Monday, December 15, 2008

Music Therapy and the Five Elements

This is an interesting article though I can't personally verify the accuracy of the information. However, as I research deeper into the properties of sound and the ways we can use the vibrations of sound within the process of healing, this seems like something the ancient Chinese would have employed in their self-healing therapies.
We know the practices of the Six Healing Sounds and the Eight Healing Sounds have been effective, not to mention popular, for centuries. This seems like it would simply be another alternative that may have employed the use of a musical instrument instead of the human voice.

Music Therapy & The Five Elements

A lesser known alternative treatment in Chinese Medicine is music therapy. The ancient Chinese did a considerable amount of research in it and with the growing acceptance of alternative treatment traditional Chinese music therapy has gained much exposure.

There are five notes in ancient Chinese music namely Gong, Shang, Jiao, Zhi and Yu. They roughly match with the tones of do, re, mi, la and so respectively.
Each of these notes is also match with an element from the Five Elements and an organ (zang) in the body.
The note Gong (do) is associated with the earth element and the spleen. It is mediating in nature and gives a sense of calm and seriousness. The notes can be used to treat someone who has been given a fright.
The note Shang (re) is associated with the metal element and the lungs. It is clearing in nature and gives a sense of quietness. The notes can be used to treat someone suffering from anxiety and irritability.
The note Jiao (mi) is associated with the wood element and the liver. It is soothing in nature and gives a sense of comfort and relaxation. The notes can be used to dispel anger.
The note Zhi (sol) is associated with the element fire and the heart. It is invigorating in nature and gives a sense of excitement and passion. The note can be use to treat someone suffering from depression.
Finally the note Yu (la) is associated with the element water and the kidneys. It is cooling and moistening in nature and has a sedative effect. The note can be use to treat insomnia caused by excessive joy or sorrow.
Try playing the notes above and see if it gives you the senses described above. You may be pleasantly surprised.
The ancient Chinese believe that music can shape a man. Conversely, it is possible to read a person’s character based on the music that he plays or listen to!
For additional information on the use of sound for healing, please see this comprehensive review of binaural beat programs article on Holosync, Lifeflow, OmHarmonics – 3 Binaural Programs Reviewed

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Qigong Meditation For Purification

When most people think of qigong, they envision taiji (tai chi), or a yoga-like practice that involves the intention of the mind coupled with breath control and slow, deliberate physical movements.

Qigong, literally "energy practice," doesn't always involve physical movement. An important aspect of qigong is mindful control of the flow of energy and consciousness, and there are several qigong styles that involve only mental practice.

One effective practice especially concerned with holistic health and wellness is a program known as the Taiji Five-Element Medical Qigong. This is a package formerly available through the World Institute for Self Healing.

The package included these three guided meditations: a sixty-minute "One Step Classic Meditation," a thirty-minute "Standing Meditation," and my favorite for healing, the thirty-minute "Meditation For Purification."

The "Meditation For Purification" is the practice I presently (November 2008) include in my qigong classes for health and wellness. I have used it myself and have found it to be very powerful and effective.

This guided meditation opens with flowing water sounds and a symbolic water visualization in which cleansing waters enter the body through the crown of the head. Your imagination and intention guide it to flow through your body and concentrate a swirling motion around the diseased area which washes and cleanses. You then see the water drain out through the yong quan point at the bottom of your foot, taking the disease with it.

Once that part of the meditation is complete, serene music plays in the background as you are guided to visualize a brilliant beam of light shining into your body.

You see your primary internal organs glowing with vibrant health in the Chinese Traditional Medicine symbolic colors that symbolize that lively health for each; the heart, lungs, kidneys, stomach, and liver. The light continues to grow and energize you with health and brightness.

To close, you are walked through the final steps of the meditation which involve specific breathing and visualization instructions as you concentrate light and energy in your dan tien, the abdominal storehouse for your vital energy.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Eight Pieces Brocade / Baduanjin by Shifu Yan Lei

The Way of Qi Gong Volume One (Baduanjin) by Shaolin Temple Disciple Shifu Yan Lei on YouTube

A reader named James sent me the link to this wonderful video showing another variation on the popular Eight Pieces of Brocade, or Eight Fine Treasures, qigong.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Practicing qigong can change your genes response to stress

Practicing qigong can change your genes response to stress

Below are some excerpts from "Researching the Benefits of Mind-Body Practice by Investigating Genetic Expression" by Roger Jahnke, OMD.

The full report on this exciting breakthrough in how practices like qigong can actually change gene expression is available on his website at

I have included a link to one of my earlier articles on telomeres, the protective caps on immune cells, and have made a few comments about holistic practices at the end of the quote.

First: Just what is "Gene Expression?" This, from wikipedia Gene expression is the process by which inheritable information from a gene, such as the DNA sequence, is made into a functional gene product, such as protein or RNA.

Regulation of gene expression is the cellular control of the amount and timing of appearance of the functional product of a gene. Any step of gene expression may be modulated, from the DNA-RNA transcription step to post-translational modification of a protein. Gene regulation gives the cell control over structure and function, and is the basis for cellular differentiation, morphogenesis and the versatility and adaptability of any organism.


So, with that in mind, here is the feature article:

*** Begin Quote ***

Page 4 – 5

In a number of press releases the authors of Genomic counter-stress changes induced by the relaxation response made a number of comments that are easily applicable to all three studies. They state that:

"This study provides the first compelling evidence that the RR [relaxation response] elicits specific gene expression changes in short-term and long- term practitioners."

Actually the other studies were earlier and they all suggest this.

The Genomic Counter-stress authors wrote that their findings suggest:

"Consistent and constitutive changes in gene expression resulting from RR may relate to long term physiological effects," and that "Our study may stimulate new investigations into applying transcriptional profiling for accurately measuring RR and stress related responses in multiple disease settings."

It is likely that these studies portend a “sea change” in research and will trigger an outpouring of similar research. Dr. Herbert Benson, professor emeritus of Harvard University and director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute and co-senior author of the study said:

"Now we've found how changing the activity of the mind can alter the way basic genetic instructions are implemented," said Benson.

Dr. Towia Libermann, director of the BIDMC Genomics Center and also co-senior

author of the study added:

"This is the first comprehensive study of how the mind can affect gene expression, linking what has been looked on as a 'soft' science with the 'hard' science of genomics.” "It is also important because of its focus on gene expression in healthy individuals, rather than in disease states," explained Libermann.

The authors said their study showed that the relaxation response changed the expression of genes involved with inflammation, programmed cell death and the handling of free radicals. Free radicals are normal byproducts of metabolism that the body neutralizes in order to stop damage to cells and tissues.

Page 5 – 6

Probably the most compelling statement from the article on the findings of the study was “It is becoming increasingly clear that psychosocial stress can manifest as system-wide perturbations of cellular processes, generally increasing oxidative stress and promoting a pro-inflammatory milieu. Stress associated changes in peripheral blood leukocyte expression of single genes have been identified. More recently, chronic psychosocial stress has been associated with accelerated aging at the cellular level. Specifically, shortened telomeres, low telomerase activity, decreased anti-oxidant capacity and increased oxidative stress are correlated with increased psychosocial stress and with increased vulnerability to a variety of disease states.”

These 3 studies strongly suggest that Mind-Body practices, especially those that trigger a sustained and accumulative RR effect – a counter stress effect – can prevent and ameliorate disease. This effect of Mind-Body practice on gene expression transforms the landscape of scientific exploration and launches an entirely new direction for the investigation for the emerging field of health maximization based integrative medicine.

Page 21 – 22

It is becoming increasingly clear that psychosocial stress can manifest as system-wide perturbations of cellular processes, generally increasing oxidative stress and promoting a pro-inflammatory milieu [23]–[25]. Stress associated changes in peripheral blood leukocyte expression of single genes have been identified [26]–[28]. More recently, chronic psychosocial stress has been associated with accelerated aging at the cellular level. Specifically, shortened telomeres, low telomerase activity, decreased anti-oxidant capacity and increased oxidative stress are correlated with increased psychosocial stress [29] and with increased vulnerability to a variety of disease states [30]. Stress-related changes in GEP have been demonstrated by microarray analysis in healthy subjects, including up-regulation of several cytokines/chemokines and their receptors [31], and in individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, including inflammation, apoptosis and stress response [32] as well as metabolism and RNA processing pathways [33]. The pro-inflammatory transcription factor NF-kappa B (NF-κB) which is activated by psychosocial stress has been identified as a potential link between stress and oxidative cellular activation [34].

Immune cells - blue

Telomere protective end-caps - yellow

[For a brief explanation of the connection between telomeres (the protective caps on the ends of immune cells) and stress, see my post "Scientists identify mechanism behind mind-body connection" on my Stress Relief for Savvy Women blog.]

The RR is clinically effective for ameliorating symptoms in a variety of stress-related disorders including cardiovascular, autoimmune and other inflammatory conditions and pain [15]. We hypothesize that RR elicitation is associated with systemic gene expression changes in molecular and biochemical pathways involved in cellular metabolism, oxidative phosphorylation/generation of reactive oxygen species and response to oxidative stress and that these changes to some degree serve to ameliorate the negative impact of stress. Genome-wide evaluation of PBL GEP is a reasonable approach to survey the transcriptional changes that are involved in elicitation of the RR. The GEP of RR practitioners presented here reveals altered gene expression in specific functional groups which suggest a greater capacity to respond to oxidative stress and the associated cellular damage. Genes including COX7B, UQCRB and CASP2 change in opposite direction from that in the stress response [31], [32].

Our findings are relatively consistent with those found in a study of Qi Gong [17], a practice that elicits the RR. In their study of 6 Qi Gong practitioners and 6 aged matched controls, practitioners had down-regulation of ubiquitin, proteasome, ribosomal protein and stress response genes and mixed up- and down-regulation of genes involved in apoptosis and immune function. We find a similar pattern of GO categories that are significantly over-represented in GO or enriched in GSEA in our cross sectional comparison, M vs. N1. However, in our data-set ribosomal proteins were up-regulated.

Overall, similar genomic pattern changes occurred in practitioners of a specific mind body technique (Qi Gong) as well as in our long-term practitioners who utilized different RR practices including Vipassana, mantra, mindfulness or transcendental meditation, breath focus, Kripalu or Kundalini Yoga, and repetitive prayer. This indicates there is a common RR state regardless of the techniques used to elicit it.

Footnotes included in the above quoted materials:

15. Astin JA, Shapiro SL, Eisenberg DM, Forys KL (2003) Mind-body medicine: state of the science, implications for practice. J Am Board Fam Pract 16: 131–147.

17. Li QZ, Li P, Garcia GE, Johnson RJ, Feng L (2005) Genomic profiling of neutrophil transcripts in Asian Qigong practitioners: a pilot study in gene regulation by mind-body interaction. J Altern Complement Med 11: 29–39.

23. Irie M, Asami S, Nagata S, Miyata M, Kasai H (2002) Psychological mediation of a type of oxidative DNA damage, 8-hyDr.oxydeoxyguanosine, in peripheral blood leukocytes of non-smoking and non-Dr.inking workers. Psychother Psychosom 71: 90–96.

24. Yamaguchi T, Shioji I, Sugimoto A, Yamaoka M (2002) Psychological stress increases bilirubin metabolites in human urine. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 293: 517–520.

25. Zheng KC, Ariizumi M (2007) Modulations of immune functions and oxidative status induced by noise stress. J Occup Health 49: 32–38.

26. Glaser R, Kennedy S, Lafuse WP, Bonneau RH, Speicher C, et al. (1990) Psychological stress-induced modulation of interleukin 2 receptor gene expression and interleukin 2 production in peripheral blood leukocytes. Arch Gen Psychiatry 47: 707–712.

27. Glaser R, Lafuse WP, Bonneau RH, Atkinson C, Kiecolt-Glaser JK (1993) Stress-associated modulation of proto-oncogene expression in human peripheral blood leukocytes. Behav Neurosci 107: 525–529.

28. Platt JE, He X, Tang D, Slater J, Goldstein M (1995) C-fos expression in vivo in human lymphocytes in response to stress. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 19: 65–74.

29. Epel ES, Blackburn EH, Lin J, Dhabhar FS, Adler NE, et al. (2004) Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 101: 17312–17315.

30. Epel ES, Lin J, Wilhelm FH, Wolkowitz OM, Cawthon R, et al. (2006) Cell aging in relation to stress arousal and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Psychoneuroendocrinology 31: 277–287.

31. Morita K, Saito T, Ohta M, Ohmori T, Kawai K, et al. (2005) Expression analysis of psychological stress-associated genes in peripheral blood leukocytes. Neurosci Lett 381: 57–62.

32. Zieker J, Zieker D, Jatzko A, Dietzsch J, Nieselt K, et al. (2007) Differential gene expression in peripheral blood of patients suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. Mol Psychiatry 12: 116–118.

33. Segman RH, Shefi N, Goltser-Dubner T, Friedman N, Kaminski N, et al. (2005) Peripheral blood mononuclear cell gene expression profiles identify emergent post-traumatic stress disorder among trauma survivors. Mol Psychiatry 10: 500–513, 425.

34. Bierhaus A, Wolf J, AnDr.assy M, Rohleder N, Humpert PM, et al. (2003) A mechanism converting psychosocial stress into mononuclear cell activation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 100: 1920–1925.

*** EndQuote ***

Bottom Line: Qigong, mindfulness meditation, the use of mantras and other chants, and other mind-body practices can change how your genes respond to stress! If this occurs at the cellular level, it is an indication that qigong and other mind-body practices can actually change your cells or cellular activity.

As a stress-relief consultant and qigong instructor, I can help you to use these methods, enabling you to be healthier, avoid "a variety of stress-related disorders including cardiovascular, autoimmune and other inflammatory conditions and pain" (see above), age slower, look younger, live longer, and life a fuller and happier life!

Contact me through the form in the sidebar or through my email address in my profile. I am committed to helping you relieve stress in the natural and holistic ways that work best for your mind, body, and spirit.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Qi as Breath and Vital Energy

Though you may often see the word Qi spoken of as "Vital Energy" or "Life Energy," the word has many different shades of meaning. In Qigong, breathing techniques are used to strengthen Life Force, which naturally enhances health and wellness.

Today I want to focus on the concept of Qi as a combination of these two ideas which are often mentioned together: Breath, and Vital Energy, that animating principle that makes you alive. (Vital, as you know, is derived from the L. vita which means life or soul.)

The Chinese character for Qi shows us everything we need for life; food, water and especially air. I have colored the parts of the character to distinguish the different parts. The red lines represent grains of rice, the black part represents the pot in which the rice is cooking in water, and the blue lines above show the air as steam or vapor rising from the pot.

The delightfully amazing thing is that words meaning both Breath and Vital or Life Energy are in the vocabulary of many different languages. In some cases this correlation has been forgotten over time and as the usage of words has changed.

One word that may be most familiar, especially to practitioners of Yoga, is Prana, a Sanskrit word for "Breath." In the Hindu tradition, which gave birth to the practice of Yoga, Prana means "Breath of Life."

Another familiar entry is Spirit, the Latin word meaning both "to breathe" and "soul."

Galen of Pergamon, the famous Greek physician (c. 175 CE), declared that Pneuma is both "Breath" and "Spirit." In fact, he broke it down even further and taught that there were three types of Pneuma, one found in the brain, one in the heart, and one in the liver. However, the Greek word Psyche comes in a close second with the meanings of "Soul, Heart, Energy, Spirit, Courage."

The Anglo Saxon word that conveys the dual meaning of Breath and Life Energy is not actually Breath, but Ghost from the ancient word Gast which meant "Breath; Soul, Spirit Life." Originally, a Ghost wasn't a scary thing that haunted your house. The word carried a more spiritual connotation, as in Holy Ghost, the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the Latin "Sanctus Spiritus," i.e. "Holy Spirit."

The connection of Breath and Life Force is a global phenomenon that spans time as well as space.

The Lakota vocabulary contains the word Woniya Wakan which means "Holy Air," and the Cree have Oenikika, "Breath of Life."

The Mayans called it Ik, and the Babylonians called it Vahu; both meant "Breath of Life," and was also the name of their respective Wind Gods.

The ancient Hawaiians said Ha when talking about their "Breath of Life" or "Life Force Energy."

You can see that breath and breathing have long been connected with life energy, and just about every spiritual tradition connects it with spirituality or higher levels of consciousness. If you practice qigong for a long time, you often discover that, no matter what spiritual tradition you follow, your spirituality deepens as time goes by.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Six breathing practices

If you have taken classes in yoga or if you practice meditation, then you are familiar with different types of breathing. Ancient practitioners knew well what we are just re-discovering today: the synchronization of breathing practices with mind power or intention is one of the most potent methods of healing you can practice.

When you are not familiar with these practices, it sounds funny to say that there are many methods of breathing, but it's true! Among the most popular and most practiced breathing methods are belly breathing, breath counting, breath pausing or holding, and alternate nostril breathing. These are very powerful practices and should not be undertaken without the advice or at least ongoing consultation with someone who has practiced for a while and knows what to expect and how to guide you along.

Qigong has its own series of breathing practices that follow a path of graduated steps from the easy to the challenging, each level requiring greater degrees of visualization and mind control. (Always remember that qigong is a mind/body practice; if you aren't using your mind to control and direct qi/energy through your body and energy channels as you practice, you may be exercising, but you aren't doing qigong!

There are six types of breath-regulating practices associated with qigong as outlined by Yang Jwing-Ming, founder of Yang's Martial Arts Association (YMAA) in Massachusetts, in his book Muscle/Tendon Changing and Marrow/Brain Washing Chi Kung: The Secret of Youth. The following is an excerpt from this book.

* Begin Quote *

The following breathing and mind practices are listed from relatively easy to more difficult. If you are able to catch the knack of each one, you may be able to experience all of them in about three years. Be patient and learn each one before going on to the next one in the list. Only then will you be able to profoundly comprehend the theory.

a. Chest Breathing (Normal Breathing)

First you should learn how to regulate your normal chest breathing, inhaling and exhaling smoothly with the lungs relaxed. The mind must concentrate on the practice until it is neutral, calm, and peaceful. Then you will find that the breathing can be long and deep and the body can remain relaxed. When you have done this, the heart beat will slow down. You may practice in any comfortable position. Practice ten minutes each morning and evening until one day you notice that your mind does not have to pay attention to the chest. Then you may concentrate your mind on feeling the result of the training. The result can be that when you exhale you feel the pores on the skin open, and when you inhale the pores close. It seems that all of the pores are breathing with you. This is a low level of skin or body breathing. The feeling is very comfortable, even sensational. When you can do this comfortably and automatically, you have achieved the goal of regulating your Chest Breathing.

b. Buddhist Breathing

After you have completed the above training, you then learn how to control your abdominal muscles and coordinate them with the breathing. When you inhale, it expands, and when you exhale, it withdraws. You should practice until the entire process becomes smooth and the entire body remains relaxed. Naturally, your mind must first concentrate on your abdomen in order to control the abdominal muscles. After practicing for some time, you will find the entire breathing process becoming natural and smooth. This means that you are now ready to build up Chi at the Lower Dan Tien.

Once you have reached this level, you should then coordinate your breathing with the movements of your Huiyin and anus. [The Huiyin acupuncture point is located in the perineal region, at the mdipoint between the anus and the posterior border of the scrotum in males and the posterior labial commissure in females.] When you inhale, relax the Huiyin and anus, and when you exhale hold them up. Remember, you are gently holding up the Huiyin and anus, not tightening them. When you hold them up they can remain relaxed, but if you tighten them you will impede the Chi circulation. When you tense them you also cause tension in the abdomen and stomach, which can generate other problems. In the beginning, you will seem to need to use your muscles to do this, but after you have practiced for a time, you will find that the mind is more important than the movement of the muscles. When you have reached this stage, you will feel a wonderful and comfortable feeling in the area of the Huiyin and anus. You will also feel that the Chi is led more strongly to the skin then when you did Chest Breathing. It will feel like your entire body is breathing with you.

c. Taoist Breathing

After you have mastered Buddhist Breathing, you should then start Taoist breathing, which is also called Reverse Breathing. It is called this because the movement of the abdomen is the reverse of Buddhist Breathing, in other words, the abdomen withdraws when you inhale and expands when you exhale.

When you are leaning Taoist Breathing, you should first stop your huiyin and anus coordination until you can do the Reverse Breathing smoothly and naturally. Then resume the Huiyin and anus coordination, only now when you inhale you hold up your Huiyin cavity and anus, and when you exhale, you relax them.

After you have practiced for a while, you may discover that you can now lead the Chi to the skin more efficiently when you exhale than with the Buddhist method.

d. Shen [Spirit] Breathing

When you have accomplished Taoist Breathing, you must then train to combine your Shen and breathing. When you inhale, pay attention to your Upper Dan Tien and when you exhale, relax your concentration. Remember, you should not use force to achieve the concentration. Simply pay attention while your physical body and mind stay relaxed. One day you will realize that your Shen and Breathing have become one. This is the stage of Shen Breathing.

When you are able to do Shen breathing, you Shen can be raised so that it will be able to govern the Chi very efficiently. When you have reached this level, you have already built up a firm foundation for Yi Gin Ching and Shii Soei Ching Chi Kung.

e. Five Gates Breathing.

After you have reached the level of Shen Breathing, you then learn how to regulate the Chi circulating to the five gates, or centers: the head (including the Upper Dan Tien and Baihui). The two Laogong cavities on the palms, and the two Yongquan cavities on the bottoms of the feet. Beginners use the Baihui gate on the head because it is easier for them to communicate with the surrounding Chi. Later, once it is opened, the Upper Dan Tien will be used instead.

[Baihui, Laogong, and Yongquan diagrams from the interactive charts at]

In this training, when you inhale the Chi is led from the five gates to the Lower Dan Tien, and when you exhale the Chi is led to the gates, where it exchanges with the surrounding Chi. (Figure 4-3).

f. Body Breathing

Body breathing is sometimes called "skin breathing." Actually, body breathing involves breathing with the entire body, not just the skin. When you exhale you lead the Chi to the muscles and the skin, and when you inhale you lead the Chi to the marrow and the internal organs. It should feel that your entire body is transparent to the Chi.

When you train this, the mind and the Shen are most important. When you inhale you draw Chi into your body from outside, and lead it to the Lower Dan Tien. When you are doing this, you should also feel that the Chi is being led inward to the internal organs and marrow. When you exhale, you lead this Chi from the Lower Dan Tien outward to your muscles, tendons, skin, and even beyond the skin. Again, the coordination of your Huiyin and anus remains the main key to successful training. When you breathe this way you will feel inflated like a beach ball. When you inhale the ball gets smaller, and when you exhale it gets larger (Figure 4-4). Inside the ball, the Chi flow is smooth, abundant, and natural. It seems that your entire body is transparent to the Chi. When you inhale you will feel light, and when you exhale you will feel heavier.

* End Quote*

As you can see, there is a lot more to breathing than meets the eye!

If the whole course as outlined above doesn't interest you, try practicing the first three styles of breathing, Chest Breathing, Buddhist Breathing, and Taoist Breathing, can bring you a great deal of benefit in both stress relief, and mental and physical health and wellness.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Qigong and The Three Treasures: Jing, Qi, and Shen

The following is an excerpt from pages 74 – 78 of Qi Gong Therapy: The Chinese Art of Healing With Energy by Shih, Tzu Kuo ISBN 0882681389

Jing (essence), Qi (vital energy), and Shen (spirit) exist in every living thing. They are the substantial basis for vital activity and are the foundation for the formation and maintenance of life in the human body. Together with Yin/Yang, the five elements, the Zang Fu and meridians, they form part of the core of TCM and serve as a guide to clinical Qi Gong. But Qi Gong, in particular, stresses the direct exercise of Jing, Qi, and Shen in order to eliminate disease, strengthen the body, promote intelligence, and prolong life.

[The five elements are the energies of earth, metal, water, wood, and fire; transforming, contracting, sinking, expanding, and rising respectively. The Zang Fu are the organ pairs that have correspondence to the five elements: stomach/spleen, lung/large intestine, kidney/urinary bladder, liver/gall bladder, heart/small intestine, and additionally the "organ" pair of the pericardium/triple-heater which is not an organ as recognized in Western medicine. The meridians are the energy pathways throughout the body, usually accessed through acupuncture. TCM stands for Traditional Chinese Medicine, the broadest term for the practice that includes Qi Gong, Herbal Medicine, and Acupuncture.]

What are Jing, Qi, and Shen?

Jing (essence): Jing is an essential component of the human body and serves as a basis for vital activity. Types of Jing are distinguished according to their source and function: there is congenital Jing, acquired Jing, Jing of the Zang Fu organs, and the Jing of reproduction. The types of Jing do not exist as four separate substances, but interact with, with, support, and transform into one another. Congenital Jing is inherited from the Jing and blood of one's parents and forms one of the prime substances of vital activity in the human body. Congenital Jing is involved in the support and transformation of other types of Jing.

Acquired Jing comes from the nutrients in food. Jing is extracted from food by digestion and absorption under the auspices of the spleen and stomach. Through the function of the lung, it is transported to all the Zang Fu organs where it becomes Zang Fu Jing.

Both Jing and Qi are stored in the two kidneys. The kidney also dominates the bone and produces marrow. The Kidney is the root of Qi. Qi Gong exercise stresses exercising Jing, nourishing Jing, and reserving Jing, particularly stressing exercise of the vital energy stored between the two kidneys.

In the practice of Qi Gong, attention is paid to increasing one's intake of nutrients in order to reinforce acquired Jing, and to keeping sexual activity at a moderate level in order to preserve congenital Jing.

Qi (vital energy): The meaning of the term "Qi" is very broad. Ancient Chinese philosophers, doctors, and scholars considered every vital activity in the world to be a function of Qi. Qi was considered to be the essential substance out of which the world is composed. The transformations of Yin and Yang Qi produce the various things existing in the world. "The body receives Qi and thus can live." "Life is due to the coming together of Qi and death is due to the dispersion of Qi." The body is within Qi and Qi is within the body. Thus all life depends on Qi. With Qi, beings live; without it, they die. It is a dynamic power promoting the activity of the human body. Qi coexists with Jing. Where there is Qi, there is Jing. Where there is Jing, there must be Qi. For this reason, ancient scholars often referred to Jing and Qi together as "Jing Qi." In TCM, the circulation and transformation of Qi within the body is thought to operate according to its own law, undergoing processes of ascending, descending, going out, and transforming.

The Qi in the body, the Zheng Qi [called true or healthy Qi], has three sources:

1. The Qi inherited from one's parents. This is known as Congenital Qi.

2. The Qi derived from the air. This is mainly connected to the oxygen we breathe from the air.

3. The Qi acquired from food.

Both air-Qi and food-Qi are Acquired Qi. All three forms of Qi are indispensable for life.

Both Acquired Qi and Congenital Qi are stored in the kidneys. Through the respiratory action of the lung, the circulatory activity of the heart, the digestive and absorptive processes associated with the spleen and stomach, Acquired Qi and Congenital Qi are transported throughout the body.

Shen: "Shen" means different things in different contexts. Most frequently it means spirit, mind, sense, or expression. Here it mainly means spirit or mind. Shen is also a general name for the vital activity of the body. It is the result of the highly concentrated activity of the brain and manifests outwardly as an expression of the Zang Fu, meridians, Qi, blood, Jing, and body fluids. It is derived from Jing and Qi, and like them it has a substantial basis. It may be said that Shen is the outward manifestation of the cooperating action of Jing and Qi. Where Qi is strong, there will be Shen, where Qi is absent, Shen will weaken. Shen moves along with Qi and Jing is its interior. The substance of Shen manifests in bodily appearance, while at the same time, Shen is a function of bodily appearance.

In Qi Gong practice, we pay a great deal of attention to preserving and training Shen. The exercise methods of nourishing the Heart/Mind (Xin) and calming, regulating, and preserving Shen are therefore developed. By the three forms of regulation [regulating the body, regulating the breath, and regulating the Heart/Mind (Xin)], the brain activity is inhibited and the body feels comfortable. This is the state known as "Inner Quiet." In the Qi Gong state of Inner Quiet, the brain cells are rested and their function is regulated because of the reduction of disturbance to the brain. The body metabolism is generally reduced and oxygen consumption decreases while the storage of energy increases. Through these means, the functioning of all the systems of the body are directly influenced and strengthened, and imbalance tends toward a relative dynamic equilibrium.

Among the functions of the Qi Gong state of Inner Quiet are the build-up, transfer, and strengthening of Zheng Qi. How can Qi Gong prevent and treat disease, promote intelligence, prolong life, and develop human potentialities? By regulating and nourishing the heart and the mind through bringing the brain to a quiet state and thus promoting a condition of active regulation.

As we have been stressing throughout, Jing, Qi, and Shen play important roles in vital activity. Thus, the ancient practitioners of Chinese medicine and scholars specializing in methods of preserving health paid particular attention to the preservation and exercise of these three fundamental substances. Jing, Qi, and Shen do not exist in isolation. They coexist in the same body and cannot be separated. The Ancient doctors pointed out that Shen moves along with Qi and that Jing exists in the interior of the Shen. The longevity of the body depends upon the care and preservation of Jing, Qi, and Shen.

Through the regulation of body, breath, and heart/mind, the various forms of information coming from the inner and external environments – information that stimulates and disturbs the brain – can be responded to effectively, thus protecting and strengthening the self-stabilizing, dynamic equilibrium of the body's control system. [I.e., protecting and strengthening the body's ability to maintain health!]

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Eight Healing Sounds qigong: how it works

Whether it's Six or Eight, the Healing Sounds Qigong is one of the most powerful of the healing qigong practices, but there is very little written about the way in which it works. There is usually mention of vibration and harmony, but what (besides the vocal chords) vibrates, and how does that create harmony and health in the body?
We can talk about qi and energy channels, but that doesn’t satisfy the thirst of Western Medical science to understand the process of healing sounds.
Recently, I found two especially enlightening papers on the topic of sound and healing. One concerned itself with how sound waves travel through the body, and the other expanded upon the healing power of your own personal sound-making ability.
The sound wave transmission article was especially interesting.
By Robert Roy Britt, LiveScience Managing Editor
posted: 14 March, 2007 1:00 pm ET
In this article, the author tells you that Thomas Heimburg, a researcher with the University of Copenhagen and expert in the intersection where biology meets physics, said: "The physical laws of thermodynamics tell us that electrical impulses must produce heat as they travel along the nerve, but experiments find that no such heat is produced."
I guess that if it did, our nerves would be warmer, eh? So, if it isn't electrical impulses that travel from the brain to the body, not warming our nerves and sending messages of movement to knees, elbows, fingers, and toes, what is it?
Sound! Or so believes Thomas Heimburg.
Here is a quote from the article:
"Nerves are wrapped in a membrane of lipids and proteins. Biology textbooks say a pulse is sent from one end of the nerve to the other with the help of electrically charged salts that pass through ion channels in the membrane. But the lack of heat generation contradicts the molecular biological theory of an electrical impulse produced by chemical processes, says Heimburg, who co-authored the new study with Copenhagen University theoretical physicist Andrew Jackson.
"Instead, nerve pulses can be explained much more simply as a mechanical pulse of sound, Heimburg and Jackson argue. Their idea will be published in the Biophysical Journal.
"Normally, sound propagates as a wave that spreads out and becomes weaker and weaker. But in certain conditions, sound can be made to travel without spreading and therefore it retains its intensity."
The possibility that a sound wave retains its initial intensity as it travels from one end of the nerve to the other is something you may be able to use to your advantage in your practice of Healing Sounds.
But, how do you know the sounds you make are Healing Sounds?
Here, we consult our second expert, Dr. Jeffrey D. Thompson, D.C., B.F.A. of Bio-Tuning®, the process he pioneered that is "the process of using one’s own voice to facilitate self-healing." He may be the modern pioneer of this process and the use of technology to employ it, but the Chinese had it several thousand years ago. Healing Sounds were written of in the Yellow Emperor's Classic, the book on Chinese medicine, written in the third millennium B.C.E.
I appreciate and am very grateful for Dr. Thompson's research and bringing the possibility of this alternative health method to the attention of the modern patient and healer.
"…I knew I needed to use a person's own voice singing this fundamental note. This would release a unique set of harmonics and overtones, which only one’s own vocal cords can produce - a voice vibration fingerprint. This voice vibration fingerprint is an exact pattern match of a person’s essential vibratory template - the one used by a person’s own "Biological Organic Intelligence," the Intelligence used to form one’s body from two cells and to maintain it moment by moment thereafter. One also experiences a profound sense of subconscious recognition of the vibration frequencies of one’s own voice. [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]

"Using this voice-tone-frequency to the exact cent for balancing and healing, through a special Neuroacoustic Sound Therapy Table, one’s body is kinetically resonated to the cellular level. The Sound Table has speakers built into it, so that one becomes one with the sound itself, as it were. Using this technique, it literally becomes difficult to distinguish where the body ends and the sound begins. There is a sense of melting into the vibration of one’s own sound and one’s own voice.
"To me, this is what the Mantra really was. A person would go to a great master who saw the entire world as vibratory patterns of energy and light. He was able to see the individual also as a unique vibratory pattern in the universe. The Master would sing the unique acoustic octave of this sound to the person, who would sing it back until known and memorized. The person would then meditate and chant this sound to him/herself - resonating from the inside out and balancing him/herself right down to the core of consciousness.
"The imbalances one may experience physically, emotionally, or mentally, for example, are only external projections of the only real imbalance that can exist – an imbalance in consciousness itself. Reaching this place and coming into balance - me with my Self - is the only way I can heal the real cause of my pain and suffering." [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]

I would like to return for a moment to the second paragraph of Dr Thompson's quote: "The Sound Table has speakers built into it, so that one becomes one with the sound itself, as it were. Using this technique, it literally becomes difficult to distinguish where the body ends and the sound begins. There is a sense of melting into the vibration of one’s own sound and one’s own voice."

If you have ever mindfully practiced the Eight Healing Sounds, you know that you experience that exact same sense of "melting into the vibration of one’s own sound and one’s own voice" without need for table, speakers, or any other device outside of your own self.
In my observations from a previous article of my own, "Eight Healing Sounds Qigong" I point out:
"The Eight Healing Sounds Qigong is 100% safe and effective because you are making the sound yourself with your breath, your healing visualization, and your intention. The energetic vibration you create is uniquely yours.
". . . the vibration you create with the sound you make through the practice of proper breathing techniques, the flow of energy created through the accompanying movements, and your intention will be a sound that is beneficial and healing for you just as any sound that I make under those circumstances is good for me.
"It is the same principle that can be observed in the function of the immune system, the digestive system, the respiratory system….any body system you can name. Your systems and mine work slightly differently depending on our immediate needs and our general health, but when our bodies are responding to our needs, my systems work exactly right for me just as your systems work exactly right for you.
"You may safely practice the Eight Healing Sounds and trust that your body is going to automatically do what is beneficial for your health when you relax into the practice and do it naturally."

In some ways, I am disappointed that Dr. Thompson advocates the necessity for the use of technology after telling you right up front that you are your own best sound system (to requote from above: The person would then meditate and chant this sound to him/herself - resonating from the inside out and balancing him/herself right down to the core of consciousness.), and that the vibration of self-generated sounds are much more powerful than sounds that come through the ears and flow through you from outside by playing a CD and listening through a headset. (See "Normally, hearing involves sound waves. . ." below.)
In his article, "Clinical Use Of Sound," he says: "Research projects in major universities across the country have explored the neurophysiology of meditation, deep relaxation states and mind/body interactions during healing. In one study a simple meditation technique used for 20 minutes a day caused profound changes in blood pressure, stress handling ability, immune response and feelings of well being - never mind using any kind of high-tech approach which could bring consciousness to very deep levels of relaxation." [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]

Furthermore, he says: "Our first sensory experience in life as a fetus in the womb is of sound and vibration. We float in body temperature amniotic fluid - weight-less. We have fluid in our nose and mouth, which eliminates the senses of smell and taste. We have our eyes closed and are in the dark-no sense of sight. We have fluid in our ears pressed right up against the eardrum - but sound travels through water fives times more effectively than through air, therefore our sense of hearing is actually amplified. The symphony of sound patterns we experience at this time will be deeply imbedded in our subconscious mind for the rest of our lives - water swishing sounds, arterial pulse sounds and voice sounds. These are our first experiences of 'Primordial Sounds.'"
This really made me stop and think of each of the Eight Healing Sounds and what primordial sound they could represent! A variety of connections came to mind that I may expand upon at a later date.

Meanwhile, here is further evidence from Dr. Thompson on the efficacy of personally-generated sound to facilitate healing. He writes:
"The obvious stress reduction benefits of listening to relaxing music have been proven through numerous research projects in hospitals, universities and private clinical practices over the course of many years. Normally, hearing involves sound waves pushing air pulses against the ear drum, moving the mechanical joints of the middle ear bones which amplify these vibrations to the inner ear, which pushes fluids into wave pulses, which move tiny nerve endings, which fire signals through the 8th cranial nerve directly into the Temporal lobe of the brain, which interprets these impulses as 'sound'."
Here is where the practice of the Eight Healing Sounds appears victorious over all outer contenders (i.e. sound machines or CDs) and makes an effective and holistic treatment out of self-generated sounds. Yes, machines of his "Vibro-Tactile Induction" variety may deliver the right sounds and be effective, but are they as perfect and harmonious for your body as the sounds you yourself create?
Here is the result he claims of the delivery of sound through the body via technological means:
"By delivering these sound frequencies through the body directly, an entirely different system of the body - spinal cord and areas of the brainstem and brain - are brought into play, with the possibility of a much deeper whole-body response. With this delivery system we have the possibility of direct cellular stimulation. Direct stimulation of living cellular tissue using sound frequency vibration has shown marked cellular organelle response with a corresponding measurable increase of cellular metabolism and therefore a possible mobilization of a cellular healing response. Since the human body is over 70% water and since sound travels 5 times more efficiently through water than through air, sound frequency stimulation directly into the body is a highly efficient means for total body stimulation, especially at a cellular level.
"Sound frequency pulse waves played directly into the body also has a profound effect on the nervous system. The entire posterior 1/3 of the spinal cord consists of nerve tract bundles whose sole purpose is the transmission of vibration sense data to the Brain Stem, Cerebellum, Pons, Medulla, Hippocampus/Limbic System (emotional processing areas) and various areas of the Cerebral Cortex." [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]
The mechanically-generated sounds seem to be pretty effective.
However, can you just imagine the level of power and regenerative healing stimulated by your own personal sound system on your own living tissue when you create the sounds yourself as you practice the Eight Healing Sounds Qigong? It must be positively amazing!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Eight Pieces Brocade Video by Sirzuke

Here is another offering from YouTube. This one is about five minutes on the Eight Pieces of Brocade. The young man in this video performs several of the exercises slightly differently than I do, but this is an excellent video, and by his comments it seems he is in the right frame of mind when it comes to qigong.

It's not only about performing perfect movements, it's about harmonizing and strengthening your qi (energy), and at the same time forming a strong mind-body connection for health and wellness.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Five Animals Frolic video from Wudang in China

This is a fabulous YouTube video (about six minutes) of the Five Animals Frolic. This is a variation on the movements in the class I teach, but then there are many variations on this excellent form!


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Children Benefit By Practicing Qigong and Taiji!

Hemlington pupils chill out with tai chi

Posted by on October 12, 2007 2:11 PM

TEACHERS at a Middlesbrough primary school have introduced early morning tai chi sessions to help pupils focus in class.

Staff at Hemlington Hall Primary School say that after just three weeks of practising the traditional Chinese martial art, the children are more relaxed and their behaviour has improved dramatically.

The tai chi sessions were introduced for Key Stage 2 pupils on a trial basis after Year 4 teacher Martyn Walker saw a television programme about its calming effects.

But the first few weeks of sessions have proved so successful that the school now plans to make them a permanent part of pupils’ routines.

When the 150 seven to 11-year-olds come in each morning, they are quickly registered then go out into the yard for 10 to 15 minutes of tai chi.

Classes of between 20 and 30 pupils later take turns to join instructor Robin Sun Ley for an hour’s session.

“What the teachers have noticed over the last two or three weeks is that the kids are really settled and ready to learn as soon as they come in,” said deputy head Lynn Twidle.

“They feel more relaxed and it’s working really well.”

The school, which caters for around 300 children aged three to 11, will now introduce shorter sessions on a permanent basis for Key Stage 2 pupils and is considering expanding the programme to all its students.

Qigong Improves Concentration in School Children

By Steven Sonmore L. Ac. | November 15, 2007

A study published in the June 2007 issue of the Journal of Chinese Medicine has found that including a Qigong exercise program helped calm and energize students, as well as improve health and reduce aggression. Teachers, school administrators and parents all desire to create an optimal learning environment for young students. In seeking a solution to this goal a unique approach was to conduct a study of using Qigong in three elementary schools and one high school. Claudia Witt, MD, and associates from the Institute for Social Epidemiology, Epidemiology and Health Economics at the University of Berlin, did a study on 140 students to determine the result of a six-month program of Xianggong (”fragrant qigong”), movement instruction for the students’ health and behavior.

The teachers were first instructed for eight weeks in the Qigong movements. Then they spent 15 to 25 minutes twice per week instructing students before or after regular lessons. At the end of the six months, researchers conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with the teachers. The teachers were first asked, “Have you noticed any changes in your students during the qigong project?”

The teachers reported various positive effects, including that the students seemed much calmer, less agitated or aggressive, and more able to concentrate in class. Additionally, several teachers reported that students who had previously been absent due to frequent illnesses were in class more often. Researchers were confident that the pilot program served as a good test model for future projects.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and T'ai Chi

by Bill Douglas, Founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day

Copyright 2005

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a rapidly escalating problem. Since 1990 in the United States alone, ADD cases increased from 900,000 to over 5,000,000, and since this statistic was recorded may now have risen to high as 3 to 5% of all American children now diagnosed with ADD.

The good news is that T'ai Chi and Qigong may be great therapies for this condition, and since T'ai Chi is increasingly being taught in corporations and schools, many ADD sufferers will find it more and more convenient to incorporate it into their daily lives. Of course, no one should self-diagnose or self-treat but if your doctor isn't aware of the benefits of T'ai Chi you may want to share this information.

"T'ai Chi may be a wonderful adjunct therapy for treating ADD because it augments many of the mood-management techniques recommended for ADD sufferers.

"Drs. Edward M. Hallowell, MD, and John J. Ratey, MD, experts on the management of ADD wrote, "Exercise is positively one of the best treatments for ADD. It helps work off excess energy and aggression in a positive way, it allows for noise-reduction within the mind, it stimulates the hormonal and neurochemical system in a most therapeutic way, and it soothes and calms the body."

The slow mindful movements of T'ai Chi have much to offer people who suffer from ADD. The following explains why T'ai Chi may be a perfect ADD therapy:

What Experts Suggest

* Set aside time for recharging batteries, something calm and restful, like meditation

* Daily exercise that is readily available and needs little preparation can help with the "blahs" that occur and with overall outlook.

* Observe mood swings; learn to accept them by realizing they will pass. Learn strategies that might help bad moods pass.

* Use "time-outs" when you are upset or over-stimulated (e.g., take a time-out, go away, calm down).

* Let go of the urgency to always finish things quickly by learning to enjoy the process.

* ADD usually includes a tendency to over-focus or hyper-focus at times, to obsess or ruminate over an imagined problem without being able to let it go

What T'ai Chi Offers

* T'ai Chi is a mini-vacation from the daily "rat race."

* T'ai Chi is easy, requires no preparation, and is a daily mood elevator.

* T'ai Chi is a tool for self-observation of feelings and for letting those feelings go.

* T'ai Chi can be performed at school or work (e.g., in the bathroom), giving you a break from stress.

* T'ai Chi's slow-flowing routine is about "letting go" of outcome and learning to love process.

* T'ai Chi teaches the practice of "letting go" on a mental, emotional and physical level with each exhale.

T'ai Chi's benefits are so far-reaching that beyond its potential to help with ADD, it will also improve balance and dexterity. For a developing child, this can be of great benefit as he or she struggles to master sports, or simply to feel "at home" in a continually changing body. Both children and adults with ADD will find a clearer, calmer focus when facing daily challenges at work or at school. Of course, research also indicates immune system responses can improve with T'ai Chi practice as well.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The four qigongs sanctioned by the Chinese government for health and healing

Health Qigong

From Wikipedia:

In 2001 the Chinese Government showed great interest in regulating the Qigong movement. The State Sport General Administration of China founded the Chinese Health Qigong Association, as a mass-organization to popularize, spread and research Health Qigong in cooperation with the Peking Sport University. In 2003 the organization presented the newly developed four Health Qigong Exercises on the base of excellent traditional Qigong, including

  • Yì Jīn Jīng (tendon-changing classic),
  • Wu Qin Xi (frolics of five animals),
  • Liu Zi Jue (the art of expiration in producing six different sounds),
  • Ba Duan Jin (eight excellent movements),

to fit the people's needs of promoting their health and body, and to develop traditional Chinese national culture further. The Chinese Health Qigong Association is a member of the All-China Sports Federation.

During the process of developing the exercises, strictly scientific research methods have been followed. Primary experiments took place under supervision of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Modern Medicine, Psychology, Athletic Science and other related subjects. The Four Health Qigong Exercises can be seen as the essences from the related Qigong in various schools, inherited and developed traditional Chinese national culture.

The new Health Qigong represented by the Chinese Health QiGong Association is breaking with the old tradition of family-styles and close teacher-student relation. It is hoped that the new standardisation is supporting the international spread of Qigong in the western hemisphere.


To my students in Bend, I am very proud to bring to you two of the four qigong practices sanctioned by the Chinese government as healing practices: Eight Pieces of Brocade aka Eight Excellent Movements (Ba Duan Jin) and Five Animals Frolic (Wu Qin Xi).

Although the Six Healing Sounds (Liu Zi Jue) are included in the list instead of the Eight Healing Sounds, I believe that the practice of the Eight Healing Sounds, which I have practiced and also teach, are every bit as effective as the Six Healing Sounds approved by the Chinese government.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Qigong - Ancient Chinese Healing for the 21st Century

Here is a great video from YouTube.

10 minute overview of the PBS documentary "Qigong - Ancient Chinese Healing for the 21st Century" by Francesco Garri Garripoli . Visit the Qigong Institute for more information on Qigong and Tai Chi and how to take responsiblity for your own health.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Eight Pieces Brocade positions hint list

People all around the world often use rhymes as memory devices, little poems like "Thirty days has September; April, June, and November…" to remember the number of days in each month.

The Chinese have just such a poem to remember the positions in the Eight Pieces of Brocade Qigong! In Chinese it rhymes; unfortunately in English it does not, but is still a handy reminder list so you won't forget any of the positions if you like to practice at home between classes!

From the Eight Section Brocade webpage of Michael P. Garofalo (click the Chinese writing for better visibility):

"I saw you included the list of movements in Chinese in your webpage on Baduanjin. Very good! It might be interesting to add that this is a Chinese (didactic) poem, made for easy remembering the eight movements and their effect. This poem has the classical Chinese format with 8 lines of 7 characters each and rhyme in line 1, 2, 4, 6 and 8."


1. Both hands carry heaven to regulate the triple burner.
2. Draw the bow left and right as if to shoot a vulture.
3. Regulate spleen and stomach by lifting one hand.
4. Remedy the 5 symptoms and 7 disorders by looking backward.
5. Turn the head and swing the tail to eliminate heart-fire.
6. Two hands grab the feet to strengthen kidneys and waist.
7. Clench fists and look angry to increase qi and strength.
8. Jolt the back 7 times and hundred illnesses will disappear

Thanks to Hielke Hylkema for sending me the above information and translation.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why does Qigong work?

[There is a video - unrelated to the interview - at the end of the post, a 4.5 minute "Sitting Qigong" with Dr Roger Jahnke found on YouTube]

A Conspiracy of Miracles: Qi, Spirit-Mind-Body and the Transformation of Healthcare

Interview with Roger Jahnke, OMD

[Dr Roger Jahnke's website: Feel the Qi]

Interviewer/Editor: Bonnie Horrigan, Explore Journal

Roger Jahnke, OMD, is a contemporary multi-disciplinarian – a doctor of Chinese medicine (30 years), CEO of a innovative “new era” health care company; author, lecturer and researcher; health care historian and futurist; consultant and strategist to hospitals, agencies and corporations for the development of breakthrough programs in integrative medicine; master teacher of Qigong and Tai Chi; co-creator of a health and wellness coaching system – the Circle of Life; and co-founder of the Healer Within Foundation which focuses on preserving and integrating global medical traditions and delivers wellness coaching and mind-body practice to communities in the US and globally.

Dr. Jahnke’s work is a part of a dynamic international effort to understand the "naturally occurring, internal, selfhealing resource" that the Chinese and Ayurvedic traditions have called Qi and Prana. The core principal of his work proposes that, “the most profound medicine is produced within” through a dynamic interaction of energy, consciousness and physiology. This breakthrough means that “true health care is free” when people are simply supported in understanding the magnitude of their own natural powers and capacities.

EXPLORE interviewed Dr. Jahnke in the summer of 2006. With the permission from Explore, here we share an abbreviated version of the interview with our readers:

[Printed here is only the question and answer to "Why does Qigong work?"]

EXPLORE: Why does Qigong work?

JAHNKE: There are three levels of answers. These same mechanisms operate in yoga, all forms of moving meditation and even holistic support groups and wellness coaching. The first level is physiological. We already know that benefits of mind-body practice, including Tai Chi and Qigong, cross numerous physiological systems. Take oxygen. We know that oxygen is a powerful healing factor, so we don’t have to prove that. We also know that diffusing oxygen into the system, so that it’s super available, is key. So the real question is: Does Qigong and Tai Chi maximize in some way the utilization of oxygen in all the ways that we know that it is utilized. And the answer is “Yes!”

Now, to dispel a myth — breathing deep doesn’t increase the amount of oxygen in your blood. There is actually 98% oxygen perfusion in the blood of almost everyone, even those with chronic obstructive lung disease. So the issue isn’t getting oxygen into the blood. The issue is getting oxygen out of the blood and into the tissues. When you go into a deep state of relaxation, the gentle movement associated with all forms moving meditation like Qigong, yoga, and Tai Chi cause the natural body intelligence to pull oxygen out of the blood toward the tissues.

Interestingly, when you practice sitting meditate, you lose this benefit. With moving meditation, you gain this. In vigorous exercise what happens is that oxygen is being diffused out of the blood and into the tissue, but it is spent as fuel for the muscles. You do get the great muscle build-up, desired by most people. For healing, do I want oxygen to burn as fuel for muscles or do I want oxygen to be more available in the system as a healing resource? In a state of deep relaxation the blood vessels, particularly the capillaries, get larger and you have a larger volume of oxygen rich blood available. This oxygen is available everywhere — in your liver, in your thymus gland, in your adrenal gland, in your hypothalamus. So, gentle movement plus the deep relaxation equals more oxygen diffused more deeply into the system.

In the same vein, the science on psychoneuroimmunology is established. So we only have to ask one question – do you relax in Qigong and Tai Chi? “Yes!” So everything we’ve found in the domain of psychoneuroimmunology is applicable to Qigong and Tai Chi.

The next physiological reason Qigong works has to do with the lymph. The simplest story on metabolism is get the good stuff in, get the bad stuff out. And we have a massive amount of intelligence about the blood and the heart, which is the delivery system for oxygen and nutrition. But we don’t know a lot about the mechanisms for getting the bad stuff out. In fact, many physicians are resistant to concepts like toxins and detoxification. Toxins are actually metabolic byproducts and detoxification is activating the natural capacity of the elimination system. The system for removing metabolic by-products and any other kind of pollution that has been delivered into the body, such as cigarette smoke, street drugs or medical drugs, is the lymphatic system.

When a tumor in a person’s body is deconstructed, by chemotherapy or visualization, how does it get out? Through the lymphatic system. Yet we give only a small percentage of the attention to the lymph that we pay to the cardiac and the blood system. This is just an insight into how our thinking has been biased and imbalanced.

If you look at Qigong with the lymph in mind, you could easily say that Qigong is primarily a lymph-based methodology. There are five components to the “lymph heart.” The first is compression, contracting and releasing of the muscles puts pressure on the lymph system causing flow and any massage contributes to this as well. Second, when you metabolize oxygen, one of the by-products is water. Any volume of water coming into the tissue spaces pushes the water ahead of it forward. Third, is the “intrinsic propulsion mechanism.” The lymph vessels open up, reach out, grab water and pull it in. It actually looks like they are doing Tai Chi, by the way. And they do this most efficiently when the body is in a state of rest. It’s very interesting – within you thousands of lymphatic end points are doing Tai Chi movements when you authentically relax.

The fourth mechanism is inversion against gravity. Any time you raise your arms up in the air, the lymph falls and pushes the lymph ahead of it. But if your arm is down by your side, the lymph has to climb against gravity. Any inversion or even leveling of limbs in Qigong (yoga), accelerates lymph propulsion. Fifth, the most impressive lymph propulsion mechanism of the “lymph heart” is the breath. When you take a small breath you do not pump lymph. But when the diaphragm is fully engaged, it compresses the cisterna chili (a balloon-like sac right below your diaphragm) that fills with lymph from throughout the body. When it’s compressed, it propels the lymph forward. The nature of the lymphatic system is that lymph cannot go backwards. There are gates. When you move lymph, the gates open, if lymph flows back, the gates close. So the balloon gets compressed and this fountain of lymph goes shooting up through the thoracic duct and into the subclavian vein, and then from there it goes into the blood and becomes a part of the serum that is delivered to the liver and the kidneys for the final detoxifying portion of the elimination process. In other words, Qigong, Tai Chi and yoga are programmed to maximize lymph propulsion and thus significantly enhance wellbeing.

[This excerpt was taken from the July/August 2007 issue of "Qi Dao" newsletter of WISH, World Institute for Self Healing. Visit to subscribe on-line to the free newsletter.]

The following video with Dr Roger Jahnke is from YouTube

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Three Ancient Qigong practitioners on breathing

The following excerpt is from the book Qi Gong Therapy: The Chinese Art of Healing With Energy by Tzu Kuo Shih, Station Hill Press, Barrytown NY, 1994.

P. 14-15:

Sun Simiao [AD 581-682] was a renowned physician and Daoist of the Tang Dynasty [AD 618-907]. There are many descriptions of Qi Gong practices in his works, Essential Prescriptions Worth a Thousand in Gold (Qian Jin Fang) and Supplement to the Prescriptions Worth a Thousand in Gold (Qian Jin Yi Fang). In the chapter, "Methods of Breath-Regulation" he details four methods: abdominal breathing, internal seeing, breath controlling, and exhalation. The four methods are the essence of ancient Chinese Qi Gong.

In his Song for Eliminating Diseases in the Four Seasons (Si Ji Qu Bing Ge), Dr. Sun wrote:

Exhaling with mouth not open can improve the sight and soothe the liver in spring. Exhaling with the mouth open wide, in spring, can clear away the heart-fire. Exhaling with the mouth open but teeth clenched in autumn, can astringe the lung and relieve cough and asthma. Exhaling can reinforce the kidney. Producing the sound "shee—" can eliminate restlessness and fever of deficiency type of San-jiao [triple burner]. Rapid exhalation can reinforce the spleen and promote digestion.

Wang Shou was another famous Qi Gong practitioner from the Tang Dynasty. In his work, The Medical Secrets of an Official (Wai Tai Mi Yao) he says:

The method to treat diseases of the heart and abdomen and all other diseases is through breathing.

P. 22-23:

Gong Yan Xian was a doctor of the Imperial hospital during the Min Dynasty. [Min Dynasty: AD 909-946] He wrote Living a Long Life and Preserving Fundamental Energy (Shou Shi Bao Yuan) which discoursed upon breathing and standing Qi Gong. He wrote:

It is said a person's life is based on energy. When the breath occurs between the heart and the spleen, then the blood flows smoothly, the vitality is strengthened, and all diseases disappear. At midnight, noon, dawn, and dusk, stay in your room quietly, the bed fitted with a heavy cotton-padded mattress, and sit on the bed with legs crossed, closing your eyes and filling your ears with cotton, not thinking anything—take your breath between your heart and spleen, not too fast and not too slow. Just take it easy. When you practice this for two months, you will get Qi Gong results.