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Page 2 - Qigong FAQ
There are some "Essential Points of Practice" despite the varying styles and the differing importance attached to various elements by individual schools, and there are certain basic features which are essential to qigong regardless of form or school.
- Relaxation, Quietness and Naturalness: It is most important that during practice, both body and mind are relaxed, peaceful, and at peace. Before practice one must relieve oneself, loosen one's belt and any other restrictive clothing, and found a peaceful spot in which to practice. Make sure that one's posture is correct, back straight and body erect though not stiff, arms hanging down naturally, and the whole body relaxed, though not limp, so both mind and body are comfortable and aligned.
- Unity of Breath and Mind: It is critical in Qigong that the mind and breath are united by concentrating the mind on the "Dantian", so as to reach a state in which the breathing is deep, even and led by the mind.
- Exercise and Rest Combined: There are different methods of breathing for various forms of qigong. If one is practicing a breathing method, one should have a short rest, returning to natural breathing after ten to twenty minutes of such practice.
- Stillness and Movement Combined:Some forms of Qigong combine both stillness and movement into one style, such as Taijiquan, and some put stress on stillness. But after one has practiced a "still" form, you must carry on some "moving" exercises like Taijiquan or jogging.
- Gradual Development: It is vital to realize that one must practice according to the body's ability and strength, allowing it to develop and progress naturally at its own pace, never forcing it or striving anxiously for quick results.
- Practice Differs According to the Individual: Since each individual has a different state of health, and illness appears in many forms, the form of Qigong chosen for practice, therefore, shall vary according to the specific needs of each individual.
- Perseverance: If one is to be successful in one's practice, one must persevere, practicing daily for several months. Qigong is not like a quick-acting medicine, and the longer one can persevere, the more profound will be the effect.
- Restraint in One's Private Life: It is clearly common sense that if the exercises are to be given a chance to help the body, one must give up bad habits such as smoking. One should also restrict excessive drinking and excessive sexual activity, being sure to regulate your life so you exhaust yourself.
The above-mentioned eight essential points are fitting for all forms of qigong. When you practice a form of qigong, regardless of the style, you should follow these specific requirements.
Throughout its whole history, Qigong has been employed and developed as a method for curing illness and strengthening the body. Qigong's main therapeutic properties lie in its regulation of the activity of the cerebral cortex, the central nervous system and the cardio-vascular system, its effect in correcting abnormal reactions of the organism, massaging effect on the organs of the abdominal cavity, and its effect as a means of self-control over the physical functions of one's body.
As far as electro-encephalogram response is concerned, there is clear difference in such readings between practitioners and non-practitioners. An electro- encephalogram for a normal person in an ordinary waking state shows a great quantity of low amplitude, high frequency waves of about fifty micro-volts, with different regional brain waves showing poor synchronization. The brain waves of a Qigong practitioner, however, shows large frequency "A" waves of around eight hertz with amplitudes as high as 180 microvolts, as well as a tendency towards greater synchronization of regional brain waves. These characteristics are even more apparent in the frontal lobe and parietal lobe of the cerebrum. Moreover, the frontal lobe is the highest center of the C.N.S., controlling mental activity. The longer one practices the better the synchronization of the "A" wave band, while the expansion of the low frequency wave band can greatly increase the functions of the cerebrum. (data courtesy of "Chinese Qigong: A Unique Fitness Art", a "Facts and Figures" booklet published in China.)
Respiration: When one is practicing, the rate of respiration decreases while the duration of each breath increases. Such an increase in the period of inhalation and exhalation will enlarge the scope of the diaphragm's activity, causing a greater flow in the volume of air, increasing the practitioner's lung capacity. When one is practicing deep breathing, the breath often seems to stop, but actually becomes a series of micro- movements of the breathing muscles. Animal experiments have shown that the increased excitation of the C.N.S. when exhaling can spread to the parasympathetic nerve center, while the increased excitation when inhaling can spread to the sympathetic nerve center. This would suggest that through deliberate regulation of the respiration and deeper breathing one can promote the tendency to stabilize any functional imbalance of the autonomic nerve system.
Metabolism: When practicing sitting or lying qigong it has been shown that the body's consumption of oxygen decreases by about thirty percent, the level of the metabolic rate also dropping by about twenty percent, which is accompanied by a drop in the respiration rate as already mentioned. This condition of lowered metabolism is an aid to reducing the patient's physical consumption of energy, allowing the gradual accumulation of energy, fostering the body's strength, and providing the basis for the body to combat and defeat illness.
Self-Control and Bio-Feedback:
When Qigong and bio-feedback are combined, the aim of developing health through self-control becomes considerably easy to achieve. Bio-feedback is the monitoring of certain physiological functions (blood pressure, muscle tension, etc.) using electromyographic equipment, demometers etc., and then allowing the patient to sense, visually or audibly, the fluctuations in signals. This enables patients to appreciate what is happening in the body and use their own will to try to control the fluctuations of his or her physiological functions, helping them to revert to normality and hence aiding in their treatment.
It has been readily shown that abdominal breathing has the effect of massaging the internal organs of the abdominal cavity. This effect is even more marked when practicing the "stopping" or "reversed" breathing methods. During practice gastric secretion also increases, hence improving digestion. The range of the abdominal and diaphragmatic muscular activity may increase by up to three or four times, and the resulting periodic fluctuation of pressure in the abdomen will massage the stomach, intestines, liver, spleen and other internal organs. This will promote peristalsis in the stomach and intestines, reduce blood stasis in the abdominal cavity, and improve regulation of internal secretions, further helping to improve digestion and assimilation. As a result appetite is likely to improve, enabling patients to eat more, a great help in the process of treatment of many ailments.
The Circulation System:
Blood vessel activity during practice depends on which form one is practicing. During the practice of "internal cultivation" and "relaxation and quiet" qigong, blood vessels in the hands manifest expansion in over half of the subjects, this being more marked in the case of the latter style, whilst blood vessel contraction sometimes appears in practitioners of "standing pole" qigong. In experienced practitioners, however, transition of the blood vessels remains relatively stable. In those who inhale longer than they exhale, an increase in cardiac output is registered, while a decrease is registered in those who exhale longer than they inhale. This is the result of the influence of the respiratory center on the cardiac-vagal center and heart rate. However, tests on practitioners of both "internal cultivation" and "relaxation and quiet" qigong register a general drop in heart rate. A clear lowering of blood pressure also appears in those who persist in daily practice.
All in all, we can see that the most important effects of practice are that it lessens the intrusions of emotions, allowing the body to reach a state of high physiological and bio-chemical efficiency through greater relaxation and concentration. Furthermore, the relaxation, contemplation and breathing aspects of Qigong can enable the cerebral cortex to prepare to meet any urgent need, provide advantageous conditions for the organism's rest, recuperation and regulating functions, and through gradual adjustment reduce the overall consumption of energy and increase the body's ability to resist illness.
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