Tai Chi or Qigong: Which Should You Study?

Tai Chi has increased in popularity in the western world. It often appears in the background of advertisements of unrelated products. It is recommended for seniors and by the American Arthritis Society, which has its own simplified version. Many health clubs and martial arts studios offer Tai Chi classes.

Tai Chi is a Chinese art designed to protect oneself from unarmed and armed attacks and illnesses. It is both a martial art and a method for preventing and treating illnesses. Information about its history and concepts can be found in the article “Are You Really Learning Tai Chi and Is It Effective for Stress?” at

http://yang-sheng.com/?p=1612

Qigong, pronounced Chee Kung, is not as well-known as Tai Chi and is frequently given as an auxiliary exercise before or after doing Tai Chi. In Chinese “Gong” means work or hard task. Qi can be translated as life energy. Qigong is the task of learning to control the flow of Qi through your body by using breath, movement and meditation. It is a Chinese discipline that is at least 5000 years old.

The main divisions of modern Qigong (Chi Kung) are: Spiritual, Medical, Martial and Athletic depending on the main goal of the practitioner. However, there is an overlap between these branches

Medical Qigong is a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM postulates that health is the result of smooth Qi circulation, without accumulation or deficiency in any part of the body, while disease is the result of poor Qi circulation. Once the flow of Qi is balanced, the body tends to heal itself.

Here Qigong will be used to denote Medical Qigong for preventing and treating diseases and will not include Tai Chi, which is also a form of Qigong. More information about Qigong can be found in “What is Qigong/” at

http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/Eisen1.html

If you want to learn classical Tai Chi you must find a knowledgeable instructor. Many classes only offer shortened, altered forms that are supposed to be for health purposes only. Many of these so-called Tai Chi forms are not taught according to Tai Chi principles and are some sort of new-age dance. You can save money and probably get the same health benefits from slow walking and waving your arms. Even if you find an instructor that teaches a classical long form and you want to learn self-defense, investigate if 2-person Tai Chi martial art forms are taught and not self-defense based on Karate or some other martial art.

Many health benefits have been ascribed to the practice of Tai Chi. However, there are a few problems with these studies. The scientist conducting these studies may not be an expert in Tai Chi and so selects an incompetent teacher for the subjects. The form may have been altered by the instructor and so another teacher may not teach the same, exact form in another study. Sometimes the sample size is too small. If the subjects are required to practice at home some will be fanatic and others barely practice and accurate reports of practice times are difficult to obtain. Finally, Tai Chi, even shortened versions for health, require years of study before the subject is really doing Tai Chi. Hence, the studies should be called the effects of trying to learn Tai Chi. More long-term studies are required to verify the beneficial effects of Tai Chi.

Clinical trials have shown that Qigong is helpful in about 200 diseases, even more diseases than Tai Chi. There are many different forms of Qigong. Some are classical and others are made-up or modified by a teacher. The criticisms given above for Tai Chi research apply to Qigong research.

Learning Tai Chi takes self-discipline to practice daily and tenacity not to give up. Those who have
studied arts, like dance or music, that require constant practice are more likely to succeed in learning Tai Chi. Tai Chi requires more coordination than some forms of Qigong. A good memory is also helpful. Nevertheless, learning Tai Chi only for health requires years of study.

Seniors interested in preventing or treating illnesses should consider learning Qigong rather than Tai Chi, especially if they have memory or coordination problems. There are health forms of Qigong that are much easier to learn. For example, a Qigong method for losing weight can be learned in about a minute. The hard part is to practice it before every meal.

For life threatening diseases use Qigong. You may die before you learn Tai Chi. Some hospitals have drop-in Qigong classes. Such classes are not useful for treating serious diseases. Usually, you are not informed that you must practice for hours every day. Find a specialist in medical Qigong who can give you a TCM type of diagnosis and construct an individualized Qigong protocol based on the diagnosis.

Even in China, it is difficult for patients to practice Qigong for hours. Patients join a social Qigong group or are placed in a hospital.

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What Is Yoga? Yoga as a Therapy?

Most people have erroneous ideas about classical Yoga. Yoga was a spiritual discipline. There were moral precepts and prohibitions that disciples had to follow. In addition, there could be dietary restrictions. Yoga had other paths to enlightenment besides asanas, breathing and meditation, such as, prayer, faith and knowledge. The chosen path was determined by the Guru after analyzing the individual. In some instances any form or exercise was contraindicated. No connection to physical conditioning or health appears in the Vedic literature. You could not pay for Yoga lessons and only received new instructions when your Guru thought you had made sufficient progress.  See-

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga 

Be cautious about recommending so-called Yoga to patients, especially the elderly. Patients with injuries from practicing Yoga are a common occurrence in our Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinic. Many teachers have made-up their own style ranging from almost no stretching to extreme contortions, not holding postures, practicing in a sauna-like room, using weights, etc. 

Generally, scientists have little knowledge of Yoga and so cannot select qualified teachers for their subjects. The sample size is frequently too small and there is no control group. For example, recent research shows that regular, moderate stretching improves sport’s performance, probably by increasing muscle strength. A control group that just stretches could be used. Finally, experiments are difficult to duplicate because many teachers have their own style. 

Another reason why such clinical trials are difficult to evaluate is the subjects are not tracked daily. Anyone who has taught any subject that requires daily practice knows that some people do not practice at home while others are fanatical. In addition, the pupil’s report of the amount of daily practice is often erroneous. 

The rational use of “Yoga” as a therapy requires research into incorporating it with Ayurvedic medicine, just as Qigong is a branch of TCM – see 

http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/yoga/yogaandayurveda/ 

Postures should be individually assigned after an Ayurvedic diagnosis. This requires training in Ayurvedic medicine to examine the patient. The diagnosis consists of a past medical history, looking, feeling, questioning the patient and examining the patient. This includes Ayurvedic pulse taking. Then you must know the effects of the postures in Ayurvedic terms (pitta,vata,kapha) in order to select proper postures. The same procedure should be used for selecting proper breathing and meditation exercises. 

Finally, to satisfy western doctors, the results should be explained in terms of western  science.

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Forms of Qi. Energy of Stars. Part 5(b)

Martin Eisen, Ph.D.

Part 5 (b) is a continuation of Heaven Energy of the Stars, Part 5(a). Section 5 discusses the Chinese calendar, which can be used to describe time variations in Heaven’s Qi. This leads to a discussion of fluctuations in the body’s Qi in Section 6. 

5. The Chinese Calendar

As early as 1500 to 2000 B.C., each year, month, day and hour was associated with one of the Twelve Earthly Branches and Ten Heavenly Stems. The Earthly Branches have several associations as shown in Table 3. Then Ten Heavenly Stems and their energetic relations appear in Table 4. 

3. TheTable  Twelve Earthly Branches 

Pinyin No. Animal Month Time Period Channel / Org
Zi 子1 1 Rat Nov. 22 – Dec. 21 11 p.m – 1 a.m. Gall Bladder
Chou 丑 2 Ox Dec. 22 – Jan. 20 1 – 3 a.m. Liver
Yin 寅 3 Tiger Jan. 21 – Feb. 19 3 – 5 a.m. Lung
Mao 卯 4 Rabbit Feb. 20 – Mar. 20 5 – 7 a.m. Large Intestine
Chen 辰 5 Dragon Mar. 21 – Apr. 19 7 – 9 a.m. Stomach
Si 巳 6 Snake Apr. 20 – May. 20 9 – 11 a.m. Spleen
Wu 午 7 Horse t May 21 – June 21 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Heart
Wei 未 8 Sheep June 22 – July 21 1 – 3 p.m. Small Intestine
Shen 申 9 Monkey July 22 – Aug. 21 3 – 5 p.m. Bladder
You 酉 10 Rooster Aug. 22 – Sept. 22 5 – 7 p.m. Kidneys
Xu 戌 11 Dog Sept. 23 – Oct. 22 7 – 9 p.m. Pericardium
Hai 亥 12 Boar Oct. 23 – Nov. 21 9 – 11 p.m. Triple Burners

Table 4. The Ten Heavenly Stems

Name No. Yin – Yang Element Organ Planet
Jia 甲 1 Yang Wood Gall Bladder Jupiter
Yi 乙 2 Yin Wood Liver  
Bing 丙 3 Yang Fire Small Intestine Mars
Ding 丁 4 Yin Fire Heart  
Wu 戊 5 Yang Earth Stomach Saturn
Ji 己 6 Yin Earth Spleen  
Geng 更 7 Yang Metal Large Intestine Venus
Xin 辛 8 Yin Metal Lung  
Ren 壬 9 Yang Water Bladder Mercury
Kui 葵 10 Yin Water Kidneys  

In ancient China, the Twelve Earthly Branches represented two hour period time units. They were mainly used to represent the twelve months in the Lunar Calendar. Qigong doctors used the Heavenly Stems to determine the flow of Heavenly Qi and its corresponding relation to the Qi of man. Both the Branches and Stems represent the characteristics of growing, declining, and dying of all life as well as the development and transformation of all natural phenomena. The energy of the Stems appears within the five energetic movements (front, back, right, left, and center) as well as within the elemental energy of the body’s main internal organs. 

Table 5.  The Sixty Year Cyclic Chinese Zodiacal Calendar 

Year Heavenly Stems Earthly
Branch
1984-2043
Feb 02 1984–Feb 19 1985
Feb 20 1985–Feb 08 1986
Feb 09 1986–Jan 28 1987
Jan 29 1987–Feb 16 1988
Feb 17 1988–Feb 05 1989
Feb 06 1989–Jan 26 1990
Jan 27 1990–Feb 14 1991
Feb 15 1991–Feb 03 1992
Feb 04 1992–Jan 22 1993
Jan 23 1993– Feb 09 1994
Feb 10 1994–Jan 30 1995
Jan 31 1995–Feb 18 1996
Feb 19 1996–Feb 06 1997
Feb 07 1997–Jan 27 1998
Jan 28 1998–Feb 15 1999
Feb 16 1999–Feb 04 2000
Feb 05 2000–Jan 23 2001
Jan 24 2001–Feb 11 2002
Feb 12 2002–Jan 31 2003
Feb 01 2003–Jan 21 2004
Jan 22 2004–Feb 08 2005
Feb 09 2005–Jan 28 2006
Jan 29 2006–Feb 17 2007
Feb 18 2007–Feb 06 2008
Feb 07 2008–Jan 25 2009
Jan 26 2009–Feb 13 2010
Feb 14 2010–Feb 02 2011
Feb 03 2011–Jan 22 2012
Jan 23 2012–Feb 09 2013
Feb 10 2013–Jan 30 2014
Jan 31 2014–Feb 18 2015
Feb 19 2015–Feb 07 2016
Feb 08 2016–Jan 27 2017
Jan 28 2017–Feb 18 2018
Feb 19 2018–Feb 04 2019
Feb 05 2019–Jan 24 2020
Jan 25 2020–Feb. 11 2021
Feb 12 2021–Jan 31 2022
Feb 01 2022–Jan 21 2023
Jan 22 2023–Feb 09 2024
Feb 10 2024–Jan 28 2025
Jan 29 2025–Feb 16 2026
Feb 17 2026–Feb 05 2027
Feb 06 2027–Jan 25 2028
Jan 26 2028–Feb 12 2029
Feb 13 2029–Feb 02 2030
Feb 03 2030–Jan 22 2031
Jan 23 2031–Feb 10 2032
Feb 11 2032–Jan 30 2033
Jan 31 2033–Feb 18 2034
Feb 19 2034–Feb 07 2035
Feb 08 2035–Jan 27 2036
Jan 28 2036–Feb 14 2037
Feb 15 2037–Feb 03 2038
Feb 04 2038–Jan 23 2039
Jan 24 2039–Feb 11 2040
Feb 12 2040–Jan 31 2041
Feb 01 2041–Jan 21 2042
Jan 22 2042–Feb 09 2043
Feb 10 2043–Jan 29 2

 60 year cyclic Chinese zodiacal calendar is constructed by using a Stem and Branch to denote a year. The current cycle began on 2nd February 1984 AD. The beginning of the cycle is based upon the alignment of the sun, moon, Jupiter, and Polaris. The first year is associated with the first Stem and first Branch and so is designated jia-zi. Jia correspond to Wood and zi to the rat. Thus, the first year is the year of the Wood Rat in Chinese astrology. The second year is represented by the second Stem and Branch, and so on. For the eleventh year, there are no new stems and so it is represented by the first Stem and eleventh Branch or jia-xu. Similarly, the thirteenth year is represented by the third Stem and first Branch or bing-zi. The cycle continues in this manner until it returns to the first Stem and first Branch. The 60 year cycle is shown in Table 5, together with the Gregorian year numbers for the current cycle. 

From Table 5 this is the year of the Wood Ox. How do you find the Chinese year for a date not listed in Table 5? If you like to do mathematical calculations read (2) and (3); otherwise, use the program in (4). References (2) and (3) also show you how to find the Stem-Branch for any month, day, and bi-hour (column 5 in Table 3). 

6. Qi and the Chinese Astrological Calendar 

The variation in Heaven’s Qi produces even more complex changes in the bodily Qi flow. At given time certain acupuncture points are open – that is, full of energy and are more responsive to treatment. At other times they are not open, have less energy and are less responsive to treatment. The Ancient Chinese, using astrology and metaphysics developed a theory to find open acupuncture points called “Zi-Wu Liu Chu Liao Fa” (5). 

Zi-Wu Liu Chu Liao Fa consists of six Chinese ideograms. From Table 3, the Earthly Branch Zi denotes the time period 11 p.m. – 1 a.m., during which Yin is at its peak, and Wu the time period 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., during which Yang is at its peak. Recall that Zi also stands for November and Wu represents May. The winter solstice in November is the time when Yin begins to transform into Yang and the summer solstice in May is the time when Yang begins to transform into Yin. Thus, these two ideograms represent the change in Yin and Yang within a year as well as a day.  Liu means flowing and Chu means entering. This can be interpreted as the energy and blood flowing and entering into acupoints varies with time. Liao mans therapy while Fa means technique. Together, these six ideograms can be interpreted as the techniques of therapy according to the temporal flowing and entering of meridian energy. 

The acupoints which are used in Zi-Wu Liu Chu Liao Fa are the Command Points – Jing (Well), Ying (Spring), Shu (Stream), Jing (River), and He (Sea). In addition, the Yuan (Source) Points are also employed. The Yang meridians have their own separate Source Points. However, the Yuan Points on the Yin meridians are the same as their Stream Points. Since their there are 12 meridians and 6 Yang meridians, only 66 points are selected for treatment. 

The five Command Points are also used in Five Element Acupuncture. For the Yin meridians, the above sequence of Command Points corresponds to the Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water Points, respectively; while for the Yang meridians the corresponding sequence is Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. The Five Element School of Acupuncture believes that most diseases can be treated by just using the Five Element Points. 

References 

1. Johnson, J.A. Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy. Int. Institute of Medical Qigong, Pacific Grove, Ca, 2000.

2. Fong, H. How to Calculate the Chinese Solar Equivalent date for any western dates without using the Ten Thousand Year Calendar? Part 1 of 2. http://www.absolutelyfengshui.com/library/solar-year-month.php.

3. Fong, H. How to Calculate the Chinese Solar Equivalent date (Ba Zi) for any western dates without using the Ten Thousand Year Calendar? Part 2 of 2. http://www.absolutelyfengshui.com/library/solar-day-hour.php.

4. Fong, H. Ten Thousand Year Calendar. http://www.henryfong.com/10000.htm This calendar gives you the Chinese Lunar and Chinese Solar (or Hsia) calendar equivalent of any Western Gregorian dates. Does it have 10,000 years of dates data? Nope, just a 100 years from 1924 to 2024.

5. Lu, H.C. The Time-Honored Techniques of Acupuncture. Academy of Oriental Heritage, Vancouve, B.C., 197

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Forms of Qi. Heaven Energy of Sun and Moon. Part 4

1.  Introduction

The Outer Forces of Heaven are manifested through the Three Treasures: the combined energy field of the sun, moon, and stars.  The sun and moon are the primary Heavenly manifestations of Yin and Yang Qi.  The sun is Yang and is considered the Spirit Soul (Hun) of Heaven, while the moon is Yin and is considered the Corporeal Soul of Earth.  The sun and moon cyclically change their relative degrees of Yin to Yang at different times of the day, month and year.  These changes affect the Earthly Yin and Yang energies as well as the Qi in the body.  The most easily observed changes in the stars’ energy, which affect life on Earth, are from the North Star, the Big Dipper, and the 28 constellations.  Stars’ energy will be discussed in Part 5.

Some of the Five Elements’ correspondences between Heaven’s Treasures and the environment of Earth appear in Table1.

Table 1.  Some Heavenly Five Element Relations

Ele ment Yin Organ Yang Organ Time Season Direc tion Planet
Wood Liver Gall Bladder Early Dawn Spring East Jupiter
Fire Heart Small Intestine Noon Summer South Mars
Earth Spleen Stomach Mid- aftnoon Late summer Center Saturn
Metal Lungs Colon Late Dusk Fall West Venus
Water Kidneys Bladder Night Winter North Mercury

The body’s biorhythms are influenced by the cyclic energy changes of the sun, moon, and stars.  For example, certain hormones, temperature, blood pressure, blood amino acids, etc. exhibit a cyclical variation during the day; women’s emotional and menstrual cycles, usually 28 days, follow the changing phases of the moon.  The Physical Cycle is 23 days long.  The first 11 ½ days produce an increasing feeling of good strength and endurance, while the second 11 ½ days produces a decreasing feeling of strength and endurance.  The Intellectual Cycle of 33 days has similar properties with the positive half being the first 16 ½ days.  The body’s clocks can be altered by food, drink, drugs, and abnormal sleep.

Biorhythms also influence the time and severity of illnesses and the effects of drugs.   Therefore, herbal, qigong and acupuncture therapy can be prescribed at specific times to enhance their effect.  Familiarity with the cycles of Heaven’s Qi enables the Qigong doctor to utilize it to regulate and balance the patient’s Qi.

2.  The Sun’s Cycles

The Earth’s revolution about the sun causes seasonal energy changes in the organs and meridians of the body.  In each of the 5 seasons a pair of organs reaches an energetic peak, as shown in Table1.  The Earth’s revolution on its axis causes similar daily energetic maxima in the time period also shown in Table 1.

The daily cycle of Heat, Blood, and Qi flow along the body’s twelve Meridians, Organs, and Skin Zones according to two hour time periods appears in Table 2.  For example, from 3 – 5a.m. maximum energy flows along the Lung meridian, making the Lungs more responsive to treatment.

The fluctuations of Qi in Heaven and Man during the hours and months can be described by the Twelve Pi Hexagrams shown in Table 2.  A hexagram consists of a horizontal stack of 6 Yao, a solid or broken line.  A solid line represents Yang and also exhalation.  A broken line represents Yin and inhalation.

The Yin Yao Cycles

The hexagrams from Gou to Kun indicate the gradual increasing of Yin Qi and decreasing of Yang Qi.  This time period is called the “time of dead breath”.  This is the best time for nurturing and restoring the Kidneys’ Yin Essence for people with deficient Yin Qi.

The Yang Yao Cycle

The hexagrams from Fu to Qian represent the gradual increase of Yang Qi and the decrease in Yin Qi.  This time period is called the “time of living breath”.  This is the best time for emitting external Qi and training for treating insufficiency of Yang Qi.

A Qigong doctor can use the Yin and Yang Yao Cycles to prescribe for a patient by adjusting his breathing according to the applicable hexagram.  For instance, when practicing during the period of the Fu hexagram, there is more Yin than Yang, so to nourish Yang requires longer inhalations (Yin) and shorter exhalations (Yang).   The Gou hexagram shows that there is more Yang than Yin at this stage.  To balance Yin and Yang, the practitioner should use shorter inhalations and longer exhalations during this time period.

Practicing Qigong during the four following time periods aids increasing internal energy in harmony with the energy changes in nature.

1.  The Fu Time Period (Midnight) is related to the beginning of the Yang cycle and is ideal for gathering Yuan (Prenatal) Qi

2.  The Dazhuang Period (Sunrise) is when natural Yang Qi increases due to the rising sun and so does the Yang Qi of the body.  Practice during this period promotes the vigorous growth of Yang.

3.  The Gou Period (High Noon) is when the Heart meridian exhibits its energetic peak.   Since the Yang energy Yaos decrease, practicing during this period helps the growth of Yin energy and suppresses the hyperactivity of Yin energy.

4.  The Guan Period (Sunset) is when the environmental energy changes from clear to dark.  Practicing during this period encourages increasing primordial Yin Qi and the conservation and nourishment of Yang energy.

The four seasonal peak transitions of energy, in the northern hemisphere, corresponding to the four time periods, appear in Table 3.

Table 3.  The Four Seasonal Peak Energy Changes

Name Date Sun’s Position Description Time Period
Palace  of Eternal Frost Winter Solstice December 33 – 25 Furthest south from equator Maximum Yin or darkness, shortest days; longest time of cold Midnight
Golden Gate Spring Equinox March 21 Crosses heavenly equator Light & darkness, Yin & Yang balanced.  Yang Qi is growing. Sunrise
Palace of Universal Yang Summer Solstice June 21 – 23 Furthest north from equator Maximum Yang or brightness; longest days & times of light & warmth Noon
Gate of the Moon Autumn Equinox September 22 Crosses equator Light & darkness, Yin & Yang balanced.  Yin Qi is increasing. Sunset

Further seasonal transitions periods appear in (1).

Ancient Qigong masters practiced Gathering the Sun’s Essence Meditation to gather pure Yang Qi and to strengthen Zheng (Gathering) Qi.   This helped to eliminate pathogenic factors and prevent premature aging.  Details can be found in (1).

3.  The Moon’s Cycles

According to ancient Qigong masters, the sun has a Yang nature radiating hot, thermal energy, while the moon is Yin and emits a much cooler energy by reflecting the energy of the sun.  The amount of energy reflected depends on the phase of the moon in its lunar cycle as it revolves around the earth.  The lunar month begins with the new moon, when the moon is between the sun and earth.  Sunlight strikes the half of the moon which is not visible from the earth and so no light is reflected towards the earth.  When the moon travels about 1/8th of its orbit around the earth, the sun begins to illuminate part of the moon which reflects some light to the earth and the moon is called a waxing crescent   After traveling ¼ of the way around its orbit the moon appears as a half illuminated circle.   Some phases are shown in Table 4.

The body’s Qi and Blood varies with the amount of reflected light and also with the gravitational pull of the sun and moon, just as the tides.  Thus, the ancient Qigong masters specified times for tonifying and purging.  For example don’t tonify when the moon is full since Blood and Qi are turning excessive due to the amount of reflected light and also because the sun’s and moon’s gravitational pulls are acting together in concert.  Table 4 helps in designing the proper Qigong treatment during certain phases of the moon. 

Table 4.  Qigong Treatment According to Phases of Moon

Phase of Moon Reason Tide Qi & Blood Regulation
New Moon between sun; earth.  Start of orbit Spring.  Max. Sun; moon pull together Deficient No Purging
Waxing Crescent Moon between sun; earth & 1/8th around orbit Spring.  Max. Sun; moon pull together Turning excessive No Tonifying
First Quarter Moon is 90 deg. to sun & 1/4 around orbit Neap. Min. Sun; moon work against each other Deficient No Purging
Full Moon opposite sun & 1/2 around orbit Spring.  Max. Sun & moon pull together Excessive No Tonifying
Last Quarter Moon is 90 deg. to sun & 3/4 around orbit Neap.  Min.  Sun & moon work against each other Turning Deficient No Purging
Waning Crescent Moon between sun & earth & 7/8th  around orbit Spring.  Max. Sun & moon pull together Deficient No Purging

During a full moon, the body’s Blood and Qi fill the Baihui point at the top of the head.  At the new moon, the body’s Blood and Qi gather at the Huiyin in the perineum.  Following the moon’s  cycle, the body’s Qi completes a full revolution, flowing up the Governing Vessel to the Baihui, and down the Conception Vessel to the Huiyin.

Since the top and bottom o the Taiji Pole are activated at the full and new moon, these times are considered the most productive times for Taiji Pole Qi practice.

Ancient Qigong masters also practiced Gathering the Moon’s Cream Meditation.  The vital essence of the moon is called “Cream” or “cool light”.  It is used to nourish the Kidneys, Jing, Marrow, and Brain, while contributing to longevity.  This meditation is practiced only three days before, during, and after the full moon, a total of nine days.  These days are the brightest days of the month.  It is not practiced other days because there is insufficient vital moon essence to gather.  This meditation is described in (1).

4.  Proper Directions for Practicing Qigong

The proper directions for practicing Qigong have been emphasized since ancient times (see Table 1).  For instance, the practitioner faces the sun and moon when practicing sun and moon meditations.  Patients with a Yang deficiency should face east or south.  Those with Yin deficiencies should face north or west.  Those with a Kidney, Liver, Heart, or Lung deficiency should face north, east, south, west, respectively.  Patients with a spleen deficiency should focus their attention on the center (Earth).  Note that although these directions are effective, a Qigong master chooses the place and direction using their intuition.  They slowly turn until they feel their body filling with Qi in a specific direction.  They cannot stand or sit comfortably unless they are facing that direction.

References

1.  Johnson, J.A.  Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy.  Int. Institute of Medical Qigong, Pacific Grove, Ca, 2000.

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Scientific Qi Exploration. Part 3. Earth Energy

1.  Introduction 

Cells, tissues and organs of the body generate energy fields.  The resultant of these fields regulates the body’s internal energy current and also produces an external energy field (Wei Qi).  The Outer Forces (Powers) of Heaven and Earth affect the body’s internal organs through their interaction with the Wei Qi. 

The Outer Forces are manifested through the Three Treasures.   The Three Treasures of the Heavenly Powers are the energy fields of the sun, moon and stars.   The Earthly Treasures are the energy of the earth (rock and soil), wind and water.   Earth’s Outer Forces are discussed below and Heaven’s Outer Forces in following aricles.  

A plague outbreak in 1641, during the Ming dynasty, wiped out a large portion of the population in China. The physician, Wu Youxing (c. 1580-1660), after extensive research into epidemic disease, wrote the book Wenyilun (On Pestilence) in 1642. The book described the specific symptoms of different kinds of epidemic disease and proposed the theory of Liqi (excessive influences).  His theory of Liqi stated that pestilence was not caused by the Six Evils, but was the result of infection by excessive influences.  Liqi had the following characteristics: 

(a)  It could be cured by herbs. 

(b)  It penetrated the body through the mouth and nose. 

(c)  The occurrence of disease depended on the quantity and virulence of the excessive influence, and body resistance. 

(d)  Each pestilence was associated with its own particular Liqi.  

Dr. Wu also claimed that the Liqi affecting humans was different from that occurring in animals. He suggested that Liqi was the cause of smallpox and other inflammatory skin diseases. 

Smallpox was a great scourge of the country during the Ming dynasty and there is documented use of anti-smallpox vaccination dating from the years 1567-72. 

2.  Wind Qi

These are Yin and Yang energies and light created by the interaction of the sun’s heat and radiation from the earth manifesting as various weather conditions such as: clouds, tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning storms. etc. 

There are six types of External Pathogenic Qi or Six Evils (Liu Yin):  Wind (Feng), Cold (Han), Summer Heat (Shu), Dampness (Shi), Dryness (Zao) and Fire (Huo).  They are often called the Six Climatic Pathogens since they are named after weather phenomena, because they possess similar characteristics.  According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, these Six Evils can be the external causes of disease (1).  However, climatic changes may not result in disease provided that the Zheng Qi (Righteous Qi, pathogenic fighting energy) is sufficiently strong.  The Six Evils and some of their properties are listed in Table 1.  Fire can arise from any of the other Evils and strictly speaking, is not classified as an external pathogen since its signs and symptoms don’t appear until it has entered the body. 

The invasion of the Six Evils is related to the climatic conditions in different seasons and the environment

Diseases related to Wind occur more frequently in spring because Wind is prevalent in this season. Summer Heat attacks the body only in the summer because it exists only in this season. Living for a long time in a damp place, one is likely to suffer from arthritis and working in a hot environment, like a foundry, one is liable to be invaded by Fire. 

Each of these pathogens can cause disease alone or in combination with other pathogens. For example, Wind may attack the body alone, causing an Exterior Syndrome (a disease (1) in Chinese medicine is   defined by a collection of signs and symptoms) due to Wind, or in combination with Heat, causing an Exterior Syndrome due to Wind-Heat. 

The Six External Evils invade the body mainly through the skin, or the nose and mouth, the more susceptible Organs and tissues exposed to the environment, because they originate externally.  This does not mean that the Organ listed in Table 1 is always affected by the corresponding Evil, but only that it is more likely to be affected than others.  

The Six External Pathogens can act not only on one another in the occurrence of diseases, but can   pathogenesis and Syndrome can change- for example, Cold may transform into Heat. 

There seems to be no beneficial effects produced by extreme weather conditions and one is cautioned from practicing Qigong at these times.  However, some Qigong teacher advocate absorbing Qi from warm objects such as stoves, fireplaces, etc. for individuals who are always cold and cannot feel Qi from other sources. 

There are forms of Qigong that are practiced to enable practitioners to live comfortably in harsh weather.  In ancient China, vagabonds practiced a form of Qigong so that they could live comfortably outdoors.  Tibetan monks use a form of Qigong that enables them to live in frigid weather without warm clothing. 

Some Qigong masters practice infusing their energetic field with the environmental energetic field for environmental manipulations (2).  One exercise is to pull a cloud from the sky and root the cloud in the Earth’s energetic field.   The cloud can then be released or allowed to disperse into the surrounding environmental energy.  Another exercise is to divide a cloud in half.  The cloud can then be united or further divided.

Evil Type Season Organ Effect Symptoms and Signs
Sum-merHeat Yang Summer Heart Damages Yin leading to Yin XuRisesCauses redness (the redder the more heat)Easily produces wind(when effect Liver)Speeds things up.Easily affects the skin

May invade Pericardium

Dry lips, thirst, scanty-dark urine & thirstDiseases most common on face, eyes, and nose.Thirst, red tongue on sides & tipAgitation, restlessnessBlood moves so fast it can leave vessels (bleeding).Red, painful, achy rashes.Clouds mind, delirium, slurred speech; unconsciousness
Dry-ness Yang Autumn Lung Easily damages body fluids.Easily damages lungs Dry skin, hair, lips, eyes, stool;Low-grade sore throat.Scant urine; thirstDry cough and dry phlegm (thick, sticky, hard to expel
Fire Yang AnySeason Heart Like Summer Heat, but more severe.  Consumes Qi.  Moves upward. Affects Mind more than Summer Heat (anxiety, agitation, insomnia, mental illness, uncontrollable laughter, shouting, hitting people &talking incessantly)
Wind Yang Spring Liver Disperses Qi upward and outward & so Yang energy wants to rise and expand.Illnesses manifest in upper and outer parts of the body in early stage: head, sense organs and skin. Rapid onset and rapid changes in signs & symptomsSymptoms and signs move from place to lace in body.Creates abnormal or sudden movement     Attack Lungs.  Sweating causes opening of pores (Qi and fluids lost).   Itchy  throat, sneezing, coughing, runny nose; possibly fever.  Facial paralysis.     Superficial Tai Yang attacked stiffness along channel & neck pain.     Acute illnesses with rapid progression such as fever, infectious diseases.  Rashes (itchy, come and go quickly, spread quickly).  Spasms, convulsions, twitches,         paralysis if Liver involved.Aversion to wind or cold.
Cold Yin Winter Kidney   Damages the Yang   & so impairs ability   to maintain body temperature        Weakens and slows life activities.        Feeling of cold; symptoms better with warmth        Causes Qi and Blood to contract and congeal which creates stagnation, pain, stiffness.       Easily affects the low back and knees, joints.       Easily affects the Stomach, Intestines, and Uterus.       Thin, watery, pale, cold discharges (urine, stools, etc.)

                                                      

Damp Yin Late Summer Spleen Heavy, tenacious, difficult to treat, and lasts a long time.It tends to move downwards in the body.Can invade legs and then go up to settle in pelvic cavity organs.Damages Yang of body.Creates stagnation     greasy hair and face ;    greasy skin: acne, pus, oozing wound;    mucous or discharge anywhere in body;    bad body odor, bad breath, smelly perspiration;    bad smelling diarrhea with mucous;    thick or bad smelling vaginal discharge;    copious nasal discharge;

    edema or swelling;

      Fluid coming out of anywhere; 

      Candida, fungus, yeast infections

Worse in cold , damp weather

Can invade middle channels &

settle  in joints resulting in

    arthritis and swelling.

Injure Spleen Yang causing more dampness

Sticky tongue coat

Frequent, burning urination.

 3.  Water Qi

These are Yin and Yang interactions of energy and light from the oceans, lakes, rivers and streams manifesting as hot and cold energies.  These bodies of water retain and release the sun’s light energy and heat slowly.  The body easily and quickly absorbs the light, energy and resonant vibrations stored in water.  Therefore, Water Qi can play an important role in energy cultivation.  Some use of the uses of gathering energy form various bodies of water are given in Table 2.

Table 2.   Some Uses of Absorbing Water Qi

 

Source Uses
Oceans Dispersing negative emotions.Regulating internal organs.Quieting the nervous system.
Lakes Sedate active emotions.Balance any Excess or Deficiency.Calm Shen.
Streams Restore depleted Qi.Sedate active emotions.Balance any Excess or Deficiency.Calm Shen.

The ability of water to store Qi is used by herbalist to extract and store the Qi from herbs by cooking them in water.  This herbal soup is divided into doses to treat patients.  Some Qigong masters use herbal tonics to enhance their own Qi and also to treat their students.  Other masters project their own Qi into water, which their students can drink later. 

When gathering Qi do not select oceans, lakes or streams that are turbulent, have become dull in color, polluted or stagnant, since the body’s internal energy will match that of the external environment. 

4.  Earth Qi 

These are Yin and Yang energies and light originating from the earth’s surface.  This energy includes electromagnetic fields, underground radiations, light and heat emitted from the earth, and energy stored in soil, rocks, soil, plants and animals.  There is also an Earthly energetic grid like acupuncture meridians.  There are pockets of Earth energy (like acupoints) and frequency pathways (like meridians).  An example of Earth’s energetic grid is the Ley lines, which according to Western folklore, are energetic pathways connecting energetic power vortices on the planet.  Some sources of Earth Qi and their use appear in Table 3.  

Table 3.  Some Earth Qi Sources 

Source Uses or Comments
Trees Remove stagnation from channels.Tonify internal organs.Stabilize & replenish depleted energy.Nourish Blood.Strengthen nervous system.
Bushes Similar to trees, but not as powerful an energy source as trees.
Flowers Unique in stimulating the nervous system.  Different sizes, colors and shapes can affect the emotions, causal a spiritual opening.  Each color absorbed into the body stimulates a corresponding organ.
Mountains Extremely powerful energy conduits.  The higher the peak, the more the air is charged with electromagnetic potential and more negative ion concentration. 
Valleys Facilitate easy absorption of energy into body.
Deserts Seas of dry heat energy for combating diseases associated with Wind, Cold or Damp invasion.  

 Different trees and bushes have different Yin or Yang potential and enter different meridians (2), for example, Apple tree energy is slightly Yin and enters the Stomach and Spleen, while Bamboo is yin, entering, Heart, Lung., Gallbladder and /Stomach.  However, in different regions each tree or plant can have minor or major variations in its energy. 

The best times for absorbing energy from trees, flowers and bushes is between the hours of sunrise (Mao: 5-7 a.m.) and noon (Wu: 11 a.m.-1 p,m,).   

Don’t meditate in front of a tree, bush, or flower that has parasites, or has been poisoned, polluted, sick, dying, or has lost its color, since such vegetation can induce impure energetic resonation in your body.  Similarly, don’t meditate in front of a mountain, valley, or desert area that has eroded, is dying, has lost its color, or is polluted.  Doing Qigong in areas of seismic or volcanic activity is also prohibited, since unstable resonations can be induced in your body. 

There are also certain locations on the earth that are known as “power spots”, which can be used to produce extremely powerful effects on the body’s potential energetic field. 

Environmental energy is also considered to vary according to direction and is absorbed into the body as a tonification exercise for a weakened or Deficient condition.  There are six directions.  South corresponds to the front of the body, north to the back, west to the right, and east to the left.  Heaven and Earth correspond to the top and bottom of the Taiji Pole, the center core of light joining the three Dan Tians.  The Qi from each direction is imagined as an energetic mist of a different color and entering a different Yin organ or the top or bottom of the Taiji Pole.  N, S, E, and W correspond to ruby red, white, indigo, and emerald green and enter the Heart, Lungs, Kidneys, and Liver, respectively.  Heaven corresponds to a silvery, white mist, which enter the top of the Taiji Pole through the Baihui (GV-20) and saturates it,  Earth corresponds to a yellow mist entering through the Yongquan (K-1) and going to the Spleen. 

One of the most important sources of Earth Qi is food.  Chinese doctors realized their treatments would not be effective without their patients eating properly.  Hence, for centuries, they studied the energetic properties of food, their qualitative action on the body, and their influence on the internal organs and channels. 

5.  Food Energetics (2, 3, 4) 

Chinese diet therapy is based on classifying foods as Yin and Yang; having a Hot, Warm, Cool, Cold or Neutral effect on the body, and by their five flavors, which influence corresponding organs.  Balancing the diet according to one’s constitution and organs’ strength, the seasons, the principles of Yin and Yang, not overeating can prevent many illnesses and wasteful expenditures of energy. 

Ingesting food that is too Yang (Hot as a bodily reaction) or out of harmony with the season, creates a Yang factor, which causes internal energy to be released damaging both Blood and Qi.  Eating food that is too Yin (Cold) or out of harmony with the season can create an external pathogenic factor consuming Kidney Yang, preventing the body’s Yang Heat from warming the body.  The Qi flow becomes sluggish and can block the channels or collaterals.  These blockages causes damage to the Stomach and Intestines and affect the Heart and Lungs.  Food that is too greasy may damage the Stomach Qi, resulting in boils, pyogenic infections or ulcerous skin conditions.  Eating similar foods all of the time may cause certain organs to be overactive or accumulation of toxins from these foods, causing mild allergic reactions from these foods.  Gorging may produce too much Gu Qi, resulting an upward reaction of Stomach Qi.  This affects the Spleen and Stomach, which in turn affects the Lungs (the Child of the Spleen), obstructing the breath and blocking the psychic centers (Shen of the Heart).  

Foods are classified as Yin or Yang by several characteristics.  Yang foods take more time to grow, are hotter, are drier, less sweet, grow below the ground, and in hot climates.  Yin foods take less time to grow, are colder, more watery, sweeter, grow above the ground and in cold climates.  The more Yin the food the more expanded it becomes and the more Yang the food the more contracted. 

Foods are also classified by five flavors (sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, and salty).  The main method used in this classification are centuries of clinical observations on the effect of the food on its corresponding organ.  For example, a food may be classified as pungent even though it may appear bitter to some people.  The relation of the five flavors or tastes with the body’s internal organs are connected with the Theory of Five Elements, as shown in Table 4. 

Table 4.  Five Flavors and Corresponding Elements, Seasons, and Body’s Organs.    

 

Element Fire Metal Wood Earth Water
Taste Bitter Pungent Sour Sweet Salty
Season Summer Autumn Spring Late Summer Winter
Yin Organ Heart Lung Liver Spleen Kidneys
Yang Organ Small Intestine Colon Gall Bladder Stomach Bladder
Tissues Blood Vessels Skin Sinews/Tend-ons Muscles Bones
Sense Organ Tongue Nose Eyes Mouth Ears

 The interpretation of the Table 4 is illustrated by the following example.  Bitter foods affect the Blood and tongue.  They can stimulate the energy of the Heart and Small Intestine to control Heart Fire and stimulate digestion.  However, an excess of bitter foods can cause hyperactivity of Heart Fire, resulting in the consumption of Kidney Yin fluids. 

The Five Element Theory uses two other important energy relationships called the Generating (Sheng) Cycle or Mother-Son Law and the Controlling (Ko) Cycle or the Mother-Grandson Law, which appear in Fig. 1.  The Sheng Cycle is represented by the green outer arrows.  For example, Bitter is the mother of Sweet and Sweet is the son of Bitter.  The Ko Cyle is represented by the red inner arrows.  For example, Bitter is the grandmother of Pungent and Pungent is the grandson of Bitter.  These same rules apply when the corresponding Yin and Yang Organs from Table 4 replace the flavors in Fig. 1.  For example, the Heart is the mother of the Spleen and the Spleen is the son of the Heart. 

From Table 4, bitter foods affect the Heart or Small Intestine.  However, the Heart (Small Intestine) is the mother of the Spleen (Stomach) and from the Generating Cycle, the mother can pass energy to the Spleen (Stomach), and so improve digestion.    

 

Figure 1.  The Sheng and Ko Cycles for Flavors

The Ko cycle can be used to control or counter the effects of eating excessive flavors of foods.  Excessive pungent foods can damage the Lungs by causing excessive loss of Lung Qi.  Since Bitter is the grand- mother of pungent. Bitter foods can control the effect of excessive pungent foods.   Excessive Bitter foods can not only affect the mother organ but also have an affect on the grandson (Lung) by over-controlling him via the Control Cycle, causing dry cough, asthma, and withering of the skin..

Foods have a tendency to move in different directions in the body.  Some move outward (from the internal region to the skin and body surface), some inward, some upward (below the waist to above the waist) and some downward.  Two additional characteristics are associated with the movement of foods.  Glossy foods facilitate movements.  Obstructive foods slow down the movements.

Symptoms are treated by using foods whose movements oppose the movement associated with the symptom to rebalance the body.  For example, upward symptoms such as, vomiting, hiccups, coughing, etc., should be treated with foods that move downwards.

Food therapy is important tool for any Qigong healer and also for scientific research.

References

1.  Maciocia, G. Foundations of Chinese Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, New York, 1989.

2.  Johnson, J. A.  Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy.  Int. Inst of Medicak Qigong, Pacific Grove, 2000.

3.  Lu, H. C.   Chinese Herbs with Common Foods,  Kodansha International, Tokyo, 1997.

4.  Lu, H. C.  Chinese System of Food Cures: Prevention & Remedies, by Henry C. Lu, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., New York, 1986.

 

 

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The Concept of Qi. Part 2

Part 2. Qi in Chinese Medicine
Marty Eisen, Ph. D. 

In Part 1 of this series, the universal concept of Qi was introduced. Then, the various types of bodily Qi, used in traditional Chinese medicine to explain health and disease, were defined. Here the functions of Qi and its relation with the Chinese Organs and various substances in the body will be discussed.

4. Functions of Qi

The following are six observed functions of Qi.
• Moving — Qi moves the body.

•Transforming —Kidney and Bladder Qi transform fluids and urine, respectively. Spleen Qi transforms fluids into food Qi, which is transformed into Blood (the Chinese concept discussed below) by Heart Qi.
•Holding — Lung Qi holds sweat. Spleen Qi hold Blood and fluids in the blood vessels. Kidney and Bladder Qi hold urine.
•Raising —Spleen Qi raises the organs.
•Protecting — Lung Qi protects the body from external pathogenic factors.
•Warming — Spleen Qi and, especially, Kidney Qi warm the body.

5. Movement of Qi

The internal organs perform specific functions, normally in relation to a specific type of Qi. In order to perform these functions, the various types of Qi have to flow in appropriate directions. The Liver controls the smooth flow of Qi in all directions. The movement of Qi is based on directions and can be described by: ascending, descending, entering and exiting. Ascending refers to the upward movement of Qi from a lower area; descending means the downward flow of Qi from an upper area. Exiting means the outward movement of Qi, and entering indicates the inward movement of Qi. The following examples illustrate this directional flow.

The Lungs cause the Qi to descend directing it downwards to enter the Kidney and Bladder. The Kidneys receive the Lungs’ Qi, while Kidney Qi ascends to the Lungs. The Lungs control exhalation and the Kidneys inhalation. Furthermore, Liver Qi flows upward to help balance the downward flow of Lung Qi. Spleen Qi ascends to the Lungs and Heart, while Stomach Qi descends. Thus, the clear Qi obtained by the transformation of the Spleen ascends and the Stomach sends the unrefined part of the food to the Small Intestine for further processing.

Some organs perform movements in all four directions. Lung Qi moves in and out during breathing. However, when disseminating nutritional essence to the body, Lung Qi ascends, but descends when liquefying waste is to be sent to the Kidneys. Qi exits the Yin organs to flow in the corresponding meridians, while Qi enters the yang organs from their Yang meridians. Qi can also enter and exit the body from acupoints.

Besides the basic four movements, Qi movement is sometimes described as gathering (entering into a location) and dispersing (leaving to a different location). The terms expanding and contracting are also used, but these are just examples of exiting and entering.

6. Qi Pathology

There are four different types:

1.Deficient Qi — The Lungs, Spleen and Kidneys are prone to this condition.
2.Sinking Qi — Deficient Qi, especially Spleen Qi, can lead to sinking, which can cause prolapsed organs.
3.Stagnant Qi — Qi does not move. Liver Qi is susceptible to this condition.
4.Rebellious Qi — This occurs when Qi moves in the wrong direction. For example, when Stomach Qi ascends instead of descending, nausea, vomiting, or belching can occur.

7. Blood and Qi

In Chinese medicine Blood (Xue) is not the same as in Western medicine. Of course, Blood is a dense form of “Qi’. However, Blood is derived from Qi in two ways:

(i) Food Qi, produced by the Spleen, is sent upward to Lungs, and Lung Qi pushes it to the Heart, where it is transformed into Blood. The transformation requires the assistance of the Original Qi stored in the Kidneys.

(ii) Kidney Essence produces Marrow, which generates Bone Marrow which also forms Blood.

Note that although Essence plays an important role in the formation of Blood, it is nourished and replenished by the Blood. The blood–forming function of the bone marrow was introduced during the Qing dynasty, before this concept appeared in western physiology!

After a massive loss of Blood, one can develop signs of Qi deficiency, such as, breathlessness, sweating and cold limbs. Qi depletion, such as after heavy, prolonged sweating, can lead to signs of Blood deficiency, such as, palpitations, pallor, numbness and dizziness.

Nutritive Qi is closely related to the Blood and flows with it in the blood vessels and the channels. Four aspects of the close relationship between Blood and Qi are:

(a) Qi generates the Blood (See 7 (i).)

(b) Qi moves the Blood — This relationship is contained in the sayings “When Qi moves, Blood follows” and “If Qi stagnates, Blood congeals”. Lung Qi infuses Qi into the blood vessels to assist the pushing action of the Heart.

(c) Qi holds the Blood — This action is a function of Spleen Qi. The saying “Qi is the commander of Blood” is often used to summarize the above three aspects.

(d) Blood nourishes Qi — Qi relies on the Blood for nourishment. Moreover, Blood provides a material and “dense” basis, which prevents Qi from “floating”, and giving rise to the symptoms of the disease pattern of Empty-Heat (1). These two aspects are often summarized by the saying “Blood is the mother of Qi”.

8. Qi and Body Fluids

Body Fluids in Chinese medicine are called “Jin Ye”. The character “Jin” means “moist” or “saliva” and so can be interpreted as anything liquid or fluid. The word “Ye” means fluids of living organisms. There are two types of Body Fluids:

Jin — These fluids are quick-moving, clear, light, thin and watery, and they circulate in the exterior of the body (skin and muscles) with the Wei Qi. They are controlled by the Lungs, which disseminate them to the skin aided by the Upper Burner, which controls their transformation and movement towards the skin. They moisten and partially nourish skin and muscles. The Jin is manifested as sweat, tears, saliva, mucous and parotid secretions. They are also a

component of the fluid part of Blood.

Ye — These fluids are the more turbid, dense, heavy and slower moving fluids, which circulate in the interior of the body with the Ying (Nutritive) Qi. They are under control of (transformed by) Spleen and Kidneys. They are moved and excreted by Middle and Lower Burners. They lubricate the joint cavities; nourish and lubricate the spinal cord and brain, bone marrow and the “orifices of the sense organs” i.e. eyes, ears, nose and mouth

Production of Jin Ye (Body Fluids) — Body Fluids arise from food and drink. They enter the Stomach from which they are transformed and separated into pure and impure parts by the Spleen. The Spleen sends the pure part upward to the Lungs and the impure part downward to the Small Intestines. The Small Intestine separates the impure part into a pure and impure part. The pure part of this second separation goes to the Bladder and the impure part to the Large Intestine, where some of the water is re-absorbed. The Bladder, aided by the Qi from the Kidney, further transforms and separates the fluids it receives into pure and impure parts. The pure part is sent upwards to the exterior of the body, where it forms sweat. The impure part is flows downwards and is transformed into urine. The Lungs disperse part of the pure part to the space under the skin and the remainder down to the Kidneys. The Kidneys vaporize some of the fluids they receive and send it back up to moisten the Lungs.

9. Organs and Transformation and Movement of Qi

Chapter 5 of the book Plain Questions states: “Water and fire are symbols of Yin and Yang.” This means that water and fire represent opposite aspects. Based on the properties of water and fire, everything in the natural environment may be classified as either Yin or Yang. Those with the properties of fire, such as heat, movement, brightness, upward and outward direction, excitement and potency, pertain to Yang. Those with the properties of water, such as coldness, stillness, dimness, downward and inward direction, inhibition and weakness, pertain to Yin. Accordingly, within the field of Chinese medicine different functions and properties of the body are classified as either Yin or Yang. For example, the Qi of the body, which has moving and warming functions, is Yang, while the Qi of the body, which has nourishing and cooling functions, is Yin. Yin Qi is sometimes called “Water” and Yang Qi, “Fire”. Qi condenses to form the material body and is Yin. When Qi disperses, it moves and is Yang.

These Yin and Yang aspects of Qi are the basis of Chinese physiology. The proper transformation of Qi allows birth, movement, growth and reproduction to take place. The movement and transmutation of Qi depend on the function of Chinese organs and will be described below.

The motive force for the transformation of Qi is the Fire stored in the Gate of Vitality or Life Gate (Ming Men), an area between the Kidneys. Historically, the Life Gate’s location has been postulated in several different places. Its Fire is referred to as the “Minister Fire’. This Fire supplies heat for all bodily functions and for the Kidney Essence. The Ming Men Fire and the Essence provide another example of the Yin-Yang concept. The Fire depends on the Jing

to provide the biological substances for all life processes. Jing relies on the Ming Men Fire for the motive force and heat that transforms and moves the various physiological substances. Without the Ming Men Fire, Jing would be a cold and inert, incapable of nurturing life. This relationship is summarized by the expressions “Qi is transformed into Essence“and “Essence is transformed into Qi”. Gathering Qi flows down to the Life Gate to provide Qi and Ming Men Fire flows up to the Lungs to provide heat.

Mutual Assistance of Heart and Kidney

The Heart is in the upper Jiao and corresponds to the element Fire. It is Yang in nature, and relates to movement. The Kidneys are in the lower Jiao and correspond to Water. They are Yin in nature and relate to non-movement. These two elements represent the Yin and Yang of all the organs (Fire and Water). Heart Fire is called Imperial Fire. Heart Yang descends to warm Kidney Yin, Kidney Yin ascends to nourish Heart Yang. The Heart and Kidneys are constantly communicating. If Kidney Yin is deficient it can’t rise to nourish the Heart Yin, which leads to hyperactive Heart Fire (insomnia, restlessness, anxiety, flushed cheeks, night sweats, red tongue with no coat and a midline crack). If the Fire of the Heart does not descend to the Kidneys, Heart Heat develops which can damage Kidney Yin and so Water cannot rise. Kidney Yang becomes deficient and edema results. The ascending and descending of Kidney and Heart Qi also affects other organs. If Kidney Yin does not nourish Liver Yin, Liver Qi may ascend too much, causing headaches and irritability. If Heart Qi does not descend, Lung Qi may also fail to descend, causing coughing or asthma. Heart and Kidney Qi provide the Fire and Water necessary for the functions of the Spleen and Stomach in digestion, transformation and transportation.

Spleen and Stomach

Spleen Qi normally ascends to the Heart and Lungs to direct the pure food essence up to these two organs, where it is transformed into Qi and Blood. Stomach Qi normally descends to send the impure part of food, left after the Spleen’s transformation, down to the intestines. If Spleen Qi does not rise diarrhea can occur. After some time, Qi and Blood deficiency will occur, since insufficient food essences will be transported to the Lungs and Heart. Prolapse of various organs and hemorrhoids can also ensue, since the rising of Spleen Qi lifts and keeps the organs in place.

Liver and Lungs

Qi flows smoothly when the ascending of Liver Qi and the descending of Lung Qi are balanced.

If Liver Qi does not ascend and extend, it can stagnate in may different areas of the body causing feelings of constriction or distention. Stagnate Liver Qi can also invade the Stomach, causing epigastric pain, nausea and vomiting, or the Spleen, causing diarrhea. It can go downwards to the Bladder, resulting in distention of the hypogastrium and slight retention of urine.

Excessive rising of Liver Qi to the head causes headaches and irritability. It can also affect the Lungs preventing Lung Qi from descending, causing coughing or asthma.

If Lung Qi does not descend, fluids will not be carried to the Kidneys and Bladder, resulting in urinary retention or edema of the face. Lung Qi may also stagnate in the chest, causing coughing or asthma.

Transformation of Qi by the Triple Burner (San Jiao)

The Triple Burner is a Yang organ and has been historically defined in several different ways (1). The three divisions of the Triple Burner in the Table 1 are based on the functions of the pertaining organs and not on their location. It ensures the correct movement of all types of Qi. If it malfunctions, Qi, Blood and Fluids will not flow harmoniously and they will overflow, routes will be blocked and Qi will stagnate.

References

1. Maciocia, G. Foundations of Chinese Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, New York, 1989.

2. Changguo, W., (Compiler). Basic Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Publishing House of Shanghai Univ. of TCM, 2002.

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Qigong for Longevity

Qigong (Chi Kung) is a Chinese medical therapy thousands of years old. It consists of mental as well as physical maneuvering which simultaneously adjust body posture, breathing, and the mind. Qigong for health is not strenuous and can even be performed by handicapped people. It can be done anywhere, at any time, and requires no special clothing or equipment. Qigong is practiced by millions of people worldwide.

The star of the TV show “The Doctor OZ Show” stated, “If you want to be healthy and live to 100, do Qigong.” Dr. Oz was not just making wild speculations. Recent research has found a way to predict and increase your life span. Tips of chromosomes are called telomeres. These protective caps, made of repetitive chunks of DNA, keep the rest of the gene-laden chromosomes from disastrously unraveling. Telomeres length has been linked to life span. Longer telomeres have been associated with longer lives and vice versa. A cell’s telomeres shorten a bit each time that the cell divides. Telomeres length is decreased by stress and can be increased by reducing stress!

Conferences on the scientific study of Qigong have been held in the U.S. and China. Qigong has been shown to improve respiration, induce the relaxation response, cause favorable changes in blood chemistry, and produce changes in EEG indicating improved mental states. Clinical trials have shown the efficacy of Qigong in reducing stress, delaying aging effects, prolonging life, preventing illness and curing many chronic diseases including paralysis and cancer.

Not only can Qigong increase longevity, but also the quality of life. One scientific survey of aged practitioners revealed that they were in good health and appeared younger than a second group of non-practitioners. Their average blood pressure was normal and 93% had normal hearing and good memories. The non-practicing elders had a higher average blood pressure, 25% had hypertension, 50% had vision problems, 76% had hearing problems and 35% had lost their ability to work. After doing Qigong for 5 months, 52% of them could work & made significant physiological improvements.

Qigong for health is excellent for seniors or the physically challenged. It can be done any- where lying, sitting or standing.  No equipment is needed.  Very little flexibility and coordination are required, making it easier to learn than Yoga. Pilates or Tai Chi.

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