Week 3: Jing and Baduanjin
Welcome to the 3rd week of the Qigong study group.
At this point, we should all have a decent foundation of forms and meditative techniques with which to build a strong foundation on.
This week, we will be learning about Jing (C'hing) more, and learning an ancient Qigong form to develop it.
A very apt description of Jing comes from wikipedia
Jīng (Chinese: 精; Wade-Giles: ching) is the Chinese word for "essence", specifically kidney essence. Along with qì and shén, it is considered one of the Three Treasures Sanbao 三寶 of Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM. According to tradition, Jīng is stored in the kidneys and is the most dense physical matter within the body (as opposed to shén which is the most volatile). It is said to be the material basis for the physical body and is yīn in nature, which means it nourishes, fuels, and cools the body. As such it is an important concept in the internal martial arts. Jīng is also believed by some to be the carrier of our heritage (similar to DNA). Production of semen, in the man, and menstrual blood (or pregnancy), in the woman, are believed to place the biggest strains on jīng. Because of this, some even equate jīng with semen, but this is inaccurate; the jīng circulates through the 8 extraordinary vessels and creates marrow and semen, among other functions.
One is said to be born with a fixed amount of jīng (pre-natal jīng, also sometimes called yuan qi) and also can acquire jīng from food and various forms of stimulation (exercise, study, meditation.) Theoretically, jīng is consumed continuously in life; by everyday stress, illness, substance abuse, sexual intemperance, etc. Pre-natal jīng by definition cannot be renewed, and it is said it is completely consumed upon dying.
So, this jīng is considered quite important for longevity in TCM. Many disciplines related to qìgōng are devoted to the replenishment of "lost" jīng by restoration of the post-natal jīng. In particular, the internal martial arts (esp. T'ai chi ch'uan) and the Circle Walking of Baguazhang may be used to preserve pre-natal jīng and build post-natal jīng - if performed correctly. Commonplace in China is the sight of rénshēn (Kouji's note: rénshēn is Chinese ginseng) on sale in herb shops, at a wide range of prices - Kung Fu classics fans may remember it used as a plot element at the start of Drunken Master 2. Rénshēn, particularly Korean and Chinese, is said to bolster the jīng and a common medicinal recipe is to add to porridge (of course congee in China) along with cinnamon, goji berries and ginger for a sweet, warming breakfast when the weather starts to turn cold in Autumn.
An early mention of the term in this sense is in a 4th century BCE chapter called "Inner Training" (內業) of a larger text compiled during the Han dynasty, the Guǎnzi (管子).
Jīng (精; essence) should not be confused with the related concept of jìn (勁; power) (Kouji's note: I'm not sure about the accuracy of this, they are the same thing as far as most internal arts are concerned), nor with jīng (經; classic/warp), which appears in many early Chinese book titles, such as the Nèi Jīng, yì jīng and Chá Jīng, the fundamental text on all the knowledge associated with tea.
This understanding of Jing comes from more of a TCM or Confucianist standpoint; thus, the correlation of Jing to the kidneys. Qigong and the internal arts use a different system of meridians and Dantien that are spiritual and conceptual and do not correlate to the organs. For our practices, this is more preferred, but the description above is correct as well.
So, then, how do we truly define Jing? Jing is a type of internal force-essence that is derived from the kidneys and sexual organs. It is impacted negatively by stress, sex and diet. It can be bolstered by certain Qigong forms, teas, herbs, meditation, proper sleep, and an overall healthy lifestyle. It is derived from Qi and for the purposes of the martial arts, led by Qi. You cannot feel or directly manipulate your Jing in the same manner as your Qi.
When you are first starting off in practice, your Qi will be very subtle. It may be faint. It will probably feel like a slight warmth or buzzing sensation. It will take time in meditation to feel, and will be difficult to fix or move. Through the practice of Daoist qigong, your Neiqi and Qi is led from the Middle Dantien in the heart, to the Lower Dantien below the naval. When this happens, neiqi will be unified with neijing, and Jing will start to be produced in a larger amount. At this point, the Qi is strengthened immensely, and Neiqi and Neijing give birth to strong Qi which derives from Jing. After this the Qi will cease to be faint and will instead feel like a very strong, liquid force. It will buzz and feel like electricity, cause the fine hairs on the arms to stand on end, feel very warm and tingly, or 'feel like molten metal' according to some. Your Qi will be much easier to manipulate and move around the body, or into others. It will only take a brief thought and spiritual assertion to feel, as opposed to minutes in meditation. All of these signs of a strong Qi are indicative of strong Jing and unification of Neiqi and Neijing. At this point, when you feel and move your Qi, you will also be affecting Jing as well. Qi leads Jing.
Well, this may all sound great, but we aren't anywhere near that point yet collectively. That brings us to this weeks exercises: Baduanjin.
Baduanjin (八段锦气功) is a very ancient series of eight exercises that develop internal power and sink the Qi. It has variously been called "Eight Pieces of Brocade" or "Eight Pieces of Silk" Qigong.
There are many theories about where Baduanjin comes from, including this one paraphrased from this site
Interesting theories abound about the origin and development of the Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung. It is likely that ancient dances, medical theory, military drills and exercises, shamanistic rituals, and Buddhist and Taoist practices were all sources for the specific and formal movement routines of Dao-yin or Chi Kung (Qigong). The ancient terms for these types of Qigong or Chi Kung (energy/Qi/breath training) fitness exercises were Dao Yin (guiding, breathing and stretching) or Daoqi Yinti (guide the qi and stretch the body) or Yang Sheng Fa (Longevity Practices). Literature that talks about such health and fitness exercise postures or routines, with some movements quite similar to movements in the Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung, goes back nearly 2,500 years. Let us now review some of that historical development, in chronological order.
There are statements in the writings of the philosophical Taoists like Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, circa 500-300 BCE, that comment on health exercises. Chuang Tzu says in Chapter 15,
"Breathing in and out in various manners, spitting out the old and taking in the new, walking like a bear and stretching their neck like a bird to achieve longevity - this is what such practitioners of Daoyin, cultivators of the body and all those searching for long life like Ancestor Peng, enjoy."
- Chuang Tzu, Chapter 15, circa 300 BCE (Actually Chuang Tzu seems to be mocking these exercises as unnecessary.)
Now, we will move on the exercises themselves, with the instructions from Beginning Daoist Qigong:
Baduanjin are a series of zhan zhuang (literally, 'standing on stake', as these exercises used to be done while standing atop plumflower posts) exercises known for the ability to sink the qi into the dantian for more practical use as a form of energy known as neijing, henceforth referred to as jing. Baduanjin exercises are very potent, and are an Ancient practice of the shaolin and wudang monks, dating from about 900 a.d.
Start by doing the standing exercises for five minutes a day. After three weeks, increase this to ten minutes, three weeks later, increase to 15 minutes and 20 minutes after a further three weeks. Stand with your feet a shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward, either parallel, or turned slightly outward; unlock your knees. Let your hands hang loosely by your sides and drop your shoulders. Imagine that, like a puppet, your whole body is hanging, suspended from your head. A string holds your head from a point at the top of your skull, directly in line with the tips of your ears. Feel yourself sinking down, relaxing, as you hang from the string. Breathe calmly and naturally through the nose. Stand quietly, allowing your whole system to calm down, for up to five minutes. As you do this, mentally follow through the points on the illustration, starting at the top of your head. Your eyes look forward and slightly downward; drop your chin so that your throat is not pushed forward. Release any tension in your neck. Relax your hips and belly. Let the bottom of your spine unfold downward so that neither your belly nor your bottom is sticking out. The dantien lies 3-6 inches below your navel, one third of the way into your body. It is in line with the suspension point at the top of your head. From below your kneecaps, your roots extend downward. From your knees upward you rise like a tree, resting calmly between the earth and the sky. Your weight is evenly distributed between your left and right feet. These roots sink deep into the earth. The weight of your body rests in the middle of the soles of your feet. Return to these points again and again until you are able to assume the Wu Qi position naturally and easily.
a. Supporting the sky with both hands
Begin in the Wu Qi or Starting Position.
Breathing in through the nostrils, slowly raise your hands above your head, as if you are pushing upwards at the very borders of the sky. The movement of the arms should be circular in nature. Pause when your hands are above your head, holding the breath for 1 second, before exhaling out of the mouth and returning the hands to the starting position.
After you have trained for some time, you can try this: As you begin to press upward with your hands, slowly rise up on your toes so that you complete the full extension of your arms and legs at the same time. Repeat for a total of 9 times.b. Drawing a bow to each side
This exercise has been variously referred to as 'shooting an eagle' or 'shaolin archer'.
From the Wu qi position bend the elbows and lift the arms up so the palms face your chest, as you inhale through the nostrils. Visualise yourself holding a balloon in front of your chest (Holding the Balloon). Turn the left palm out to the left with fingers pointing up. Turn your head left too, as you exhale. Imagine the left arm is pushing against a wooden part of an archer's bow. Imagine the right fingers are curled around the bows string. As you breath out pull the imaginary string to the right and push out with the left palm to the left. Breathe in and bring the palm back in front of the chest. Repeat the exercise to the right. Repeat for each side 9 times.
c. Splitting heaven and earth
This exercise is easy, although very potent. Start in the wu qi position.
On inhale (once again, through the nose, using the buddhist breathing method), bring the hands up to the holding the balloon position. As you exhale out of the mouth, push upwards with the right hand, towards the sky, while simultaneously pushing downwards, towards the earth, with the left hand. Both arms should reach a full extension concurrently.
On inhale, do the same as above, except switch the arms that are pushing, so the left hand rises to the sky while the right hand pushes downwards towards the earth. Repeat 9 times for each side.
After one year, you may add this: After you extend your palms fully, leave your hands in that position, breathe out, and imagine you're using 20% of your power to press apart two huge blocks of stone. As you do so, twist slightly to the side with your hand facing down, and breathe out. Keeping your hands extended, relax and breathe in. Then, on the next breathe out imagine you are using 40% of your power, and twist a little more. continue the exercise increasing your twist each time and using 20, 60, 70, 80, 90, and 100 percent of your power each time you breathe out, increasing your twist each time until you are turned fully to the side. After that, slowly unwind as you breathe in. Change sides and repeat.
d. Monk Gazes at the Moon
Also called 'looking back like a cow'. Do NOT perform this exercise while pregnant.
From the wu qi position breathe in and raise your hands to chest level, palms facing you. Turn your entire upper body from your hips, to the left. Breathe out as you move, and turn your palms outward as if pushing a large beach ball away from you. Turn as far as your hips will allow comfortably, and finish breathing out. Pause for one second. Make sure your hands are still opposite the front of your chest and not skewed sideways by excessive twisting of your upper back and shoulders. Turn back toward the front as your breathe in. As you move, turn your hands back inward to their original position, embracing the invisible balloon between your arms and chest. Relax and stay in this position, pause for one second as you finish breathing in. Turn to the right, performing the same twist. Repeat 9 times for each side.
e. Lowering the head and hips
As you inhale, bend sideways at the hips to the right while raising the left hand overhead, until the palm is parallel to the sky. Let the right hand hang loosely at your side. Exhale, and return the the neutral position. Repeat the same motion for the other side of the body. Repeat for a total and 9 times.
f. Touch the feet with both hands
As you inhale, breath in and raise your arms to your sides, palms facing down, parallel to the ground. Breath out, and move your hands out in front of your head, at the same level, and crouch down and touch your feet. Hold this for 3 seconds, before returning to the starting position. Repeat 9 times.
g. Clenching the fists
This exercise should be VERY familiar to anyone who has ever studied the art of Karate. It is basically alternate punching from a very narrow horse stance.
Start in wu qi. As you inhale, chamber your fists upside down at your sides. Exhale, and *slowly* punch outwards with the right hand. Inhale again, returning the arm to the chambered position, and then proceed to exhale while punching with the left hand. Repeat 9 times, each side.
h. Shaking the body
Starting in the Wu qi position, lower yourself slightly by bending your knees. Rest the backs of your hands on the flesh just above your hip bones on either side of your lower back. Shake your whole body by bouncing gently up and down from your knees. Your feet stay flat on the ground. Make sure your shoulders and elbows are completely relaxed so that their weight rests on the backs of your hands. You will feel your hands pleasantly massaging your lower back. On each bounce, breathe out through your nose in little bursts, until you have exhaled completely. Keep bouncing as you inhale smoothly. Repeat for 9 breaths.
Practice these exercises for a 40 minutes a day this week. Ignore any kind of visualization, time recommendation, breath counts or training methods in the above text- instead, simply do the breathwork with our Buddhist breathing and meditate in the style of Void meditation as you do them. Try and do each exercise for about 5 minutes. If you have pain in the legs, take a break between forms and rest the legs (you almost assuredly will if you've never done Qigong before).
To aid in the instruction of Baduanjin I have made a video showcasing the movements. Again, please do not pass this URL around publicly.
These exercises will begin to develop Jing in the energy system, though it won't be immediately apparent.
Post your experiences and difficulties with Baduanjin in the appropriate forum thread to discuss.
The second exercise for the week is to continue with Void/Wuwei meditation. I would ask for 20 minutes a day. You may do it before or after Baduanjin, that choice is yours.
This concludes the theory and exercise for week three.
Good Health and Training.