After one has successfully completed an introductory breathing practice like Following the Breath, it is time to explore more advanced Taoist breathing methods. The next practice to move on to is regular abdominal breathing. This is really the start of qigong practices. There are various stages in learning this method on the way to mastery. The stages are as follows:
1. You learn how to coordinate and control the abdominal muscles with the breath. The belly expands when the breath comes in and contracts when you exhale. The diaphragm drops on the inhale and goes up during exhalation. The goal of this stage is to make the breath smooth, with even exhalation and inhalation cycles. The mind and intention relax and the process occurs without conscious intervention.
2. In the second stage, with the breathing occurring naturally smooth and even, you focus part of your attention on the perineum (between the genitals and anus). The Huiyin acupuncture point is located here, where the yin governing vessel meets the yang conception vessel. When exhaling, gently bring up the perineum, and during the exhale, allow it to relax. There should be no tension in the perineum or abdomen. You will have to use the mind initially.
3. In the next stage, you will realize that it is not necessary to have your attention placed at the Huiyin. The movement will occur naturally. You cannot hurry this process, you will just have to practice until this happens. At this point, you will feel differently, noticing qi sensations during the movement of the breath in the perineum.
4. Finally, as the qi accumulates in the dantien, you will notice a sensation of whole body breathing accompanied with a stronger sense of qi being outward from the dantien during the inhalation.
Once you have completed these stages of regular abdominal breathing, you can advance to the practice known as reverse breathing. That practice will be discussed later. But for now, if you don’t know regular abdominal breathing and have not progressed through these four stages, you aren’t ready to move on. Remember that you can’t rush this process. You do the practice until it becomes automatic, doing without doing. Stay with your practice.
Someone asked recently, “Is Yoga a Good Way to Relax?”. On the surface one would say yes, however I have been to some classes where strenuous effort makes relaxing seem to be the most unlikely event possible. I recently went to a yoga session where the instructor was very advanced, and she was teaching beginners. The problems included the following: (1) she was introducing postures that were beyond the capacity of the students to do, and many were straining to achieve them, and (2) there was little or inadequate one-on-one instruction for corrections and adjustments that were needed.
This is where I think qigong instruction can go wrong as well. We need correction along the way. And if we don’t follow the 70% rule, observing our limitations and not going beyond 70% of these limitations (regarding movements, postures and breath), we can facilitate both progress in our practice and healing. Sometimes we forget to take it easy and let healing occur, and see the achieving of unrealistic goals as a necessary task. Don’t do your practice that way. Allow yourself to become more flexible and breath better through regular practice, you will improve your health faster and have more fun in the process.
Dr. Guan-Yuan Jin, MD, L.Ac., shares the three essential elements of qigong exercises in this video. These elements are regulation of the breath, body and mind. Keep in mind each of these elements as you are doing your practice, however the extent to which you do each of these varies depending on the type of qigong you are doing.
In order to learn qigong, you can’t do everything at once. So focusing on one of these three elements and getting it right is sometimes the best option. Learning qigong can only be done in steps. There are so many details to the exercises that it is difficult to get the big picture when you are in the learning process. That is why sometimes you see people focusing on very small details in order to get it right.
Bruce Frantzis, a qigong master from the United States, who also a lineage holder, has what is called a 16-part nei gong learning system. In his system, students learn various types of nei gong exercises that focus on different parts of this system that relate to different levels of being able to move the energy within the body. Learning each of these 16 parts takes time and dedication.
Breathing is a very deep aspect of the regulation of the energy. When one has stable breathing, one can achieve a stable mind, or a regulated mind. With both of these two elements working together, the body can become stable. Qigong and nei gong exercises are designed to yoke together each of these three elements to help improve your ability to sense, regulate and conserve your energy. Achieving all of these elements improves one’s ability to heal and carry out life’s daily activities.
Qigong healing routines are extremely important for the maintenance of health in China and these meditative, or mindful, movements are becoming more popular within the United States. Medical professionals are more likely to advise integrating the use of these exercise methods with Western medical advice to help individuals recuperate from infirmities.
It has been documented that there are over 10,000 forms of qigong, including those exercises used in martial arts, however the vast majority of people do these relaxing qigong practices for benefiting health and increasing personal energy. You find many people doing these qigong health exercises early in the morning because the practice helps set a positive pace for an upcoming day’s work and it boosts your energy levels to help you through your day.
There are many personal stories about the success of qigong practice, especially in regards as to its benefits for health and ability to help overcome many disorders. A good many of the reports have come from China, where people have suffered and recovered from weak vision, back pains, general malaise, various types of cancer, and several other maladies after commencing a daily exercise routine of qigong. There are many videos of practitioners from different countries who report that these exercises have helped them overcome high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary conditions, and pulmonary disorders. Scientific studies have also exhibited that qigong healing routines also can help improve peoples’ resistance to disease.
Since Qigong routines emphasize the use of gentleness in the movements as well as in the breath practices, they can be easily changed for use with those who have a variety of conditions, including people who are bed-ridden or are unable to walk. The qigong breathing meditations, which can be done by anyone, are the first step in the rehabilitation of breathing ability, and they benefit the circulatory systems for lymph and blood flow. Improved circulatory system function assists in toxin removal out of the body.
If you have a health disorder or just are experiencing a indefinable energy deficit, you should certainly explore the feasibility of carrying out a easy qigong routine to assist you to get better. Practice routines which take no more than fifteen min. out of your morning can result in enormous benefits for your health. Practice daily for a couple of weeks to figure out the benefits for yourself. Find a teacher to help familiarize yourself with a simple practice. Many have tried it and have reaped the benefits and now live more healthy, energetic lives!