Qigong For Health, Martial Arts Exercise, and Meditation
This article is an excerpt from the new second edition of Dr. Yang's popular Qi gong guide is for martial artists and health seekers who want to improve their health and vitality, increase their strength and develop explosive martial power. Dr. Yang shares ten complete sets of effective Qigong exercises, teaches meditation, and discusses the theory of Chinese Qigong and Chinese medicine.
The first goal is to achieve a calm mind while concentrating on deep breathing. You create a type of hypnotic state to do this. You should stay at this stage until you can expand and withdraw your Dan Tian while breathing with no conscious effort, and without your attention wandering. The first and most important step for effective meditation is proper breathing. There are two basic methods in use in Chinese meditation: Daoist and Buddhist.
Daoist breathing, also known as Reverse Breathing, is used to prepare the Qi for circulation, and its proper development is crucial. In Daoist breathing the normal movement of the lower abdomen is reversed during inhalation and exhalation. Instead of expanding when inhaling, the Daoist contracts, and vice versa. (see Figure 1) Never hold your breath or force the process. Inhale through the nose slowly, keeping the flow smooth and easy, and contract and lift the lower abdomen up behind the navel. When the lungs are filled, exhale gently.
Inhalation is considered Yin and exhalation is considered Yang. They must operate together like the Yin-Yang symbol, one becoming the other smoothly and effortlessly in a fluid circular motion. As exhalation occurs, slowly push out the Dan Tian or lower abdomen. The area of the Dan Tian is where the Qi is generated and accumulated in order to start Small Circulation. Because of this, the muscles around the Dan Tian must be trained so that they can sufficiently contract and expand while you inhale and exhale. At first, expanding the lower abdomen while exhaling may be difficult; but with practice the muscles learn to expand more and more until the entire lower abdomen expands upon exhalation from the navel to the pubic bone. Do not force the Dan Tian to expand, but work gently until success is achieved.
This whole process of Daoist breathing is a form of deep breathing, not because the breathing is heavy, but because it works the lungs to near capacity. While many people who engage in strenuous exercise breathe hard, they do not necessarily breathe deeply. Deep breathing causes the internal organs to vibrate in rhythm with the breath, which stimulates and exercises them. The organs would not receive this type of internal exercise without deep breathing. Many forms of strenuous exercise only condition the external muscles, while doing very little for the vital organs.
In the Buddhist breathing method, the movement of the abdomen is the opposite of the Daoist. When you inhale, expand your lower abdomen, and when you exhale, contract it. This kind of breathing is called Normal Breathing. It is the same kind of breathing a singer practices.
Both methods use the same principle of Qi generation. The main difference is that the coordination of the abdominal motion and the breathing is opposite. In fact, many meditators can use either method, and switch very easily.
Meditation and Qi Circulation
Once you can breathe adequately according to the Daoist and Buddhist methods, you can take up sitting meditation to begin the process of Qi circulation. The first goal is to achieve a calm mind while concentrating on deep breathing. You create a type of hypnotic state to do this. You should stay at this stage until you can expand and withdraw your Dan Tian while breathing with no conscious effort, and without your attention wandering.
Dr. Yang has been involved in Chinese Gongfu since 1961 and has more than thirty years of instructional experience. Dr. Yang has published twenty-four books and twenty-eight videotapes on the martial arts and Qigong. Currently he is president of Yang's Oriental Arts Association, Boston, MA.