As the ancient Chinese internal healing arts become more widespread it is important to begin to draw some distinctions between the plethora of practices. This is meant to be a brief overview, in no way complete, that works towards understanding the differences between Nei Gong and Qi Gong.
There are many body/mind practices that come under the greater umbrella of the Chinese Internal Healing Arts. The more common well-known of these is “Qi Gong”. Qi Gong is similar to Yoga in that it is used as a very broad term to describe a diverse range of practices eg Bhakti Yoga (Hare Krishnas), Karma Yoga (Mother Teresa) or the more common application in the West of a Yoga practise that is heavily weighted in Asanas (postures). Qi Gong could be used as a very broad term also to describe a range of practices such as Tai Chi, Martial Arts and Nei Gong. They are all practices of Qi, they all derive from a time in Chinese cultural history that dates back some five thousand years or more and they all work with/cultivate Qi in some way.
To one degree or another they all work to strengthen the body/mind connection, to create more efficient Qi flow and on varying levels to improve one’s health and work towards enlightenment – in the Daoist manner this can be translated as following the Way of Nature or the Natural Way, whereby one lives in accordance with the cycles of nature. Dr Yang, J-M divides Qi Gong into five broad categories:
- Health maintenance;
- Curing sickness;
- Martial skill;
Not only do the differences lay in what end result each practice is working towards but also the emphasis upon which Qi is collected and dispersed through the body.
Many peoples first experience with Qi is through simple practices of Qi Gong whereby one first works with Qi of the meridians. Qi works like the messenger moving through the meridians between the mind and the body. Working to open and clear these pathways we need to adjust and balance the Qi moving through the body and hence the organs. Constant re-adjustment is needed to harmonise the Qi flow and is done through controlling the mind and regulating the breath with awareness on how this affects the body.
A quick summary of Qi Gong would be to say that it works from external to internal to maintain and nourish life and that there are literally hundreds of different types of Qi Gong with a common focus of circulating Qi in the human body.
Many of the Qi Gong style of practices serve to prepare one for the more advanced opening of the channels as they are a great way to start building a solid foundation for both body and mind. Without this foundation the energetic charge and vibration that takes place when we go through the transformative process of accessing and making changes at a cellular level, leaves one at risk of burn-out. One could use the analogy of a higher voltage flowing through an appliance that is built for a much lower voltage. When we are able to regulate our Qi we can go beyond the meridians into a transformative process that connects us with more subtle, deeper channels and parts of our consciousness. This then is Nei Gong – the internal transformative process that connects and integrates our whole being.
Nei Gong is a process that works from the inside out. Working to make changes at a cellular level it re-wires and re-aligns our whole being so that the Tian Gan or central channel or great river of water that flows within us between heaven and earth, moves in the right direction. This opens the way to connect one with your special home, your self, your cells, to move closer to one’s destiny, the work we were meant to be doing in this life and in so becoming at one with the Dao. In Daoism this can be translated as following the Way of Nature, the Natural Way. And in true pragmatic Daoist terms this means doing the work you are meant to do during this lifetime, supporting family and community and having balance in life.
Part of that transformative process is the replacement of old cells with new cells. This is part of the natural process the body goes through in regenerating its cellular structure. Now this happens all the time in the body, in 80-100 days for example the body will have replaced 30 trillion of its massive 330 billion cells. When we replace our old dying cells with happier new cells we are working towards a transformative process at a cellular level, at an energetic level that changes our way of being from the inside out. The inside out work, or Gong, of Nei Gong harmoniously fuses the innate wisdom of our body and our internal state of mind, with our external way of being in the world. One compliments the other.
The profound changes available to one through the practice of Nei Gong is at the centre of Calligraphy Heath training – training that emphasises the regulation/balance of all the organs of the human body. This is called Organ Function Skill. When our organs work together as a team blood circulates freely between all members/organs. The cells of the body start to work together in a state of Yinyang balance resulting in changes in our energy and vibration.
Internal Organ Function Skill works from the inside out. Changes made to your health through fine-tuning the functioning of your organs, in particular the liver, heart, kidney, spleen, lung, uterus, prostrate, intestines and bone marrow, enhance your blood flow/circulation. Although the changes that take place on the inside, are most visible on the outside, including clearer skin, sharper eyes, shiny hair and an overall softer younger more vibrant looking self, it is the changes that happen internally that are behind the transformative processes of Nei Gong.
Nei Gong practice has both a soft, quieter, internal style as well as a harder, more dynamic external style. Both ways have over-laying similarities in approach and emphasis, as well as differences. In the Calligraphy Health system these difference show up in the Yangmian System, the Calligraphy Health Elbow system and training in Parts 1-4. The principles remain constant throughout all of these trainings though, using Internal Organ Function Skill that works from the inside out using the human energy centre – the lower Dan Tian. It is interesting to note that in ancient times the lower Dan Tian was called the Nei Gong centre.
I have heard it said that one important point of the Nei Gong process is the student/teacher relationship – that the help/supervision of a teacher who has been through this process themselves is not only important but is a prerequisite. The skills needed to take one down the transformative process of Nei Gong have traditionally been kept a closely guarded secret, handed down through the family by word of mouth, generation by generation and not available to the general public. Tradition has it that these well kept family secrets were passed on to the oldest boy in the family.
In Master Yang’s case, as the younger brother in the family, he was allowed to attend training with his older brother, but at the back of the room. What became obvious to his grandfather, who was teaching the boys, was that the movements his brother laboured to understand came naturally to little Zhen Hua, as if it was in his very DNA. Where his older brother needed to repeat over and over many times Zhen Hua was quick to put into practice all that was being taught. After some time the decision was made by his family to override hundreds of years of tradition by consecrating Zhen Hua Yang as the gate-keeper/holder to his ancient family system. In the life of Master Yang this was a major turning point, it was his destiny. Many years later Zhen Hua Yang became Master, then founder and director of Calligraphy Health.
Nei Gong as taught by Master Zhen Hua Yang and the Calligraphy Health system has the potential to make changes to the wisdom of the body through the development of ones organ function skills. In this system the transformative process takes place through a combination of increased blood circulation/energy flow, better organ function and higher levels of energy and vibration that unite in the human body for the purpose of living a better, happier and longer life.
The foundational practices are important and not to be overlooked as they help to build the body to withstand the transformation the body undergoes during the opening, cultivation and increase in Qi flow within the deepest energy channels of the body. When we start to control and regulate our Qi – Qi Gong – we can take our practice to a much deeper more advanced level – Nei Gong.
Pam Hellens for Calligraphy Health