Analysis of Basic Elements of Health Qigong (Body Regulation)
(IV) Emphasize Rotating, especially Bowing
During exercise, head, neck and torso are required to rotate dramatically along the vertical axis and wriggle around the frontal axis; moreover, pitching, folding and stretching of torso are valued such as “Tiger Springing on Its Prey” and “Green Dragon Stretching out Its Claws” in Yi Jin Jing, “Tiger Springing” and “Deer Looking Back” in Wu Qin Xi, “Looking Backwards to Prevent Sickness and Strain” and “Two Hands Holding the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist” in Ba Duan Jin, etc.
1. Smooth Ren and Du channels: according to TCM, Ren channel originates from perineum acupoints, runs up along belly and chest and reaches throat; Du channel also starts from perineum acupoints, runs up along the spine, reaches brain and ends at Yinjiao acupoints. Hence, the exercise of health Qigong emphasizes dramatic rotating, folding, pitching, stretching and wriggling of the torso so as to effectively stimulate vital acupoints and pull meridians at the belly and back, especially Ren and Du channels. It can circulate Qi and blood and smooth Ren and Du channels. According to TCM, “all meridians will become unblocked when Ren and Du channels are smooth”. Therefore, it’s helpful to the smooth circulation of Qi and blood of the entire body.
2. Improve cervical vertebra: under the spinous process of the seventh cervical vertebra of the neck is an acupoint named Dazhui and at 0.5 cun away from both sides is an acupoint called Dingchuan. Dramatic rotating of the neck can stimulate the Dazhui and Dingchuan acupoints behind the neck. Acupuncture principles told us that Dazhui is the summarization of six Yang meridians while Dingchuan acupuncture can have the effects of benefiting Qi and smoothing Yang, strengthening lung and pacifying puffing, removing fever and stopping malaria, concentrating spirit and eliminating phlegm. Hence, we emphasize the rotating of neck so as to effectively stimulate Dazhui and Dingchuan and achieve the effects of benefiting Qi and smoothing Yang as well as preventing asthma; at the same time, dramatic head rotating can pull muscles, ligament and fascia around the neck in order to improve local blood circulation, moisten local organs, further comb cervical vertebra, and prevent disorder of facet joints, neck muscle stiffness, strain and protrusion of intervertebral disc and other diseases.
3. Build wisdom: according to TCM, kidney stores essence and generates marrow which reaches the brain so it’s known as “brain is the marrow sea”. Besides, kidney stores due to the viscera meridians. The vitality of kidney is directly related to normal functions of the viscera, bones and brain. In other words, if kidney essence is sufficient, marrow is full and bones are firm, and people feel energetic, can hear and see well with agile movements. “As long as people’s kidney Qi is sufficient, they feel energetic, agile and forceful in movements.” Waist is the mansion of kidney and the place where kidney essence is nurtured. Kidney and bladder are neighbored and the sun bladder runs through the waist; besides, Du channel, Chong channel and Belt channel, etc. are scattered around the waist. Du channel runs through the spine and belongs to kidney. Hence, health Qigong stresses dramatic rotating, pitching, bowing of waist and back, wriggling of lumbar vertebra, which is helpful to the blood circulation stimulation of muscles, nerve and ligament around spinal column. It can strengthen the strength of the waist and back and loosen the adhesion of waist muscles; in the meantime, it can help smooth Du channel, Ren channel, Chong channel, Belt channel, kidney channel, bladder channel and other channels so as to strengthen waist, tonify kidney, enhance bladder, adjust Qi and blood, strengthen brain and benefit Qi as well as building wisdom.
4. Strengthen core: it means the feature can enhance the strength of practitioners in the core areas. “Core areas refer to intermediary links of human body and focus on lumbar vertebra-- pelvis-- hip joints including muscle tendon and ligament system around them”. This part is the most basic link of human body’s link movement chain, provides stable support and attachment point for different limb movements of human body, and directly influences the quality of human body’s varied skill movements; the neuromuscular system of the muscle group in this area is usually the part which will be first activated during the process after human body completes all reflexive and random limb movements; it’s the dynamic link which takes the earliest effects in the movement procedures of human body; this part is also the most exquisite of bone connection and the weakest part of the nerve system of human body (spine and spinal cord are in this area). The anatomical structure and functions of bone-muscle in the movement system of this part play a supporting, protecting and stabilizing role. The features of dramatic rotating, bowing and folding of health Qigong happen to stimulate the core areas. Hence, it can effectively improve practitioners’ exercise ability and self-protection ability.
5. Improve immunity: in accordance with TCM, “the back is the place where channels of the viscera lie in”. Here, the place refers to Yang; besides, the back has Du channel. “Du channel governs the six Yang meridians”. As a result, good regulation of the back is of vital significance to regulating Yang Qi of the entire body. In addition, back-shu acupoints of the viscera are located in the back. Stimulation of these back-shu acupoints can effectively help regulate the viscera and prevent some diseases. For instance, knocking lung shu, liver shu and kidney shu, etc. can prevent diabetes to a great extent. From the perspective of modern medicine, contemporary medicine holds that under the back skin of mankind are plenty of immune cells with strong functions. Usually people can’t touch their back so these immune cells which are beneficial to human health can only “rest” there quietly. Exercise can stimulate these immune cells which are in dormancy status, “activate” their functions to run all round the body, and actively eliminate those invasive germs or cancer cells in the body. The rotating, folding and stretching in the exercise can pull the back greatly and “awaken” those immune cells in the back. However, what’s worth noting is that patients with severe cardiovascular diseases and protrusion of intervertebral disc shouldn’t be engaged in dramatic rotating movements so as not to stress the spine because it can cause increase in the excitability of sympathetic nerve, speed up heart rate and raise blood pressured.
(V) Bear and Bird by Extension and Order-Reversing
It means the imitation of animals’ extension and movements which are contrary to ordinary habits should be adopted in the exercise. The functions of extension and order-reversing are as follows:
1. Build shapes and body: extension exercise can help bones grow healthy along the right direction, form right body postures and make tendon firm, tenacious, soft and stretched, thus making the body tall, straight, robust and beautiful. Besides, it can pull muscles, ligament and bones so as to speed up local blood circulation, provide sufficient nourishment and make distance between bone joints fully stretched. In this way, bones and cartilage can have favorable growth environment and sufficient growth, and height can be increased, thus helping the growth and development of adolescents.
2. Make up for the weak: the feature of order-reversing is to exercise what’s not exercised in daily life, that is, anti-normal exercise. This happens to compensate for practitioners’ weak links, which is especially important for mid-age and senior people as well as people who are lack of exercise because their Qi and blood are weak and their muscles fall short of nourishment without any force. Therefore, it’s likely to cause muscle strain due to accidents. For instance, they might hurt their waist while carrying heavy things, staggering, making a careless step and even sneezing. If we strengthen order-reversing exercise in daily life, we can strengthen the force of local parts such as waist, ankle and back, thus avoiding injury. At the same time, it can rehabilitate the existing injury.
3. Smooth meridians and blood: according to TCM, “when there’s something wrong with the viscera, the twelve source acupoints should be examined”. In other words, if the viscera contacts diseases, their Yuan acupoints (Yuan is replaced by Shu for Yin meridians) should be treated. Most of Yuan acupoints of human body are scattered around wrists and ankles. Therefore, when we are doing extension exercise, we should work harder on our wrists and ankles so as to directly stimulate Yuan acupoints,unblock meridians and prevent diseases. This often appears in the exercise of health Qigong.
4. Relax mind and body: in daily activities, the torso of most people is straight, internal combined, forward and ahead. Hence, the nerve systems which control these activities are in exciting status. On the contrary, those nerves which control bowing, external extension, backward and back, etc. are usually in restraint status. Long-term imbalance between the exciting and restraint status is bound to cause fatigue of nerve systems and lead to diseases. Studies show that order-reversing movements can make people’s nerve systems fully practices so as to establish new balance. Likewise, such exercise stimulates muscles which have contrary habits with daily habits. According to physiological principle of “the excitement of muscles on one side surely causes restraint of muscles on the other side” so the order-reversing exercise of health Qigong can well relax corresponding limbs. For example, the anti-bow shape of “bird extension” can effectively pull the muscle groups at front neck, chest, belly, front leg and front spine so as to relax the after-hip muscle groups at the rear neck, back and waist, etc. This is extremely effectively for preventing cervical spondylosis, strain of lumbar muscles and other diseases of people who often sit in the office. In addition, sufficient extension exercise can equally relax human body for five reasons: (1). Extension gradually increases force; (2). Extension to the degree of not being able to extend anymore; (3). The movement feature of extension is slowness and duration is from about 20 seconds to 1 minute; (4). People usually feel pleasant and refreshing after extension; (5). People unconsciously feel they want to move their body after extension. It’s because it can effectively improve blood circulation of human body, and meanwhile relax tense and stiff muscles.
5. Comfort liver and benefit gallbladder: according to TCM, “liver controls tendon while the essence lies in fingers”. “Liver belongs to wood and favors catharsis & coordination”. “Liver has evil aspect and its Qi remains under two armpits”. Health Qigong emphasizes the force in pushing, holding and palm supporting of fingers, fully stretch of human body and dramatic shoulder lifting and body bending. For instance, in the section of “Clench the Fists and Glare Fiercely” in Ba Duan Jin. After practitioners let two legs squat, their two thumbs face inside and the remaining fingers curve one by one, form a grasp shape and put on both sides of the waists. It can effectively stimulate practitioners’ fingers, armpits, lateral thorax and tendon of joints on sides of human body so as to achieve the purpose of pulling up to soften, letting out liver Qi, comforting liver and benefiting gallbladder.
6. Improve flexibility: Lao Zi said, “vulnerability is better than toughness”. The softer the living things, the more vigorous they are. Just as the old saying goes, “as tendon grows one cun more, the longevity will be prolonged for ten years”. Willpower Building·Chuang-tzu pointed out, “do breath exercise, exhale the old and inhale the new; climb and hang from trees like bears; stretch wings and legs like birds so as to prolong longevity. It’s the hobby of such people as Dao Yin practitioners, health preservers and Peng Zu who lived a long life”. That is to say, through breath exercise and imitation of animals’ extension exercise, people can preserve health and prolong their life. Health Qigong stresses the features of extension and order-reversing which can effectively improve practitioners’ suppleness, prolong life, prevent injury and enhance exercise quality.
(VI) Focus on Intertwining and Exercise of Peripheral Joints
During the exercise, joints of limbs should emphasize rotating and intertwining, especially exercise of distal peripheral joints such as “Pulling Nine Cows by Their Tails” and “Spreading Wings and Extending Claws” in Yi Jin Jing, “Ape Lifting” and hand patterns in different exercises of Wu Qin Xi, and “Clench the Fists and Glare Fiercely” in Ba Duan Jin, etc. Their functions are as follows:
1. Smooth and activate meridians: first, according to TCM, three Yin channels of human hands run from chest to hands, and converge with three Yang channels of hands at the finger tips; three Yang channels of hands run from hands to the head, and converge with three Yang channels of feet at the head; three Yang channels of feet run from head to feet, and converge with three Yin channels of feet at toes; it runs from feet to belly in at the feet end. That is to say, fingers are the joint point of three Yin and three Yang channels of hands while toes are the join point of three Yin and three Yang channels of feet. We know that the place which is the easiest part to have problem for any line is joint point. In other words, finger tips or toes are most easily blocked among all meridians. Second, according to meridian theories, somewhere below elbow joints and knee joints of human body are the places where the important acupoints of main channels lie in. They are Jing, Xing, Shu, Jing and He (collectively known as “Wu Shu”); Jing acupoint is at the end of hands and feet, and known as the source of water. Channel qi comes out of it, that is, “Jing is the exit”; Xing acupoint is mostly located at the front of palm or toe joints, and known as slight water flow. Big flows aren’t formed after turning and twisting, and it’s the part where channel Qi passes through, that is, “Xing is the intermediate channel”; Shu acupoint is mostly located at the back of palm or toe joints. Here the water flow becomes from small to big from shallow to deep. The channel Qi gradually turns vigorous. It’s the part where one enters another, that is, “Shu is the injection part”; Jing acupoint is mostly situated at wrists and ankle joints. Here the water flow becomes big and smooth without barrier. It’s the part where channel Qi runs vigorously, that is, “Jing is the vigorous running part”; He acupoint is nearby elbows and knees. Here the water flow of rivers converge into the lake and sea. Channel Qi runs deep here and returns to the viscera, that, “He is the deep return part”. Third, TCM also maintains that “when there’s something wrong with the viscera, the twelve source acupoints should be examined”. (Miraculous Pivot·Nine Kinds of Needles Twelve Sources). Yuan acupoints are allocated nearby wrists and ankles. When acupuncture doctors identify acupoints to treat diseases, they usually choose these acupoints first so as to smooth Qi and blood, cure the diseases. Hence, in the exercise of health Qigong, the peripheral joints movements of stretching elbows and knees, erecting palm and lifting wrist, shaking fingers, swinging ankles, lifting heels and holding up toes can not only effectively stimulate practitioners’ meridian joint points such as fingers and toes but also provoke Jing, Xing, Shu, Jing, He and other Yuan acupoints, thus efficiently smoothing twelve main channels and preserving health of the viscera.
2. Build wisdom: studies of modern medicine show that sensorium of the brain can govern the entire body’s pain, temperature, touching, pressing, position and cinesthesia as well as other torso feelings. Palms (especially fingers) and soles account for about half the area of sensorium. Data demonstrates that frequent exercise of brain can increase brain cell activities and help establish more synpatic connections, thicken the front and back membranes of synapsis and expand access. Health Qigong stresses smooth kidney channels and exercise of fingers. Besides, learning and exercising health Qigong is a process of study. Lots of knowledge skills need to be studied such as method techniques, exercise principles, health preservation knowledge and teaching methods. In this way, practitioners can frequently use their brain in the process of learning and practicing so that their brain can be exercised and wisdom built.
(VII) Emphasize Deficiency and Excess, especially Squatting
When it comes to “emphasis on deficiency and excess”, it means during the exercise process, deficiency and excess must be reflected no matter it’s about process, form and status of movements, or postures, parts, exterior and interior of human body. The exercise is characterized by some aspects such as top deficiency and bottom excess, internal and outside deficiency, external excess and internal deficiency, left deficiency and right excess (right deficiency and left excess), front deficiency and back excess (back deficiency and front excess).
1. Build strength and replenish calcium: studies show that, “mid-age and senior people who conduct strength exercise for a long time can effectively avoid the drainage of calcium in the blood”. Studies of Zou Jun from Scientific Research Office of Shanghai University of Sport found, “Tai-chi can help improve the bone density value of women with menopause and promote balance ability”. Studies of Liu Xianjun from Sports and Health Education School of Mianyang Normal University noted, “Ba Duan Jin exercise is an effective method of preventing primary osteoporosis”. As a result, health Qigong stresses that the transfer of gravity center during exercise is softly and slowly conducted based on distinct deficiency and excess. In addition, up and down squatting is required during the exercise, which increases the burden on practitioners’ legs.
2. Delay Senility: just as the old saying goes, “if people get old, legs are the parts which age first”. According to TCM, “feet is the root of kidney” while “kidney is the root of congenital constitution” and “kidney dominates people’s birth, growth, strength, aging and death”. TCM also has the theory of “As long as people’s kidney Qi is sufficient, they feel energetic, agile and forceful in movements”. Hence, the exercises highlighted by health Qigong such as pile work, gravity center transfer with distinct deficiency and excess as well as dramatic squatting movements can help with practitioners’ leg exercise, regulation of kidney Qi so as to achieve the body building effects of deft actions, agile thinking, vigorous radiance and youth maintenance.
(VIII) Highlight Neutralization and Simpleness
In terms of the thinking of health Qigong, emphasis on neutralization starts with balance between Yin and Yang instead of preference of Yin or Yang. It includes exercise strength, exercise amount, exercise form and exercise requirements, etc. For example, exercise should be balanced between dynamic and static, front and back, top and bottom, tightness and looseness, left and right. Exercise strength basically maintains at the level of 60% to 70% of the HRmax and should be controlled according to individual conditions; the exercise time should be within one hour with gentle and slow rhythm. At the same time, the instruction guideline of being simple and easy is also demonstrated in the technical specifications and exercise methods of health Qigong. Practitioners can learn it easily with pleasure and happiness, handle it skillfully and fall in love it once they practice it. The feature is fully demonstrated in each part of different sets of exercise. It can help practitioners:
1. Coordinate Yin and Yang: the feature of neutralization can regulate practitioners’ Yin and Yang. “Yin and Yang is the way of the world”. “Yin and Yang is the way of the world, guidelines for all things on earth, sources of all changes, origin of birth and death, and mansion of divinities”. Just as the prover goes, “excellent trees are hard to see in high mountains; beautiful grass are hard to search under big trees”. “Neither Yin nor Yang alone can lead to growth”. Hence, the most important thing about the core of exercise is to coordinate mind and body, internal and external Yin and Yang. In terms of exercise, dynamic is Yang and static is Yin; open is Yang and close is Yin; upwards is Yang and downwards is Yin; tight is Yang and loose is Yin, etc. Health Qigong directs balanced running of Qi and blood through such regular and symmetric exercise so as to achieve the purpose of regulating practitioners’ Yin and Yang, promoting Qi and blood circulation, and preventing viscera diseases.
2. Regulate psychology: Chinese culture attaches great importance to Doctrine of the Mean and the way of neutralization. In 2010, the first common feature of the top ten old people with the average age of 119.9 years old is peaceful mind. The first aspect of “four footstones” in “scientific lifestyles” proposed by WTO is “psychological regulation”. The feature of neutralization of health Qigong can help practitioners experience the charms of traditional Chinese culture through soft and slow, consistent and rhythmic, round and symmetric exercise with appropriate strength. Further they can let themselves bask in the peaceful and serene atmosphere, regulate their psychology to moderateness, have their sentiment sublimed and lofty, thus serving the establishment of harmonious society.
3. Prolong life: the simple feature of neutralization can help practitioners avoid injury and gain effects of health preservation and longevity. Many people think that all exercises are beneficial to health. It’s not totally right. It depends on how you exercise, the range and strength of exercise. Ge Hong said, “health preservation should be based on the principle of not being injured”. Huangdi Neijing advocated, “People’s exercise shouldn’t be tiring and they shouldn’t preserve health through random exercise”. Hua Tuo maintained, “People should exercise but within certain limit”. Sun Simiao, a well-known doctor of Tang Dynasty, took a vivid metaphor for example while talking about how to keep fit. Small oil lamps should be used because they can save oil. Lamps can be lighted for a long time so it is with people. In other words, only appropriate exercise is helpful to health and longevity. Modern science also agrees with this view, “aerobic exercise with the strength of heart rate of 180 minus age (170 minus age for old people) is the most suitable exercise for people’s health and longevity. The strength in traditional exercise is described as ‘sweat a bit without puffing’ and ‘small labor’”. Friends who often exercise health Qigong should have such experience.
4. Prevent injury and easy to exercise: such feature can help practitioners avoid accidental injuries and make it easy for practitioners to exercise. It’s because the strength of health Qigong is not that great and it’s not that difficult. Symmetric exercise is emphasized; plus, soft and slow movements are required. Hence, it can avoid injury of movement system due to dramatic movements, violent action and too much burden on local parts. In the meantime, it can avert any accident in other systems such as angiocarpy caused by excessive movements. In addition, movements of health Qigong are simple without too many requirements for strength and exercise sites. Hence, the exercise can be conducted in any place and anytime according to different conditions. Such simple and easy feature is bound to make the exercise a good companion of ordinary people in order to build body and keep fit.
（To be continued）