Category Archives: theory

Summer – Fire Element

Earth Balance Tai Chi

Summer Qi for the Heart

Summer is an expansive time of year that is governed by the fire element and the heart in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Here are my suggestions for strengthening your heart in the summer months.

Fire Element in TCM

The Heart in TCM

The heart is a yin organ, paired with the small intestines, a yang organ. The heart is the ‘king’ of the organs, also called the ‘supreme controller’ and the ‘emperor’. In the five element cycle, the heart controls the lungs (metal element), the heart is controlled by the kidneys (water element), the heart is supported by the liver (wood element) and the heart strengthens the stomach, pancreas and spleen (earth element).

Yin Yan Theory (Heart and Kidneys)

The kidneys (water element) and the heart (fire element) represent yin yang in Taoism. They are polar opposites which all the other elements are formed from.

Taiji
(unity / the one / the whole / the complete)

divides into

Yin and Yang (absolute and infinity)

which then divide into

The 5 Elements (Wu Xing)

Every characteristic of Yin is the polar opposite or the contrasting quality of Yang. Together they symbolise a cycle of constant change: from dark to light, feminine to masculine, winter to summer, cold to hot, wet to dry, aggressive to passive, absolute to infinite and so on. Whilst polar opposites, Yin / Yang also complement each other. Balancing the health of your kidneys (water element) and the heart (fire element) is very important in Traditional Chinese Medicine.


Emotions

The heart in Traditional Chinese Medicine is associated with the following emotions:

  • Positive characteristics: love, joy, happiness.
  • Negative characteristics: impatience, cruelty, arrogance, hate.

Too much love, joy, happiness can be just as damaging as too little, even though they are positive emotions, excess either way is unfavourable. Rather than the emotions relating to a psychological brain state, in Traditional Chinese Medicine the heart governs a specific pairing of emotions. To bring these emotions back into balance, the heart is treated, by strengthening and supporting with the five element theory.


Summer Qi for the Heart

The following table explores the Taoist associations with the heart:

Five Element TheoryThe Fire Element
AssociationsInspiration, Protection, Achievement, Passion, Clarity, Intellect
SeasonSummer
TimeNoon
DirectionSouth
Celestial AnimalPhoenix
Yin or YangYang, Masculine
MovementExpansive
PowerCompletion
FlavourBitter
SoundRoar
WeatherHeat, Dry
ClimateHot
AgePrepubescent
Stage of LifeGrowth
OrganHeart, Small intestine
MaterialPhysical fire
ShapeTriangle
FormSharp edges, Pointed roof, Triangle, Pyramid, Spires
ColoursRed, Purple, Sky blue, Lilac, Pink, Baby Pink, Orange
Yin (Feminine)Soft lighting, Candles, Incense
Yang (Masculine)Log fire, Bonfire, Brilliant sunshine

TCM Functions

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart is responsible for a variety of functions in the body:

  • Governs the blood.
  • Controls the blood vessels, which are seen as the tissue of the heart.
  • Pumps blood around the body.
  • Controls bodily fluids e.g. sweat, which is seen as the fluid of the heart.
  • Controls speech, to speak your truth from the heart.
  • The sense organ of the heart is the tongue. A balanced heart will show via a healthy tongue. A tongue that is pale, dark purple or has cracks along the middle symbolises a deficiency in the heart.
  • Controls the complexion, the condition of the heart is shown in the face due to the abundance of blood vessels.
  • The emotional / feeling / psychological centre of the body.
  • The mind and Shen both reside in the heart centre, sometimes called the heart brain. The Shen is our spirit, our spiritual life and our vitality. The heart yin and heart blood nourish our Shen.

Potential symptoms stemming from a heart deficiency in Traditional Chinese Medicine:

  • Blood flow, circulation, heart rhythm and heart issues.
  • Clogged arteries.
  • Speech issues e.g. from brain injury or stroke.
  • Spontaneous sweating (heart qi deficiency).
  • Excessive sweating (heart qi deficiency).
  • Night sweats (heart yin deficiency).
  • Pale tongue / pale complexion (heart blood deficiency).
  • Purple tongue / red complexion (excess heat).
  • Flushed red cheeks.
  • Blue tinge to the face.
  • Inability to express yourself or over expressive in character (heart qi deficiency).
  • Excessive openness or closeness in character (heart qi deficiency).
  • Mental health (depression, anxiety, insomnia, psychosis).
  • Poor memory.

There are many types of heart deficiency within Traditional Chinese medicine, all relating to the five element theory and the meridian channels.


Nourishing the Heart through Movement

To nourish your heart with exercise, look for arm movements that expand, compress, spiral and involve the armpit area and inside arms, as this is where the heart meridian runs.

  • To strengthen your heart, look for movements that stimulate the heart meridian channel (yin) and small intestine meridian channel (yang).
  • To support your heart, look for movements that stimulate the kidney meridian channel (yin).

Heart Movement in 8 Pieces of Brocade Qigong

Sway the Head and Shake the Tail

TCM: Regulate heart fire.
Health: Strengthens knees, legs, waist and back, coordination, lessens stress.
Key Movements: A deep horse stance squat combined with folding the body in a circular downwards motion, so the water in the kidneys flows into the heart to cool down excess heart fire.

Bai Hui

The Bai Hui pressure point is the 20th point on the Governing Vessel (aka Du Mai). It is located on the midline of the head, basically at the crown. The Bai Hui pressure point,also known as the DU20, has many names: “Hundred Convergences” (or “Meetings”), Dian Shang or “Mountain Top”, and Tian Man or “Celestial Fullness”. This point is also considered the meeting place of the “hundred spirits” and “hundred diseases”.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is known as “hundred convergences” because this is the area where the six Yang energetic channels and the Governing Vessel meet. Numerous bones of the skull meet here as well. In TCM it is said that “heaven, earth and man are the three powers” and the DU20 is the “human connection to heaven”. This obviously makes it important for conditions affecting the head and sensory organs.

In TCM and acupuncture, the Bai Hui is used to “clear the senses”, treat emotions, memory, behavior, and to “calm the spirit”. The Bai Hui is felt to be effective in the treatment of stress, headaches, vertigo, nasal obstruction/congestion, tinnitus, mental or physical tension, sleep disorders, balance, circulation issues, fatigue, brain fog,mental disorders, hyper- and hypo-tension, and inability to taste food and/or drink. The Bai Hui also “benefits the head, brain, and the organs of the five senses (eyes, ears, tongues, skin, and nose)”.

Interestingly, the Bai Hui (DU20) can either ascend or descend and can used to either uplift or sedate. Thus it can be used to treat disorders of the two “poles” of our torso. The DU20 is included in the Microcosmic Orbit, running from the pelvic floor to the base of the spine to the head. Reminder: the Microcosmic Orbit creates a continuous circular energetic loop between two distinct meridians: the Ren (Conception Vessel) and the Du (Governing Vessel).

Located at the top of your head, the Bai Hui (DU20) is effective in treating “downward disorders”, such as diarrhea, heavy menses, and any organ prolapse including the uterus and/or rectum. It is also said to “lift” motivation, drive, and a low (sinking mood). Bai Hui manipulation has been used to maintain a healthy pregnancy and for cosmetic purposes such as lifting sagging skin.

Quite a list! No wonder acupuncturists consider the Bai Hui (DU20) an “All Star”. According to at least one acupuncturist, starting with the Bai Hui, is “the acupuncture equivalent of taking a few deep breaths or meditating for a while”. This area calms the mind and the entire body. It is a good acupuncture starting place because there are those who get nervous when they see needles.

Can you manipulate the Bai Hui without going to a acupuncturist? Certainly!

How do I find my Bai Hui so that I can improve my health? It’s pretty easy!

Put your thumbs at the tops of your ears. Now extend your middle fingers to the point where they meet – at the top of your head (crown). To perform your own acupressure at the Bai Hui (DU20), just lightly rest your middle fingers and your awareness/attention at this point

  • Apply pressure with your finger directly on the Bai Hui. You can also use your knuckles or a small round ball (think golf ball) to apply greater pressure.Don’t massage or rub.
  • Pressure should be slow and firm.
  • Apply and release the pressure gradually when the soreness decreases in order to promote energy flow.
  • Take long, slow, deep breaths while focusing your intention on the Bai Hui.
  • You can apply pressure for approximately 15–20 seconds, then release for 5 seconds. Continue as desired for about 5 minutes.

According to Tai Chi Master Yang Cheng-Fu, “without lifting your Bai Hui point, even 30 years of practice would be a waste of time”. Let’s discuss why lifting your Bai Hui (DU20) is so important to both martial artists and other practitioners.

When you lift your Bai Hui:

  • You automatically tuck your chin down and inwards. The head bends slightly forward. Martially, this protects your neck and as the old Masters said: Conceal your throat and challenge all the heroes in the world.
  • You straighten your spine. This helps decompress your spinal vertebrae to avoid or reduce headaches, indigestion, low back pain and stiffness, and other health problems. You also improve your posture, balance, agility, and martial skills.
  • The circulation in your brain improves. Both Eastern and Western medicine recognize that obstruction of brain circulation (even for a few minutes) can result in permanent brain damage or stroke.
  • Qi and Blood follow to the Bai Hui when intention to that area is increased!

With or without applying acupressure (or acupuncture), there are many compelling reasons to “lift your Bai Hui”. Your body, brain, and spirit will thank you!

Circulating Qi 2

Qigong Fundamental Concepts – Circulating Qi Part 2

Hui Yin is a point located at the every bottom of the torso between the genitals and the anus. Being the most yin point on the body, it is called the Bottom of the Sea.

Water’s natural tendency is to pool together and seek the lowest level. Reversing it’s direction returns and leads it up the back. Working with Fire Qi descending down the front, while Water Qi ascends the back, this circulates and purifies energy.

This presentation is for academic purposes only to begin to comprehend the fundamental concepts of Qigong. There is a sequential process in learning to replenish Qi by tonifying Jing and cultivating Shen. I would suggest not learning without the guidance of a good teacher.

Circulating Qi

Qigong Fundamental Concepts – Circulating Qi Part 1

Bai Hui (DU 20) is located at the crown point on the top of the head. It is the most Yang location of the body. The name means “100 convergences” referring to the various connections unifying at the top of head. One of the major pathway is from the Du Mai Governing Vessel that ascends up the back.
The top of the head is Yang. Fire Qi naturally ascends and dissipates outward. In practice, this Yang Qi is lead back downward along the front of the body, reversing it’s natural upward and outward course. Instead of wasting energy, it is conserved and recycled. The expression is “Sink the Qi to the (lower) Dantian”.

What is exercise

2022 Study Group – Teacher’s Comments – Week 1

The information provided in Week 1 is to encourage the student to investigate what is exercise, the various methods, and discover the appropriate practice for oneself. Study leads practice. The Spirit (Shen) leads the body (Jing).

Classically, Qigong is categorized as Internal soft and external hard but let us first examine the intent (Yi) behind our personal choice. If we are healthy, we may aspire to athletics. This is where we challenge our self to attaining higher levels or compete with others to develop superior abilities. Common examples are aerobic endurance and weight resistance.

The next category is therapeutic. This is exercise for healthy people and those also who are addressing chronic issues of physicality, mental limitations, and aging. Here athletics can still be pursued but clearly at a safer turned down level.

Finally, there is medical. This is commonly referred to as physical therapy. This is prescribed and overseen by a licensed medical practitioner. It is very important to make the appropriate choice and seek good instruction. Although we can self-medicate by ourselves, I would not recommend it. We can simply compound the habitual without an outside assessment to guide us.

Qigong is based on the theory of Taiji. This implies it includes both internal and external practice. Internal is the mind and organ systems of the body. External is the Frame: skin, fascia, muscle, ligament, tendon, connective tissue, and bone. Although the objective is to balance the two in practice, many people tend to gravitate toward one extreme or the other. For example, dynamic muscular sports can cause injuries and slow relaxed meditative pursuits may allow the body to atrophy. Simply stated, they are two different approaches that when learned correctly, complement each other, and can create a body and mind that is balanced and healthy.

Internal emphasizes slow, soft, and steady. External emphasizes fast, hard, and spontaneous. It is recommended to “Embrace yin, to support Yang”. In other words, begin with simple and easy, and do not progress until a greater refined skill manifests. Progressing too quickly is a common problem. The secret is daily mindful practice.

I recommend 15 minutes a day to start. If a student can do that every day for a month, increasing the time slowly is not a problem, but if a student is not willing to make this small-time commitment for themselves, practice is already bound to failure. Finally, it is advisable to practice quality over quantity. Start with one exercise. Add a second a week later. There is no rush. Each week quality will increase and benefit will manifest. We don’t have to do a lot to get a good benefit, we have to do exactly what is required. Refine your practice daily.

Basic Energy Work

To replenish 氣 Qi, proper nutrition for 精 Jing is prenatal input, air, water, and food and for 神 Shen is mental, emotional, and spiritual care. Therapeutic Qigong must address both needs, cerebral and corporal. “Mankind cannot live on bread alone. Spirit and flesh are not two separate things. Five Element Theory is a means to understand the processing of Taiji as promotional and restricting cycles. Matter/ energy cannot be created or destroyed. It simply transforms from one state into another state. In promotion, there is restriction. In restriction, there is promotion. In other simpler terms, To obtain something, we must offer something. Offering something, we can obtain something. Yinyang is interconnected and interdependent.

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Internal practice

The objective of internal practice is to improve through the refinement of physical movement and stillness using volition to develop a greater sense of ease and flow that is of a higher quality of energy. It is best done subjectively. Constantly evaluating one’s own maintenance, improvement, or atrophy. Don’t turn it into an external competition against others.Just because we do it, does not mean it is working. Why, what, and how are the trinity of learning. Study and practice are it’s pillars. The mind’s intelligence, emotional state, and spiritual will are just as important as what we experience viscerally from the body. Make the mind and body stronger by noticing the holes in the bucket and repairing them. Qigong exercise is a venue to find flaw and improve our condition using the appropriate means. Beware of identifying the problem, but applying the wrong cure.

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Understanding using Qi to move the body.

Lower your eye lids and direct your mental attention inside your body. Move very slowly, intentionally, and subtly in small cyclical ranges. Up and down, using your legs while moving your arms forward and back, left and right. Feel the movement intimately. Every increment of the journey the body is changing internally. Take it all in. Can you distinguish substantial and insubstantial fluctuations in your stability and ease of movement? Can you feel exactly where this inconsistency, somewhere along the whole cyclical journey of your movement, is taking place? Do you find yourself exerting a greater and lesser amount of muscular contractions at various times during the movement to keep moving steady? Do you speed up or slow down unintentionally? Of course, we have to use the muscles to move, but often we are forced to use too much because we cannot relax deep enough inside. We might become too limp or stiff. Using Qi is like water flowing along the path of least resistance. Our Shen leads the Qi. Then in turn Qi leads the Jing. Due to the fact we are not working externally, like lifting up a heavy box or putting it down, apart from the minimalist amount of energy, we should feel very little internal restriction in our body when we possess refined whole body movement. Jing lead Li. Practice is a means to make movement easier. We don’t waste our Qi. We create the path of least resistance and flow effortlessly. The first object is to minimize or eliminate habitual movement that is not effective and efficient. We are erroneously blocking our own natural energy and causing it to stagnant by creating internal impingements and restrictions. We all too often are more concerned about reaching the destination than how we get there. Internal Qigong is a study using the mind to direct the body in practice. We need to gain knowledge. We cannot simply do it mindlessly lacking Yi and expect things to improve automatically by doing more and more exercise. Internal Qigong is very different than external Qigong that applies force using the muscles. It makes sense that first we should be able to move without weight applied to the body before we do exercises that increase resistance from the outside.