Qigong meditation is an ancient form of ancient Chinese meditation typically practiced by Taoists. Taoism is a religion that stresses harmony with natural processes in both the inner and outer worlds. Qigong meditation traditionally operates according to the theory of qi, which is a complex concept that has multiple translations and layers of meaning. To perform qigong meditation, you generally will need to master the breath and learn to focus your concentration on internal issues.
On one level, qi means breath; on another, it is taken to mean spirit energy. Some qigong practitioners believe that breath is the exoteric, or outer, interpretation, and spirit energy is the esoteric, or inner, interpretation. Others believe that spirit energy exists and has measurable effects on the human mind and body. Still others believe that that belief is a metaphor or superstition, and that qigong meditation works through simple physiological processes.
By learning to control the breath, the meditator puts his or her mind and body into a state of altered functioning that is supposed to convey certain mental and physical benefits. Scientific studies have indicated that it is effective at lowering blood pressure and calming the emotions. Other health benefits, such as improved resistance to disease and reduction of anxiety and depression, have been claimed as well.
There are numerous forms of qigong meditation. Learning all of them would require years of study. There are, however, certain basic elements common to most forms of qigong. Any qigong meditation should begin by relaxing both the mind and the body. Tension should be let out of the muscles and the emotions should be calmed.
Qigong breathing is a special form of breathing that is also called diaphragmatic breathing. To breathe from the diaphragm requires pushing the abdomen in and out instead of expanding and compressing the chest. This causes deeper breathing and raises the level of oxygen in the blood, which has many well-known health benefits. It is the type of breathing used by many professional singers.
One of the most common, basic forms of qigong meditation is called small universe meditation. This involves certain visualizations that are supposed to activate various energy centers in the body — in the brain, heart, and gut. Some believe that spirit energy guided through the body will awaken these reservoirs of spiritual energy. Others believe that concentrating the mind in certain ways while breathing correctly and relaxing promotes hormonal changes and increased harmony between actions of the brain and the circulatory system.
To begin, concentrate on a place deep inside the body about 2 inches (about 5.08 cm) below your navel, called the dan tien, while holding your tongue on the roof of the mouth. When you breathe in, picture the spirit energy that is stored there depart the dan tien as it goes down to the perineum, which is a spot halfway between the genitals and anus. From there, it should be pictured entering the lower spine and traveling up the spine to the head, just behind the eyes.
When you exhale, visualize the qi moving from your head, through your tongue, down the front of your body, and back into your dan tien. Keep repeating this process with every breath while retaining a calm, relaxed mind and relaxed body. Other variants of this meditation allow for the pattern of breathing and visualizations to be varied.