WHAT IS CHI KUNG? Intention, breathing, movement

Published on by Annie Ollivier

Qi Gong (Pinyin spelling), also written Chi Kung (Wade-Gilles spelling), is a science that delves deeply into the human body and mind, seeking to discover the secrets of rejuvenation. It promotes the full manifestation of human powers and the discovery of the deepest wisdom.

06 primordialqigongOn the other hand, Chi Kung is a medical and health exercise going back thousands of years in Chinese history. This personal form of training works not only on body and soul, but also teaches how to project energy. It serves to prevent and cure disease, and protect and strengthen health in order to live better and longer. Chi Kung is part of the inestimable heritage of Chinese culture and the age-old methods of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

CHI means air, prana, ENERGY, orgone, ether, breath... and KUNG, exercise, work, MASTERY, time, success, function, accomplishment. The juxtaposition of the two ideograms renders the concept of "conscious control of energy", " mastery of the subtle breath". The term CHI KUNG also refers to the idea of electrical pulses, as transmitted by the nervous system, as well as to the idea of the ultimate force behind all manifestations of the universe (quantum void).

In China, there are more than 10,000 recognized Chi Kung exercises. A large number of them are used to cure the diseases of patients who don't want to use drugs. In particular, many Chinese hospitals employ doctors specialized in Chi Kung.

Chi Kung was discovered in Europe and the Americas only about 20 years ago. Why? On the one hand, because for a long time Chi Kung masters kept their knowledge secret, only transmitting it orally. And also the Chinese government had always until recently legally prohibited the teaching of Chi Kung to foreigners. Of lately, there has been a liberalization of this policy and some masters have left China to teach abroad. The knowledge is thus spreading quite rapidly. More and more people will be learning and benefiting from Chi Kung and its inestimable therapeutic value.


Background Information on Chi Kung
Chi Kung is an art of personal training of body and mind created by the Chinese over thousands of years to improve the quality of life, prevent or cure diseases, protect and improve health, and prolong life. It is one of the greatest treasures of China's cultural heritage and a component part of Chinese medicine.

Chi Kung has a long history inherited from various schools. In ancient times, it had various names such as "Xing Qi" (promoting and conducting Chi), "Fu Qi" (Taking Chi), "Tuna" (expiration and inspiration), "Dao Yin" (inducing and conducting Chi), "Angio" (massage), "Shushu" (breath counting), "Zuochan" (sitting meditation), "Shi Qi" (living on Chi), "Jingzuo" (sitting still) and Wogong (lying exercises). Because the internal Chi (Nei Qi) of Chi Kung and the external Chi (Wai Qi) emitted by Chi Kung masters is invisible and inaudible to ordinary people, Chi Kung is usually considered to be a mysterious and unfathomable practice.

The concept of Chi Kung
Chi Kung is the art and ability of directing Chi. To be more exact, it's a method in which the practitioner performs physical and mental exercises accompanied by a subjective intention. The practitioner must combine their mental intention with the postures and breathing to act on the organism as a whole. On the one hand, Chi Kung actively self-regulates the organism's functional activities and maintains a dynamic equilibrium. On the other hand, it initiates an energy storage process in the body by reducing energy consumption and increasing its accumulation. It thus harmonizes Yin and Yang, brings energy into the meridians and other energy channels, and emits external Chi.

Theoretical Principles of Chi Kung
The theoretical principles of Chi Kung are closely associated with the theory of Yin and Yang, the theory of Zong Fu (organs and viscera) and the theory of meridians and other energy channels specific to TCM. All these elements are used in the practice of Chi Kung.

1. Chi Kung and Yin Yang
Yin-yang theory originated in ancient Chinese philosophy, and is an important constituent of the basic theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine, upon which Chi Kung is also based. In breathing, the outbreath is yang, and the inbreath is yin. Exhaling is dispersion, while inhalation is tonification. The manual, Treasured Mirror of Oriental Medicine, affirms that "exhalation sends Chi out, or opens yang. Inhalation brings Chi in, or closes yin." These theories are of basic importance in the practice of Chi Kung. For example, people who are hyperactive, i.e. who are yang with excess fire, should focus on exhaling during the exercises to eliminate excess fire. On the other Image9A resizehand, those with deficient yang and weak Chi should focus on inhalation given that the yang is already too low to send the Chi out.

As another example, the four yearly seasons represent climatic variations - the warmness of spring, the heat of summer, the freshness of autumn and the cold of winter - and exercises should be performed in accordance with these variations. The chapter “On the Regulation of Mental Activities in Accordance with the Four Chi's” states that: “spring and summer nourish yang, while autumn and winter nourish yin.” This is a principle that must also be followed in Chi Kung.

2. Chi Kung and the Meridians
Chi Kung developed according to the theory of meridians specific to TCM. Its regular practice makes the existence of these meridians obvious, as well as the directions, intersections and interrelations between them. The Chi Kung movements and exercises such as the "circulation of Chi in the Heavenly Circuit" and "ascending, descending, opening and closing of Chi" are very important techniques that allow the Chi to circulate normally. Another technique, the "circulation of Chi in the Microcosmic Orbit" causes Chi to flow through the Conception and Governor vessels. On the other hand, the circulation of Chi in the Macrocosmic Orbit causes Chi to flow in the twelve main meridians and eight extraordinary vessels.

3. Chi Kung and the Internal Organs
The heart governs mental activities and emotions. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the latter correspond to the mind, consciousness and thinking (activities of the higher nervous system), or cerebral activities). These activities concern the cerebral functions. The goal of Chi Kung is to concentrate the mind and bring the brain to a state of calm in order to be able to regularize and control mental activity. The heart also governs blood circulation and manifests itself outwardly in the face. Chi Kung can affect the exuberance of heart Chi, as evidenced by an even, forceful and gentle pulse, and a ruddy and lustrous complexion.

The lungs govern Chi and are responsible for breathing. The breathing exercises cause heaven and earth Chi to be inhaled and stagnant Chi of the organs and viscera to be exhaled. The fresh heaven and earth Chi not only enriches the genuine Chi, but can also directly promote the circulation of Chi and blood more freely throughout the whole body. The five zang organs and six fu viscera, and all the limbs and bones, can thus function normally.

The lungs send the inhaled Chi to the kidneys, which receive it. When the practitioner sends the inhaled Chi down to the Tan Tien with a long abdominal breath, they can strengthen this lower lung function and the receptive role of the kidneys. The result is a nasal type of breathing, which is deep, long, calm and almost imperceptible, so that "the breath barely moves a feather". On inhalation, the heaven Chi descends and the earth Chi rises to meet the ancestral Chi (Jing) of the kidneys and becomes transformed into the genuine Chi of the human body. And the genuine Chi enables the internal Chi and the internal strength of the body to rapidly become condensed and strengthened.

IMG 1036The kidneys are located in the lumbar region, on each side of the spinal column, and lead to the "Gate of Life" (Ming Men). According to Xu Lingtai, the Gate of Life was just the Tan Tien. But Zhang Jinghue pointed out that "the Gate of Life is the primordial Chi, the home of fire and water. The yin Chi and yang Chi of the five zang organs can not rise without it.” Through breathing and concentration in the Tan Tien, Chi Kung brings sufficient fire to the Gate of Life. Thus, the earth of the spleen is warmed, the organs are nourished, the nutriments and Chi are transported, the yang Chi rises and the whole constitution is strengthened.

The liver stores the blood and is responsible for thinking. It prefers cheerfulness and magnanimity to gloominess and depression. A gloomy mood, stagnation of liver Chi or anger lead to an abnormal dispersing of the liver's function. On the other hand, the relaxation and tranquility achieved through Chi Kung stabilize the moods and allow the liver to recover its normal role. This lowers the hyperactive liver yang while the liver fire descends spontaneously. When the mind relaxes, all diseases disappear.

The role of the spleen is to transport and transform nutriments. Saliva is the bodily excretion corresponding to the spleen. On the one hand, Chi Kung can directly strengthen the spleen's function, the most notable effect being increased saliva and appetite. On the other hand, Chi Kung works on abdominal breathing, thus reinforcing the vertical movement of the diaphragm and at the same time massaging the stomach, while improving peristalsis and digestive functions.

Modern research on Chi Kung
1. Influence of Chi Kung on the Neuro-Muscular System
By studying the practice of Chi Kung, researchers have discovered the following elements in electroencephalograms (EEG): the peak frequency decreases according to time variations, and the fluctuation of peak amplitude diminishes. The EEG's stability is improved and movements are more regular. On the other hand, the frontal lobe rhythm is strengthened, which indicates that the cerebral control of the activities of internal organs and glands is also strengthened. When the system calms down, reactions to sensory stimuli are reduced.

The electrodermic potential of the acupuncture points Fei Shu (Lung Shu, UB 13) and Ming Men (Gate of Life, GV 4) decreases with the practice of Chi Kung. On the other hand, the Tan Tien (Elixir Field) and other zones on the surface of the body increase in temperature. The heartbeat slows and the vessels of the ear lobes swell with blood. These discoveries indicate that Chi Kung can reduce the excitability of the parasympathetic nervous system. When Chi Kung has induced a state of calm, muscle relaxation increases and the electromyogram is quiescent.

2. The Effect of Chi Kung on the Respiratory System
During the practice of Chi Kung, respiratory frequency decreases, breathing deepens, pulmonary ventilation volume decreases, and the carbon dioxide concentration in exhaled air increases while that of oxygen decreases. This indicates clearly that through Chi Kung practice breathing becomes increasingly deep and calm.

3. The Effect of Chi Kung on the Digestive System
The practice of Chi Kung increases the peristaltic movement of the stomach and intestines, strengthens theirIMG 0494 resize contractions and stimulates the intestinal gurgling function, promoting the secretion of gastric juices. These effects arise because Chi Kung creates a specific state in the cerebral cortex and thus regularizes the function of the autonomic nervous system, increasing excitability of the vagus nerve and reducing excitability of the sympathetic nerve, thus regulating the movement and secretions of the stomach and intestines. The respiratory exercises mobilize the diaphragm. The deep, abdominal breathing can thus increase the amplitude of diaphragmatic movement by 3 to 4 times, changing the intra-abdominal pressure and improving the peristaltic movement.

4. The Effect of Chi Kung on the Circulatory System
The practice of Chi Kung can reduce blood pressure problems, both in the case of hypertension and hypotension. More specifically, since the cardiovascular motor centre is regularized by Chi Kung, the excitation of the sympathetic nerve (that governs the heart and blood vessels) is decreased, thus reducing the heart rate. Blood pressure can thus return to normal in the case of hypertension. And inversely in the case of hypotension.

5. The Effect of Chi Kung on Metabolism and the Endocrine System
During the practice of Chi Kung (in particular static Chi Kung), the metabolic rate is even lower than the base metabolic rate. Research indicates that Chi Kung can increase the synthesis and reduce the decomposition of liver glycogen, resulting in an energy accumulation process. This is due to the increased function of the vago-insulin system and reduced function of the sympathetico-adrenal system and pituitary-adrenal cortical system.

6. The Effect of External Chi on Bacteria and Animals
Experiments performed on bacteria indicate that external Chi (Wai Chi) can kill or proliferate gram positive and gram negative bacteria. Its rate of destruction can reach 90%. Experiments indicate that the external Chi (Wai Chi) has a regulating effect on animals. It can for example, reduce the tension of the Oddi sphincter in domestic rabbits, and intensify the ventricular systolic wave and slow the heart rate of frogs. This clearly shows that external Chi has regulating effects both on smooth muscles and heart muscles.

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