Six Healing Sounds Qìgo̅ng

The following is an excerpt from a document I compiled as a study aid for a class I am currently teaching on-line via Zoom.

According to some sources this exercise (Liu Zi Jue) originated in the 6th Century and was created by a Buddhist hermit.  Other sources trace it to the Six Healing Sounds for Nourishing Life recorded as early as the Qin Dynasty 221-207 BCE.  The Six Healing Sounds routine uses breath and sound to purge the organs of toxins and stagnant Qì.[1]  The routine is also known as the Six Syllable Secret, Six Exhaling Sounds, Six Qì Method.

The Basics of the Six Healing Sounds

The routine is very flexible.  You can use all the sounds together while standing, sitting, or lying down as a complete Qìgo̅ng routine for maintaining or improving overall health.   You can use one of the sounds by itself to benefit the organ the sound corresponds to if you feel that the organ is ailing or during the season for the organ according to the Five Elemental Phases Theory.  You can incorporate the sounds into Wai Da̅n Qìgo̅ng routines including the Eight Pieces Brocade, the Four Seasons Medical Qìgo̅ng, and the Five Animal Sports.   

Theory:  The healing sounds are designed to maintain and improve the health of the five yi̅n organs—lungs, kidneys, liver, heart, and spleen—as well as the triple burner, which is basically the torso, which encompassed the organs.  Each sound is designed to resonate in its corresponding organ. 

The human body is designed to be a self-regulating mechanism that automatically maintains the proper yin̅/yáng balance of each organ and the body as a whole.  However, human behavior and lifestyles, stress, improper diet, failure to exercise, etc. can block the self-regulation function.  Blood and Qì stagnate within and around the organs.  The organs become too yáng (mainly too hot).  The interstitial tissues, which normally conduct heat and stale Qì away from the organ, congeal to the organ trapping heat, Qì, and blood causing the organ to malfunction and possibly leading to the formation of tumors.  The healing sounds are designed to prevent or relieve this process and help restore the normal self-regulating function.

Posture:  The Six Healing Sounds routine can be practiced either sitting on the front 1/3 of a chair seat so that the back of the chair does not press against your back, lying supine (face up) or standing in Wuji posture.  

Breathing:  Use Return to Childhood Breathing.  Breath slowly and evenly.  Reverse breathing can be used, but it is difficult to do correctly and can create problems of ̀ stagnation. 

Preparation:  Meditate and practice Return to Childhood Breathing for a few minutes before beginning the routine.  Start the exercise when you feel calm and relaxed with the blood and Qì circulating freely. 

Basic Procedure:  Imagine that the routine is divided into six parts, one for each organ.  In each part the basic procedure is to first focus your mind on the organ.  Try to locate and feel its presence within the body.  Prepare for the exercise by reviewing an anatomical chart of the organs if you are uncertain as to any organ’s location.

Inhale Qì through your nose, imagining that you are breathing into and filling the organ but not to the point of creating tension. 

Then exhale stagnant Qì through your mouth while quietly pronouncing the sounds for the organ.  The sounds are:  Si (Siiiii, like air leaking from a balloon) for the lungs; Chui (pronounced Ch’way) for the kidneys; Xu (pronounced shu) for the liver; He (like a dog panting) for the heart; Hu for the spleen; and Xi (pronounced like sheee) for the Triple Burner.  As you make the sound, imagine the organ vibrating with the sound and imagine stale Qì and heat releasing from the organ into the surrounding fluid and tissue (the interstitium) as well as out through your mouth. 

The proper volume level for the sound is called “the sound of no sound.”  The sound should be very soft to avoid tensing the throat and vocal cords.  Such tension would block the release of stagnant Qì through the throat.   

The Number of Repetitions:  When performing the sounds on their own, not integrated into other routines such as Eight Pieces of Brocade, the sound should be repeated a minimum of six times for each organ.  Complete all repetitions for one organ before moving on to the next.  If an organ is ailing, you can do more repetitions for that organ.  Sources suggest a range of repetitions from six to 36. 

Variations in the Routine

As with any ancient routine, variations have arisen in how to perform the routine.  Dr. Yang stresses that Qìgo̅ng is alive, not set in stone, but students naturally want to simplify the process of learning, and sometimes want to be that there is one “correct” way.  There is no one “correct” way for everyone.  Dr. Yang also stresses “trust your feeling.”  When you encounter variations in routines, use your feeling to determine which variation is best for you.  It may take time for beginners to develop their feeling, so it is important that they have a qualified teacher whom they can trust. 

Sounds:  Some sources present slightly different variations of the sounds.  You can experiment with the variations to determine which variant works best for you based on the feelings the sounds produce in the organ.  Beginner students may be confused by the variations and most will not have developed sufficient inner feeling to test the variations for themselves.  Therefore, if you are teaching the routine to beginner students, you may decide not to present variations to avoid confusing or frustrating beginner students.    

I have encountered the following variations in the sounds:   See-ahh for the lungs.  Ch-oo-ay, choo , and chrroooeee for the kidneys.  Kher for the heart.  Tseh for the Triple Burner.

Enhancements:  During the class, we will introduce you to some of the enhancements.  You can add the ones you like to your practice.  Please note that the routine is not intended to be practiced with all the enhancements together.  Attempting to do so would make the practice overly complicated and difficult to do correctly.

Enhancements added to the routine include:

Specific positioning of the teeth, tongue, and lips as you make the sound.

Imagining the release of the Qì from different places in the mouth and tongue as you make the sound.

Making the sounds at a specified musical pitch

Imagining the inhaling of Qì of the color associated with the organ according to the Five Elemental Phases Theory. 

Adding specific body postures for each organ.

Imagining inhaling specific virtuous qualities corresponding to the organ.

Imagining exhaling specific negative emotions associated with the organ according to Five Elemental Phases Theory while making the sound.   


[1] I have added tonal marking to the most commonly Chinese terms in the documents for the Medical Qìgo̅ng Exercise Program. 

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Yin-Yang Theory Applied in Everyday Life

I tell my students–or at least I used to tell the back in the days before Covid, when we could engage in contact exercises–that what they learn in applying the principles of Yin and Yang from Taijiquan is that what they learn in the studio in performing martial applications is not nearly as valuable as what they might learn from applying the principles to human interactions in everyday life. I have always believed that teachers should use concrete examples to illustrate the principles they are trying to teach, and I try to collect such examples.

I witnessed a major example last week one the day when the impeachment managers had concluded their presentation of their case. They had put together speech and videos to make a case that many people thought was quite compelling.  They seemed to have made a good impression on the chamber, the reporters, and the TV audience.  Then a sen. Lee stood up and objected that he had been misquoted and demanded that the passage about what he had said be stricken from the record.  A debate over whether the senator had been misquoted would have been a distraction that would have dulled the impression the managers had made.

Rather that take the Yang path of debating the senator about the accuracy of the quotation, the lead manager, rep. Raskin, apparently decided that the point was not essential to the managers’ case and took the Yin path of agreeing immediately to strike the quote from the record.  He led the senator’s attack into emptiness.   The senator, his objection having been accepted, seemed to have been left speechless. I don’t know if rep.Raskin has studied the Tao De Jing or Taiji, but his action was a great example of the use of the power of Yin.  Forget which side of the impeachment debate you take.  Just note this example of the power of Yin.

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Chinese Terms in Taijiquan and Qigong Study

Recently one of my students alerted me to research in medical journals about the use of Qigong against Covid. I was surprised to see that the Qigong routines named in the research articles were identified only in Chinese (Pinyin), even in those articles published in American based journals. This fact made me think further about the need to transmit Chinese terminology to the people I teach in Taijiquan and Qigong.

I recognized from the start that there a number of Chinese terms that you have to know to be considered well-trained in Taiji and Qigong societies. Wuji, Ma Bu, Qi, Qin Na, Sung, Dan Tian, Shen, Gong Fu, to name a few. To those, I will now add the Chinese names of the forms I teach: Ba Duan Jin, Liu Zi Jue, Si Ji Gong, Doing that will deal with the problem of recognizing the routine when you see it written in Pinyin.

Then there is the question when you hear it said, or more importantly when you try to say it. I have had a few native Mandarin speakers in my classes. One would repeat things I tried to say in Mandarin in her native Mandarin, that is with the correct tones. This is much more of a challenge for those of us who aren’t native speakers, but I think I need to do it for the sake of at least my serious students, those who wish to become teachers. I won’t require that everyone learn how to say the names correctly because it is not necessary for everyone. I can get the tones from my Oxford Chinese Dictionary.

Finally, there is the question of knowing how to recognize the Chinese written characters. I can recognize a few. But I think that learning the characters is a bridge to far for most of us.

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Keeping Spirits Up

When I teach Qigong, I often remind people of the damage uncontrolled emotions can do to your health. Sadness, grief, sorrow, and pessimism can damage the lungs, the heart, the immune system, and your spirit, which is so necessary to your wellbeing. Right now with the isolation caused by the Covid pandemic, the turmoil in American politics (for us Americans and perhaps others), and who knows what happening to us individually, how can we avoid depressing feelings and erosion of spirit? We need to actively look for reasons to be happy and optimistic.

You know that research shows that people who have strong support networks of other persons who care about them and who keep physically active and get out in nature do better in staying well and living longer. Research also shows that people who have pets also do better. Pets, especially dogs, can get you to go outside and be physically active. Finding reasons to laugh is also good for your health and spirit. Norman Cousins wrote about how his recovered his health by watching comedy. (See this link on Norman Cousins.) The goofy antics of pets can also make you laugh and feel better.

Just a few suggestions for these troubled times.

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Taiji, Qigong, and Immunity

In today’s Washington Post Health & Science section there is an article titled “Science tackles how immunities decline with age.”  The issue that prompts the article is, of course, the corona virus, and its particularly strong impact on older adults.  The article also points out that the seasonal flus have a similar impact on older adults.  For example, during the 2018-2019 flu season, three out of every four persons who died from the flu were age 65 and older.

In addition to older adults being more susceptible to flu, flu vaccines are less effective for older adults.  The seasonal flu vaccine tends to work for three out of five persons 17 or younger, but for only one of four adults 50 and older.

The article discusses in detail the microbiology of the immune system and the work of T and B cells as well as that of antigen-presenting cells.  One of the factors in the decline of immunity in older adults is that these cells become fewer and less effective in performing their various functions as we age.

My Qigong teacher, Dr. Jwing Ming Yang, always stressed in his Qigong seminars the importance of three ingredients vital to the cells’ functioning and replacement in the human body:  oxygen, nutrients (primarily glucose), and Qi (bioelectricity).  These ingredients must be abundantly available in the human body and able to circulate to the places where they are needed for cells to function efficiently and reproduce abundantly.

Unfortunately, as we age, the supply of these vital ingredients tends to decline as does the body’s ability to distribute them to where they are needed.  As we age, we tend to breathe more shallowly.  Consequently, the supply of oxygen declines.  We tend to accumulate more body fat and become less active with age.  Both tendencies result in slowing and impairment of the circulation of blood, which, of course, is the distributor of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

The practice of Taiji and Qigong and the lifestyle changes that we encourage people to undertake when they begin their training help to combat the harmful tendencies that accompany aging.  The techniques of movement and relaxation as well as the cultivation and conservation of Qi that are the essence of these arts promote the circulation of blood and Qi.  Deep breathing, also integral to these arts, helps increase the supply of oxygen to the body.

The article focuses on efforts to improve the effectiveness of vaccines in older adults, which, of course, is very important, but the overall effect is disempowering to the average person because it implies that everything having to do with the effectiveness of our immune systems depends on medical science.  Dr. Yang points out in a series of articles he has written in response to the corona virus crisis that we have become too focused on medical science to the neglect of the things we can do for ourselves.  The things we can do for ourselves include lifestyle changes that improve our health, which, of course, include practicing the arts of Taiji and Qigong.

The Washington Post article is based on a report produced by Knowable Magazine. The complete report can be read at knowablemagazine.org.

Dr. Jwing Ming Yang’s articles in response to the corona virus crisis have been reposted by permission  on Qi Emements’ website.

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Keeping Calm in Historic Times

I’ve posted before about the process of functional meditation, which I learned in a seminar with Dr. Yang Yang.  Functional meditation deals with the issues that sometimes make it difficult for people to calm their minds for meditation.  These issues arise when you attempt to begin meditation but find when you try to stop your thinking and quiet your mind, you are unable to do so.  Sometimes it is because suppressed memories or emotional issues from the past resurface and disturb your attempts to calm down.  Sometimes, as in our current situation, it’s fears about the present and future that disturb our attempts to stop thinking and meditate.

In essence, functional meditation is based on using your wisdom mind to regulate your emotional mind.  It teaches us to apply wisdom principles to reduce or eliminate emotional turmoil.  We face lots of uncertainty and disruption to our normal lives in the current Corona virus situation.  We may also face the loss of people we know and love and even loss of our own lives.  Throughout, we should keep in mind some important wisdom principles.

The world and we as Americans have endured and recovered from bad times before.  Depressions, plagues, famines, wars–the human race has endured and come back from many of these, some of which were much worse than what we are facing today.  It is estimated that the Black Plague killed 30-50% of Europe’s population.  The Corona Virus is much less deadly.

You are not alone.  Millions of other people around the world are going through what we are going through what we are going through.  Some are in better circumstances.  Many are in worse.

Seek out the help you need.  There are people and organizations providing help and support.  Make use of them.  There is no sense in attempting to deal with a historic disruption on a worldwide scale by yourself.

Take action where you can.  Do the things you can and should do.  Distance, mask, hand washing, self-care.  Apply for loans, unemployment, or other support.  Do whatever is in your power to do.  Help others however you can.  It will make you feel better.

Leave everything else in God’s hands.  Don’t worry about what you cannot control.  Worry, fear, anxiety, sadness will tire you out and impede your ability to do the things you can.  Over the long term, the stress from such emotions will cause serious damage to your health.

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Let’s Have a Cup of Tea

The teas listed below are believed to benefit the immune system. While no supplement can prevent or cure disease, supplements along with other healthy lifestyle practices can boost your immune system, your body’s internal defense against disease. Be sure to check the links, especially for information about when you should not use the herbs.

Chamomile– reduces stress and tension, relieves digestion problems, fights bacteria. It helps to relax the muscles in the intestines and the stomach and can help relieve digestive problems such as gas, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as relieve gastrointestinal symptoms associated with anxiety. Rich in antioxidants, chamomile helps reduce inflammation and block growth of cancer cells. More on chamomile.  

Cinnamon— (ceylon) helps the mind focus and work more quickly, promotes growth of neural pathways. Cinnamon improves digestion and can calm an upset stomach, gas, and diarrhea. Benefits of cinnamon.

Echinacea—increases the production of white blood cells, which combat viruses and bacteria. Its anti-inflammatory properties help relieve lung disorders such as bronchitis by reducing the irritation and mucus in the lungs. More on echinacea.

Elderberry– anti-inflammatory, anti-viral due to its high bioflavonoid content, and full of immunity boosting antioxidants. It can help to clear up congestion and runny nose. Benefits and dangers of elderberry.

Eucalyptus– fights respiratory infections with its strong antibacterial properties that help reduce phlegm and mucus and help fight common fungal infections, improves respiratory circulation, soothes stiffness and swelling of joints caused by arthritis and rheumatism. Eucalyptus’ antioxidant properties help reduce oxidative stress while also lowering blood sugar and dilating arteries. Its cooling nature helps boost energy, decrease emotional stress, and mitigate mental fatigue. More on eucalyptus.

Rosemary—contains a strong antioxidant, reduces headaches and may prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s, helps protect the body from oxidative stress. It is often consumed to relieve cold symptoms. It is an anti-inflammatory and has shown promise as an anticarcinogenic. More on rosemary tea.

Uva Ursi (Bearberry)– diuretic properties help flush out the urinary system and thus combat bacterial infections of urinary bladder and kidneys. Uva Ursi helps the body rid itself of bloating and water retention. It is a rich source of antioxidants and contains vitamin C. Uva Ursi and urinary tract infections.

White Tea– has some serious anti-cancer properties that can protect your body from multiple forms of the disease and can help strengthen the immune system to boot. It has also been shown to be a powerful antibacterial antibiotic agent, perfect for fighting an oncoming cold. More on white tea.

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The Rhythm of Our Lives

A cold wet nose in your eye at 7:30 AM.  “No, Sash.  It’s Sunday.  Let me sleep!”  Another gentle nose poke in the eye, accompanied by a whine.  “It’s time to get up, and get moving, Daddy.  Let’s go out and play  ball!”  That was our dog, Sasha, every morning.  When he got older, he developed an evening routine, sitting at the foot of the stairs, looking at us, then looking up the stairs.  “It’s time to go to bed!”  His reproachful “it’s time for bed” look would do your grandmother proud.

Sasha was reminding us of the importance of routine or rhythm in our lives.  The need to create habits that keep us on track, productive, and alive.  I’ll venture to say that now in the midst of the Corona virus pandemic, most of us are experiencing major disruption to the rhythm of our lives.  And that means that we need to create a new rhythm.  Tempting as it may be for some of us to sleep late, skip shower and shaving, hang-out all day in pajamas, and sit on the couch and binge watch TV, it is vitally important that we do not succumb to that temptation.

We need to keep mentally and physically active to avoid falling into malaise, depression, and to stave off premature aging.  This pandemic situation could continue for several months.  Just moping around for several months will have serious consequences for our health.

Take this time to accomplish things, maybe some things that you always wanted to do, but never made time for.  Might I suggest that improving your health be one of those things.  Set times during the day for active exercise.  Do a morning and afternoon walk.  (Here’s the benefit of having a dog like Sasha, who will nag you to get out.)  You can do a walk and still keep your social distancing.  Set a time for daily meditation.  Meditating will help you deal with the mental stress of the current situation.

Even those of us who are working at home still have an opportunity to accomplish more for ourselves.  You should have free time if you are no longer commuting to and from work.  I hope you won’t feel obliged or compelled to add that time to your work hours.

If you need suggestions on meditation, look at some of my earlier blogs and stay tuned for more.

Be careful, stay well.

Shifu Roger

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Mobilize Your Internal Forces against Corona Virus

Feeling at a loss in the current situation with the Corona virus?  Authorities say we won’t have a deployable vaccine against the new virus for at least a year, and then what about the next new virus or unanticipated strain of ordinary flu to come along?  You need not feel helpless.  In addition to the common sense precautions to protect yourself from germs (frequent hand washing, adequate sleep and diet, etc.), you have the means to strengthen your immune system and overall health with Taiji and Qigong exercises, both of which are effective in reducing the stress-load and boosting your vital internal energy (Qi).

My teacher, Dr. Jwing Ming Yang, likens a human being’s existence–physical, spiritual, and energetic–to a battle, which we are fighting all the time against the invasion of germs and other pernicious influences.  Your physical body is the battlefield.  Your white blood cells and other components of your immune system are the soldiers of your army.  Your mind is the general, who leads your army.  Your Qi, oxygen supply, and nutrients are the supplies your army needs to move and fight effectively.

You want your mind-general to be calm and focused.  Your mind-general should know the battlefield, but for many of us our minds are too often focused outward and have lost touch with our internal feelings.  The result–our mind-general doesn’t know what is happening on the battlefield.  The meditative aspects of Qigong and Taiji help relieve our mind-general of external stress, calm down, and focus on what’s happening internally.

You want your mind-general and your soldiers to have high morale.  Their morale depends on your morale.  If you are feeling sad, helpless, fearful, or depressed, your general and your army will feel the same.  With Qigong and Taiji you can take action to help yourself, and these exercises’ effectiveness in building up your vital energy will in turn raise your spirit.

You want your army to be able to move easily and quickly around the battlefield to where they are needed.  Your Qi channels, blood vessels, and nerve pathways are the transportation routes by which your army and its supplies travel.  However, when we sit too much, which is all too common in our modern lifestyle, these transportation routes tend to clog up, as when roads or trails are not regularly maintained and become snow clogged, muddy, or pot-holed.  The movements of Qigong and Taiji help keep these transportation routes open, and as your soldiers grow stronger and your general gains focus, they will have greater ability to clear away obstacles on the routes and make sure that they can move freely to where they are needed.

Exercise in general is good, but Qigong and Taiji exercises that focus on special movements, proper breathing, mental concentration, and vital energy strengthening are especially effective weapons you can use in your everyday battles to stay healthy.

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Slow Down

Did you watch the half time show during the Super Bowl?  Visual and auditory stimulation from start to finish at who knows how many beats per second.  Rapid fire stimulation is the ethos of the modern, techno age.  You can see it in the movies, too.  It seems like the message of many modern movies is how many special effects can the creators cram into each minute.  Faster, faster, faster, more, more, more!

Faster, faster, more, more, shows up at most modern workplaces.  Squeeze more out of the employees.  “Do more with less!”  Next day delivery isn’t good enough.  Now we aspire to two hour delivery.  Close of business is an obsolete concept as business becomes 24/7.  Mobiles keep us connected and always on call.

Can you imagine what the constant stimulation and ever-increasing pressure for speed does to your body?  You can measure what it does to your heart rate and blood pressure, but the effect on your body chemistry and the work your brain has to do to process the constant stimulation are not easily measured unless you are wired up in a medical center.

I can see this effect creeping into Taiji classes.  The other day while leading the barehand form, I noticed that one student was three moves ahead of my commands.   And this was a student doing Taiji to reduce stress.  I might be wrong, but I think I notice that students working IT jobs are especially prone to speed up their form and their sensing hands practice.   I keep saying, “slow down.”

You know that there are three speeds for Taiji form practice–slow, medium, and fast.  Those who want to acquire martial arts ability should practice fast form in addition to the slow and medium, but most students aren’t that committed to learning martial skills.  This means that for most of us, we should be practicing at medium and slow speeds.  (Medium speed is 18-23 minutes; slow speed is as slow as you can go while still coordinating with breathing.  That’s for the traditional Yang long form 108.)

Practicing Taiji you step back from the modern world and slow down.  Let’s keep it that way.

 

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