What is Taoist Yoga? and, What is Qigong (Ch'i-Kung)

From the New Book (Copyrighted Material)

Introduction to Section III

(Mostly) Taoist Energetic Yoga*

This section looks for clues to the meaning of “internal energy” in the Chinese Taoist [i] and Tibetan tantric energetic yogas, with special attention directed to the practitioner's subjective experience during practice. Here we consider how a practitioner interacts with, and manages, sensations within the body that are often described as electrical, magnetic, or internal heat. The ability to generate, and then intentionally control, experiences like these separate the novice from the adept.

While the beginner’s practice sometimes involves their awareness of what feels like an electromagnetic pulse in at the body's “energy centers,” the advanced practitioner is distinguished by their masterful ability to trigger these sensations at specific targets in the body, such as along the spinal corridor, or the “energy fields,” of the lower abdomen.

All sensations are not equal; many can be quite powerful, and some can be profound. With enough time spent engaged in the practice of energetic meditation, energetic yoga, or qigong, practitioners will begin to notice the appearance of a special class of perceptions within the body. Depending on the particular tradition, at very advanced levels these function as a kind of internal feedback, which can usher in the experience of bliss and joy associated with spiritual awakening.

For many practitioners, the presence of these sensations is evidence that one’s physical experience is inseparable from transcendence, or the stuff of spirit. Over time, the practitioner learns that these sensations exist along a continuum, and that the distinction between the mundane and the spiritual is not all that firm. Eventually, it is discovered that the waters separating the physical from the etheric can be crossed by one who prepares the properly constructed yogic-energetic meditation vessel.

[i] Consistent with comments in the opening pages of the present work, although for the most part Chinese characters are transliterated using the pinyin system of transliteration, there are a few exceptions where Chinese is Romanized in the Wade-Giles style. Examples of Wade-Giles transliteration in this chapter are Tao, Taoism, the Tao Te Ching, t’ai-chi ch’üan and its abbreviation, t’ai-chi, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Ko Hung, and Hua Tho.

* Use of the term “yoga” follows suggestions by Charles Luk and others that it be used as an umbrella term which describes a variety of physically-based “energetic” health and advancement of consciousness regimens, particularly as applied to Chinese Taoist health and rejuvenation exercise. See Charles Luk, Taoist Yoga [i]

While the subjective experience can seem very real to the practitioner, the interpretation of these sensations incorporates theoretical constructs to explain the phenomena. In meditation, as well as the movement arts that developed on the Indian subcontinent, the practitioner’s experience of subjective bodily feelings is equated with the presence and control over “energy” in and around the body, referred to as prana, shakti, or kundalini. By way of cross-cultural comparison, for practitioners in the Chinese meditative and healing arts, sensations of heat, pressure, or electrical-like tingling throughout the body, whether deliberately stimulated or passively perceived, are all identified in terms of internal qi or nei qi.