Explaining the Inexplicable
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 1 excerpt:
Medical Qigong operates with the understanding that all levels of a person are equally important for both personal cultivation and must be attended to by the Medical Qigong practitioner during Qi Emission Therapy for a patient to achieve their optimal level of health.
The levels, or the “whole body” are: Jing (physical/essence), Qi (energetic) and Shen (spiritual/nonphysical). How this translates into medical practices of Qigong is: proper structural alignment and balancing of the body (Jing level), proper use of the breath (Qi level) and integration of the mind/intention/visualization (Shen level):
Posture is not merely a foundational principle of Qigong because it is often the first facet of Qigong emphasized or taught to a student or patient. More importantly, posture is a vital basis that must endure for all Qigong practices to be properly practiced and optimally beneficial, for both Internal and External forms of Qigong: “With correct posture, our Qi is able to circulate and flow naturally, without stagnation. Healing is a direct result of this free-flowing circulation. Also, when your energy is strong and free-flowing, you can use your Qigong skills to transmit your energy to help others” (Wu, Zhongxian. Karin Taylor Wu. Fire Dragon Meridian Qigong: Essential NeiGong for Health and Spiritual Transformation. London and Philadelphia: Singing Dragon. 2012. Print. P. 33).
We are an open system to the surrounding environment, constantly exchanging and interacting with the energies and elements around us. The ability to perceive these energies within ourselves first is dependent largely upon our ability to cultivate the unobstructed flow of blood and energy within the vast network of our internal meridian systems and energy centers. Meridian theory, therefore, is a key element in TCM healing and, in the principles of Medical Qigong, posture is the key to obtaining balance within this system: “In adjusting body posture, the saying ‘proper posture is followed by smooth Qi movement’ means that correct body posture guarantees the smooth passage and flow of Qi and Blood” (Liu, Tianjun, Kevin W Chen, eds. Chinese Medical Qigong. London and Philadelphia: Singing Dragon. 2010. Print. P. 91).
The additional facets of proper breath and intention are then applied.
A major source of one’s post-natal Essence/Qi is air, and while food and water are also important: “…the effects of food and drink on the body normally take several hours or even days to become apparent, [while] the effects of proper or improper breathing take only seconds to produce a change…the conscious use of breathing is one of the most powerful transformational tools available…” (Johnson, Jerry A. Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy Volume 2: Energetic Alchemy, Dao Yin Therapy and Qi Deviations. California: International Institute of Medical Qigong. 2002. Print. P. 290).
Breathing is essential for things such as oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange, cellular respiration and immunity. These and other effects of breath are key in explaining how the use of breath in Qigong is so systemically beneficial, however, Medical Qigong sees the importance of proper breathing as going beyond just the physiological functions of the body that require it. It is considered the current by which one’s life force energy or Qi is propelled not only throughout the body, but also into (Qi cultivation) and out of (Qi emission) the body.
When one breathes, they can do so at the very minimum levels and still have enough oxygen in their blood for survival, yet their body and mind are ailing under the conditions of their poor breathing habits:
“…the breath becomes progressively shallower as the person relies on moving his chest to breath[e]. Now the person starts losing his memory, his thinking ability, and his mental clarity…the diaphragm does not move up and down actively anymore and it does not massage the internal organs. The Qi becomes stagnant, and the organs degenerate” (Yang, Jwing-Ming. The Root of Chinese Qigong: Secrets for Health, Longevity, & Enlightenment. Wolfeboro, NH: YMAA Pub. Center. 1997. Print. P. 124).
This illustrates how it is not merely important that the basic physical need for oxygen is met, but that the breath is full and dynamic enough to properly move and nourish all aspects of the body both directly through the physical, diaphragmatic movement of respiration, and indirectly through the energetic movement of the Qi being cultivated and propelled with each inhalation and exhalation.
Employing proper breathing, is medicine. The movement of energy is essential in the prevention and treatment of all forms of stagnation within the body as well as the condition of one’s emotional state/health (especially that of stress), both key factors in disease manifestation.
The breath and the Qi are inextricably connected. From this relationship, and the conscious development of it, one has a dynamic tool for health…
…for once the tool of breathing is used regularly, it reveals itself to us as being much more than we originally thought, and one discovers that, “What we want to get at is not the breath itself; it is something finer behind the breath” (Vivekananda, The Science of Breathing).
The concept of emotions as internal pathogens is a common principle in TCM theory, but one that is stressed by Medical Qigong as being vitally important to the health of the patient. Emotions are energy, and they are driven by our conscious and unconscious thought patterns. When they are left unexpressed, unprocessed, or are recurrent on the side of negativity, the energy behind that thought and emotion becomes greater and will eventually manifest physically…
“…the majority of sicknesses within the physical body could be traced back to energetic disturbances and prior to that the mind” (Mitchell, Damo. Heavenly Streams: Meridian Theory in Nei Gong. London: Singing Dragon. 2013. Print. P.144).
Qigong provides proper training in using intention positively and for the benefits of health/healing.
When studies are conducted on the effectiveness of Qigong therapies, one fairly consistent variable discussed is the placebo effect, or the patient’s belief in the treatment instead of the treatment itself being what causes some benefit to the patient. Therefore, many studies have been conducted on animals and plants for the purpose of ruling out the placebo effect. A prime example being Dr. Bernard Grad who conducted a study on a laying-on-of-hands healer and their effectiveness at treating goiters in lab mice. Dr. Grad’s expressed intention for using lab mice instead of people, was to “…distinguish between the psychological effects of the patient’s beliefs from true energetic effects of the healer’s hands upon cellular physiology” (Gerber, Richard. Vibrational Medicine: The #1 Handbook of Subtle-Energy Therapies. 3rd ed. Rochester, Vermont: Bear and Co. 2001. Print. P. 290).
Dr. Grad’s study found that not only did the direct energetic healing of the mice cause them to have a “…significantly slower rate of goiter development…” (Gerber 291) but that the same outcome was produced from an indirect means of energetic healing in which the healer energized pieces of cotton and wool that the mice were then exposed to in their cages for two hours per day (Gerber 292).
However, one factor of healing outcome that is not discussed is that if someone is capable of effecting positive healing change in others with energetic medicine, (as has been shown in numerous studies such as Dr. Grad’s) then they are, or anyone is, also capable of similar results within their own bodies. The placebo effect is little more than a person’s belief in their ability to heal and/or faith in the treatment they are receiving. While in the world of western research this has been used as a negative connotation, Medical Qigong views the patient’s belief in treatment to be of primary importance, as it is a merging of their Will with the intended treatment outcome. Therefore, the “placebo effect” may instead be a clear illustration of the astounding power of the mind to influence the body, in this case for the purpose of healing.
With this understanding, one can then see how central the mind is in healing, and how through proper and positive intention and visualization, Qigong can be a powerful tool of internal cultivation and transformation for the patient in their personal practice of Self-Healing Qigong and in a clinical setting with a practitioner of Medical Qigong.
(Direct quotes from Tai Chi Basics)
“Recent scientific breakthroughs are demonstrating that mind-body movement strategies can actually ‘switch off’or ‘switch on’ gene activity associated with health and disease. Everyone is familiar with the ‘Fight or Flight Response’ but researcher Richard Benson asked a very significant and unique question:
If your body can ramp you up to respond to physiological needs, can it also ramp down?
“The answer is yes. People can reduce heart rate, stress, and biological markers present during trauma and tension.”
How is this done?
“Can a human alter their health through relaxation techniques? Yes.”
“…studies [conducted by Benson] began by employing experts in meditation and eastern practice to see if 1) their emotional states differed from the norm and if 2) they could actively change their states as measured by biological markers upon request. Yes: experienced meditators had healthier states and could alter biological markers such as mental states, breathing, sweat, and hear[t] rate.”
“Can novice practitioners alter their health? Yes.” “After proving that biological markers could be moved, he created experiments to test un-experienced people. In these studies they used progressive relaxation techniques where a recording (the Olivia Recordings) led a person to concentrate on successive body parts. The goal was to arrive at a state which mirrors the relaxed state that we experience upon waking or is actively obtained by accomplished meditators. Novice practitioners achieved this state in 12-15 minutes and then were free to concentrate on whichever aspect of health they wanted to improve.”
“How does Benson suggest that we replicate the results?” “In Benson’s book he goes on to say that you do not need to use the Olivia recording but recommends it if you don’t have another practice. Practitioners of yoga, eastern practices, and meditation all equally acquire this state. What was the constant in each set of studies was the time: 12-15 minutes were needed to achieve the healing state” (Sprath, 1 Aug 2015 The Benefits of the Tai Chi Long Form over the Short Form).
The majority of research on Medical Qigong has been conducted on the health benefits of individuals who practice Qigong and other Self-Healing exercises. This research has repeatedly proven the efficacy of Self-Healing exercises on overall health…
…Now, research in the area of External Qi Emission is highly sought after as more questions arise about whether Qi Emission is causing healing change at all, or beyond that of what a hypnosis or suggestive therapy would. Click here to read about some research conducted on the legitimacy of External Qi Emission.
Standardization vs. Individualization…
Not all studies conducted on energetic healing/Qigong produce exemplary results, however that is to be understood due to things such as: 1) variation in practitioner experience level/mindfulness maintained during practice and/or treatment, and 2) the practitioner working within the parameters of what each patient is able or willing to heal from. However the primary factor to consider in the realm of medical study outcome is the limitation of study standardization being implemented with natural forms of medicine designed to be individualized:
No two people are the same, this is yet another guiding principle that sets TCM apart from Western forms of medicine. Although TCM theorizes on how symptoms will manifest based on the underlying pattern, that manifestation will be treated differently based on the person’s many other physical and emotional dynamics. This makes each patient’s medical needs unique regardless of whether they suffer from the same or similar symptoms. Therefore the essential dynamic and highest goal of TCM is to connect with each person on this individual basis. To see the interconnectedness and similarity in all things, yet not allow that commonality to overshadow the individual, for it is in the uniqueness of that patient’s disease/symptom manifestation that the key to their healing is found.
This, however, does not fit Western Medicine’s template of standardization in both treatment and collection of research data, a prime example of how Eastern and Western Medicine can be complementary, yet cannot be forced strictly into the others’ mold as they consist of many contradictory philosophies/methods of healing.