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.