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Two major tips that tai chi experts often give to novice practitioners of qigong, a type of tai chi martial arts, are “focus on energy-building skills” and “develop higher levels of true consciousness.” Many experts claim that graduates of qigong for beginners not only confuse the qigong practice of energy-building with mere deep-breathing, but also often mistake consciousness for mere visualization. Energy acquisition and consciousness are the main components of qigong. Most experts say that without understanding these two concepts fully, qigong becomes an empty physical effort instead of a transcendental, yoga-like practice. Beginners who improve their energy storage methods and consciousness often report more mental agility, better health and mastermind control through qigong.
The heart of tai chi qigong is not body power, but mind power, or yinian . The word yinian has no exact English translation, but it roughly means "consciousness." Philosophically, many enthusiasts of qigong consider yinian a sixth sense because with it, a person can perceive and direct energy sensed in both the internal and external world. Qigong for beginners often includes a lot of consciousness exercises anchored on visualization—but conjuring mental images alone is not consciousness. Expert practitioners generally describe true consciousness as a mix of visualization, target setting, optimistic attitude and acting with intent.
These four components of consciousness are used simultaneously while doing physical calisthenics to achieve the most qigong benefits. Using the components alone or in pairs, as many beginners do, is often ineffective, most experts believe. The synthesis of all four components is most effective, but can be quite difficult to master in qigong for beginners, which is why many experts recommend that novices deliberately practice full consciousness from the start and regard it with even greater importance than the physical movements of qigong. Once yinian-style consciousness is mastered, beginners often find they can direct and use their life force more efficiently.
Chi, or life force, has to be constantly built because it is used and lost on a daily basis. Qigong for beginners often focuses on directing, but not creating, chi. Experts often advise beginners to remember that qigong is largely a meditative exercise dependent on accumulating the life force that animates all living things. Practitioners believe everyone is born with chi, but that they can also amass varying levels at will. Chi not only allows creativity and productivity, but also heals from disease by balancing the body’s energy, according to many qigong experts.
The phrases "breath of life" and "life breath" have emerged in modern culture as synonyms for chi. Deep, rhythmic breaths, therefore, are often viewed by beginners as the primary way to generate chi. Building chi energy, however, also involves stimulation of nerve fibers so the body’s nervous system can carry chi energy currents over long distances and in large amounts. Erect posture, which enables the spine to be an energy channel, also helps in acquiring more chi because it allows energy to flow through the body more efficiently. Eating healthy foods, such as fresh, raw vegetables that still retain some life force, is even a part of building chi through a qigong lifestyle.
Extended breathing exercises taught in qigong for beginners are still essential in building chi since these exercises teach deep diaphragm breathing, which allows the body to relax so that energy flow is not blocked. Many practitioners believe they can amass so much chi that they can move physical objects and people by telekinesis, which uses only the mind and not the body to manipulate things. This expert level of using the forces of chi in a physical way is called the empty force level.
Qigong for beginners typically lacks the expert techniques necessary for telekinesis or empty force. Beginner exercises, however, can lay the foundation for the eventual learning of such mastermind control. Hours of constant practice can prepare a beginner with the dedication and alertness to develop not only telekinesis, but also mental telepathy and energy healing, according to some qigong masters.
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