The Subtle Uses of Wudang Qigong
Perhaps because in ancient times China’s Wudang Daoist Qigong was known for directing and guiding, spitting out and receiving, refining the breath, refining the dan, sinking the sight, and eliminating grain, it became known as an inner exercise. Very early, it achieved an extensive circulation among many people in China. In 1973 (CE) at Changsha, a painting on silk was unearthed from the Western Han dynasty tombs at Mawangdui with a “instructional guidance picture” in the center. It had approximately 44 types of distinct postures and gestures showing movements for refining the breath. The famous ancient medical doctor Hua Tuo taught the movements of the “Five Animal Frolics” to Wu Jin to promote healthy bodies, dispel disease, and prolong life. Zhuang Zi said: “Spit out the old, receive the new; the bear has strength and the bird extends. The person who practices also improves and cultivates the outer form.” The person who practices China’s Wudang Daoist Qigong exercise methods every day, (who) refines and cultivates the inner breath, (will find their) digestion improves, the blood vessels open, and they do not fall ill and deteriorate. Many hundred years of practice prove practicing Wudang Daoist Qigong treats and prevents disease, eliminates disease, strengthens the body, and prolongs life, – all of which are extremely important effects.
Part 1 – Effects on the Respiratory System
The function of the respiratory system is to absorb oxygen from the outside world, discharge carbon dioxide from inside the body. This guarantees that the metabolic processes are normal. During the practice of China’s Wudang Daoist Qigong, special breathing in and breathing out patterns are employed, such as inverse (or reverse) style breathing, throat breathing, dan tian breathing, and so on, in order to raise the activity in the five internal organs and six bowels. Because this consumes a large quantity of energy, it urges the respiratory organs to double their area of work. With breathing in, one receives a large quantity oxygen (this is also clean breath); combined with this, one also discharges a large quantity of carbon dioxide (this is also dirty breath); therefore by using this method (the respiratory organs) are given a very good workout. The best way to practice is to “sink the breath to the dan tian” with the style of breathing in and out that uses the horizontal motion in the diaphragm; in medical treatment, in caring for health, and for all people to promote a healthy body, (this practice) delivers a very good effect.
The principle manifestation of the improvement in the respiratory system functions is in the activity of the outer wall of the chest, and in the increased of the capacity of the lungs to move (air). Ordinarily when one breathes in deeply, the span of the chest compared with (the span of the chest) when breathing out is 7 – 9 centimeters greater and the amount the lungs move is 3500 milliliters more or less. But in a person who practices China’s Wudang Daoist Qigong everyday, the respiratory capacity can reach 9 – 18 centimeters, and the frequency of breathing out and in can be reduced. An ordinary person breathes in and out about 15 – 20 times per minute, but a person who practices everyday can reduce the frequency of respiration to 6 – 10 times per minute or even lower, to 2 – 5 times. Deep and slow respiration can enable the respiratory organs to rest even more, not tire as easily, and won’t result in or cause the movements of an exercise to appear gasping, heart-pounding, etc.
Part 2 – Effects on the Digestive System
Because the lower abdomen is continuously engaged in sticking out and sinking in stretching and contracting movements while refining and cultivating China’s Wudang Daoist Qigong, , the result is strengthening of the body’s inner metabolic functions; digestive functions increase and in this way accommodate the demand. The functions of the digestive organs are strengthened, further improving the ability to absorb nourishment from food (in order) to satisfy the organism’s requirements. As a result, after practicing, the appetite is amplified and the flavor of food is especially sweet and refreshing. While practicing breath (exercises), if the saliva (the ancients called it “divine liquid” and “spirit water”) increases, swallow it to take (it) into the stomach at the same time and along with the breath sinking; then it can irrigate dirty bowels, lubricate and moisten the limbs, and also can help digestion. Practicing can urge an increase in the action of the digestive organs glandular secretions of digestive fluids and in the movement and strength of the stomach and intestinal channels. Blood circulation improves, and as a result, food is easier to digest and absorb.
The breathing out and in movements of the dan tian (sticking out and sinking in) use inner breath to massage the stomach, intestines, liver, spleen, and other internal organs with regular movement, and consequently promotes the functions of these organs.
Part 3 – Effects on the Nervous System
Every activity in the human body is regulated through and carried out by the nervous system. Conversely, various kinds of movement produce a corresponding influence in the nervous system, simultaneously urging its functions to gain and improve. The study and practice of China’s Wudang Daoist Qigong constantly demands the upper and lower limbs of the body follow each other; inside and outside join together; a quiet heart and a calm spirit; clear understanding and (a mind) empty of appearances. This enables the body’s named places and acupuncture points, together with spirit and mind, to have a higher level of coordination and unity. Under these kinds of conditions, the inner breath as though “inside a great tunnel” circulates around the large and small heavenly circles, the four limbs and hundred bones, raising, heightening, and strengthening the nervous system functions for controlling the movement organs. If one perseveres in daily practice, the nervous system’s excitation and mobility can also be increased and improved, making the response to external stimulation faster, more accurate, and causing the activity of every organ and system to be more nimble, coordinated, and integrated while at the same time, raising the cerebellum’s control of manual dexterity. This is seen first in the ability to go to sleep quickly and to sleep soundly; it is one type of effective treatment for neurasthenia. Second, when studying and working, the cerebellum is extremely clear and alert, its efficiency is high, and its quality good. With daily practice of China’s Wudang Daoist Qigong, the endurance strength of the body and the cerebellum can be made stronger, clearly heightening the power of resistance to the invasion of outside influences that cause disease. Then, a person need not fear rigorous cold or extreme heat, can keep away unhealthy outside influences that cause disease, can eliminate illness, and have a long life.
Part 4 – Effects on the Cardiovascular System
Practicing China’s Wudang Daoist Qigong can preserve the health of the cardiovascular system, prevent high blood pressure, and move arteries which have hardened. The characteristics of China’s Wudang Daoist Qigong are movements in spiral patterns, circular shaped movements, and circulating the breath, inseparably coordinated with the dan tian sticking out and sinking in. In many ways, (it) is partial to a great extent of winding, coiling, twisting, and turning and to pushing down the breath, raising the breath, sinking the breath, and sending out the breath during the course of the inside and outside movements. This causes the expansion and contraction of the arteries and lymph to become gentle, preserving the elasticity of the blood vessels and lymph, strengthening the unimpeded and unobstructed circulation through the blood vessels supporting lymph metabolism. At the same time, the response of the sympathetic nerves during practice becomes more gentle, and the response of the parasympathetic nerves is strengthened; thus changing the abnormal reports received by the organism and urging the blood vessels to circulate normally. Consequently, refining and cultivating China’s Wudang Daoist Qigong can postpone cardiovascular aging and result in positive effects.