An Article by Richard Carnes

 

Introductory to Qigong

Presented at the United States Wushu Academy
on April 24, 1999 by Dr. Li Hong Zi

QIGONG AND OUTSIDE GATES

Qigong translates as energy combined with skill. Our effort is focused on moving energy within the body. In the Chinese language, energy and oxygen are the same word. The Chinese symbol shows fire at the bottom burning something that is empty. Qi is thought to be the basis for all the energy in the universe. This energy has no shape and cannot be seen or touched. However, the force is very real and with practice it can grow and become stronger. It is thought to aid the immune system and help promote longevity.

In the human body qi travels along 12 main meridians; along these meridians are acupuncture points. Five of these points are gates connecting the body to the outside.

1. Yintang, the midpoint between the eyebrows.

2. Baihui, at the top of the head centered between the ears.

3. Laogong, middle of palm between third finger and fourth fingers.

4. Yongquan, mid line of bottom of foot about 1/3 distance from toes.

5. Mingman, located opposite dantian in small of back; this is also called the life gate.

The dantian, which is located two inches below the navel, is the centrally important qi warehouse. However, the dantian does not exist along a meridian and is not considered an outside gate.

In Qigong practice the mind needs to focus on one of these five gates. Practice by holding your thoughts at different points; then learn to move through these points to form a circle; first a small circle; then to a big circle. An example is given of a train station, a train, and the tracks. Your intent will lead the qi (train) along the tracks (meridians) to various stations (gates).

SCIENTIFIC BASIS

In the modern scientific view, Western medicine finds little evidence of qi. This may reflect the fact that most anatomical studies are done on dead bodies. Chinese medicine holds that qi does not exist in a dead body. There is currently no way to prove the existence of qi. Dr. Li states that humans have electric impulses produced by the heart, brain, and muscles. The body produces light, magnetic fields, and chemical actions. These energies relate to qi. In slow circular actions they become magnetic fields.

Instruments, such as infra red and ultra violet, can detect light and auras that are created by the human body. The body also produces heat which is constantly in movement from one point to another. This energy travels along meridians. There are several theories on the movement of qi through the body. Some believe that it moves through the space between the muscle tissue while others hold that it travels along the small veins.

A human model was discovered that is over one thousand years old. It dates from the Tang dynasty and shows a figure with the meridian lines drawn. It is thought to be a result of people practicing Qigong and feeling the qi flow. This information was cataloged over many generations and the meridians and accupressure points were established.

In Qigong training, the highest level is total stillness or emptiness. Humans have a conscious level, a sleep level, and a hypnagogic stage before sleep. This third level is most akin to Qigong. The brain produces a special condition called the Qigong condition; this is empty with no motion; as the brain focus on a gate and you realize this gate, all other feelings disappear; you move into a more basic metabolism. In this relaxed and focused state the body is much more capable of repair and maintenance.

Dr. Li believes that Qigong is truly a major gift of the Chinese culture to the world. However, because scientific proof is lacking regarding qi flow the gift is not fully recognized. Dr. Li uses Qigong in his medical practice. He found it to be particularly helpful for high blood pressure patients and for those suffering from stomach problems. One difficulty is that the patient must first be taught Qigong techniques; that is to say that the patient must be an active participant in the treatment. This approach can be time consuming.

Dr. Li has practiced and taught tai chi and he sees that many of the principles of tai chi are the same as Qigong. For example, slow circular motions, relaxed muscles and joints, and raised head and spirit.

Dr. Li , who is 75 years old, related a story regarding his recent visit to the US. Two months before coming to this country he injured himself seriously. He broke three ribs which were fractured in five places; he also had contusions, and blood in the urine. He used Qigong to first stop the flow of qi to the site of his injury. When the internal bleeding stopped he reversed the flow of qi so that it would flow to his injuries. His improvement was rapid and he continued with his travel plans to the U.S. He soon resumed all his normal activities which included seeing patients, conducting classes and providing massage treatments.

Dr. Li believes that Qigong should be considered supplemental; it does not replace Western medicine. It is good for recovery and for longevity. There are still many questions on how to release outer energy to heal or how to use energy to solve germ problems. Qigong is better understood the more that one makes an effort to study anatomy and meridian points.

TRAINING TECHNIQUES

There are many types of Qigong. Some are based on religious and spiritual guiding. Some are performing Qigongs and others are psychological guiding Qigongs. Dr. Li's focus is what he calls university Qigong. Its emphasis is on formal study and focuses on health, self control, and longevity.

Three essences are taught and considered necessary. They are: regulating the body, the heart, and the mind.

1. In regulating the body, posture and movement are important . It is best to begin one's practice with non-moving Qigongs because these are the most elemental. Dr. Li identified these as sitting, standing, and lying down Qigongs. Naturally, since these are non-moving Qigongs, they all stress inner feelings. Each of these must combine frame, mind, and qi. The criteria for the frame is to use the least amount of muscle tension. When the body is loose then we can move qi. Dr. Li believes that when there is a gap in the muscle tissue then qi can flow. This gap can only be created by loose and relaxed muscles.

2. In regulating the heart, intent is important to experience the feeling. One must use the mind to hold the gate then qi will flow and the experience will be felt. There is a connection of heart and self, where mind is used to understand self. (The Chinese equate heart and mind whereas Westerners distinguish the two).

3. In regulating the mind, one will learn how to hold onto the gate, relax and let go. Entering the gate is not difficult but reaching higher levels is more difficult. One can use internal vision to see oneself. One needs to regulate breathing and remove other thoughts to hold the gate. Emphasis is on abdominal breathing and dropping the qi to the dantian. Practice with diaphragm breathing. The breath cannot actually reach the dantian but the feeling can be that it does. Do not overemphasis this breathing. (Dr. Li cautioned about going "outside the boundaries" of safe Qigong practice). Other breathing techniques are: go with the flow, listening breath, counting breath, mind regulating breathing. Some breathing techniques take you down to 4 or 2 breaths per minute.

To summarize, one should regulate the mind, body and breathing; all three are important and need to be combined into one. Use mind and not force; this is why tai chi and Qigong are different from other activities. Training in Qigong should be thought of as supplemental to one's other life experiences and studies. Qigong should not replace or diminish these other experiences but rather should be combined with them.


SITTING QIGONG WORKSHOP

Focus on the gate points of the hand, head, eyebrow midpoint, foot and dantian. Saliva will increase; swallow a little at a time; keep hands separated:

1. Suspend the head as though it is on a string held from above.

2. Drop upper eyelids down like a curtain.

3. Tongue to roof of mouth.

4. Loosen chest with back straight.

5. Lower shoulders and elbows.

6. Hand position is on top of lap (as if holding a ball).

7. Settle the wrists and extend the fingers.

8. Laogong points on palms are embracing qi energy.

9. Loosen waist and qua.

10. Tuck in tummy.

11. Tail bone sinks (doesn't apply in sitting Qigong).

12. Hips placed on top of chair and allow to sink down.

13. Knees same distance apart as shoulders.

14. Feet are flat on floor and parallel.

15. Alignment of head and heart.

16. No facial expression (in other words no use of facial muscles).

Fix the body position. Loosen and let go of all muscles. This is done by the mind's intent. When hands are raised and allowed to face each other, the qi will be felt. The fingers of one hand can be pointed at the other palm and the movement of the fingers will be felt on the palm. One can roll the hands, (as if holding a ball), and the qi will be felt. With a partner each can run their hands past the other and feel the qi.

©2002 US Wushu Academy