Leaving aside ‘Standing’ qigong (aka Zhan Zhuang, Standing Pole, Standing Like a Tree , etc.), there are many types of Qigong which are not unlike very short and repetitive Tai Chi Forms.
These exercises quite simply move the body from a static, usually feet-together position, into a particular posture, and then out if it again, not unlike some yoga exercises.
Professor Zhang Guangde’s qigong ‘sets’.
The type of qigong that I am focusing on for the purpose of this blog is Daoyin Yangsheng Gong, compiled and constructed by Professor Zhang Guangde, whom I’ve had the privilege of working with on a couple of occasions in China.
In this type of qigong, there are sets – usually there are 8 or 9 exercises per set, and some of the sets focus on specific organs in the body. For example there are sets for the Heart, Lungs, Spleen & Stomach, Kidneys, Liver, as well as sets for Diabetes and many ‘General Health’ sets.
Professor Zhang is a TCM practitioner and all of his qigong sets of exercises are based around the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Digestive system qigong.
For example, the set of exercises for the Spleen and Stomach work not only on the spleen and stomach acupuncture meridians but, based on 5 Elements theory, also work on other organs, in particular the Heart and the Lungs.
This isn’t too surprising really, because the organs that pair with the Heart and the Lungs are the Small Intestines and Large Intestines, both of which are part of the digestive system.
The purpose of Daoyin YangSheng Gong.
Because the exercises are based on TCM, they are a wholistic approach to health. Using the example of the Stomach/Spleen set, the movements are in fact about balancing all the organs of the body so that they wor
k as a harmonious whole, but with an emphasis on the Digestive system. One way in which this idea is put into practise is by making use of the theory of 5 Elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) which explains how one organ directly affects or influences another.
How do the exercises work?
By means of twisting, stretching, pulling, pressing, and even hitting the body on specific acupuncture points, energy is moved and redistributed in the body.
A brief intro to ‘5 Element theory’.
To give a brief example using the Spleen/Stomach again, in 5 Elements theory these two organs take the role of ‘Earth’. The order of the 5 Elements is Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water. ‘Earth’ lies between ‘Fire’ & ‘Metal’. ‘Fire’ refers to the functional activity of the Heart and ‘Metal’ to the Lungs. It is therefore said that ‘Fire’ (Heart/Small Intestine) is the ‘mother’ of ‘Earth’ (Stomach/Spleen), and ‘Metal’ (Lungs/Large Intestine) is the ‘son’ of ‘Earth’.
The logic of all this, which at the end of the day is only a way of explaining and remembering things, is that an over-bearing, over-controlling mother (in this case the Heart) will sap the energy of the child – Stomach/Spleen (taking away the child’s ability to make decisions etc.). An over-bearing, demanding child (in this case Lungs), will therefore sap it’s mother’s (Stomach/Spleen) strength.
In practical terms.
So, if your Digestive system is weak, it could be because the Heart (mother) is too active, but could also be because the Lungs (son) are too active. On the other hand, if your Digestive system is too active, it could be because either or both of the Elements on either side are too weak!
This is simplistic (you can see from the diagram that there are other aspects involved), but it demonstrates one use of 5 Elements theory which at root is only a functional model, the aim of which is to understand the energetics of the organs in the body.
Why do qigong?
Apart from the TCM reasons above which are about making the organs work together harmoniously – rather like servicing the engine of your car, Qigong is also about enhancing your body’s potential and ability, as well as being about repairing damage, not only within the organs, but also within the skeletal structure.
And the twisting & stretching?
If you have a wet towel and want to squeeze the water out of it, you roll it up and then twist it.
When you use the same concept with your limbs or body, you achieve exactly the same thing; you move the fluids within the body by compressing the tissues. Simultaneously, the twisting expands and lengthens the tissues, veins, nerve fibres, lymphatic connections, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia.
You move the blood and lymph, shunting toxins down the pipelines to be squeezed from the body, whilst at the same time, combined with conscious breathing which supplies fresh oxygen to your blood, the renewed blood fills those spaces created by the removal of the toxins. In TCM, blood and Qi work closely together; it’s not for nothing that we refer to this substance as your ‘life blood’.
It’s not the key to the universe, but then again, if everything is a microcosm, maybe it is! So keep doing lots of Qigong!
James Drewe teaches Taijiquan and qigong in both London and in Kent. Details of weekly classes can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Taijiquan one Saturday a month.
Phone: 07836-710281 or 020-8883 3308