Welcome to the MIT Qigong Blog

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Principles of Qigong Practice

by Adam Wallace
Qi Magazine | Issue 64 | Dec 2002

Success with Qigong depends on following certain principles. Failure to do so not only diminishes the positive long-term effects but can even cause unwanted side-effects.

Qigong trains the mind, breathing, and body (posture) so these are the three essentials. The mind must remain calm and clear with a positive attitude. This is dependent on sinking the Qi to the Dantian, where it is stored and developed. If Qi remains in the upper body you may feel pressure in the chest, causing difficulty with breathing, which leads to anxiety. If it remains in the head you will feel pressure, and suffer headaches or insomnia, and find total relaxation impossible to attain. Only when Qi is stable within the Dantian do you feel comfortable and balanced.

Without proper breathing Qigong is merely stretching exercises, and the benefits are limited. Generally, breathing is through the nose, which connects with the Dantian, facilitating deep respiration and sinking of Qi. The mouth should remain closed to help reconnect the Ren and Du channels (broken at birth) and reform one unbroken channel, Xiao Zhou Tian (Small Heavenly Circuit). A maxim of Chinese medicine also states, “All disease enters through the mouth." The nose filters the air and warms it before it reaches the lungs.

When the back is straight the internal body can relax. The Baihui point (at the crown of the head) and the Wuyin point (between the legs) should form a straight line. This smoothes the Chong channel (running through the very centre of the body), which connects with the Dantian. Chinese medicine states, "If the posture is not correct, the Qi cannot flow freely. If the Qi does not flow freely the mind cannot become tranquil. If the mind is not tranquil the Qi will disperse.”

The body’s fluids belong inside the body, especially the vital substances such as the blood and semen. These essences are the foundation of health; there is no spirit without vitality, and no vitality without essence. Physical exercise which causes dehydration, through profuse sweating, is contradictory to Qigong theory, and even excessive bouts of crying leave a person feeling exhausted.

For the best results, Qigong should be practised at regular times (so your body becomes accustomed to the routine) and at the same place (as you create a Qi field which benefits your practice). Ideal times are early morning (when yin energy changes to yang) or in the evening. These hours are more conducive to Qigong as the air is cleaner, the energy is calmer, and the environment is quieter. 

Persistence is the key to success. This requires self-discipline. It is said that Qigong masters practice 24 hours a day, which is not to be taken literally but means that even when they are not exercising or meditating they are following the principles (i.e. maintaining a calm mind, deep breathing, and good posture) whether at work or at home relaxing, while walking and eating, etc.

Qigong training means to test your Qi and occasionally experience adversity. This makes the body stronger internally and enables the body to adapt to changing situations. Too much comfort makes the body weak and dependent on certain conditions. Begin in small amounts and increase as your body becomes stronger. Between 3 and 4 a.m., when most people are sleeping, the body is at its weakest. If you can practice at this time you will find it beneficial and your level will improve. Also it is vital to cultivate good moral character. You must train with a good heart and a pure mind. Benevolence, humility, honesty, and other virtues must be maintained. Over time Qigong does improve the student’s character and nature, but a bad student (one who cannot give respect or is selfishly motivated etc.) without strict guidance will never develop a high standard.

You should never be impatient for quick results as this causes restlessness and anxiety, which is contrary to the principles and therefore impedes your progress. There are no short-cuts. Qigong is an evolving process, not a quick fix like a weight-loss or body-building programme. The hardest lesson is to just to relax, and let everything come naturally in its own time. Also, even if your time is limited you should never rush your own practice. Save your energy, using it only when necessary, and balance rest with activity. If you always follow the natural way, maintain a balanced and positive mental attitude, and adhere to the principles then you are assured success with Qigong which is a long life spent in good health and happiness. Qigong is more than exercise: It is a philosophy, a way of life.