Qigong And Reality (Part II)

January 2010

Since I do not think Reality changes when one crosses the Himalayas, Things must be the Same Way in both China and India. Indeed, they must be the same everywhere; but, let’s stick with these two ancient and seemingly different cultures and modalities.

Therefore, Qigong and Pranayama must work the same way regardless of how they describe their own processes. The principles upon which they are both based must be the same.

And the bottom line is: They are the same!

They have the same goal: to balance the opposite polarities in our Internal Energy system and to achieve Balance and Harmony.

One of the confusing points one will notice when trying to compare the two systems is that the Chinese describe energy using only two terms: Yin and Yang. Whereas the Yogis describe energy as has having three Gunas or qualities: Rajas, Tamas and Sattva.

The confusion, in my opinion, is not warranted. All one has to realize is that Tamas corresponds to Yin. It is cooling and more stationary. Rajas corresponds to Yang and is warming and more fluid. Sattva is the Sanskrit name for the state of balance between the two opposites. The Chinese do not make this condition called Sattva or energy balance between Yin and Yang a third unique property or characteristic of energy.

For example, the Yogis view of our energetic body has three nadiis or meridians running up the center of our back: the Ida, the Pingala and the Sushumna.

The Ida is our Moon channel and is cooling or Yin. The Pingala is our Sun channel and is warming and Yang. The Sushumna is the channel where only pure balanced energy flows. It is neither warming nor cooling. And thus, this energy does not change what it comes into contact with. However, it can be changed by what comes into contact with it.

The goal of balancing our Internal Energy can be reduced to balancing the forces of contraction and expansion which are always at work in our Body, Mind and Spirit.

When we are neither expanding nor contracting Physically, Mentally or Spiritually, we are in harmony with our surroundings. We will have no effect on it.

When we are expanding or warming, our surroundings must contract and withdraw from the new space we are occupying and/or it must cool down to offset our warming up. It must also give up whatever we are absorbing in order for us to expand.

Of course, if we are expanding without absorbing anything, we will weaken ourselves by lowering our internal pressure and temperature. Or we will weaken ourselves by using too much Internal Energy just to keep our Internal Pressure and temperature constant and/or high enough to sustain our expansion.

Both of these conditions will necessitate our using more energy to keep our internal pressure and temperature high enough to sustain our expansion.

Both of these conditions are deleterious to our health and well being.

If we are contracting or cooling, our surrounding must expand to fill up the void we are creating or heat up to counteract our cooling. Likewise, our surroundings must absorb anything we maybe be giving off as we contract.

If we do not give up anything as we contract, our internal pressure will rise and this can cause damage from within. If our internal pressure rises, this in turn, will cause our internal temperature to rise also. These two effects will work to counteract our contraction and cooling.

If we are determined to contract or cool down in spite of our rising internal pressure and temperature, we must apply more and more energy and/or force to continue to do so.

As you can see, both of these possible scenarios have a high probability of damaging our reserve of Internal Energy.

Qigong is meant to help us keep these forces in Balance. So is Yoga.

For the rest of this article, I will focus on the part of Qigong which is concerned with Active Exercise.

For example, most of us associate Yoga with stretching. However, not even most would-be yogis realize that in order to safely stretch one part of their body, another part must contract. Forcing one part of your body to expand more that its opposite part can contract is a prescription for injury.

Even if no injury results from stretching in this manner, you will still be subjecting yourself to an imbalanced energy flow for at least the duration that you hold the stretch or asana.

The proper and safe way to stretch is to balance both sides of your body. When doing a forward bend, the proper way to expand forward and down is to pull (Absorb) yourself down using your abdominal muscles and hip flexors while letting the back naturally expand (Project) upwards.

Contracting your abdominal muscles can make your back expand if you project the energy you received from contracting your abdominal muscles into your back via your Ming Men, which is the area directly behind your naval center. The Ming Men area corresponds to the Manipuri or Third Chakra.

Another example of these Universal Principles at work can be seen in something as seemingly unrelated to Qigong and Yoga as Weight Lifting.

We have all at least seen weight lifters using external supports to help them lift heavier weights than they can lift without the supports. These supports can be a weight lifting belt, a bench, wrist straps, etc.

If these weight lifters try to move the same amount of weight in any context other than these or similarly supported ones, they may have a real problem.

They have made certain parts of themselves capable of producing more expansion or absorption, whichever is the lifting part of the action, than they can safely project or absorb into the other parts of their structure. Therefore, if they try to lift a heavy piece of furniture or push a heavy truck without the structural supports they are use to, their now unsupported parts may fail due to the unaccustomed stresses.

Let’s move further a field and look at tennis elbow. This occurs when a tennis player is able to project more force into the tennis racket than his elbow can absorb back. This may sound silly, but, you can’t get tennis elbow by just by swinging the racket in the air even if you use the same amount of force used in a game.

You can only get it when you hit the ball. This is because the act of projecting force into the ball also sends an equal amount of force back into the racket and you.

Notice no one gets tennis fingers, tennis hand or tennis wrist. They get tennis elbow. It is no coincidence that the fingers, hand and wrist all line up with the racket and the direction of the returning force. It is at the elbow where the force must make a 90° turn up the arm that the problem occurs. This is because the tendons at the elbow must stabilize the elbow from a 90° shear force.

Tennis elbow is a classic case of developing a problem because we can project more force than we can absorb.

For me, the truest test of a modality and its principles is its Universality. Qigong’s concept of Harmonizing Yin and Yang is truly Universal.

Everything we may need to be or do can be accomplished using this Principle.