The primary reason that I began practicing qigong exercises and meditation methods was to help in the prevention of asthma. My experience, as given in the account below, has shown me that it is a very powerful form of natural asthma relief.
I started experiencing symptoms in my mid-30s. After being hospitalized for a severe episode during the early 90s, I knew that something had to change in my life. I began investigating ways that people had used to help heal from asthma. Some books that I read suggested meditation. However, there was one book that really captivated my imagination, Bruce Frantzis’ Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body: Chi Gung for Lifelong Health. That book inspired me to embark on an almost 20-year journey into the use of Taoist methods of healing. I have reviewed asptects of that book on nei gong practices in an earlier post, so I won’t do that again, but I would like to share with you some aspects of using both nei gong and qigong that have helped me keep asthma at bay.
There are differences between nei gong and qigong exercises. Qigong, in many cases, involves the coordination of the breath with the movements. The inhalations are coordinated with the upwards or outwards movements of the arms and torso, while exhalations are done during downwards or inwards movements.
Nei gong, or inner work, does not coordinate the movements with the breath. Abdominal breathing is allowed to occur naturally and regularly. Some nei gong methods do not involve moving practices, such as sitting and standing (zhan zhuang) meditation, but meditation on the breath is a primary method of resolving blockages and obtaining the necessary relaxation of the body.
The two practices around which I initially centered my practice were with Dragon-Tiger qigong, as taught by Bruce Frantzis, and standing meditation nei gong. Dragon-Tiger had the effect of strengthening my total energy and helping increase my flexibility and coordination. All of the movements in this qigong exercise are coordinated with the breath as I described above. It helps clear the dai mai, or extraordinary energy vessels of the body. This form really helped me improve my breathing capacity and smoothness of the breathing cycle. The standing qigong meditation helped me become more internally aware and able to detect energetic blockages within my chest and many other areas of my body, and through the dissolving method, they were cleared. Both the standing meditation and Dragon-Tiger are a powerful combination for improving health and energy. References which I used to help me along with my practice included Frantzis’ Energy Gates book and Lam Kam Chuen’s excellently illustrated book The Way of Energy: Mastering the Chinese Art of Internal Strength with Chi Kung Exercise.
It was not until two years after learning Dragon-Tiger, that I learned the Opening the Energy Gates nei gong movement methods. The Energy Gates form helped me develop a centeredness around my dantien in my movements, which significantly improved my Dragon-Tiger and it also helped understand the principle of moving from the waist and the principles of expansion and contraction in all of the forms that I practice. Moving the source and focus of you qi to the lower dantien (from upper and middle dantien areas) is an essential aspect for recovery from asthma and many other disorders such as hypertension.
Lastly, and definitely not least, are the methods of meditating on the breath while sitting. For an asthma sufferer, focusing on the breath can be a very difficult thing to do. Because of the panic that goes along with bronchial constriction, there is a cycle of fear and mistrust of the breath. Meditation on the breath is a powerful means of focusing your intention directly on the energy that causes the manifestation of the asthma symptoms. These blockages are not in one site. They occur in more than one energy channel and multiple points along these channels may be blocked. Meditation practice is needed (which can be helped by standing practice) on dissolving these blockages around the mouth, neck, throat, chest, shoulders and arms, all of which will be knotted up with blockages if you have asthma.
As with a qigong practices, posture is important. Postural recommendations vary depending on the type of form that you are doing and I recommend seeing a certified teacher or master to help you with these important aspects. That being said, in the standing and sitting postures, it is important to have an erect spine with the head upright as if it is suspended from the ceiling or sky. The head is tilted a little downward to help open up the occipital area where the spine meets the neck. The waist should be lifted from the hips area to help open up the ming men (lower back/kidney area) and the chest should be relaxed. These aspects are very important for helping with breathing difficulties. The hips should be tucked forward a little to help orient the tailbone downwards. The legs, knees and feet should be about a shoulder’s width apart, with the feet parallel. The feet should be directly below the knees.
So, if you want to get off or reduce your need for medication for asthma and seek natural methods of relief, there are methods of qigong exercise and meditation that you can use to help you. However, as I have said before, these practices must become a part of your life as reflected by a regular (daily) commitment to doing the exercises and meditation practices. Moreover, in addition to helping with asthma relief, these qigong methods also can be used to help you understand the psycho-spiritual blockages that can be a causal factor in its symptoms.
Note: For more exercises and meditations for the lungs that are related to the Five Elements Theory, see Qigong Breathing Exercises for the Lungs.