All Tao energy arts focus on the internal organs since they are critical to our survival and the health we experience in our lifetime—they are what makes us tick. If you lose a limb, as long as you stop the bleeding, you will survive. In fact, you could lose all four limbs and still live but, if you lose an organ—say your heart, spleen or liver—your life will come to an abrupt and decisive end. The simple fact is that it’s not your muscles or limbs that perpetuate your life, but rather your internal organs. Western exercise methods emphasise developing muscle power, shape and tone—that which makes us look good from the outside.
However, when we move past our conditioning, what becomes apparent is that the way we look is mostly unimportant and what goes on inside us is what really counts. In the East, in places like China, Japan and India, whole medical systems are based upon the health of the internal organs. From the perspective of Taoist nei gong, exercising the organs begins with the foundational practices, and continues on to the deepest and most advanced studies. All nei gong targets the health of the organs to some degree—even when you cannot feel them— but the game shifts into high gear when you can.
The Three Levels of Exercising Your Internal Organs
Increasing the health and vitality of your internal organs can be divided into three distinct levels of practice, with each level requiring time and effort to develop and reap the greatest benefits. Eventually, all approaches can be intertwined and implemented during every training session.
- Beginning internal exercises–developed in four distinct stages
- More advanced internal exercises–including the ability to directly dissolve the organs and developing three additional specific nei gong with respect to the organs.
- Highly refined neigong techniques–these can only be realised through mastery of the first two stages, and necessitate the ability to directly manipulate the energy channels of your body.
Beginning Internal Exercises for Organ Health
Stage 1: Stretching + Clearing the Meridian Lines
The meridians are close to the surface of the body. Located under the skin, they run through the fascia and house the wei qi or the second, protective layer of qi. (Note: The first, protective layer of qi is the etheric field, which is intrinsically linked to the wei qi.) Meridian lines either run the length of the body vertically (primary meridians) and pass through the organs, or around the body horizontally (belt meridians) and link the primary lines. Together, the primary and belt meridians form a web. When you stretch open the soft tissues of the body (that house the meridians), you begin to clear the built-up, stagnant qi in those lines, which positively affects qi flow to, from and through the organs.
The second part of this phase is to tune into and effect the flow of qi in those lines through pulling and pushing the wei qi, initially indirectly and later directly, to increase the releases of stagnant qi and qi circulation, which has the effect of detoxifying and tonifying the organs. These techniques are traditionally exercised through Dragon and Tiger Medical Qigong and Heaven and Earth Qigong, and can later be transferred to the higher qigongs, tai chi and bagua.
As with all nei gong techniques, the range and depth at which each works and affects the body is profound, yet they can be quite overwhelming. Don’t let the great be the enemy of the good by becoming deterred early on. Set your intent on creating positive change with the beginning techniques while making small shifts in your practice, and let your momentum build over time. Most students find that the four stages that comprise the beginning techniques are sufficient to achieve their goals anyway. And, if you choose or need to go deeper, then you will be in an ideal position by having built a solid foundation from which to develop further.
Heart photo by ©istockphoto.com/Eraxion