Some questions answered about Chi kung (Qigong) for a future Burmese magazine article...
Q; How and why did you get into Qigong.
A; I originally started to practice Yoga meditation 5 years prior to starting Qigong and somehow that led me to the alternative side of other practices, my interest really came about due to the fact that I starting to learn Tai Chi my primary interest at the time and this included Qigong as part of the practice.
Q; What is your favorite part about doing Qigong?
A; My favorite part these days is teaching Qigong to others and the positive feedback that people give about the Qigong practice, their improvement to their health, energy and life style, this inspires me to become a better teacher also.
Q; What is the one move you would recommend for someone starting out in Qigong? Is there a name (especially for those who can't attend a class)?
A; One of the roots of Qigong (Chi Kung) is the breath, so I would always recommend students in our classes to develop their breathing potential, this allows for more beneficial aspects of the practice to manifest. In our classes we teach students to go to the root of the breathing and suggest students to develop this kind of breathing as part of their lives. We call this kind of breathing abdominal, Tai Chi, Qigong or baby breathing, just like a younger child would breathe, naturally. One method we teach in our classes is to position both hands one on top the other at the navel, close the eyes and breathe so when you inhale the abdomen expands and when you exhale it contracts. This teaches us to breathe correctly and helps to eliminate build up of tension in the mind and body. This can be practice outside of the class room environment and a highly suggested practice one can utalize in their daily lives.
Q; How is Qigong different from other types of breathing exercises or breathing techniques?
A; Generally most holistic healing systems overlap and there could be elements that are similar though the approach may be slightly different, but the goal is in harmony with one and other. One of the differences that exists, lies in the approach on how we work with the body, this is the physical bodily exercises in the Qigong practice, the exercises are simple and repetitive, though affective in opening the potential of our breath and energy system, this allows for correct utilization of the breathing mechanism and gives more control over our body and mind, in the foundations of physical Yoga (asana) for example we are working with the breath under more demanding bodily posturing, lifting the breath from the solar plexus and diaphragm, this could be more challenging for a beginner of Yoga, in Qigong we are connecting the breath just below the navel area and it is more softer and more subtle, so easier to master even for those with limited experience.
Q; What are some of the health benefits that you experienced?
A; Mainly the benefits for me have been an improved connection with my breathing (abdominal) which has become part of my natural breathing process in my life, helping me to manage stress and anxiety; also Chi Kung has given me a more conscious awareness of my body and the subtle signals that it sends, strengthening of my immune system and ovarall improvement physically, mentally and emotionally, allowing me to become a good friend to my own body and have respect for myself and my life.
Q; Do Qigong and meditation go hand-in-hand? How is it similar or different?
A; Definitely, in ancient times in China people practice Qigong to harmonize themselves with themselves, their surroundings, nature and the cosmos, a major concept of Qigong is to be able to meditate consciously, meaning to always be in a state of meditational contemplation, hence Qigong is a active way to meditate, they realized that to make the breath calm the body and mind also responds and manifest stillness, which becomes a conscious awareness of who we really are, meditation is the core of Qigong it can be known as a moving Meditation similar to Tai Chi Chuan. As Qigong developed the practices became more physical which has led to modern day Qigong, in the beginning the practice was focused on the meditation as the foundation of the practice and not too involved with the physical aspects of how Qigong has become.
Q; What do you do to achieve your optimal health (besides Chi Kung. etc. tai chi, yoga and meditation, etc)
A; I try and keep a healthy diet, try and respect my energy by not over working myself, use exercise, meditation on a daily basis and retire to bed and get up early whenever possible.
Q; Mindfulness is a very popular concept now. Does Chi Kung help you become more mindful? How?
A; Yes Qigong helps one to introspect and become more mindful, the exercises are of a simple nature, so there is no compromise of one's ego, the movements in Qigong help to increase the flow of energy within, so that we experience that power, connecting to the breath helps to regulate our autonomic nervous system removing stress and inducing a more calm and relaxed state of body and mind, Qigong incorporates meditation in some of its standing poses which increases our potential to become more mindful, we connect with the vital organs and become aware of the energy lines within the body helping to connect with our physical state and our physical condition so we respect ourselves more in a more conscious way. Being mindful helps the Qigong practitioner connect with the power within and gives the potential to use that power to improve their health and their energy overall. The key is to keep things simple and exercise regularly.
Q; How can one use Chi Kung to overcome emotions like anger, jealousy, anxiety, depression, etc?
A; Qigong masters over a thousand years ago, discovered that our deep rooted negative emotions were the root causes of our imbalances and sicknesses, they also realized that these negative emotions store in our vital organs and eventually accumulate into sickness. In our Qigong classes we work directly with these ancient practices which involve using simple movements with our body to improve the circulation of energy in the body, plus we work with colour and sound to increase the potential of this circulation, this is an important element of Qigong practice. As we learn to harmonize ourselves by doing Qigong practice on a regular basis, we learn and help to balance and heal or transform our negative emotions and feelings, giving as more access to power of energy for a more fulfilling life.
Q; What do you think the purpose of life is?
To let go… of our pre conceived ideas and our conditioning. To discover peace and to experience, heaven on earth (peace of mind).
Q; What is your favorite life motto? quote?
A; Health is wealth!! Sometimes I suggest to my students: Always believe in yourself and in your life, learn to trust yourself so you learn to trust in your journey and in your evolutionary process, in that trust it leads you to, who you really are.
Qigong can benefit people young and old, it helps to improve your health, it strengthens the mind and body, it slows down the aging process and helps us to live longer, it can also lead to a higher understanding of yourself and your surroundings, for those that are in Chiang Mai Thailand, we welcome you to come and enroll in our simple Qigong course, so you get a flavor of what Qigong is about.
As yoga started to progress and develop, we come to the next stage of its evolution; we come to a great author and sage known as Pantajali who is said to have lived around 400 BC. His first work was the Mahābhāṣya, a treatise on Sanskrit grammar and it is believed he possibly had authored a book on medicine called Charakapratisanskrita, though this is not certain.
In the Yoga world he is known especially for his work known as the Yoga Sutras written around 400BC. The Yoga Sutras are part of the Samkhya philosophy which was created by Rishi Kaplia a Vedic sage who lived around 600BC, apparently the Buddha studied Samkhya philosophy on his quest for truth, Samkhya was a very popular teaching during this time and one of the concepts was, that belief in God was not a necessary component in one’s spiritual practices (sadana), this was similar to the Buddha’s teaching which came later on, however Patanjali suggested the need to have a belief of God as part of one’s spiritual sadana, which is connected to devotional Yoga called Bhakti Yoga, the Yoga Strutras could have emerged and be influenced by the other philosophies including Buddhism, which were present during the time of it’s writing.
THE 8 LIMBS of YOGA by Patanjali, the 8 fundamental stages of Yogic spiritual development
1. Yama: Social conduct; The Yamas help to harmonize external relationship; Satya (Truthfulness) – Ahimsa – (Non Violence) – Asteya – (Honesty) Brahmacharya (Sexual Control) – Aparigraha (Non Possessiveness)
2. Niyama: Personal conduct; The Niyamas to harmonize our inner feelings and emotions: Shaucha (Cleanliness) – Santosha (Contentment) – Tapah (Austerity) – Swadhyana (Self Study) – Ishwara Pranidhana (Surrender to Divine Will)
3. Asana: Yoga Postures; The Asanas that are relative to this limb is a balanced sitting pose like padmasasna (Lotus Pose) and Siddhasana (Perfect Pose) , basically a comfortable meditation sitting posture.
4. Pranayama: Yogic breathing techniques; to focus the internal human forces, to regulate the mind.
5. Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses; to gather within and to regulating the fluctuation of consciousness so awareness can become more internalized via yogic meditation techniques.
6. Dharana: Concentration of the mind; the step before real meditation happens, total mental focus . Mantra can help induce this stage. Dhrana needs consistency of practice to be achieved.
7. Dhyana: Meditation; Once we manage to steady the fluctuations, mental, emotional and psychic substances of the mind in Dharana we proceed into a state of meditation.
8. Samadhi: Super conscious awareness; there are different levels of Samadhi in the Katha Upanishad (111:10) it states. When the 5 senses of perception together with the mind are at rest, even when the intellect has ceased to function, that say the sages, is the supreme state.
The first 5 stages are relative to external practices which prepare the body and mind, helping to dissolve and remove external distractions for higher level practices. The last 3 stages integrate the internal yoga practices for deeper development of our spiritual potential, helping to rise above unbalanced thoughts and psychic disturbance in the mind. These steps of Yoga are really for advanced aspirants, as there needs to a lot of preparation, so these steps leading to higher consciousness are achieved.
To be continued The Roots of Yoga pt 3
The roots of Yoga were first developed some 5000 to 10,000 years ago in northern regions of India by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization that date back some 12,000 years, one of the largest and most advanced of all ancient civilizations. The Indus-Sarasavati people had a variety of spiritual practices, including worship of the mother goddess Shakti and Lord Shiva, which are symbols of duality and the feminine and mescaline energy concepts potrayed in Tantra and Daoism, similar concepts were known in ancient China as Ying and Yang made popular by the arts of Qigong and later by Tai Chi Chuan, worship of nature and animals was also known to exist as part of thier spiritual practices.
The word Yoga meaning to join and unify, applies union, was first mentioned in the Rig Vedas (praised knowledge) an ancient text, one of the first spiritual texts in human history written in Vedic Sanskrit in around 1700–1100 BCE and originally only taught via orally tradition, which has become the development of Hinduism still being practice today in modern India.
Rig Vedas consists of:
* Hymns to the deities especially Lord Indra the king of Gods , is the oldest part of the Rig Veda
* Brahmanas, commentaries on the hymns
* Aranyaka or "forest books" based on the philosophy behind ritual sacrifice
*Upanishads also known as the Vedānta, the foundation of Hindu religious beliefs and considered to be one of the most important works of Indian culture and religion.
The 3 foundations of Vedic Yoga
1. Mantra Yoga – Speech – Rig Veda – Earth
Mantra, recitation of spiritual Vedic Sanskrit sounds: Transformation of the mind, to internalize to deeper layers of consciousness.
2. Prana Yoga – Prana – Yajur Veda – Atmosphere
Development of our internal and vital energies: Internal transformation via specialized Yoga techniques.
3. Dhyana Yoga – Mind – Sama Veda – Heaven
Yoga meditation the final steps, before full transformation – leading to higher states know as Samadhi:
Yoga meditation; the development of higher and cosmic intelligence, the understanding of truth.
We will look further in the development of Yoga in Roots of Yoga Pt 2.
These days we hear a lot about the ego especially in esoteric practices as in Yoga, Reiki and Qigong. The ego is the persona of the person and this allows the person to express themselves in certain ways, through the conditioning of the ego we experience flaws, errors, right and wrong. The workings of the ego works with the impressions of our deeper consciousness, Yoga meditation, Qigong and even the simple practice of Reiki can allow us directly to access our ego, to resolve it conditioning, until we learn to dissolve the pre condition impressions; we will never really be able to experience ourselves as we really are.
Once we learn to rise above the physical conditioning, we no longer working from the place of the ego but from a higher state of consciousness, we no longer require the ego to rely on who we are, as everything is and will be as it should be, we realize our true self. We can continue to condition the ego by doing Yoga Meditations, Qigong practices or even Reiki healing ,to improve its workings (to feel better about ourselves), but eventually we do have to rise above it, this allows us to go beyond the normal human consciousness to our higher state of who we really are. Think of a piece of gold covered with mud, remove the mud and you found the gold.
People will still need to apply their ego in some way or form to live in this world, eventually we would need to sacrifice some of our needs, the more we sacrifice the more we can experience who we really are. Yoga, Chi Kung or Reiki can helps us, as long as we are prepared to let go, of who we think we are.
Photo; Yoga Beginners Course November 2016
Yoga for beginners can be the start of a very interesting journey into self discovery and allows one eventually to go into the deeper aspects of your life. Our Yoga beginners courses are taught over a 5 day period and 1 hour per day, so the complete Yoga beginner is not overwhelmed with too many concepts and their bodies can accommodate the challenges that Yoga practice brings, we take the student step by step into understanding the dynamics of how to work with yoga, on the physical level by using a sample of basic yoga postures, so that the student feels comfortable in their beginnings of their journey in their Yoga path.
The course is structured so that Yoga beginners repeat the previous lesson and continues to learn something new in their new lesson, by the end of the week we have a strong foundation and a full 1 hour Yoga practice to work with. We teach in this way so that the student can retain their class knowledge and develop further in their next lessons stage by stage.
Check out our Yoga Beginners Course in Chaing Mai