Functions Reinforces intrinsic Qi and promotes good health and the ability to prevent and cure disease.
Methods Natural respiration or reverse breathing techniques can be used in the practice of this exercise.
1. Natural Respiration. Sit cross-legged or take a standing posture. Gradually regulate your breath so that it is quiet, even, fine, and slow. Concentrate the mind on the Dantian.
2. Reverse Breathing. Sit cross-legged or stand using reverse breathing while concentrating the mind on the Dantian. Pull in the abdomen and contract the anus during inspiration to pull Qi into the Dantian. Expand the abdomen during expiration to allow Qi to move throughout the entire body.
Application Health Promotion Exercise improves health and treats hypertension, neurosis, coronary heart disease, and arthritis.
Points for Attention This exercise can be practiced 1–4 times a day, 10–60 minutes each time. Fine, even, deep, and long respiration can only be achieved through long-term practice and should not be pursued forcefully or by suppressing breath. Stop exercising before you get tired.
Whenever you leak vital spirit, being stirred and interacting with beings, that is all fire. Whenever you gather back spirits consciousness and quiet it down to steep in the center, that is all water. When the senses run outward, that is fire; when the senses turn around inward, that is water.
The one yin [ inside the fire trigram ] concentrates on pursuing sense experience, while the one yang [ inside the water trigram ] concentrates on reversing and withdrawing the senses themselves.
Water and fire are yin and yang, yin and yang are body and mind, body and mind are spirit and energy. Once you withdraw to rest your vital spirit and are not influenced by objects, then this is true intercourse, as of course when you sit in profound silence.
Zhuang Zi is one of the prominent philosophers in the era of the Warring States. He has done much study about man’s spirit, integrity, nature-cultivation, heart-cultivation and advocated the nature-cultivation of unselfishness, few desires, quietness and transcendence.
Unselfishness. In the opinion of Zhuang Zi, selfishness is the origin of all evils and diseases. One is certain to worry about the gain and loss for everything and be in a state of restlessness if he is often self-centered and calculative and then overstrains of his body and exhaustion of his essence will ensue in a long run. In order to live for a long life one should be broad-minded, high-spirited, optimistic, free from fame and gain and unselfish.
Few desires. Neither abstinence from desires nor self-indulgence is helpful to nature-cultivation. Self-indulgence is certain to make one get into trouble or catch a disease. One won’t cheat or humiliate the other sex with little sexual passion. One won’t murder for money with little desire for substance. One won’t feign compliance, cut corners, play down the others and boost oneself with little desire for power. One who know his honour and disgrace and his place can be called the man with the nature of justice, honest and unselfishness who can be healthy and live at rest. In the present time, there is too much temptation all over the world. Most people are hunting for the happiness of substance and impatient, and someone is addicted in the desire for power, profit, sex, greed and hobbies. One will lose his temper and take it out on others when he is dissatisfied with what he had. Thereafter, those bad emotions such as worry, anxiety, depression, mourn, regret and anger will ensue and hurt his body.
Quietness. One can’t be affected by disaster nor attacked by exogenous pathogen with mental stability as well as indifference to fame or gain in the daily life and social intercourse. Quietness can restrain anger, rid of worry, settle down the mind and cultivate the health. Rather than thinking of nothing, quietness is one kind of mind state that should make one be far from the music and sex pleasure, out of win or loss, gain or loss, honour or disgrace, neither worry nor overstrain should exist. There is too much spirit-dispersing temptation including money, rank, fame and gain, beauty etc in the world. In this confused world, one should keep calm and out of power, fame and gain, money and scene of debauchery. Such mind state will make those bad emotions like nervousness, worry, anger, jealousy and hatred far from you and keep your mind calm. Quietness can make your mind at rest, Qi and blood circulation normal and then the modulation of your body will be normal and you will be healthy and live a long life.
Transcendence. There is a vivid metaphor in the book of Zhuang Zi, which the pheasant in waters can survive because of their optimism. They enjoy their lives, peck and drink something from time to time. It is not the same for the caged birds. It is certain that one will worry if he is imprisoned in the spirit shackles. That will be harmful to his health. Therefore, he advocates that one should be optimistic and open-minded, not be moved by grief and joy and enjoy his life. Zhuang Zi looks upon the life in an unprejudiced manner and let the nature take its course. He lives a hard life and from hand to mouth sometimes. He doesn’t care about all of that. His wife was dead and Hui Zi went to mourn for her. He started to sing instead of weeping. Hui Zi criticized him for his singing. He said calmly: at first, I am very sad about her death, and then I thought about carefully how man comes and goes in this world. I have the idea that man changes from the non-biotic substance. Figure takes shape and man has a life when Qi gathers. Man is dead when Qi scatters. Now my wife’s body is dead and will change into non-biotic substance. So I celebrate and say a farewell to my wife for her regression to the nature in the way of singing with beating the tub. What he said is not certain to be reasonable, but his transcendent and open-minded manner treating his life is worth advocating.
Those whose vital spirit is scattered outwardly and whose intellectual ruminations ramble inwardly cannot govern their bodies. When what the spirit employs is distant, then what it loses is nearby.
So know the world without going out the door, know the weather without looking out the window; the further out it goes, the less knowledge is. This means that when pure sincerity emerges from within, spiritual energy moves in heaven.
How can substantiality and insubstantiality be distinguished between left and right or between top and bottom parts of the body?
The muscles, the skeleton and the nerves are parts of the body system. When practicing the movements, the use of consciousness to sink and relax the body is most important. The centre of gravity is moved while preserving the uprightness of the central axis of the body. It is important to focus on steadiness, tranquillity, relaxation and rootedness. The movements propel the external movements in a continuous or uninterrupted fashion. Internal force is generated with turning movements. After a long time, the whole body is in balance. When left and right is distinguished, one is substantial and the other insubstantial along the pattern of “cross alignment”. For instance, together with the distinction between top and bottom parts of the body, when the left upper part of the body is substantial, the left lower part is insubstantial and similarly when the right upper part of the body is substantial, the right lower part is insubstantial. This pattern of cross alignment is used in shifts of the centre of gravity from one leg to the other. This is similar to the “cross-roads” of the nervous system. When moving Qi, therefore, one must separate substantial from insubstantial, move the step without moving the body or moving the body and not the hand. If in moving a step, the body also moves, then it is not separating substantial from insubstantial. If in moving the body, the hand also moves, then the shoulder and the hands are not relaxed. It is important to follow the principles of using consciousness to propel movement. The top and bottom, left and right portions of the body must be coordinated. A rounded grinding stone may move but the centre is not moving. All parts of the body become one system characterized by lightness and agility, roundness and smoothness, even respiration, alternate opening and closing like that of the sea where with movement from one part of the sea, all parts are also moved. The movements are guided by consciousness and are properly regulated like the regular movements of the waves in the sea.
The cobra breath is a tantric breathing exercise. In essence, it is an energy-building breath. One uses breath to move kundalini energy up from the root chakra, at the base of the spine, to the crown chakra which lies at the crown of the head.The particular form cobra breath outlined below is used to expand consciousness, and it can lead to states of bliss and joy. Moving kundalini energy through the body is also rejuvenating for organs and aiding cellular processes. Follow the steps below to experience the cobra breath.
1. Sit on the edge of a chair, with the edge your buttocks resting on the seat. You may put your hands on your knees if desired.You can also sit with your back against the wall and use a pillow to support your lower back.
2. Press your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Squeeze your anal muscles, or perineum, and hold.
3. Breathe in. As you breathe in, first feel the energy come up from the base of your spine and up your spine. It should progress to the back of your head and around the top to the crown of your head. Keep your tongue pressed on the roof of the mouth, and make sure your anal muscles stay contracted.
4. As you breathe out, keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
5. Slowly, breathe out and make a hissing noise like a snake. Your facial muscles around your jaw and lips should be contracted, almost as if you are smiling, when breathing out.
Tao Yoga or DaoYin exercises were an ancient precursor of Qigong, specifically the variety sometimes known as neigong, and were practised in Chinese Taoist monasteries for health and spiritual cultivation in ancient times.
In modern times DaoYin has often been refered to as — Taoist Yoga. DaoYin can be translated as “Guiding or leading the flow of Blood and Qi in the Body” and we find references to this ancient exercises from as far back as 500 BC.
Ancient DaoYin is also said to be a primary formative ingredient in the well-known soft style Chinese martial art T’ai Chi Ch’uan. There are many various sets of DaoYin: Five Animals Play, Heavenly Gate, Su Dongpo’s Massage, Seven Star Standing Exercises, Chen Huashan’s 12 Forms, Wang Ziqiao’s 34 Forms, and many others.
Here we present a set of 12 Tao Yoga or DaoYin movements for interested students. This second video lists exercises 9 – 12. We use this set of 12 exercises as a foundation training set.
It works to lengthen the tendons, open the joints, develop flexibility, stamina, massage the internal organs, regulate the breath, open the channels, circulate qi naturally, and begin to awaken the Dan Tian.
A very basic set, but it can give you a lot if you really practice it. It is a kind of basic skill developing exercise.
In these films, we only performed a few movements of each exercise due to time limitations. Each exercise should be done 9 / 18 / or 36 times each.
Do not hold the breath when doing these exercises.
Breath deeply and full and draw the inhalation and exhalation from the Dan Tian or lower abdomen.
Generally you can inhale as you rise up, and exahale as you bend down – generally.
When you practice, please feel a connection from the feet to the earth, as if rooted.
Feel a connection to the sky with the crown of the head, as if a string is connected to above.
Let the tongue touch the hard pallet of the mouth, and the teeth are lightly closed.
Breath in and out gently through the nose.
Please have a slight focus to the Lower Dantian when you close the hands at the end of each exercise.
Allow a feeling of all things settling in to the Lower Dan Tian and feel very grounded and centered.
The Lower Dantian (Tan Tien) is located in the empty space below the navel in the middle place between the kidney and navel — a sphere of around 3.8 cm.
Let the internal vision gaze upon that place when you settle.
Let golden virtue begin to grow within, releasing all negative qualities and deeply relaxing the body.
Let all things return to and settle there in between each movement.
As you practice more, forget about breathing, and let the movement and yourself become one with the surrounding nature.
Let virtue fill your heart, and gain union with all of heaven and earth as you practice.
“Qigong” (literally “breath exercise”), an invaluable component of traditional Chinese medicine, has its origin in ancient times. Its primarystimulus was the search for longevity with the ultimate aim of immortality,which has much entranced the Chinese mind from ancient times. Therecords shows the exercises to help the qi (the human body’s vital energy)circulating freely and to nourish the internal organs dated to the ShangDynasty (16th -11th century AD). The actual practice of qigong began inthe fourth century AD. Since then the search by physician and patient forgreater health, techniques of religious cultivation and the martial artist’squest for better training methods all contributed greatly to its developmentand enrichment over the following centuries. The Taoist, Buddhist,Confucian, Medical and Martial schools of practice developed. Qigonghas been passed down from generation to generation.
Generally, qigong is divided into two types. One is the quiescent type(jinggong 静功)，which is meant to be performed standing, sitting, orlying down using special breathing techniques by which the practionerlearns to focus his mind. The other one is the mobile type (donggong 动功)，which practices a set of movements and massage while keeping aproper balance between mind and emotion, qi and strength. Internally,qigong can enhance the spirit, the qi and the mind. Externally, it canstrengthen the tendons, bones and skin. The structure and style of qigonghas close relations with the introspective observation that is typical of Chinese culture. For example qigong takes harmony as its guidingprinciple, classical Chinese philosophy as its theoretical base, the use of will power as its fundamental means, a combination of dong (motion) andjing (stillness) as its form of expression, man’s longevity as its goal.
Qigong has had various forms, and its name and emphasis may havevaried according to the form. However, its oldest and most diverse form isTaoyin (导引)，which holds an important position in the traditionalChinese art of preserving one’s health. Tao refers to the fact that physicalmovements are guided by the strength of the mind and in turn stimulatethe internal flow of qi within the body. Yin means that with the aid ofphysical movements, qi can reach the bodily extremities (for example, thefingers, feet and head). In this way the flow of “qi” links the zang 脏（solid organs） and fu (腑) (hollow organs) or qi being transmittedthrough the body. Sometimes this can be released from the body, and thenit is known as external qi.
The basic methods of Taoyin (导引)are kai (开)(opening), he (合)（closing）, xuan (旋) （rotating）, rou (揉) （rubbing）, tui (推) (pushing),an (按) （pressing）, and fen (分) （separating. There are many posturesand movements in Taoyin exercises, but the emphasis is on achieving astate of harmony between body and mind. This can be done with the helpof the movements, not solely because of the movements themselves, andwhen you reach a certain level in practice, you can even “forget what youare doing, and this is gaining the true essence of qigong and forgettingphysical movements.” This state of harmony culminates in the practice ofjinggong (静功) （static exercises.
Taoyin has many differences from gymnastics and other modern sports,as Taoyin exercises are based on mental activity and therefore it is possibleto accumulate and conserve one’s energy while practicing Taoyin exercises.However, the practice of modern sports requires showing off one’sstrength and skill, and therefore the consumption of energy.
Another form of “jinggong” exercises is tuna (吐纳) （exhaling andinhaling）, otherwise known as tiaoxi (调息) (regulating breath) or xiqi (吸气) (absorbing qi) . this is a synthesis of different breathing skills. The basic train of thinking for these exercises is that as far as possible oneshould expel the stale and stagnated air and inhale fresh air, thusimproving the functioning of the internal organs to resist senility andprolong life.
Tuna skills can be divided into three basic categories: Koubi huxi(breathing through the mouth or nose), Fushi huxi (abdominal breathing),other methods of breathing and regulation in conjunction with mentalactivity such as chongqi (filling the body with qi), dantian huxi (directingqi to dantian, a region two or three centimeters below the navel), zhongxi(directing qi to the heel), and guixi (breathing like a tortoise).
Unique to China only, Qigong exercise become an integral part of theChinese culture. Qigong exercise can produce a myriad of beneficialeffects, of which the most common are preventing and curing diseases,strengthening the constitution, avoiding premature aging, and prolonginglife. Qigong exercise requires one to relax, to be calm, natural and freefrom distraction, so that it can remove “stress”, and dispel tension. Qigongexercise helps to keep the main and collateral channels in good shape toestablish harmony between vital energy and blood, to balance between yinand yang, and improve coordination of the nervous system, so thatprotective inhibition of the cerebral cortex can be enhanced. Qigongexercise helps to reduce fundamental metabolism, increase the capacity ofstoring energy, apply massage to the abdomen and improve appetite andbring good digestion. Qigong exercise helps to tap the body potentialities,stimulate positive factors, and enhance one’s self-control. Therefore, itbecomes an effective measure to attain health and longevity. Qigongmasters and medical practitioners have developed a theory from a wealthof experience and practice of qigong over many centuries. The modernscientific research and evaluation of qigong exercise has attractedincreasing attention from all circles around the world. This may bring thebenefits of qigong intellectual to light, but it may leave mechanisticdogmatism to qigong phenomena.
Reference: A Brief Introduction of Chinese History & Culture by Liang Zhigang, QingTao Press Sept. 2001