Synergy of Qi & Nutrition [2008-03-02]
Qigong is the synergy of mind, breath and body. Likewise our body works through the synergistic actions of our organs, which in turn depend on the synergistic functioning of many different types of cells.
Even the nutrients we take work synergistically. This is bet illustrated by the antioxidant cascade where many antioxidants work together to defend the cell from free radical damage that can lead to malfunction, ageing, chronic diseases and cancer. Each antioxidant can neutralize certain types of free radicals, and each antioxidant works best at a particular site either outside the cell, at the cell membrane, or at other components of the cell.
Synergy means components working together harmoniously, to give better results than each working independently. I will discuss how qi, nutrition and the body's distribution channels work in synergy.
In qigong, the mind is the master of qi, and therefore the most important component. The mind commands qi that flows inside the body, traversing the meridian channels, charging the cells and organ systems. The mind can charge up or concentrate the qi, get it flowing, and initiate repair and healing where needed. It is the mind that allows qi to be transferred from one person to another, which is important to help in healing. If you are not aware of your qi, then you will be neglecting this very important factor, and will not utilize your qi to its best ability.
A qigong master can do wonders with his mind directing his strong qi. Last week Sifu Tan Kai Sing, my Shaolin ZiFa Self-Healing Qigong master, demonstrated how he could use his mind to command his qi to help 6 women win against 10 men in a tug-of-war. He also showed how a 12 year old boy's ( who had received so much qi from him in the course of treatments for cerebral palsy ) movements could be so easily controlled by him.
In such a situation, the master's qi influences the recipients' own qi to work according to the master's commands. It is not mind control, where your mind is being influenced by another's, but qi control, where your qi ( and therefore movements ) is being controlled by a master. You are totally aware, but cannot resist the movements propelled by your qi, which is in turn being controlled by the master. If you have received so much qi from the master, then the effect will be more evident.
While the mind can command and control qi, the breath and the body are necessary to increase the qi.
Most of us are aware that each breath brings in oxygen, some moisture, and unfortunately, some pollutants too. In traditional Chinese medical theory, each breath also brings in qi ( kong qi ) which then combines with qi from the food we eat ( gu qi ) to form "gathering qi" ( zong qi ). Various names are given to various forms of qi in the body. We were born with "congenital qi" that is crucial for survival, and is stored in the kidneys. Everything else is "acquired qi" that is necessary to supplement the congenital qi, and if there is surplus, can be utilized to heal others, or even do incredible stunts.
Since we breathe all the time, it is thus the most consistent way of gathering acquired qi. But it is not like breathing in air and oxygen. To get kong qi flowing, the mind must be attentive; the breathing must be a conscious effort.
Conscious breathing is therefore the easiest way to charge your cells with qi. You can do it anytime. Just be aware of your breath. If you practice meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong or any other mind-body exercises that stress on mindful breathing, then qi will grow and flow every time you practise.
For a more enjoyable qi-breathing exercise, you can learn the six healing sounds as taught by Master Mantak Chia ( grandmaster of Healing Tao ) and popularized here by Dr Jannie Chew, or other versions taught in qigong.
The full impact of qigong can only be achieved if the mind, breath and body work together in synergy. Since qi is stored in organs and energy centres, and flows through energy meridians that traverse the body, physical body postures and movements influence qi in many ways. Through intuition, spiritual guidance and experimentation, qigong masters have devised many postures and exercises to benefit the body in different ways. Thus we end up with many qigong styles, each with many variants, giving thousands of different postures and movements.
Each style and their exercises have been tried and tested and proven to be beneficial for certain problems. The Shaolin qigong exercises are good for neuro-muscular and metabolic problems. Guolin qigong exercises are famous for reversing cancer. Chi Dynamics ( Healing Chi ), Zhineng qigong and other styles have also proven to help people recover from various ailments. My Superqigong set is a combination from various styles to prevent cancer and other health problems and diseases associated with ageing.
All the qigong exercises are slow, relaxing and enjoyable, although some Shaolin qigong exercises may be tiring in the beginning. In healing qigong, the aim is to build up qi without stress, as opposed to aerobics where you have to stress your heart and muscles to be effective. If you opt for "hard" or martial arts qigong, then you will of course be doing stressful exercises as well.
BUILD UP YOUR QI
The first aim of qigong exercises is to build up qi ( life force ) to sufficient levels so that the cells can function well. From the above, if you want fast results, you must do qigong exercises which involve the synergy of mind, breath and body.
Cells need qi to power-up the metabolic processes, especially the energy-production mechanism of the mitochondria. Qi empowers the enzymes and co-enzymes to start and keep the powerhouse running.
Once the "engine" runs, then the cell can utilize the calorie-containing foodstuff as fuel to provide energy for the thousands of metabolic activities. This fuel burning can be aerobic or anaerobic, depending on the circumstances. However, qi utilization is independent of oxygen availability. Once qi gets the engine running, then the cell will require oxygen for glycolysis ( utilization of glucose for calorie-energy production ). It is best to imagine qi as your car battery power that is necessary to start the engine, after which petrol ( foodstuff with calories ) is burned to provide the power. And just like the car battery, a master can jumpstart the "flat" cell battery by transferring his own qi.
Ever wondered why many fat people with so much stored excess calories feel lethargic and are always hungry? Sometimes their metabolic hormones ( eg. thyroid hormones, insulin ) are insufficient or unbalanced or their cells have become "resistant" to their actions. Exercise is known to improve the cells' sensitivity to these hormones, while also burning more calories in the process. Qigong exercises have also been shown to in improve several indicators of the metabolic syndrome including HbA1c ( for long term monitoring of blood glucose ), blood pressure, body weight and waist circumference ( see www.superqigong.com/articlesmore.asp?id=117 ) without having to stress the body as in doing aerobics exercises. The extra calories burnt is due to more efficient metabolism, as qigong exercises are "low-impact" exercises and not expected to burn much calories.
You also need to provide adequate nutrients to all your cells and organs to ensure that you are healthy. In my opinion, apart from being qi-depleted, most of us grossly underestimate our nutritional needs ( except the calories ) which is why we age and become diseased faster than we should.
CIRCULATE YOUR QI
Building up the qi level is only beneficial if the qi can freely flow through the meridians to nourish cells which are deficient in it. Excess qi must also be stored in the organs and energy centres. The meridians and centres have been described in earlier articles.
Blockage of qi channels is another reason for poor health. It probably explains the many situations where people complain of aches, pains and stiffness where no physical cause could be found.
If the meridian is blocked, then qi cannot be supplied to the affected system, and qi depletion happens over time. If qi is received ( externally from a master or healer ), it will cause temporary discomfort or pain because the strong qi received is now trapped. I have described how some people have uncontrolled movements or go into a trance-state when they receive qi without knowing they have severe blockages. Patients who do not reveal their health problems may end up with severe discomfort or pain if the master transfers qi without first unblocking the affected meridians.
Each different qigong posture or movement stimulate different qi meridian, so many different exercises are essential to keep qi flowing smoothly over the entire body. The favourite exercise for my Superqigong students is the "14-step exercise" which opens up all the major qi channels.
Likewise, the oxygen you breathe, and the water and nutrients you consume require a healthy circulatory system ( cardiovascular and lymphatic vessels ) to enable them to be distributed to all the cells. Our defence cells also use the blood and lymph to migrate to where they are needed to protect the body from invaders. The body also uses these channels to distribute hormones, growth factors, regulatory chemicals, messenger molecules and many more. Wastes and toxins are also removed via these channels.
BOOST YOUR HEALTH
If you practise enough qigong, then your cells will have sufficient qi to ensure all their metabolic activities are in order and they can function optimally. However, qi only drives the cellular engine. You still need oxygen, water, calorie-energy foods ( most of us have too much ) and lots of nutrients ( vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, co-enzymes, phytonutrients, etc ). If all that is required by the cells are present, then you can expect optimum function, and optimum health.
You will realize the importance of the synergy of adequate qi and good nutrition. Being fully-charged with qi without adequate nutrition means having a fully-charged battery with no fuel, and faulty spark-plugs. Having good nutrition but being depleted in qi means having good spark-plugs and a tankful of high-grade petrol, but not able to start the engine due to a flat battery.
If you practise qigong without taking care of your nutrition, you will still not be very healthy because while your cellular engine can run well, there is insufficient defence ( antioxidants ) against metabolic by-products and pollutants ( free radicals ), and insufficient raw materials to manufacture essential components. If you nourish your body well with nutrients, but lack qi, then much will be wasted as utilization will not be maximal as your cellular engine is not efficient. If you take fresh foods, you can acquire much qi from them. Certain foods ( eg. Ningxia wolfberry, cryptomonadales ) are known to have very high qi content which can help you.
Practising qigong and taking high qi and high antioxidant ( high ORAC score ) nutritious foods or supplements; and ensuring healthy functioning circulation and meridian systems will indeed be a highly effective synergistic health strategy.
Dr Amir Farid Isahak