By Athos Antoniades
Athos explains the basics of Qi Gong (Chi Kung) and how to perform one of the most important and most beneficial Qi Gong exercises - Three Circle Standing Qi Gong.
One of the best ways to gain good health, internal power, mental development and spiritual growth is the practice of Chi Kung (Qigong). Chi Kung is both an ancient art and modern science and refers to the training and application of cosmic energy to achieve any, or all of the above.
Arts of energy were practiced by ancient native civilisations and were known by different names. The Indians talk of Prana, Nadis, Chakras, and Kundalini, the Japanese of Ki, the Chinese of Qi, and both the Japanese and Chinese talk of channels and meridians through which the Qi/Ki flows.
Although in the past the knowledge of chi Kung was a jealously guarded secret, taught only to the selected few, masters now sincerely wish to spread the knowledge and understanding for the good of all humanity. As recently as the 1980’s when I started on my internal journey I found it difficult to find a class. I eventually came across a Chinese master who would only teach me on one-to-one basis and only after he studied my energy field through my aura.
Taoist and Buddhist Chi Kung masters have contributed much to the spiritual development, bringing some practical and effective ways to realise mankind’s greatest achievement, that of spiritual development and fulfilment, irrespective of their different religions. Chong Cai states ‘every birth is a condensation of Qi and every death is a dispersal of Qi. Birth is not a gain, death is not a loss. When condensed, Qi becomes a living object, when dispersed it is the substrata of mutation. Chu Li claimed: ‘Life is like loan from the universal Qi bank.
Everything in the universe, organic as well as inorganic is made up of and defined by Qi. According to Ted Kaptchuk in his book The Web That Has No Weaver, Chinese thought does not distinguish between matter and energy, but perhaps views Qi as an intermediary between matter and energy, or energy on the point of materialising.
Chi Kung exercises encourage a healthy flow of Qi through the body’s meridians and channels which is imperative for health and daily living. Qi activates all the processes of the body including senses, digestion and lubrication of the digestive tract, sweating, urination, etc. We can only smell if Qi penetrates the nose, we can only distinguish different colours if the liver Qi penetrates the eyes, we can only taste if the heart Qi penetrates the tongue and we can only know whether we like or dislike certain foods if the spleen Qi penetrates the mouth. The importance of a healthy flow of Qi is therefore evident.
There are over 2000 different types of Chi Kung exercises which are grouped into 3 different areas:
- 1. Self-Healing - Chi Kung exercises in this area allow us to go into a state of ‘sung’ in order for our own Qi to have a better chance of healing us. This is the first area that we learn and is the easiest.
- 2. The Martial Chi Kung exercises give us more power for the martial arts and self defence. We gain the ability to issue Qi into our opponent disrupting his own Qi flow.
- 3. Medical Chi Kung will teach us to use Qi for healing others.
We must first master Self-Healing Chi Kung before going into the other two. However, although specific Chi Kung's might be better for one particular area, generally they all cover all 3 areas, so it is not necessary to learn all Chi Kung's available.
Tai Chi is the top level of Chi Kung. It is a moving Chi Kung and is considered the best of them all. It achieves all 3 areas, Self-Healing, Self-Defence and Medical use. However, it is very difficult for to take the movements of Tai Chi to an internal level initially as the student is thinking about where to put the hands and feet in order to get the form correct. Until we do take it to an internal level we can use static Chi Kung exercises to tide us over.
An excellent Chi Kung exercise is known as ‘Three Circle Standing Chi Kung’, also known as ‘Embracing the Tree’. This is the ‘King’ of Chi Kung and as well as Self-Healing and Spiritual Awareness it will teach us more about issuing of Qi than any other Chi Kung exercise.
Three Circle Standing Chi Kung
Three Circle Standing Chi Kung (3CSCK) works by gathering Qi into the Dan Tien, refining it to Jing and getting it to rise to Gall Bladder 20 acupuncture point (GB20), nourishing the organs and helping to achieve perfect health. GB20 is the doorway to the Reptilian Brain which will take us into survival mode, which itself is the doorway to the subconscious allowing us to fight on a subconscious reflex level. The subconscious is directly connected to the super-conscious which is our Higher (Inner) Self. We can therefore see why it is known as the King of Chi Kung exercises. It helps us to achieve not only perfect health and martial ability, but also leads to spiritual awareness.
When we are practicing 3CSCK we must be in a state of ‘sung’ in which the body is loose-heavy, relaxed, allowing the vertebrae which are charged with Qi to fall on the top of each other and then combining their respective energies. It will also cause the legs to sink and root firmly into the ground at the centre of gravity point of the foot, just forward of the heels, activating Kidney 1 point and drawing in a substantial amount of Earth Qi into the Dan Tien.
Being ‘sung’ will further allow these energies to combine with energies stored in each joint/sinew/tendon and ligament thus creating a greatly increased flow of energy throughout the whole body, opening up and clearing the blockage in the meridians and organs. To further enhance rooting into the ground, which is imperative, the knees must be bent until they are over the toes. The feet must be parallel and shoulder width apart. Whilst sinking into the posture, the mind should be on the heels and the ground below them, but once in the posture, we should think of nothing as only then will things start to happen in any internal exercise, effectively subduing the ego.
Also, subconsciously feeling the breath going in and out past Governing Vessel 26 will align all energy centres and activate the Dan Tien. Deep slow breathing is essential to relax the mind and body, thus ridding the body of any external tension which would impede Qi flow. The combined Qi from all sources would then gather into the Dan Tien. However, gathering Qi into the Dan Tien and just leaving it there would be of little use, much like placing water in a bowl. If heat is applied to the water it will convert into steam generating tremendous power, steam for instance can drive a steam engine.
Similarly, if heat is applied to Qi in the Dan Tien, it will refine it to Jing which rises up throughout the body nourishing all organs and so on. Jing can also generate explosive penetrating power (Fa Jing) as made famous by Bruce Lee in the one inch punch. In 3CSCK we create the heat by bending the knees until they are over the toes. The heat created in the legs will then convert the Qi which has gathered in the Dan Tien to Jing.
Abdominal breathing as opposed to chest breathing will add fuel to the fire created by bending the knees, by drawing air down to the abdomen where the Dan Tien is situated, also adding universal Qi to the process. However, for Qi to sink to the Dan Tien and rise as Jing we must have a vertical spine. This is achieved by tucking the coccyx under (which also helps to sink), tucking the chin in and raising the back of the head, and also going in at the waist.
Also, scrunching the toes under opens up the Foot Kwa, further activating Kidney 1 and giving us a Yin shaped foot attracting aggressive Yang energy which will in turn be attracted by our Yin shaped back as we round our shoulders and concave the chest, rising up to the base of the skull and the GB20 points and therefore entering the Reptilian Brain and so on.
Holding our arms in front of us as shown in the photo will open up the Arm Kwa increasing the rate at which the Jing will flow. The index finger should initially be at a level just below the nose but it would be OK to drop the hand down to chest level as we advance.
The feet should be parallel and shoulder-width apart and the tongue should be pressed on the hard palate where we say ‘L’. The 3CSCK posture will also activate 3 internal Qi pumps (sacral, adrenal, cranial) further forcing the Jing up the back.