The Types of Qigong That I Teach
I have studied many qigong systems, public and private, old and new, with a dozen teachers. Often, I have learned differing versions of classic qigong methods from different teachers. Some I have studied only under a promise that I do not share them. After many years of seeking my way, I gravitated to the simplest and most profound versions of classical qigong that I could find. What I like to practice and what seems important to teach changes. Here is a current list:
Eight Brocades of Silk is a very well-known set developed in the Song Dynasty (10th-13th century CE) by Li Shi-Ju. Useful for maintaining flexible strength and immunity, the Eight Brocades is originally a practice for cultivation of the Eight Extraordinary Channels, the framework that underlies not only deep health issues but the journey between our genetic inheritance and what we can become. I teach both Southern and Northern styles of the Eight Brocades, depending on individual needs. The Seated Eight Brocades is extremely special and was the principal practice of the famously long-lived itinerant Daoist Li Ching-Yuen. The version I practice was taught to me by Kwan Sai-Hung, one of Li’s direct students, and again by Jeffrey Yuen who received it from his grandfather who knew master Li well.
Yi Jin Jing are the Muscle/Sinew Transforming Exercises, closely related to the Eight Brocades. The Sinew practices work as a bridge from the external energetics to the internal and back to the external. They are useful for preventing or healing injuries and for boosting immunity. They are very important for individuals who use their hands while working, such as musicians, computer users and especially anyone in the healing arts who touches patients (doctors, nurses, acupuncturists, massage therapists, etc.)
The Five Element Qigong is a tuning of the five principal yin organs: Spleen/Pancreas, Lung, Kidneys, Liver and Heart, along with their energetic functions. It is simple to do and an excellent warm-up for the day.
The 12 Meridian Qigong includes representative qigong for each of the organs and Primary Meridians. Selections from this set are applied as needed rather than practiced as a whole, although no rules need apply.
The Alchemical Qigong (Tai Yu Shen Gong/Nei Dan) is a unique set designed to methodically transform heaviness to lightness, or, in the language of Internal Alchemy, to redeem matter back to spirit. As is characteristic of the Daoist traditions, this work begins at the physical level and progresses methodically and precisely. The Alchemical Qigong is a treasure; the version I practice and share is from Hua Shan mountain. As with all the qigong sets, individual exercises are often extracted for specific uses, sometimes becoming well known on their own. Swimming Dragon is an example— sometimes a stand-alone qigong, it is originally part of the Alchemical Qigong set. Other qigong from the Alchemical Qigong are used for cancer prevention or recovery, hormonal regulation, and so forth. Although potentially invaluable individually, the practices of Alchemical Qigong have special function when applied sequentially within the context of the Internal Alchemical understanding, a tradition dating back at least to Ge Hong (3rd-4th century CE) in an unbroken lineage.
The Bone Marrow Washing Qigong (Xi Sui Jing) is a relatively demanding practice designed to reach the deepest level of physical and psychological health, uprooting and cleansing internal obstacles to health and fulfillment. Although the Marrow Washing Qigong is often said to be lost, fully intact oral tradition lineages exist and can be practiced today, including the postures, breath work, intention focus and the theoretical framework necessary for effective progress. The version I practice is from the White Eyebrow Monk of the 19th century.
The Xing Yi Nei Gong is a set of 16 qigong practices developed by the Xing Yi masters of the late 19th century. The Xing Yi Nei Gong is a stand-alone qigong that works in the Eight Extraordinary Meridian context. Included are important qigong exercises that can be extracted for work on specific health issues from stiff neck to difficulty making decisions to regulating high or low blood pressure.
The Huff-Puff Qigong of Guo Lin, sometimes known as the Walking Qigong or Anti-Cancer Qigong, is a very famous walking practice developed in the 1950s as a self-cure for ovarian cancer. It is now used broadly, and indeed is beneficial for a wide range of issues, from circulation problems to jet lag, and of course, cancers. The Huff-Puff Walking Qigong is a simple yet precise system to open blockages at the lymphatic and circulatory levels. It is a complete practice that works from the heels to the crown and back to the heels, opening left and right, raising the spirit and using the breath to methodically energize the body and expel toxicity. The Walking Huff Puff Qigong is a powerful adjunct to Western cancer treatments and is relatively easy to learn.
Qigong For Women’s Health is a very important specialty within qigong. In qigong circles, it is common for women to gather to do certain practices without men. These practices are drawn from a large collection and are selected according to need: to build blood, regulate Liver Qi, regulate menstruation, regulate hormones, smooth menopause, and so forth. Included are practices to receive inspiration from heaven, a classical term for bringing celestial support for fertility that is also very useful for any creative act in life.
The Tai Ji Ruler (Tai Ji Chih) is a beautiful set of qigong practiced with a measured, polished branch of a tree. I use a peach tree branch I collected on a visit to Hua Shan, one of the sacred mountains of Daoism (where the Tai Ji Ruler practice was developed) but any branch or even a piece of one-inch wooden dowel will do.
Tai Chi (Tai Ji) is often practiced as qigong, but it is originally and essentially a martial art. I have been studying and practicing tai ji for many years but I do not offer any tai ji instruction. All the different family styles of tai ji include very specific qigong to develop the power that each style specializes in, as well as staff, sword, saber, two-person forms, and more. A school of tai ji at its best includes a complete curriculum of practices specific to its lineage; a tall order that is a great treasure to find.
Meditation is beyond qigong, beyond technique. Meditation is taking time to reside in a state of connection, an opportunity that is always present even if usually missed, where all is perfect without any need for improvement, just as it is. The myriad meditation techniques are preparations for entering this original state and are very important therapeutic supports to clear the practical obstructions we are experiencing. When requested, I share some of the practices that have been transmitted to me in the Daoist and Buddhist traditions. I share them as they have been shared with me and as I practice them.