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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