The greatest thing we possess is ourselves. Ironically, we know more about other things outside ourselves, than our very own body and mind, that sustains our life everyday. It is not necessary to get a PhD in western and eastern medicine in order to better understand how Qigong works. A little study can go a very long way. Especially to incorporating the power of our mind’s direction. We can’t really do what we don’t understand at a substantial level.
Abdominal (aka Embryonic / Belly) Breathing is actually a very common practice. Practical information is easy to obtain. It is daily practice that brings the benefit. Learning it properly will not only make respiration easier, by learning to remove internal restriction gradually, on a deeper and deeper level to the descending diaphragm, increasing lung capacity, but it also offers all the internal organs below the diaphragm a therapeutic massage. Moving tissue, fluids, and blood.
Some of the first Qigong manuals translated into English to come west, were probably a disappointment to many health minded enthusiasts, because instead of containing exotic dynamic multidimensional movements, they focused on static Zhan Zhuang; post standing, breathing methods, and visualization techniques. Introducing the west to Chinese medicine’s paradigm of Qi circulation throughout the body must have seemed rather strange at first. I am sure to a lot was lost in translation because rarely back then was the translator also an expert in Qigong. Today, books are closer to accurate medical texts.
Stability, joint alignment, posture, and relaxation of the whole body needs to be understood and employed, even when just focusing on the process of Belly Breathing. As a form of standing meditation, the mind needs to generate a strong clear Yi; Intent by possessing knowledge and comprehension, be fully present in the moment, be free of distracting irreverent internal dialogue, be peaceful, lively, and with concentrated focus to visualize, along with experiencing the localized sensations resulting from internal movement. The mind moves the Qi along the meridians; internal pathways of the body accompanied by the breath. It is an internal study and practice.
This internal movement includes, but is not limited to; the spine elongating and retracting, the diaphragm descending and ascending, the belly expanding and contracting, the Gate of Life (Mingmen) in the lower back opening and closing, the perineum feeling supported, the lower Dantian, like a multidimensional ball filling like a balloon from the Center point outward, etc.
Breathing and meditation are the very foundation of internal Qigong practice. Most people today practice external Qigong; extending, flexing and circling their arms, bending the legs to raise and lower the torso, twisting and turning the body, thinking this is the major focus of Qigong practice. It really is a modern reduction of the practice, to nothing more than common physical calisthenics. It should be kept in mind, most illness and diseases are in the torso, not the limbs. Internal Qigong focuses on the organ systems, where external exercise indirectly brings health to the body through moving the limbs (similar to aerobics and weight resistance). They are a Yinyang complementary pair. Harmony is achieve by practicing both and bring the three-as-one body; physical, energetic, and spiritual into holistic balance.