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“.
Sample Neigong Methods:
Standing/Sitting: Neigong lesson: Dan tian
Standing: Neigong lesson
20 minutes Xia Dan Tien sample: : Guided Xia Dan Tien session
Prescription*: 20 min. for 100 days for beginners. Advanced: 30 minutes twice a day, include long form 3 times followed by wuji standing. *Caution: If you feel headache, dizzy, or nausea, please stop. You can massage GB20 and back of neck, go for walk, and do something else. Xìatían 下田 －the Lower Field, aka lower dantian center. Shén 神 － spirit and mind. Practice Method: Prepare body, Calm Shen, inner see at lower diapragm cavity. Prenatal breathing: inhale belly expand, exhale belly contract (natural and non-forced). Jing zou: Sitting still silent meditation: approx. 10 minutes. Wu wei: method of no method, non action and Voidness: the source of all pure yang virtues (kindness, conduct, propriety, wisdom, trustworthy). Closing return qi to xia dan tien with du na breathing. Massage at end. **This is NOT the official method of Yangjia Michuan Association, but inspired from talks, public books, online articles, and methods from Wang Yen-Nien disciples. We honor Zhang Qilin, a disciple of Yang Chengfu and student of Yang Jianhou, and his Jin Shan Pai (Gold Mountain Taoist sect) lineage through Zou Yi Fang (Zou Neigong).
Sample Neigong set Du Na Dao Yin. This is just a training wheel, you should be able to move on without a audio/video and do on your own. This is only a suggested pace, method, and NOT the official one. Link Here
Intro Taijiquan neigong* *This is not the official method of Yangjia Michuan Association, but inspired from talks, public books, online articles, and methods from Wang Yen-Nien disciples. We honor Zhang Qilin a disciple of Yang Chengfu and student of Yang Jianhou, and his Jin Shan Pai (Gold Mountain Taoist sect) lineage through Zou Yi Fang (Zou Neigong). Prescription*: 30 min. for 100 days for beginners. Advanced: 30 minutes twice a day, include practice Taijiquan Long form after 3 times then wuji standing. *Caution: If you feel headache, dizzy, or nausea, please stop. You can massage GB20 and back of neck, go for walk, and do something else. Cultivation of neidan by way of crystallization of Jing, Qi, and Shen, absorption of sun, moon, and star, the natural elements: earth, fire, water, and wind to create the Neidan “internal elixir”. We want to turn inward from Xiangji- the 10,000 things and realm of illusion, surpass the Taiji: realm of perception, time, and space, towards WuJi: Oneness of everything, the Tao that is timeless, changeless, and eternal. Men and Women: Men the qi goes up the Du channel and down the front Ren channel. For Women: it goes up the Ren channel and down the back Du channel. Yang qi goes up, yin Qi goes down regardless of gender. Women please keep this in mind as most instruction will be for men here, just do the reverse as mentioned. Up Ren channel and down spine. We will use the Xia Dan Tian Hu Xi: lower dan tien breathing exhale and inhale, natural and non-forced. No reverse breathing in this session. Breathing: Du NA. Du mean exhale with tip of coccyx and anus forward, as Yang qi goes up spine, use HAA sound out mouth without force without sound, abdomen contracts, diaphragm lifts, lung quiet , solar plexus relaxed, slightly contracted. Na: to Inhale, relax coccyx and anus, Yin Qi is grasped downward to the expanding lower abdomen, quietly from the nose without force, without sound, abdomen contracts, diaphragm lifts, lungs quiet, solar plexus relaxed, slightly retracted. Du na session, Wu Wei “not do” session: the method of no method. Closing and Finish.
Some Additional Infomation from Danny Emerick*
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).
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.
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).
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.
Zhang Qinlin became a disciple of Yang Cheng-fu in 1926, and it was Yang Cheng-fu who requested Zhang to teach Prof. Cheng and other students. Of course Yang Cheng-fu approved Zhang’s relationship to his junior classmates to do this.
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. 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!
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.
*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).