Posts Tagged ‘qi gong’

Daoist breathing is the basis for both qi gong and tai chi, as I enjoy practicing them. Both arts use the muscles of respiration to initiate and power their movements. As such, breathing is the foundation of practice, far more so than the prescribed order of the movements, or form. It is really quite simple, but as with any proper daoist idea, the more we practice it, the more we learn, the more we see our previous conceptions were amateurish grasping at best, and pedantic drivel at their worst. As with any exercise you learn about on the internet, consult your health care provider before attempting it.

Daoist Breathing:

Inhale: bring the abdominal/core muscles inwards while the chest expands.

Exhale: gently push the abdominal/core muscles outwards while the chest contracts.

The basic idea is to turn your body into a bellows. When the area above the diaphragm expands, the lower contracts, and vice versa. This stimulates the Vagus nerve, which engages the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest (healing and wellness) aspect of nervous function. Just doing daoist breathing provides many of the health benefits of meditation, tai chi, and yoga. You can combine it with these activities for even greater results.

It is of paramount importance to not force your muscles or hold your breath, as doing so could result in injury. It is best to only exert about 70%.

Let the inhalation and exhalation flow together as do the peaks and valleys of a sine wave. Inhalation is a yin concept, so draw your abdominal muscles inwards to your center point, the spot 1.5 finger breadths below the navel, our center of gravity. This should be a gathering feeling. Exhalation is a yang concept, and the abdominal muscles should expand outwards from the center point; a spreading feeling.

Thus, if yin is inhalation and yang is exhalation, the diaphragm is that curved line delineating yin and yang in the yin yang symbol. The daoist classic the Dao De Jing explains qi as what happens between yin and yang, or the interaction between yin and yang. The myriad creatures all descend from the qi between the yin and yang of the One. In this regard, “qi work” could be understood as diaphragmatic work. In my experience, qi is best understood experientially, not intellectually. Therefore, if you want to know what qi is all about, my advice would be to ignore what people say (especially me!), and focus instead on what you feel while engaged with the breath. Trying to grasp qi with our mind will lead us to an illusion, a construct of cognition, which prevents genuine communion with this most interesting of concepts. Feeling our body with our heart, leaving our labeling devices out of the picture, is the way to go.

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Qi is synergistic function as it is perceived by the aspect of our consciousness that is responsible for intuition. It is often spoken of as energy, and elaborated upon with metaphors of water, but this is merely to facilitate explanation. Energy is capable of transforming into matter and back again, but qi does not do this. It also does not register on the electromagnetic spectrum. Indeed, yin and yang qi is understandable as the positive and negative aspect of magnetism.

The very first line of the section of the Dao De Jing that talks about the Dao (“The Way”) says that “the way that can be spoken of is not the true Way.” Or as Alan Watts puts it, “The course that can be discoursed is not the true Course.” The same holds true of qi. If we think qi is anything like the metaphors we use to discuss qi, we miss the point entirely and go clamoring after illusions and fancies. The best way, in my opinion, to understand qi is experientially. This is not satisfactory for a discerning mind of science, I know, and to this objection there are two things I can say:

1) There are phenomena which are capable of being experienced and understood in a purely rational manner, and then there are the phenomena which arrive only through intuition. Barring the notion that intuition is the result of complex lateral calculations and processing we cannot yet understand, which is still speculation despite its deference to reason, intuitive phenomena deserve to be treated as possessing categorical differences from rational ones. In this approach, qi is a quality of intuition that communicates with rational phenomena, but is not itself of reason. Our senses and mental processes grounded in reason cannot perceive it, but this does not mean it is not there. There is a rational system for qi to follow, yin-yang theory, which it always follows. Thus, qi itself is perfectly rational in functioning, though it is something outside of reason. A reasonably unreasonable phenomenon.

2) Assuming intuition is a category of rational thought that we are yet unable to trace and understand, qi would then be an imagined variable that allows a system to work. Eastern medicine relies on qi, which may be how the ancients explained nerves and hormones, which for some reason are capable of being influenced by putting needles in the body at certain places, which do not have to be the same two points for the same results.

My study of this topic, both written and experiential, has led me to a conclusion with much more in common with the first point. I invite skeptics to give these healing arts a fair shot by placating their inner critic with one or both of these points. Belief or acceptance of qi has nothing to do with their efficacy, but it is a fascinating area of study.

That said, acupuncture, Eastern herbalism, Tai chi & qi gong all operate on the level of qi. Yoga describes this as prana, which is translated as breath energy. Try some daoist breathing and see where it takes you!

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