by Zhang Caiqin; Inner Mongolia Normal University
Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue is a Qigong fitness exercise with respiration and Tuna as the major methods which are assisted by simple Daoyin movements. It is focused on combination of the thought with slow and smooth movements and soft, even, and long exhalation and vocalization. “The thought is contained in Qi and in form”. “Containing the thought in Qi” does not mean completely focusing the thought on respiration. Instead we should use a little thought exhaling the breath and stay focused on the related viscera and channels. For example, while vocalizing “Xu”, we do not use thought but still know clearly that we are vocalizing the sound and exhaling the breath. Exhalation dominates this exercise and Daoyin assist the exhalation. The Daoyin movements play an important role in assisting the exhalation. Whether the movements of the limbs are relaxed, soft, gentle, and slow has a direct influence on the results of exhalation. If the body and the mind fail to get fully relaxed, the internal Qi will not run smoothly and exhalation will not result in the expected effects. Through long-term practice of Liu Zi Jue exhalation and limb movements, the practicer will advance from exhalation-vocalization to exhalation-slight vocalization and then to exhalation-no vocalization. The respiration state will change from the wind phase to the Qi phase and then to the resting phase, so that respiration and Tuna are combined with the thought and the mind and thus influence the blood and Qi circulation in various viscera. According to the progress that the practicer has made and the presence of vocalization, we divide the practicing process of Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue into three stages, namely vocalizing exhalation, slightly-vocalizing exhalation, and non-vocalizing exhalation.
In the practice of this exercise, the beginner cannot meet the requirements on smooth, soft, gentle, and slow limb movements and the though and mind are scattered and prevented from being serene. And the internal Qi is blocked in the viscera and difficult to be connected. Therefore the practicer has to vocalize during exhalation. The sound is required to be “deep, vibrative, and penetrating”. Exhalation & vocalization is characterized in that: The sound is created by vibration in the chest and the breath is blocked in the diaphragm. Below are its purposes: First, it is used to standardize the mouth shape. Second, if no sound is created during exhalation in this stage, the breath will be retarded by the chest cavity and the diaphragm and easily cause chokes. Vocalization during exhalation can vibrate the chest cavity and the diaphragm and distribute the air currents in all parts of the chest viscera. This will both promote the movements if the internal viscera and prevent the suffocating feeling by dispersing the breath. Third, the VF oscillation of vocalization will enhance the depth of respiration and raise the vital capacity.
Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue requires nose-in and nose-out natural respiration in addition to the noise-in and mouth-out reverse abdominal respiration. During the inhalation of reverse abdominal respiration, the abdominal muscles will extract and the abdominal wall will slightly indent to reduce the volume of the abdominal cavity. Qi inside Dantian will be lifted from the lower abdomen to the chest cavity and the clean air from the outside will be drawn in by the noise. The internal and external Qi will be interchanged and merged in the chest. During the exhalation, the abdominal muscles are relaxed and the abdominal walls are lumped to increase the volume of the abdominal cavity. The exchanged turbid air is exhaled through the mouth and the nourished internal Qi is returned to Dantian. The beginner does not have to make a choice on purpose during the vocalization and exhalation and will unconsciously take reverse abdominal respiration. This is because: The sounding force created by vibration in the chest cavity and the natural force that lumps the abdominal wall during exhalation are both outbound. Therefore reverse abdominal respiration will naturally be more comfortable. If obverse respiration is used, the sounding force created by vibration in the chest cavity is outbound and the contracting force of the abdominal muscles is inbound. The practicer will feel uncomfortable. Whenever we feel mentally nervous, get depressed, or use force suddenly, we will usually take deep breaths, which are exactly reverse abdominal respiration. While the beginner is practicing, the natural respiration is basically in the wind phase which is characterized by: The breast will rise and fall. The wings of the nose will close and open with small amplitude. The breath is a little short, shallow, and rapid. Therefore the respiration will cause ventilation which makes the trachea and nostrils feel blocked, and the breath will be heavy and uneven, giving out sound from time to time.
By using various mouth shapes during exhalation, the beginner can create various shapes and positions of the lips, tongue, teeth, and throat, which result in various levels of internal pressure on the chest cavity and promote the blood and Qi circulation in local parts of the human viscera. Since the breath is retarded in the chest diaphragm and has little influence on the abdominal cavity, it cannot regulate the circulation of Qi in the corresponding viscera in an orderly way or systematically participate in the dredging of channels in the viscera. But it still provides the following effects. First, the six mouth shapes for vocalizing exhalation will from different routes and movement patterns for the breath and have different effects on the corresponding viscera. But since the sound is caused by vibration in the chest cavity, some of the effects of breath in the viscera will be hindered. Second, vocalization will result in different vibrations in the viscera in the chest cavity and thus stimulate Zang viscera such as the heart and lungs. Third, reverse abdominal respiration will not only facilitate the exchange between congenital Qi and postnatal Qi, but also kind of massage the internal organs. This will particularly improve the functions of the intestines and the stomach. Fourthly, the Daoyin of limb movements will lubricate the joints, relax the tendons, and promote blood circulation. Therefore by practicing vocalizing exhalation, the beginner can generally experience the rehabilitating and health-preserving effects of Liu Zi Jue.
Today, some schools of Liu Zi Jue believe that vocalization provides quicker effects in clinical application than non-vocalization probably because clinical test objects are mostly beginners of Liu Zi Jue exercise, among which vocalization will definitely have more significant efficacy than non-vocalization. In the experiments performed by Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue research team, the effects of different states of “Hu” on the mean muscle strength of the practicing population were observed and results showed that the mean gripping strength of the vocalization group if greater than that of the non-vocalization group. This was also because the test objects were mostly Liu Zi Jue beginners. Such results were inevitable. It may take years to experience vocalizing exhalation. We need to carefully reflect on this exercise in order to gradually advance to the slightly-vocalizing exhalation stage.
As you gradually make progress, you will understand the keys to the exercise and become slow, relaxed, smooth, and gentle with your movements. You will be able to lower your shoulders and elbows, shrink the chest, straighten the back, relax the waist, and hold back the buttocks. And you will feel as if your Baihui is being lifted. Your mind and thought will be relaxed and at ease while having the slightly-vocalizing exhalation. It is characterized in that: The exhaling sound involves little vibration of the chest cavity. The breath will be less impeded by the chest diaphragm and some of the breath will be able to penetrate the diaphragm and reach the abdomen. Six different breaths will create different levels of pressure on the chest and abdomen in order to regulate the blood and Qi in the corresponding viscera. Due to the attenuated vocalization, the vibration in the chest cavity is reduced and the effect of breath on the functions of these viscera is enhanced. Therefore
The respiration state of slightly-vocalizing exhalation belongs to the Qi phase: During respiration, the chest moves up and down with a small amplitude. The air receives little resistance from the trachea and the nostrils. The breathing sound can barely be heard. The breath is not retarded but it is neither silent nor soft. As you continue to make progress, both the body and mind will be completely relaxed during exercise. In particular, the chest will begin to feel loose and hollow and become free of constraint by anything. The internal Qi in Dantian in the lower abdomen will gradually become full and unblocked. The slightly-vocalizing exhalation will gradually change into non-vocalizing exhalation or, before you know it, enter an even, soft, gentle, and long breathing state.
During the exercise, you will completely meet the requirements on interior and exterior relaxation of the entire body, such as lowering the shoulders and elbows, drawing in the chest, straightening the back, relaxing the neck muscles, and lifting the head. You will completely understand the true meaning of Liu Zi Jue and begin to practice automatically. The mind and spirit will be free from pre-occupation, serene, and at ease. The exhalation will be soundless. It is characterized in that: The chest cavity will be free of vibration. The breath will no longer be retarded by the diaphragm. “Exhale softly, inhale slowly, stay between consciousness and unconsciousness, and remain continuous and unbroken”. The six different breaths can regulate the blood and Qi circulation in corresponding viscera in an orderly manner, systematically participate in the dredging of channels in the viscera, and thus achieve the rehabilitating and health-preserving effects of Liu Zi Jue. And this is also the key to this exercise which “regulates and controls the ascending, descending, outgoing, and incoming breaths in the body through specific pronouncing mouth shapes during respiration and Tuna” and thus “regulates the balance of Qi activity between corresponding viscera”. Therefore, “breath rather than sound is the key to the exhalation of Liu Zi Jue”.
During the exercise, the brain is free of worries and the mind is free of anxiety. It feels as if something that has been pending and entangling in your heart for a long time is suddenly removed from your chest, relieving your mind as if relieving yourself of a heavy burden. Even, soft, gentle, and long breath runs throughout the entire exercise to help you enter a respiration state of the resting phase. During the respiration, the chest and the nose wings barely move and you will only feel the abdomen moving up and down. Therefore the breath will be deep, long, gentle, and slow. You will not feel any resistance in the trachea or the nostrils. The breath will naturally be soft, fine, even, and continuous. The mind and the breath will be interdependent and no breathing sound will be heard. At this point the breath will regulate itself even if you do not try to regulate it. Only the “resting phase” is the optimal state of well-regulated breath. And it is also the requirement and purpose of breath regulation exercise. Some breathing Qi can directly reach the lower abdomen and mix up with the internal Qi in Dantian. At the same time, you need to “assist the respiration with smooth and slow ascending, descending, opening, and closing movements around the navel. The opening and closing movements correspond to the opening and closing respiration of the internal Qi in Dantian and will further regulate the balance of internal Qi in the body." In this way, the genuine Qi needed for the maintenance of the functions of the body will be partly transmitted through the lungs to every corner of the body and partly supplied by the internal Qi in Dantian. This will help us truly accomplish the objective of Liu Zi Jue to promote the communication and exchange between internal and external breaths through respiration and Tuna, and thus influence the internal Qi and functions of the corresponding viscera in the human body.