As some of you might know, in the mid 80’s, I visited Communist China to study Chi Kung (Also called Qigong) with Master Hu Bin. And I wrote a small book—a training manual—called Chinese Medical Breathing Exercises: A Brief Introduction.
Hu Bin was a perfect teacher for me because he was not only the greatest living Chi Kung Master at the time, but he was also a medical doctor and a university professor. For several years, he served as the head of the Public Health Department in Beijing. And he combined Traditional Chinese Medicine with Modern Medical Science.
I don’t why Hu Bin agreed to personally train me. He only took on two other western students: one was Greek and the other was German. Maybe he sensed my devotion to Breathwork or recognized my dedication to Breath Mastery.
To study with him was the opportunity of a lifetime. It was a blessing to spend so much quality time with such a holy man—he was a genuine saint! I learned so much from him in a very short time. But it took me more than ten years to fully understand and integrate his teachings.
Someone recently asked me for a copy on my Chi Kung Manual, and so I reviewed it. Doing so reawakened the memories of my time with Hu Bin, and it reminded me of how simple yet powerful his teachings are. And so, this month I would like to share with you the fundamentals of Chi Kung.
There are five historical schools of Chi Kung: Buddhist, Taoist, Confucius, Martial Arts, and Medical Chi Kung—which is the school that I practice.
The benefits of Chi Kung are many, and they are all well proven and unarguable.
· Respiratory rate is decreased.
· The duration of each respiratory movement is lengthened.
· Tidal volume and vital capacity are increased.
· The ratio of expiratory to inspiratory time is increased.
· The amplitude of diaphragm movement increases.
· The volume of ventilated air per minute decreases.
· Oxygen consumption lessens.
· Metabolism improves.
· The internal massaging action, especially during reverse respiration is 3 to 4 times greater than normal.
· Peristalsis is increased, absorption and circulation are greatly improved.
· The rhythmic Intra-abdominal pressure changes have significant positive effects on the stomach, liver, intestines, spleen, kidneys, etc.
There are three types of Chi Kung exercises:
1. Relaxation Exercises
2. Strengthening Exercises
3. Spiritual Development Exercises.
And the fundamental principles are the same for all schools:
1. Regulate Body
2. Regulate Mind
3. Regulate Energy
There are many ways to regulate the Body. This has to do with posture, movement, and relaxation. There are a many ways to quiet the mind. It’s about focus, concentration, and meditation. And there are many different Breathing Exercises to choose from to regulate energy depending on your level of health, your degree of skill, and your purpose in training.
I love the Chinese approach because it has a clear solid structure and yet we can be very flexible and creative. It’s like ordering off a Chinese menu that has three columns:
A) A main ingredient, like beef or seafood or vegetables.
B) A particular sauce or style, or spices to suit your taste.
C) A side dish, like noodles or rice.
You pick something from each column to create your own delicious personal dish!
In Chi Kung there are a number or Postures (Regulate Body) you can choose from:
· Laying down either flat on your back or on one side, or propped up with pillows.
· Sitting cross legged on the floor, straight up in a chair, or relaxing back in a recliner.
· Standing Poses range from the classic military posture to relaxed and casual positions.
There are many ways to Quiet (Regulate) the Mind:
· Adhering Thought (Mindfulness Meditation)
· Counting Breaths (Counting seconds or heartbeats)
· Reading Silently (Mantras, Affirmations)
· Listening Inward (or sensing internal energy)
· Gazing at a candle (or a picture of a saint, or a sunset, etc.)
And there are many Breathing Exercises (Regulate Energy) to choose from:
· Natural Respiration (Allowing the body to breathe itself)
· Favorable Respiration (Slow Full Diaphragmatic Breathing)
· Reverse Respiration (Paradoxical Breathing)
· Breath Holding Exercises (At the top, at the bottom, or in the neutral zone)
· Nasal Inhale/Oral Exhale (In the nose, out the mouth)
· Du and Ren Channel Breathing (Microcosmic Orbit with Reverse Respiration)
· Latent respiration (Subtle Silent Energy Breathing)
· Genuine Respiration (Also called ‘Fetal Breath’ or ‘Umbilical Breathing)
I could go on, but this is meant to be an article, not another book! If you would like a copy of my Chi Kung Manual, send a request to: firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send it to you. And as for practicing, I suggest you start anywhere. Start with anything. And then follow your intuition or curiosity to deepen and expand your practice.
I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Book 1 of the Nei Ching:
(The Nei Ching is the most ancient Chinese medical text in existence. My version was translated by Ilza Veith, University of California Press, Berkeley: The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. Printed in 1949, reprinted 1972.
“…In ancient times, there were the so-called spiritual men; they mastered the universe, and controlled yin and yang. They breathed the essence of life; they were independent in preserving their spirit, and their muscles and flesh remained unchanged. Therefore, they could enjoy a long life, just as there is no end to heaven and earth…”
TAO: “The way, and the method of maintaining the harmony between this world and the beyond… The key to the mysterious intermingling of heaven and earth… Those who follow the Tao achieve the formula of perpetual youth, and will maintain a youthful body”
YIN: “In and down flowing. Shady, cloudy element; contracting; female; moon; night; water; cold…” YANG: “Up and out flowing. Sunny, clear element; expanding; male; sun; day; fire; heat…
Yin is contained within yang. Yang is contained within Yin. Both are ever-present, in constantly changing relationship, and determining all happenings in nature and life. The principle of these two elements forms the basis of the entire universe…”
MAN/WOMAN: “…is the product of heaven and earth, the interaction of yin and yang…”
HEALING: “…In olden times, the treatment of disease consisted merely of transmitting the essence (chi), and in the transformation of the life-giving principle…”
Good luck in your practice. And many blessings on your path.