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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quiet your Senses with Meditation

Qi Magazine - Issue 85 (December 2007)
Michael Tse

Meditation is very important for good health. No one can be really healthy if they cannot shut down their minds and be calm and relaxed. Many problems and illnesses begin with stress and tension. If you watch the behaviour of someone who is stressed and under tension, you will see that they are always active and cannot sit or stand still.

Even when people have some personal leisure time they listen to music and are doing things all the time. They are like a machine that is always being used and never turned off. Obviously it will eventually break down, so how can someone like that not become ill? Nowadays people do not understand that calmness and relaxation are important. Most people think that in their spare time they can listen to music, read the newspaper, do the crossword or Sudoku puzzle or watch TV and that these things will help them to relax and recharge their energy after a hard day’s work. This is wrong.

Three thousand years ago in China and India people already discovered the secret and method for longevity. It is all based on the senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. All these senses use a lot of energy, so if we want to live longer we must learn how to shut them down. The method to do this is meditation.

Eye Sense
Whenever we use our eyes, either for watching TV, reading a book or playing agame, we are using energy. The longer we do it the more tired we will become and the older we will look. If you look at highly academic people like university professors, they spend a lot of time researching and reading from books or are working on the computer. They use so much energy and in the end they look tired and older. However, their hard work is for a purpose and brings them success, so for them, it is worth it. Nowadays, though, people will spend hours and hours on the internet for fun or looking up useless information and the energy they use is just wasted.

Hearing Sense
Our hearing also uses energy, although it is not as must as your eyesight. Over-using our hearing can damage the kidneys as in Chinese medicine the kidneys are related to the ears. Today people listen to loud music all the time, so you can imagine how damaged their hearing gets.When they are older they will definitely need a hearing aid and I feel sad for them. Also it means that these people need excitement, something to stimulate them. Without this excitement they find life boring. This is also sad. We should not be partying all the time as this will damage our heart by making it beat too fast. If this is the case, then we cannot be healthy because we cannot sit down and be calm. Then we will continually lose our Qi all the time.

Aside from this, when they are older, people will have to talk loudly to them. Then they will complain that their hearing is weak all because they have damaged it with overuse when they were younger.

Smell Sense
The sense of smell also has a big effect on the body. Many people like to smell nice fragrant scents. However, we can also over–use oursense of smell . If we surround ourselves all the time with pleasant, strong smells, then some of us can lose our sense of smell so that we cannot smell the scent of a simple flower. This is because we have over-stimulated our senses and this makes us feel under stress and hyper-active. Then our sense of smell becomes weak. If we can calm down and relax, then the sense of smell can come back. Our sense of smell is very important. Everything around us has a different smell:- our homes, our offices and even the country we live in has a different smell. A good smell means that the energy in that area is good. If the smell is bad then obviously the energy is bad. This can cause the people who live or work there to be healthy or unhealthy depending on whether it is good or bad energy. It also affects their luck.

Today many people talk about Feng Shui, but most of the time they only talk about or know very low-level knowledge.They only talk about external decoration but how many really understand the internal things and the energy of Feng Shui? Smell plays a big part, so we should not overuse our sense ofsmell. The more perfume we use the more our sense of smell will decline.

Taste Sense
We use our tongue to taste food. People love tasty food and many people enjoy sweets and candy. However, this is not good for the body. What we eat plays a big part in our health. In Chinese medicine we also relate to our internal organs and sour relates to the liver, bitter relates to the heart, sweet relates to the spleen, spicy relates to the lungs and salty relates to the kidneys.

Other tastes are a mixture of these five. If we only like food with one of these tastes or hate certain other tastes, then this can cause an imbalance. For example, sweet tastes are good for the spleen, but the spleen is also related to the stomach and and so if we take a lot of sweet then it will affect the stomach and if we take just a little, then it can be good for the stomach. Anything we overdo can cause a problem. Anything too strong will have an effect and weaken something else. So we should not just concentrate on certain tastes but try and take all kinds but not in excess. Sometimes we do not like bitter tastes but we should still take some.

Most people who live longer lives eat very simply and do not eat unusual food or very highly nutritious food. This minimises the amount they need to use their taste buds and so it does not exhaust the internal organs.

Touch Sense
The sense of touch is also very important. Many people like the feel of fine fabrics, like silks and linens. Also people like the feel of wood in good furniture like beds and tables. This sense excites the mind so that it cannot be calm. This contact stimulates the nerves and sometimes these can be overused, especially if we over-indulge ourselves. This too means we will lose Qi.

To save our Qi we should keep our sense of touch or feeling calm and then our Qi can settle back to the Dantian. We should not let our Qi run around our body too vigorously. In order to save Qi we must let it settle and calm down, as if nothing has happened to the body. Although everything in the body is still functioning, the heart is still beating and we are still breathing, we should slow things as much as possible.

Four Postures of Meditation
Remember, meditation is not about moving the Qi. Physical movement helps us to circulate the Qi, to use our Qi in the right way and get rid of negative Qi. During meditation we should shut down the five senses so we can settle and collect more Qi. This increases our longevity.

For practising meditation there are four postures: One is standing and we call this Zhan Zhuang, the second way is sitting in a chair, the third is sitting in lotusposition, which, in Chinese, we call Pan Xi. The fourth method is lying down, which we call ErGong. Standing, sitting and lying are all different physically but all have the same principle which is to settle the Qi and store it in the Dantian.

Zhan Zhuang
When we do Zhan Zhuang there are different levels:- high position, middle position and a low position. Lower is more difficult and higher is easier.When we stand in a lower stance we call this Ma Bo Zhan, which means horse stance standing position. This demands a lot of leg strength and so it is not easy to do for long. However, nomatter which position we choose to stand in, we need to keep the body in a line. The top of the head at the Bai Hui pointshould be vertically in line with the Yongquan points on thesoles of the feet.  

In the high and middle positions the Huiyin point between the legs also lines up with the Baihui point. This we can see if we check our posture from the side. About the hands,we can hold these in various positions and use different gestures, such as at the Middle Dantian or the Lower Dantian.These areas connect with the areas of the Qi. Different gestures involve the palms and the Laogong Points or the shape of the fingers and this directs the Qi to go a different way at first.However, if we stay for long enough, then the feeling is thesame for all of them. The will be Qi is strong and runs all overthe body following the proper channels.

In the low position we should try and keep the thighsparallel to the ground. In this position the Huiyin point will notline up with the Baihui and Yongquan. This low stance willdevelop the lower legs more, particularly the calves. The feetshould be shoulder width apart, the eyes should be open, but not focused. We should keep the mouth closed naturally andbreathe in and out through the nose.

Generally, when we practise the low stance we will notstay for too long and when we are tired we should stand upand change to a mid or high position. When we feel strongagain we can go back down again. So we can repeat low, highand middle stance for quite a long time. Generally, peoplecan stand one to two minutes in the low posture and somemore senior students five to seven minutes. The low stancewill not make you heavy and stiff but actually the opposite, asit makes you feel lighter. In Chinese we say, “Light Gong (XingGong) training is based on heavy training.” This standing exercise can also help a lot of leg and knee problems.

The height of the middle position can vary, but the Baihui, Huiyin and Yongquan points must line up vertically together. The feet can be wider than the shoulders. The eyes and breathing are the same as in the low position. The eyes must be open because in this exercise there is a lot of Qi that needs to be released out through them. We do not focus so it means we are not using our eyes to see. Again, the hand positions and gestures can vary, for example, Laogong points facing each other or facing the ground, etc. It has the same meaning as the low stance.

Sitting Meditation
When meditating sitting on a chair, we should not lean back against the back of the chair like we do when watching TV. We should sit forward towards the edge of the chair and inthis way we minimise how much contact we have with thechair. There are many ways and gestures we can use for thehands. You might just place your hands on your thighs so that the Laogong points touch the Liangqiu points or form a hand gesture which is also fine. The feet should rest on the floor and the knees and toes should line up vertically, but the feet must be flat on the floor.

Lying Meditation
The last way of meditation is lying down. The most common way is to lie on your back and rest your hands on your Dantian, this means that the Laogong points cover the Dantian. The head should be raised up a little using a pillowso that the head is higher the feet. This allows the Qi toflow down to the Dantian and to the feet. The downside of this position is that it is easy to fall asleep, so generally I donot do much lying meditation. Another way is to lie on yourside and put one hand close to your head and the other hand on your thigh. This creates a Taiji symbol with the body.

All these four ways to do meditation are the same inthat they allow us to calm down, shut down our senses andstore our Qi. However, standing positions develop the bones and lotus position concentrates the Qi in the upper body more which is why the legs feel numb because the circulation ha sbeen blocked somewhat. In the end, no matter which one we do, we need to be patient and relax the body. The longer we can meditate the better we will get and the more we will enjoy its benefits in the future.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Night Qigong at MIT

Date: 9/24/12
From: Jim Roselando (info@apricotforesthall.com)
Subject: Gaining Strength From Non Exertion
Hello,
  
     A famous quote from Yiquan's founder on our arts subtle yet profound process: One Will
Gain Strength From Non Exertion! This is the primary difference between natural arts that are
rooted in what most call Yang Sheng (life nourishing) in China and other forms of physical
exercise. But, how is it possible for you to gain strength without exerting yourself? Lets take a
look at what Master Wang Xiang Zhai had to say;
  
***
"Appropriate exercises can positively affect every cell and every organ in the human body, improve the functioning of respiratory and vascular systems, and also improve metabolism. In other words, they activate the whole human organism. "

In typical forms of exercise, before the body is tired, there are already problems with breathing and the heart is overburdened. So the exercise must be halted prematurely in order to let one's heart rest, to catch one's breath and return to a normal state.

Chinese combat science uses the opposite method. This is exercise of the muscular and vascular systems, exercise for all cells of the body. The principle is to stimulate every organ at the same time. Even if during exercise your muscles become tired, your pulse stays in the normal range, and breathing is natural. After the exercise, you feel that your breath is freer and more comfortable than before.

Because there are no complex sets of movements, the nervous system is not greatly stressed; you eliminate internal tension, achieving mental calm. This is one of the elements that make combat science different from typical forms of exercise."

***
     Yiquan uses a combination of static and moving exercise that will have a direct effect on your energy (vitality) level, posture, dynamics, circulation, meditation and other wonderful benefits. During this training you will not deplete or stress your body while continuing on the road to the Natural State! All cultivation will happen gradually and smoothly over time.
     Make no mistake.  Yiquan is, and will be, extremely arduous especially in the early stages. 
Extremely! But, a nothing like you ever experienced in any other form of exercise.  Yiquan is the fastest growing Qigong art in China.  Experience for yourself the powerful results of this internal exercise!
*** 
Time: 7:00- 8:00
 Locations: Student Center/491
 Cost: FREE

***

10min Gathering Qi
5min Left Crane
5min Right Crane
5min Gathering Qi
20min Universal Post
5min Cow Post
5min Gathering Qi
5min Leg Meridian Qi
Seal/Wash
See you soon!
Peace,
Jim Roselando

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Qigong for Digestive Problems

Qi Magazine - Issue 85 (December 2007)

Today, many people have digestion problems because they do not get enough exercise, eat improperly or have too much stress. Some have all of these factors and so it is understandable that they will have illness.

Our bodies are meant to be maintained and looked after but often we neglect to do so until we have an illness which tells us something is starting to go wrong. We know we need to service our cars regularly, changing the oil and topping up brake fluid and water or coolant. Every so often we need to have something more serious done like replacing old brake pads or a worn tire as we know that otherwise it could be very dangerous and cause us to have a serious accident. Most of us though, do not give the same regard to our health until it is too late. When the big problem comes, the time for worry is already gone. We can only try to limit the effects of the problem and start to build up our Qi and immune system through Qigong exercise and meditation.

The first thing we should work for is the bones and so doing some standing meditations like Zhan Zhuang or Horse Stance is ideal. In the beginning you may only be able to stand a minute but can slowly build up to 5, 10 and 15 minutes or longer. You should feel good when you are standing although at first you may find the mind wandering and that you are impatient to be still for so long. If you can conquer this impatience, then you can start to develop yourself. The longer you stand (within reason), the more Qi you will gather which will "wash" the internal organs and make you stronger.

Sometimes it is the most simple exercises, like Wuji stance, that will give us the most benefit. However, in the end, it is all up to us as we are the ones who have to work for our own Qi and healing.

With kind regards,

Michael Tse

Monday, September 17, 2012

Into the world of QIGONG

By SL Luo in the China Daily
The ancient self-healing Chinese art of qigong (Chinese breathing exercise) is set to scale new heights as health awareness intensifies in HK and on the mainland. Renowned HK taichi qigong master, Yuen Chiu-kwan, is aiming to create medical wonders with an ambitious project to give cancer and heart patients a new lease of life. SL Luo reports.
'He went down hard on his knees thanking me as if I were a god, saying if not for me, there wouldn't be him," renowned taichi, qigong master, Yuen Chiu-kwan, recalls. The words were spoken to Yuen by a patient dying of liver cancer.
That was way back in 2000, when Yuen heard about the 56-year-old patient by word of mouth. Yuen felt a "calling" to seek out this ailing man, to perform one of the most humane missions of his life.
"He was already on his death bed after having had one-third of his liver removed, and was given only a few months to live," says Yuen.
"I immediately applied five of the 18 taichi qigong principles I had formulated, and taught him how to use them in exercises for 10 months. That man recovered after that and went on to live another four-and-a-half years before finally succumbing to his illness.
"Although the respite wasn't terribly long, it was enough time for him to do things he wouldn't have been able to do otherwise," Yuen says.
From an illegal immigrant to a registered Chinese medical practitioner, Yuen is a globally-recognized authority on taichi qigong. Now in his mid-60s, he maintains a low profile in Hong Kong, despite his achievements.
Yuen, who is also a director of the World Society of Medical Qi Gong (WSMQG), claims to have attended Hong Kong celebrities, though he declined to name them. His string of accolades is long, arising from his deep-rooted ties with the WSMQG, which has been organizing regular international qigong symposiums on the mainland since its inception in 1989.
The history of qigong dates back as early as the Zhou and Han dynasties, when the art was taken up as a form of meditation to purify the body, mind and spirit.
The practice became popular with the founding of the People's Republic of China, and was thought to be therapeutic, holding the power to enhance the body's natural immunity against disease and to reduce stress.
Yuen calls qigong one of China's national treasures but, to this day, there's still no official definition for it. "The term was actually coined after 1949 by the mainland's first health minister, Li Dequan, and has been used ever since. Theoretically, it's a combination of aligning breath, movement, healing and meditation," he says.
Historically and, in theory, there are five established categories of qigong - medical, Taoist, Buddhist, Confucian and martial arts. The most widely practiced today is medical qigong, with an estimated 50 million practitioners worldwide, while the martial arts type is restrained, and appears to interest only the young and able-bodied.
Master Yuen's expounded qigong principles come under the medical category, with their primary aim to treat and heal illnesses.
He calls them the "18 forms of taichi", and has given them colourful names like "Rowing a Boat in the Middle of a Lake", 'Pushing the Waves" and "Flying Wild Goose". The set combines all three elements - temperate and soft exercise, breathing and meditation.
"Taichi qi ong comes from taichi boxing, with the three principles of revitalizing the body, aiding breathing and enhancing mental capabilities," he says.
"It's easy to learn, allows for rapid building up of the bodily system, and is very effective for people with insomnia and heart-related problems.
"In the process, I found that qigong, together with good food and medical care, offers a powerful weapon against cancer. The exercise stimulates and increases oxygen supply to the cardio vascular system, thereby eliminating potential cancer causing cells, especially those causing lung or liver cancer."
Yuen has been an ardent advocate favoring official recognition for Chinese medical practitioners. In Hong Kong, the traditional healers have waged a long campaign to win back their status and rights.
At the height of the SARS outbreak in the city in 2003, Yuen called for herbalists to be brought in to fight the disease, citing the success of Chinese doctors in Guangzhou in treating SARS and keeping the mortality rate of the illness to a minimum.
But, the appeal fell on deaf ears.
"Western medicine and drugs deal only with combating bacteria. They're unable to get to the root of the problem - controlling the spread of disease-causing cells. Chinese medicine has its healing qualities and excellence," Yuen argues.
Yuen's association with qigong arose from his own poor physical condition at birth. "I was sick most of the time with headaches, due to under-nourishment. At 12, I had liver problems which aggravated my condition", says Yuen, who was born in Zhongshan, Guangdong province.
Qigong struck his mind after he had read books on the ancient art by a former vice-chairman of the National People's Congress. "I religiously followed the rules laid out in his articles and tried meditation. After a year, my health problems disappeared and I began to love and preach qigong", says Yuen.
In 1970 - at the height of the "Cultural Revolution", the chaotic period from 1966-1976 - Yuen decided to make a break. He fled Zhongshan and swam for five nights, surviving on peanuts and leaves, before coming ashore at Taipa in Macao.
Yuen describes his ordeal as a "journey back from the grave", adamant that he wouldn't have survived had it not been for the meditative art he had picked up as a boy. "That shows the hidden power of qigong".
He continued his qigong practice in Hong Kong and at the age of 43, sought the aid of Shaolin and Buddhist masters. "I plunged immediately into taichi qigong (a branch of qigong). It took me more than a year to establish the basis and ideals of the '18 forms of taichi'."
His ties with the WSMQG have been close. Since 2004, Yuen has remained the only taichi qigong master from Hong Kong and the mainland to have staged demonstrations five times at international qigong symposiums in Beijing and Shanghai.
Currently, there are an estimated 50,000 practitioners of taichi qigong in Hong Kong, many of them graduates of the qigong classes that Yuen started in the city in 1999.
"The qualities and aims of qigong are real. Hong Kong is an ideal place to practice it, as it requires very little space. The awareness of maintaining good health has grown immensely with an aging population. The art must be publicized to help the people overcome old age-related sicknesses," Yuen says.
He strongly believes that a real qigong master must devote himself to do a better job on a full time basis.
Yuen's next step is to take the art back to his roots - Zhongshan - the birthplace of Sun Yat-sen, widely regarded as the founder of modern China.
Yuen is teaming up with a mainland entrepreneur to run a hospital-cum-herbal center to provide "convenience store-style" medical care, treatment and facilities.
The five-story facility, located in the eastern suburb of Zhongshan, will be one of the most advanced and comprehensive in the world in terms of medical care, rehabilitative and herbal treatment and qigong training. The center is to become operational by the end of this year. It will include one floor to be used entirely for qigong teaching under Yuen's supervision.
China Daily was taken on a tour of the facility, which will be supplemented by a 1,000-hectare (660,000 square meter) farm planted with about 1 million herbal plants, vast in their varieties. The hospital will be staffed by Chinese medical specialists and nurses with equipment based on Chinese medical principles.
"Zhongshan is now home to thousands of elderly people from Hong Kong who have settled down here. We also have in mind the tens of millions of ethnic Chinese abroad who may return to Zhongshan one day for medical care.
"We will use our resources to give our people the best medical services, train talent in the Chinese medical field, help orphans and make a greater contribution to the country", says a source close to the project.
Yuen's ultimate goal is to spread the art of qigong, not only across the region, but to all mankind.
"I want to have a real dialogue with the relevant government departments in Hong Kong to explain the meaning of qigong and let the world know and understand its benefits", he says.
But, he warned practitioners against expecting miracles overnight, or harboring the illusion that the art is magical. "I want all practitioners of the art to understand that this is all about body building. Qigong cannot resolve all your problems at once. You must be resolute and remain totally committed to practicing it", Yuen adds.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A rare look at some of Leung Jan's basic wrist chi sao exercises

Jim Roselando and others demonstrating some "basic" wrist Chi Sao exercises in China from Master Leung Jan's 12 Fist Pin Sun Wing Chun boxing art. Also included at the end of this clip is Master Fung Chun discussing Chi Sao at his home in Gulao village.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Qigong Reduces Fibromyalgia Pain, More

Whether you know it as qigong, chi gung, or chi kung, the results can be the same. According to a new study, regular practice of the ancient health care practice can reduce fibromyalgia pain and offer other benefits for fibromyalgia patients as well.

How fibromyalgia patients can get drug-free help

For many of the estimated 5 million people in the United States with fibromyalgia, every day or nearly every day is characterized by chronic pain, stiff and tender muscles, aching joints, sleep problems, chronic fatigue, and more health problems that have a significant impact on their lives. In addition to these health issues, patients with fibromyalgia often have to deal with a health care system that may not acknowledge their symptoms or has little to offer them in terms of symptom relief.

If there's one good thing that can be said about fibromyalgia, it's that unlike many other painful and even debilitating conditions, the pain and discomfort associated with fibromyalgia is not accompanied by deformity or damage to the joints, muscles, or organs. This is an important feature, and could be one reason why a gentle yet comprehensive activity like qigong can help provide some relief.

The new study involved 100 people (mostly women; mean age 52 years) with long-standing fibromyalgia who were randomly assigned to participate in a qigong activity group or to a wait-list (controls). The controls entered the qigong program after six months and were referred to as the delayed-treatment group.
Although there are dozens of different forms of qigong, all of them involve three main elements: postures (moving or stationary), breathing techniques, and meditation (mental focus). The availability of many different forms of qigong allows individuals to find one that best suits their needs and abilities.
In the current study, which was conducted by researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the participants were taught the Chaoyi Fanhuan form of qigong. This form involves seven specific movements and related exercises that focus on relaxation, release, and sending the body's energy or "qi" throughout the body.

Study fibromyalgia patients participated in a one-hour practice session once weekly for 8 weeks and were asked to practice the movements and exercises at home every day for six months for 45 to 60 minutes. After the first 8 weeks of practice, the investigators reported the following results:
  • Based on a 10-point scale, patients in the qigong group had a 1.55 point reduction in pain compared with only 0.02 points in controls
  • Based on the 100-point Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, individuals who participated in qigong reported a decrease of 18.45 points compared with 0.93 points in controls. This questionnaire rates pain, sleep, function, and psychological distress
  • Quality of sleep also improved during the 8-week treatment period based on a sleep quality index of 3.29 points
  • Psychologically, patients in the 8-week treatment group showed an improvement of 5.29 points on a questionnaire
Following the initial 8-week treatment period, the patients said they practiced for a mean of 4.9 hours per week, which declined to 2.9 and 2.7 hours by months 4 and 6, respectively. However, the 52% of patients who practiced at home the most (5 hours per week) enjoyed the most benefits in a number of areas.
Individuals who participated in the delayed treatment also showed improvements similar to those in patients who took part in the immediate qigong sessions and practice in all areas. When the authors combined the results of the two groups, the results revealed sustained effect of qigong on pain at both 4 and 6 months, and benefits persisted through 6 months for impact scores, sleep, and physical and mental well-being.

Fibromyalgia is a challenging syndrome to treat, and so it's important to have treatment options available to patients. Qigong may be one of those options. The authors of the latest study seem to think so, as they noted that qigong may be viewed as "a useful adjunct in the management of fibromyalgia."
SOURCE:
Lynch M et al. A randomized controlled trial of qigong for fibromyalgia. Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012 Aug. doi: 10.1186/ar3931

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Qigong from one of our Subscribers

Thank you, Richard Curtis, for sharing this video from a recent class he leads in Punta Gorda, Florida. For more information on Hun Yuan Primoridal (Wudang) Meditation and the Peace River Taichi / Qigong school: http://goo.gl/wYcnI

If you would like a video of your practice shared on our MIT Qigong Blog, please submit to qi@mit.edu. We are interested in learning and sharing about all forms of Qigong. Comments? Feel free to respond below... We would love to facilitate more discussion and appreciate your readership and support.


Yoga and Qigong: Two Streams From a Single Source

By ,
Founder, New York Dan Tao Center, author of "Taoist Qigong for Health and Vitality." Huffington Post | August 2012


In the hunt for the common ancestor of yoga and qigong, one discovers that unlike its progenies, it existed in a form that has long vanished in the sands of time and remains buried beneath layers of foreign invasions. I know the disciplines of yoga and qigong quite well, yet nonetheless the search for their common ancestor drives me deep into ancient texts, old forgotten sutras and temple dancing figures, all of which are relics derived from this single source. Over days, months and years I continue to pursue this form -- these sacred movements and postures -- no longer found within any living tradition.

What is the origin of yoga, or more specifically of hatha yoga, the physical/mental cultivation of the spiritual path of yoga? The root of yoga is the Sanskrit word yuj, which suggests a discipline of binding -- to "yoke" one's habitual conditioning in order to liberate the practitioner from the bondage of greed, fear, obsession and indolence. The core of Indian spirituality is propelled by four dynamic concepts: karma (causality), maya (illusory existence), nirvana (liberation), and yoga (cultivation). It is at this juncture that we face a real danger of getting lost on our way down this dark, ancient, subterranean passageway of Indian culture and religion. For this exploration, it suffices to know that yoga is one of the four pillars of Indian spirituality, the concrete cultivation and practice that can lead one toward nirvana, liberation and spiritual enlightenment.

At this point, we must cross over a continent into yet another antiquity, China circa 500 AD during the Tang dynasty. A traveler would have been impressed and overwhelm by China's civilization with its great cultural refinements, the flowering of all aspects of scientific, social and economic development. One can surmise that the Buddhist mendicant monk, Bodhidharma, must have felt a sense of utter bewilderment, as he came from the relatively rural society of ancient India. Bodhidharma had a vision that he would be the one to bring Buddhism into China, the Middle Kingdom. Bodhidharma was like most well-educated upper-class Indians and he was also a prince of a small neighborhood kingdom; thus, we can deduce that he was probably educated in the four basic pillars of yoga. According to unofficial anecdotes, by virtue of his yogic accomplishment he was able to cross the Yellow River by treading on a single reed stalk. Furthermore, according to the same legend, when this Indian monk arrived at the Shaolin monastery, he was shocked by the state of decline and the weakened physical state of the monastic brotherhood as most of them fell asleep during his sermon on the transcendental heart-to-heart instantaneous enlightenment of the Ch'an Buddhist teaching. Thus, Bodhidharma decided to teach yoga to the monks in order to strengthen and develop the vitality necessary for their spiritual cultivation. Within the next century, his yoga was then absorbed and integrated into the Chinese indigenous form of physical/mental practice, qigong. Illustrated here is an example of qigong as compared to yogic asana:
                                
Yogic asana Spinal Twist, contrasted with the qigong posture Tiger Gazing Back: Notice that in both these postures there is a common spinal twist. Hence, both have a strengthening effect upon the core muscle group of the spinal column and would improve one's core strength.