Qigong Q&A

I am collating all the Qigong Q&A from our online classes and putting them on this post. As most have come in via email it may well take a bit of time to bring them all together. They will be listed in order of newest to oldest.

Qs from K: Scooping from the Sea to View the Sky
Hi Des,
I wondered if the energy of Kidney and bladder could be moved the same way as in the commencement? I find the qi movements harder to describe when it’s points by the spine, as I’m not sure if we’re taking it along the meridian?

Sorry for the deluge (ha ha) – I wondered if bladder meridian can be travelled down with the awareness as you go down for Scooping from the sea? It seems mainly on kidney at the KD1, or drawing up to the collar bones, but I’m not sure what happens on the exhale?

A:
Q1: Remember that the most important tool when doing Qigong is the Yi. It is the focus of the Yi that determines how you are moving, working with, the Qi in any pair of meridians. These questions go well beyond what you need to know for this course but I am really glad that you asked them.

In Rowing a Boat you can work in a number of ways.

  • You can focus on any of the Shu Points that are on the Bladder Meridian, just lateral to the spine.
  • You can focus on opening the Spinal Kua, or the Cervical Kua.
  • You can guide (open your awareness of) the Qi up along Bladder Meridian on the inhalation, then down Kidney Meridian on the exhalation.
  • You can guide Kidney Qi, from KD1, to Ming Men on the inhalation and then back down on the exhalation.

This is the beauty of understanding what Qigong actually is rather than being boxed in to any rigid “There is only one way”.

Q2: With Scooping from the Sea you also have flexibility.

  • Drawing up, from KD1, to KD27 and guiding it from BL1 to BL67 on the exhalation.
  • Drawing up, from KD1 in the front foot, to Ming Men on the inhalation. Guiding it down, from Ming Men, to KD1 in the rear foot on exhalation. Even within this you have options……… Think about the heel/toe action in Playing with Waves where KD1 can “disconnect”. The same can be done here, or you can keep KD1 of both feet constantly connected but listen to the change in substantiality.

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Q from L: Hi Des,
For a change you didn’t ask if we had questions during the session and I didn’t want to interrupt the flow…

In Connecting Heaven and Earth, your original instruction on ‘wash the face’ was to cup the palms. When we do it as an 8 Extraordinary Meridians, you’re asking us to focus on HG8 when the hands get up to the Third Eye so we can work on the Shen. So, do we open the palms out, and if so, when?

A: Questions are always welcomed.
You start to focus on/open HG8 as the hands rise, opening the fingers if you need to, so that the point is fully active as it reaches the Third Eye (as the hands separate and swing out you should listen to the effect at the Third Eye). Keep HG8 open on the up-swing of “the Eagle Spreads its Wings”  before turning the palms down and focusing on Ht1.

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Q from H-A: After we finished I felt my feet really “stamped into the ground”, that was quite a remarkable change as I did not feel a lot of “grounding” before. The difference in the effects of the exercises were quite noticeable, fascinating.

Q1: The question I have is again regarding to the speed: When I listen closely and close my eyes I almost stop moving outside so I wonder whether you recommend practicing with open eyes in that case…? It is not that I am falling asleep but because theres is so much going on “inside” which I get aware of. 

Q 2: You mentioned the Inner Work with very slow movements in one of your Emails which I  was not familiar with until you mentioned it. I might have a notion what you mean but I cannot transfer it somehow. I struggle to set up a Qigong practice here at my place which gives a proper framework to my everyday-life. It feels a bit like “getting lost in time and space” when I practice these slow movements and time passes so quickly outside then. Of course it has a wonderful quality but also my mind interferes with this giving me the hint this as I have to consider “worldly time” to get things done of course so it makes me anxious to continue in that “no-speed”. The asking of the Shen to “slow down” has not enough power when I ask it seems and I have a bit of a “mind battle” then which I am annoyed about. I know it does not help as it is a waste of energy so I try to find a balanced solution. 

A1: The eyes are only one of the tools used in Qigong and they help you to focus and guide the Qi through the observation of the movement and looking at the areas where you are not experiencing the Qi flow. Once you are able to listen to the Qi and have that immediate, tangible, feedback the eyes can be closed. There are a few examples of Wood exercises where the eyes are always kept open.
The breath is also just one of the tools used and when practicing in a Neigong manner you no longer use it to assist in the guidance of the Qi. Instead, you are listening to the Internal movements and the external movements can slow down (even stop) as you do this.

A2: Yes, you can get “lost” in these exercises and find that the planned 15 minutes has turned into an hour. If you try to practice and are also clock-watching, or clock-aware, you are not truly doing Qigong. If you are time limited, set and alarm (low volume) for the amount of time available less 5 minutes. Then you can get some quality Qigong done and still be back to “worldly time” to tackle the day to day needful.
Initially, there is always going to be a battle between the Yi and the Shen. The Yi has been dominant all through your life and now you are asking it to cede control whenever asked. The “mind battle” you are having is between your Yi and your Willpower and is, effectively, the Yi debating with itself about letting go.

Your “battle” reminds me of a friend who had a recurring dream. He knew that it was important but was well and truly stuck. In the dream he was in a field and needed to get into the next one. There was a high, stone, wall that he could not climb and a gate. No matter how much he pushed, the gate refused to open………………….. I advised that he step back and pull gently as the gate opened towards him. He then managed to progress.

If you try too hard, push too hard, the Yi will become even more stubborn. Be gentle and persuade it, it needs to feel safe.

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Q from J.B: Regarding the Eight Exceptional Vessels Qigong:
what was that last exercise called ? And there is no water in change the sinews ?

A: The last one we did was called Change the Sinews. The same name is used for both the Eight Exceptional Vessels version and the Five Elements version.
Water is the first part of the Five Elements version and, primarily, focuses on the flow of Qi from KD1 (The Bubbling Spring) to Ming Men.
The Eight Exceptional Vessels are made up of four pairs of Vessels. They are linked as pairs vis the Master Points and the Coupled Points and are not governed by the Five Elements in the way that the meridians are.

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Q from J: Can I ask a question about where you look in the practice. Apart from the wood daoist yin form where you are looking straight ahead with eyes open, how should the eyes be? I think your eyes are shut often, which makes sense, turning inwards to observe the Ki.

Interested to know thoughts.

A: The eyes are used that beginners can use as a tool to help guide the Qi exercises. In others a “soft” gaze is used to help Internalize the experiences as it helps to lower the brain pattern to Alpha wave. However, once the practitioner has the ability to listen to the Qi there is far more feedback and the eyes are no longer needed as a tool (Indeed, they can be a hindrance).
At this level, shutting the eyes reduces distractions further and allows access to subtler variations in the Qi. That Internalization means an expansion of awareness that travels outward as well as inward.
I hope this helps.

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Q: I was asked about a Facebook post that explained the placement of the tip of the tongue, during Qigong, as solely being used to connect Du Mai (the Governing Vessel) to Ren Mai (the Conception Vessel). Was this its only purpose? Another of those short, seemingly simple, questions that requires an in depth answer. Here goes, we will start with the Qi aspect.

Du Mai and Ren Mai are Qi pathways and are not governed by the physical body. They are there and they are connected whether the tongue touches the palate, or not. The position of the tongue does not connect them but it does increase your awareness of that connection.

In most of the Qigong that I teach we use the “natural” flow of Qi in these Exceptional Vessels. The Flow is up Du Mai and down Ren Mai. By practicing with the tongue in this position we are actively acknowledging this flow. But it is not the only flow so we use other tongue positions too.

The three positions are: –
Fire – the Natural cycle – tongue touching the palate behind the front teeth.
Wind – the Reverse cycle – tongue touching the palate and the rear of the front teeth.
Water – the Inner cycle working with Chong Mai) – tongue touching slightly further back from the Fire position. You will often see this described as the tongue touching the border between the hard and the soft palate but this can be uncomfortable for may and it causes distraction rather than assisting you with your Qigong.

As already stated, these Vessels are not physical and they are not bounded by your physical body. The positions we use act as switches so that, with lots of practice, you can switch from one cycle to another by simply moving the tongue. The physical contact is just that……….. So, merely moving the tongue position does nothing to influence the Qi flow. You must use the Yi to change the cycle and this takes a lot of focus, time and diligent practice.

For most Qigong we are using the Fire position as we are utilising the Natural cycle. To begin with it takes much more focus (and the ability to listen) to get this flow but, by using the tongue position as a  “switch” for this cycle we need less focus on it and we can use that focus elsewhere.

Likewise, when we train our Qi for the reverse cycle, we need to put in the time and the effort first to get that cycle going while, simultaneously, programming the new “switch”. It’s the same for the Inner cycle. It is like using a mudra. Simply forming a hand posture does absolutely nothing. You reach the state of mind and THEN connect the mudra to it.

Now I will cover the physical benefits. With the tongue resting (relaxed) in this position the chances of over, or under, salivating are reduced and this reduces distractions. The less distractions, physical or otherwise, the easier it is to guide the Qi and we can listen more so that the subtler, quieter, manifestations of Qi become tangible.

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Q from D: Hello Des, I have a basic question about my knees and sinking Qi. I can feel fizzing and heat in K1 both in wuji and when I am listening in sitting meditation but I can’t feel anything beneath my feet. I have become aware of a lot of tension being held in my knees- generally. I also notice I lift my toes a little off the floor a lot!

I find I lose balance sometimes in scooping from the sea in particular. Anything I can do about this?!

A: Sink the Qi and root the Po (the physical body) in that order and keep the Kua (hip kua) open. If you do this properly then there will be no instability.

Lifting your toes is usually a sign that you have your weight too far back and not through the Bubbling Spring. Even a few millimetres makes a huge difference.

You didn’t mention exactly where the knee tension is but having the weight to the rear of the Bubbling Spring will cause tension in the muscles along the shin bone (Peroneus brevis & longus, etc.) and this will lift the toes as well as causing discomfort where these muscles attach to the bones immediately below the knees.

I recommend that you spend more time refining your Wuji stance and your ability to keep the Kua open. If you bring this question up at the next class we can go over it.

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Q: I was asked about a Facebook post that explained the placement of the tip of the tongue, during Qigong, as solely being used to connect Du Mai (the Governing Vessel) to Ren Mai (the Conception Vessel). Was this its only purpose? Another of those short, seemingly simple, questions that requires an in depth answer. Here goes, we will start with the Qi aspect.

Du Mai and Ren Mai are Qi pathways and are not governed by the physical body. They are there and they are connected whether the tongue touches the palate, or not. The position of the tongue does not connect them but it does increase your awareness of that connection.

In most of the Qigong that I teach we use the “natural” flow of Qi in these Exceptional Vessels. The Flow is up Du Mai and down Ren Mai. By practicing with the tongue in this position we are actively acknowledging this flow. But it is not the only flow so we use other tongue positions too.

The three positions are: –
Fire – the Natural cycle – tongue touching the palate behind the front teeth.
Wind – the Reverse cycle – tongue touching the palate and the rear of the front teeth.
Water – the Inner cycle working with Chong Mai) – tongue touching slightly further back from the Fire position. You will often see this described as the tongue touching the border between the hard and the soft palate but this can be uncomfortable for may and it causes distraction rather than assisting you with your Qigong.

As already stated, these Vessels are not physical and they are not bounded by your physical body. The positions we use act as switches so that, with lots of practice, you can switch from one cycle to another by simply moving the tongue. The physical contact is just that……….. So, merely moving the tongue position does nothing to influence the Qi flow. You must use the Yi to change the cycle and this takes a lot of focus, time and diligent practice.

For most Qigong we are using the Fire position as we are utilising the Natural cycle. To begin with it takes much more focus (and the ability to listen) to get this flow but, by using the tongue position as a  “switch” for this cycle we need less focus on it and we can use that focus elsewhere.

Likewise, when we train our Qi for the reverse cycle, we need to put in the time and the effort first to get that cycle going while, simultaneously, programming the new “switch”. It’s the same for the Inner cycle. It is like using a mudra. Simply forming a hand posture does absolutely nothing. You reach the state of mind and THEN connect the mudra to it.

Now I will cover the physical benefits. With the tongue resting (relaxed) in this position the chances of over, or under, salivating are reduced and this reduces distractions. The less distractions, physical or otherwise, the easier it is to guide the Qi and we can listen more so that the subtler, quieter, manifestations of Qi become tangible.

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Q from H-A: I notice that I tend to hold my breath when I try listening to the Qi, that causes a tensing up especially in the upper areas so I am trying to balance it out with the different sensations I get presented and the movement slows down a lot meanwhile. Sometimes my mind starts to comment on that and I get confused what to do “first” or “more important”. It feels a bit like getting into a ping-pong-game of happenings throughout the body and mind, a roller coaster I do notice then through all these Meridian areas which do interact. So my movements feel somehow getting stuck together with my breathing. Additionally the trained ballet moves come in as well which keeps me “busy” to let go. I memorize the moves but get confused by all the sensations when the awareness gets involved… Do you have an idea how to tackle this?

A: Yes, the mind starts to chatter when you try to slow your respiration down too much. Your whole body is kicking up a fuss because it is being starved of oxygen! We use the breath to help guide the Qi AND THE MOVEMENT when practicing Qigong. We don’t us it when practicing Neigong. What is the difference? I’ll try to explain.

In Qigong we are using External movements to create Internal movements. As we relax, our respiration rate lowers, our brain-wave pattern moves towards Alpha, we relax more and the cycle continues. When in Alpha we can access the Qi, listen to it and have more control over it.

In Neigong we have already achieved Alpha and our respiration is already lowered BUT IT IS NO LONGER USED AS A TOOL TO GUIDE THE QI. The movements you are working with are Internal and the tiniest of external movement can create huge Internal ones. You are using the Yi more to listen rather than to guide when practicing in this way.

So, if your respiration rate was 15 per minute, a (one respiration) movement done in a Qigong manner will take 4 seconds to complete. Done in a Neigong manner it can take up to 15 minutes or more, depending on the extent of the movement/changes you are listening to, but the relaxed breathing remains the same.

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Q from H-A: I notice that I tend to hold my breath when I try listening to the Qi, that causes a tensing up especially in the upper areas so I am trying to balance it out with the different sensations I get presented and the movement slows down a lot meanwhile. Sometimes my mind starts to comment on that and I get confused what to do “first” or “more important”. It feels a bit like getting into a ping-pong-game of happenings throughout the body and mind, a roller coaster I do notice then through all these Meridian areas which do interact. So my movements feel somehow getting stuck together with my breathing. Additionally the trained ballet moves come in as well which keeps me “busy” to let go. I memorize the moves but get confused by all the sensations when the awareness gets involved… Do you have an idea how to tackle this?

A: Yes, the mind starts to chatter when you try to slow your respiration down too much. Your whole body is kicking up a fuss because it is being starved of oxygen! We use the breath to help guide the Qi AND THE MOVEMENT when practicing Qigong. We don’t us it when practicing Neigong. What is the difference? I’ll try to explain.

In Qigong we are using External movements to create Internal movements. As we relax, our respiration rate lowers, our brain-wave pattern moves towards Alpha, we relax more and the cycle continues. When in Alpha we can access the Qi, listen to it and have more control over it.

In Neigong we have already achieved Alpha and our respiration is already lowered BUT IT IS NO LONGER USED AS A TOOL TO GUIDE THE QI. The movements you are working with are Internal and the tiniest of external movement can create huge Internal ones. You are using the Yi more to listen rather than to guide when practicing in this way.

So, if your respiration rate was 15 per minute, a (one respiration) movement done in a Qigong manner will take 4 seconds to complete. Done in a Neigong manner it can take up to 15 minutes or more, depending on the extent of the movement/changes you are listening to, but the relaxed breathing remains the same.

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Q from H-A: In the practice yesterday I noticed my legs “wobbly getting moving about strongly” and my knees bended after a while due to that sensation I was drawn to focus more and more. I automatically slowed down the movement and was therefore out of the breathing pattern most of the time. Not sure whether that is meant to be. Just witnessing and stop as you mentioned until the sensation changes again in the position the body has then? Or would you rather recommend correcting into the regular wuji stand while doing the movement then to interfere?

A: The wobbling and movement in the legs can be a sign that you are getting closer to Wuji. It is usually caused by the muscles “letting go” and you will find that this process is seldom even in both legs. As long as the legs are bending through this process of relaxation (and you are keeping the head raised from the crown) your posture will be upright. If you feel that you are leaning forward (sticking your rear end out), lift the posture and start the process again.
Remember that the use of the breath in guiding the Qi is only one of the tools used in Qigong. It is not the most important one either. In class situations, where everyone’s respiration pattern is different, you can either compromise and go with the group speed by dropping using the breath, or go at the speed of your own respiration. Also, it is often advantageous to occasionally let the speed of physical movement slow down (ignoring whether you are inhaling or exhaling on any particular movement) so that you have more time to listen to the Qi. This can highlight any blockages, weaknesses, or areas where you have less awareness of very quickly.

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