by Kumar Frantzis
The elegant Oriental watercolors in this book represent a series of ancient Chinese exercises known as Chi Gung. Chi Gung systems have been recognized in China for 4000 years for their ability to elirninate illness, heal injury, and mitigate (if not reverse) many of the unwanted conditions brought on by aging. Chi Gung practice is also noted for being the secret source of the internal power of martial arts masters, as well as of great meditation masters and mystics.
What Is Chi?
Chinese medicine views the individual human being as one interconnected and inseparable whole of body, mind, and spirit, and it treats illness from this point of view, That which connects the whole together is the chi. In Chinese thought, chi is the life force energy that powers the "machine" of the body. Chi is the power source that enables your eyes to see, your mouth to taste, your muscles to move, your internal organs and glands to function, and your mind to think. Chi is the human equivalent of the electricity that makes a television work: without electricity to drive it, a television becomes merely a useless shell filled with silicon chips and wiring. In the same way, without chi, the body and its organs are useless.
What Is Chi Gung?
Chi Gung is the ancient science that imparts how individuals can, through their own efforts, balance and strengthen their own cld, even as the body ages. Whereas the body's "hardware" is genetically programmed to degenerate with age, the chi, properly ci dtivated, can become increasingly stronger during one's lifetime and counteract the undesirable affects of aging. Chi Gung exercises promote a longevity in which people can be as alive, aware, and functional at the end of their lives as they were in youth. These exercises are as valuable and as accessible to a senior citizen recovering from a heart attack as they are to a young person or to a competitive athlete.
The Background of Chi Gung
There are five major branches of Chi Gung in China: Taoist, Buddhist, medical, martial arts, and Confucian. The exercises depicted in this book are drawn from the first four. The original Chi Gung was Taoist, which was the source for the others. The Taoist form created Chinese medicine over 4000 years ago, discovering the points and meridian lines of acupuncture and the medicinal uses of thousands of herbs.
Taoist Chi Gung equally emphasizes cultivating physical vitality and developing spirit or consciousness through meditation. It seeks long life with vibrant health into old age, as well as a living spiritual awareness that manifests daily here and now, not in an afterlife. In contrast, Buddhist Chi Gung focuses more oh the health of the soul than that of the body.
The other three branches of Chi Gung borrowed tethniques from both the Taoists and Buddhists, and recombined them for specific purposes. For example, the Confucians stress applying Chi Gung to intellectual or aesthetic practices, such as painting or calligraphy; medical Chi Gung utilizes chi to cure disease, relieve pain, heal injuries, and maintain ongoing wellness; martial arts Chi Gung seeks to create exceptional physical abilities and psychic awareness.
How Chi Gung Is Practiced
All Chi Gung exercises are performed in a relaxed, gentle fashion that does not cause shock to the body All stretches must be done to only 70 percent of capacit)6 not 100 percent. Chi Gi_mg exercises are the most effective and sophisticated lowimpact exercises that have ever existed. Chi Gung does not build dynamic muscles; rather, it uses breathing, stretching, movement, and visualization to develop chi, a stron& functional body, and a calm and relaxed mind. Through practice, the joints, internal organs, and glands are all strengthened. The Chi Gung approach to exercise is thus radically different from the typical Western approach. In my 30 years of experience in the martial arts and in Oriental healing I saw at least a thousand practitioners of Chi Gung who were as relaxed, flexible, and capable at the age of 80 as is the average 20 to 30yearold.
The fundamental methodology of Chi Gung involves the use of the chi to activate the body's internal pumping mechanisms for the purpose of moving bodily fluids more efficiently Chi Gung exercises are, in effect, the energetic equivalent of pumping iron.
The body, being mostly fluids, has several internal pumping mechanisms besides the cardiovascular system (the cerebrospinal system, for example). Chi Gung works by increasing the flow of chi to these internal pumps. Blood, which carries oxygen and nutrients to the body's cells and removes their waste products, is perhaps the most important body fluid. Chi Gung has methods for moving blood through the veins and arteries just as strongly as does Westemstyle aerobics, but without strain. Rather than solely emphasizing cardiovascularpulmonary exercises, Chi Gung contains specialized motions for the liver, kidneys, spleen, and various glands and nerves.
Chi Gung may be practiced standing still, moving, sitting, or lying down. Of the many Chi Gung systems in China, the one probably most familiar to the West is Thi Chi Chuan, but many of the exercises in this book (such as the Eight Pieces of Brocade, the Five Animal Play, and the YiJinjing) are equally well known in China, where Chi Gung is now enjoying a revival, with 60 to 70 million followers. Most Chinese who practice do so to be vibrantly healthy or to cure specific diseases; many who practice are older people who are experiencing the realities of aging and want to do something about it. While in some regions Chi Gung is taking on the character of a revivalist religious movement (with healing through the laying on of hands), simultaneously whole clinics, hospitals, and exercise centers are being devoted to advancing the health benefits of Chi Gung from a scientific point of view.
The computer revolution has become possible because ways have been found to pass electricity between all parts of the computer hardware with greater and greater efficiency. The Chinese have long recognized that, by increasing and balancing the power of the chi in the body, a similar positive revolution canoccur within the individual. Currently, Chi Gung represents a new frontier in Western medicine. As time passes, and the concepts and principles of Chi Gung become understood in Western terms, this ancient way of keeping fit will bring health benefits throughout the Western Hemisphere. That,least, is my fervent hope.
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