By Dr. James Shyun and Pat Preble
The entire practice of chi-kung require different postures and procedure depending upon the state of the body, level of practice development, time of day and season of the year. Winter and spring are yin, summer and fall are yang. Each day is a microcosm of the entire year with yin and yang waxing and waning from morning through night. Meditations and postures geared toward the development of yin energy are suggested to be performed in the afternoon or evening and during the winter and spring. Late night and early morning, as well as summer and fall are times suggested for working on the development of yang energy.
The ancient philosophers divided the 24 hour cycle of the day into 12 two-hour segments. Zi, cho, yin, mao, chen, and si begin at 11:00 p.m. and end at 11:00 a.m. respectively. During these time periods yang energy waxes and yin energy wanes. Zi, 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. is daybreak. Night changed to the beginning fo the new day. At this time the ancients would say there is only one yang with five yin. Later in the morning from 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m. is the period called Mao, when there is much more yang energy available to the practitioner. The ancients would say that at this time there are four yang with only two yin.
Wu, wei, shen, you, xu, fai comprise the time periods from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. when yin energy waxes and yang energy wanes. Wu, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. is one yin and five yang. You, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. is four yin and two yang.
In addition to the time periods mentioned chi-kung practice also takes into consideration the functioning of the meridians and organs in the body. Throughout a 24-hour period each of the twelve meridians (lung, large intestine, stomach, spleen, heart, small intestine, urinary bladder, kidney, pericardium, san jiao, gall bladder, and liver) takes dominance or ‘leadership’ of the body energy for a two-hour period. During the zi time period (11:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.) the gall bladder meridian is the leader of the body energy. This means that if the chi in the gall bladder is strong and there are no blockages along the meridian, evergy will flow freely and strongly along this meridian and throughout the rest of the body. If there are problems with this meridian, then at this time the whole body function will be impaired according to the degree of dysfunction in that meridian. At a different time of day, hen another meridian is in leadership of energy flow, a gall bladder dysfunction would have less of an perceivable effect. Certain postures and mediations will be used for practice during the zi time period to account for and enhance the gall bladder meridian’s leadership of the body energy. At a different time period, a different meridian would be in dominance and as a result, different postures and meditations would be used.
In general, practicing during the zi through si time periods is beneficial for persons who exercise to develop the ability to emit external chi (Waichi) and also for patients who suffer from an insufficiency of yang energy. Practice during the wu through fai perios is most beneficial for patients who suffer from an insufficiency of yin energy. For the general chi-kung practitioner the time periods zi, wu, mao and you are considered to be especially significant because of the symmetrical increase and decrese of either yin or yang energy during these time periods. Because of this variation in yin or yang energy, practice during these time periods facilitates the balance of yin and yang energy in the body which then leads to an enhanced development of chi.
Rather than follow the rigorous time periods described above a more convenient practice for beginners and man patients is simply to practice when getting up, before going to sleep and at lunch time. Since it requires a certain amount of dedication to get up at 5:00 in the morning to practice chi-kung and until one reaches more advanced stages the subtlety of the effects would most likely go unnoticed, beginners are usually urged simply to practice at the easier times of the morning, noon and evening.
Modern instruments are able to register the effects of magnetic fields which surround the planet. If there were instruments delicate enough to detect the presence of chi it would be found that each of the four directions, north, east, south and west are either more yin or more yang in nature. The ancient philosophers refer to the east as wood and the south as fire and consider these two directions to be more strongly yang. Patients suffering from a yang insufficiency are instructed to face east or south during their meditations. The west and north are conducive to developing chi in patients who suffer from yin deficiency.
Chi-kung may also be practiced while facing either the sun (during the day) or moon (during the night). The sun is a strong yang force and the moon is strongly yin. Facing the sun during the day activates yang energy and facing the moon at night enhances the development of yin energy.
Ultimately, the practitioner will become sensitive enough to determine on the basis of the felling of internal chi energy which is the best posture and optimum direction to face in order to produce the strongest sensation of chi in the body. Until this stage of development is reached, however, the practitioner can rely on the above suggestions of time and direction.
Once chi begins to accumulate in the body the practitioner can expect to experience any number of side effects, all of which will pass, and some of which may be at times unsettling or potentially frightening. The practitioner is urged to merely to witness these passing effects and maintain a certain calm detachment in the faces of them. For example, as chi accumulates and circulates freely throughout the body different parts of the body will be filled with chi. This could cause a sensation of feeling overly tall or very large. If, however, external chi is accumulating in the dantien, the practitioner may have the inner sense that the body is very small and extremely compact. During the micro-cosmic orbit meditation the practitioner may feel a pleasant cool sensation throughout the body. On the other hand, when inner chi is strong and ctive, a lot of heat can be built up and parts of the body through which chi passes may feel quite hot. The practitioner may also experience itching as the body opens to the passage of chi, and in some cases the sensation of an electrical charge can be felt passing through the body. These are all normal effects of developing and circulating chi through the body. The practitioner is advised to note them in passing and be aware that as the chi-kung practice continues in a peaceful and calm fashion, over time, these effects will automatically disappear.
Many times the body effects can be used to gauge to the level of development of chi in the practice. For instance, a sensation of heat all over the body and slight perspiration indicates that chi is active in the body and accumulating in the dantien. After a good meditation the practitioner can expect to feel an alert vigor in the body accompanied by a peaceful mental cal which can last quite a long while after the training period.
Some other effects from a proper chi-kung practice include increased appetite and gastrointestinal regularity, slight muscle movements especially in the lower back and a cracking or popping sound in the joints. As the practice continues and chi is accumulated the practitioner may also experience visual sensations of light ranging from a slight neon effect to flashing lightning which seems to pierce the brain and illuminate the entire spinal column. Light may also be perceived to circulate along the ren and du channels and accumulate at eh Baihui acu point, Du 20. The level and color of light experienced corresponds to the degree of accomplishment in the meditation practice.
If the practitioner experiences extremely painful side effects such as whole body shaking, pounding in the head (as if boulders are falling on it), dry heaves or passing out, it is an indication that the practice has been done improperly. Too much tension may have been in the muscles, the breathing may have been too heavy cousing too much oxygen to be mixed with internal chi, or the emotions might not have been clear and calm. Serious side effects from improper practice can also be experienced in the mental realm ranging from a feeling of being ‘not one’s self’ and slight dissociation to complete derangement and amnesia. In these cases, excess chi has become trapped in the body and must be expelled. After concluding a chi-kung session it is advisable to slowly bend at the waist while exhaling. Then, while inhaling slowly rise, with a swift move bend again at the waist and strongly expel all of the air from the lungs while voicing a loud “haugh” sound. This process expels excess chi at the end of practice. If, as has been stated above, the practice was improperly performed, even stronger methods will be needed to expel excess chi and re-ground the body energy. Standing with legs, shoulder width or slightly wider apart, draw a slow in-breath and on the out-breath violently push the hands half way toward the floor while bending at the knees and slightly at the waist, loudly voicing “haugh” on the out-breath. Do this as many times as necessary to get the excess chi out of the body system. Chi-kung meditation is a powerful process and care must be taken that all of the meditation procedures are properly carried out. One should never attempt to practice chi-kung without the supervision of a qualified master.
If the side effects of practice are pleasant or mildly curious in nature, the practitioner can assume that the development of chi is properly progressing. On the other hand, it he side effects are extreme and terribly unpleasant in nature, the practitioner is advised to stop what he or she is doing and seek advice from their master or teacher asa the practice has been improperly performed.
A few important points to keep in mind before beginning a meditation session are:
- Be certain that the mind and emotions are calm and peaceful:
- Choose an area that has good ventilation but is not overly drafty. The area should be quiet and conducive to tranquility, free from obnoxious odors or loud noises, and pleasant to be in.
- Relieve nature prior to practice.
- Wear loose fitting, soft and comfortable clothing.
- In general, practice good hygiene. The body should be clean and relaxed. If tired, do some self-message to relieve any muscle tension.
- Be certain that chairs or other equipment used are of a suitable height, hardness and are comfortable for the body.
- In case of storms such as thunder, rain, high wind, etc., temporarily suspend practice and choose a better time or place for practice.
For the actual mediation it is important to:
- Choose a direction for practice and take a posture (standing, sitting, or laying).
- Take several slow, deep breaths to relax the body, quiet the mind and allow stray thoughts to subside. Focus the attention on the dantien.
- Once the body is relaxed and a few deep breaths have been take, returen to natural breathing. The breath should be light, free, easy and unhindered. There are many kinds of breathing techniques which can be engaged in, but these are not recommended for beginners and should only be practiced under the supervision of a master. Beginners should simply breathe naturally.
- During deep meditation one may experience hallucinations of one type or another. Do not be alarmed by them, but do not become engaged in them either. Assent that they have occurred and allow them to pass naturally.
- If the posture becomes uncomfortable, move the body so that it is again comfortable and relaxed. It is always important to remember that in chi-kung practice muscles should be relaxed. If one engages in a “grit-the-teeth-and-endure” attitude, too much oxygen will be mixed with chi and can become trapped somewhere in the body leading to the severe effects listed earlier in this article. Relax, move the body if it needs it.
- Sometimes saliva will increase during meditation. If it does, rinse it through the mouth and swallow it. Do not spit it out.
- If the body tires during practice, take a few moments to concentrate on the dantien and rest for a while, breathing relaxed and freely.
- Do not jump up out of practice in case of external alarms. Direct the chi first to return to the dantien and then determine if there is any direct danger to the body. If not, continue with the practice. If there is a serious problem in the external environment then close the session and take care of it.
When closing the session:
- Focus the mind on the dantien to regather the chi. If there is a lot of saliva in the mouth, rinse it through the mouth several times and then swallow. Take several deep breath as at the beginning and slowly open the eyes. Take one long, slow breath, bend at the waist and with a strong push, exhale all of the air from the lungs making a loud sound on the exhale. Stand up and shake out the limbs.
- If one has been doing a static posture, be sure to massage and limber up. If the practice entailed active movement (as in Tai Chi), walk about naturally, take several deep breaths, stretch the back and arms and then remain quiet for a while before doing anything else.