deeply without forced effort and allow the diaphragm to drop and relax when you inhale, then it is also an indication that you are relaxed. Chest breathing, on the other hand, implies that there is restricted movement of the diaphragm and that you are using intercostal (between the rib) muscles to help you breathe. Those who can only do this type of breathing, breathe with more tension and are more prone to upper body muscular aches and pains.

You can check in with yourself to see if you are doing abdominal breathing by placing one hand on the upper chest and one on the belly.  As you inhale, the belly should move out due to the diaphragm movement.  The chest should be still.  If it isn't, you will need to relax the muscles of the ribcage and allow it to drop downward. Once the chest muscles are relaxed, the diaphragm can do its natural work.

Initially, it is easiest to lie down to learn this practice.  Some people even put books on the abdomen to help keep them aware of the movement of the belly during respiration.  Once this breathing method is mastered lying down, you can progress to a seated posture.  When seated, it is important to maintain an erect posture and to sit on the edge of a chair or on a meditation cushion.  Later, if you do standing meditation, you can extend your practice in that posture.  The goal is to master this type of breathing through all of your Taoist exercises, whether it be qigong, Tai Chi or Ba Gua.  Integrating this natural, Taoist breathing method is part of the Way towards practicing the totally in the Tao.  For a short article outlining further qigong breathing methods, read Yang Jwing-Ming's book on Embryonic Breathing.