Yang Taijiquan and Taoist Neigong: Internal work
Neigong ‘internal work’ is the more classic term for internal driven concentration methods inside the body. Qigong is a more modern term that takes from Neigong, but is more external driven in terms of movement and breathing. In Taoism, the ultimate is the generation of Neidan, or the Elixir of life and essence into true nature of self and universe, return to Wuji and eternal Tao.
China has a long 4000+ year history. There was continual evolution in the areas in medicine, physical culture, religion, and philosophy, art, politics, and martial arts throughout this historical timeline. The ancients already had terms like Dao yin (breath and movement), Du na (exhale-inhale breathing methods), Xingqi (Promoting and conducting qi), Fuqi (Taking qi), Shushu (breath-counting), Zuochan (sitting meditation), Shi Qi (living on qi), Jingzuo (sitting still), Nei qi (internal qi), and Wei qi (external qi). The Taoists, had Five Sacred Mountains where they studied the Tao. Mao Shan, the Jade capital sect was where astrology and sorcery were studied, Lungmen and Huashan, the heavenly pillar sect were the center of asceticism, Wudangshan, the Pole star sect was concentrated on military arts and exorcism, Lunghushan, the Jade prefecture, was the priestly sect, and lastly the Lushan, the Spirit Cloud sect were the Buddhist influenced Taoists. At these places Taoists’ studied to unify and harmonize with Taoist trinity of heaven, self (within humanity), and earth.
Neigong requires training in qigong (energy cultivation), yi gong (focus training), shen gong (spiritual mind training) to create the Neidan (elixir). It is important to understand the importance of weigong (physical health) as well to support neigong.
The nexus of it all is understanding the “3 treasures” which are Shen, Qi, and Jing. Shen is the “mind, consciousness, or spirit”. Qi is the “vital force” that maintains the health of the internal organs. Jing or “Essence” is the hormones that supports the body, muscles, bones, blood, and more.
When it comes to learning neigong, qigong, and meditation, it is important to proceed with caution, have an expert teacher who has obtain all levels clearly, and conducts retreats regularly.
Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan method of Zhang Qilin is a big influence. Zhang was able to learn some neigong from Yang Jianhou and later became a disciple of Yang Chengfu. He also learned from the Taoist Jin shan Pai “Gold mountain lineage” under Zou Yifeng. More info here: Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan.
Jin shan pai is an offshot of Longmen pai (Dragon Gate sect) through Xie Shujia who left the Longmen pai Complete Perfection school (Quanzhen). Zhao Bichen (Chao Pi Ch’en) was the 3rd patriarch of Jin shan pai and the 1000 peaks sect. He influenced Sun Xikun the great Baguazhang teacher who wrote some of the methods in his Baguazhang book Bagua Quan Zhen Chuan (Genuine Transmission of Baguazhang 1934). However Zhao’s book Xing Ming Fajue Mingzhi (The Secrets of Cultivation of Essential Nature and Eternal life 1933) was translated by Charles Luk and thus the term “Taoist Yoga” was made popular in the 1970’s. A pdf copy of the Taoist Yoga book can be found here.
With neigong, you have to be gentle with yourself and your mind’s intention called “Yi” as qi cannot be forced by intention. Forcing the body to try to make qi will cause some burnout and make the liver and kidney stressed. Blockages, stagnation, and even reversal of the natural normal pathway of qi can occur. This is the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish. Do not get nervous about not being able to stop thoughts. Go with the flow. If thoughts cannot be stopped, just simply do not proceed until you feel ready to try again. Do not seek visions or use visualization. Use feeling; listen within in a casual way. Have pure intention and be morally pure rather than chasing after power, money, and acting in competition with others as these will only lead to more stress. We want to stop chasing the myriad 10,000 and get back to Wu ji, the eternal, nameless Tao.
Some pointers: The only way to find your Qi, is to be in the present moment and using your feeling. You cannot have a mind stuck in the past or thinking about the future. Find a quiet place free of distractions. Simply sit in stillness, this helps calm the mind. Be aware of your body. Relax your shoulders, arms, wrist and hands. Hands on your lap or knees, chest relaxed, upper back slightly rounded, and tongue on roof of mouth. The nose naturally breathes and the belly expands on inhale and contracts on exhale, this lower diaphragm “dan tien” area is below belly button. Most importantly, stillness is the key and relaxing in the sense of letting go physically, mentally, and emotionally will be critical. Seek out tension in the body and release it.
Taijiquan and Neigong Share:
4 Body positionings to open the 3 gates:
Xu ling Ding jin: internal energy lifts head, and neck straight to help qi sink down.
Chen Jian Zhui Zhou: Shoulders downs, elbows drop, naturally.
Han Xiong Ba Bei: sink chest, raise back, not a hunched back, but a tigers back, shielded, rounded.
Song Yao Zuo Kua: straighten the lower back, relax the tailbone, sacrum, and 3 lowest vertebrae to open ming men and allow Qi to move up through the passes. “Shen guan ding“.
Some Additional Infomation on Yang Neigong from Danny Emerick*
At age 20 (1908) Zhang Qinlin learned T’ai-chi (Yang style) from Liu Donghan for 8 years. Liu learned from Yang Fenghou’s son, Yang Zhaolin. (Fenghou was Yang Luchan’s eldest son who died early). At age 38 (1926) Zhang became a disciple of Yang Cheng-fu, but had studied with Yang Chien-huo as well. Yang Ch’eng-fu did teach him “secrets” (Yang Family Nei Kung) for Zhang besting Wan Lai-sheng in 1927 in a park in Peking. Yang taught him these “secrets” for 33 days.
Zhang Qinlin became a disciple of Yang Cheng-fu in 1926. In 1928 Yang Cheng-fu left Peking and moved to Shanghai. In 1928 Zhang went to Taiyuan, Shanxi Province and met Zuo Laipeng. Zhang studied with Zuo for 2 years, then also moved south to the Shanghai area in 1930. He went back north in 1935 to continue studying with Zuo.
In late 1935, at the request of Yang Cheng-fu, Zhang Qinlin came to Shanghai to teach “T’ai-chi Nei Kung” to several of Yang’s students. (There is a list of a few names of those who studied with Zhang, and Prof. Cheng was one of them). Zhang had learned Nei Kung directly from Yang Ch’eng-fu in 1926 in Beijing, and later he studied Taoist Nei Kung from Zuo Laipeng from 1928-1930 at a temple near Taiyuan, Shanxi Province.
What Zhang learned from Zuo Laipeng, he taught to those students of Yang Cheng- fu (Sadly, Yang was quite ill at this time, otherwise he would have taught these students himself, and in fact, he would pass away in early 1936).
According to Dr. Huang Jinghua (in Prof. Qu’s book mentioned below) he and Prof. Cheng studied with Ye Dami for two years before he met Yang (1928-1930) and Prof. Cheng mentions this in his preface to Yang’s 1934 book. It was Yang himself who requested Zhang to come to Shanghai and teach the Nei Kung for a few months in 1935. (Zhang left Shanghai in October 1935).
Cheng Man-ch’ing studied with Zhang in 1935. Wang Yen-nien (also well known in Taiwan) studied with Zhang from 1945 to 1949 in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, and Zhang Baozhong…is Zhang Qinlin’s grandson.
Prof. Cheng also practiced t’ui shou with Zhang then, but mentioned him as a senior classmate and not as a “T’ai-chi teacher”, but he always acknowledged Zhang as his Nei Kung teacher.
*Sources: the publications “Yang Taiji is One Family : Across the Straits” by Prof. Qu Shijing (“楊氏太極 兩岸一家” 瞿世鏡),and material from “The Biography of Zhang Yaoxi” by Ye Dami (“張耀西傳“ 葉大密).