This article discusses a research article from Norway in 2008, which refers to spontaneous qigong (zifagong).
I have written extensively about spontaneous qigong. To learn more, start with this article – Qigong and Encounters with Spontaneous Qi: Part One.
Learning and Experiencing Chinese Qigong in Norway
‘Learning and Experiencing Chinese Qigong in Norway’ is the name of an article published in the Journal of East Asian Science in 2008. A PDF link to the full article is at the end of this post.
The author is Gry Sagli and he discusses the use of qigong in Norway. Gry refers to a form of qigong called ‘Biyun Medical Qigong’, which seems to incorporate spontaneous qigong movements as one of its 5 training stages.
Gry does not use the terms “Spontaneous qigong” or “Zifa Gong”. Instead he uses terms like “movement of qi’, “free-form” or “spontaneous body movements”.
Biyun Medical Qigong
Gry states that Biyun Medical Qigong has five stages of ‘body-mind states’ that can be experienced by practitioners. These fives stages are:
- Body movements.
- Body movements with concentration.
- Body movements, concentration, and qi (life energy).
- Qi and body movements without concentration.
- Body in stillness and moving qi.
In this article, I want to focus specifically on the spontaneous qigong aspect of biyun, which is Stage 4. But before that, I will briefly summarise Biyun qigong.
What is Biyun Medical Qigong?
The Biyun Qigong system was created by a Chinese Medicine doctor and Qigong master called Fan Xiulan.
The creator Fan Xiulan (born 1947, female) is referred to as “Master” or Grand Master Fan” by the students and is the “unquestionable authority” regarding all Biyun activities. A link to her website is at the end of this article.
In Scandinavia, Biyun qigong originates back to the 1990s with Fan Xiulan traveling to Scandinavia and teaching about twice a year. This resulted in the formation of Biyun associations and teaching organisations. According to this article, more than 90,000 people have attended a Biyun course in Sweden, with more than 600 instructors educated.
Biyun courses were arranged in Norway from 1997 and held in 2001. The Biyun association in Norway was established in 2003. There are an estimated 6000-7000 persons who have attended courses in Norway.
Summary of the 5 stages of Biyun Qigong:
Stage 1 – Body Movements
The first or beginners stage utilises specific basic movements. For example – starting with the feet and rotating the feet, followed by specific exercises for the ankles, knees, hips and pelvis. Movements include moving, stretching, bending and strengthening body parts. Exercises are based on principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the acupuncture points, Channels (Meridians) and balancing yin and yang. For example, one exercise is this:
When the students are doing an exercise that involves the stretching of the upper back, for example, they are instructed to lift up their arms and place their middle finger between the second and the third ribs in line with the middle of the collar bone, and to keep the fingers at this place all the time while doing a forward bending of the neck and elbows. The purpose of placing the middle finger exactly at this point, we learn, is that this spot is an acupuncture point for the lungs.
Stage 2 – Body movements with concentration
Stage 2 involves carrying out qigong exercises and at the same time evoking certain mental images. Each exercise combines a specific image with the movements. The instructors state over and over again about various beneficial effects that are associated with the specific exercises.
The participants are instructed to concentrate on how each exercise can strengthen various parts of the body – whether that is the ankles, feet, joints, kidneys or lungs or any part. They are also instructed to use visualisation when performing movements such as imaging they are a ‘tree waving in the wind’.
One of the key components are that you are activating both conscious mind and body when performing exercises.
Stage 3 – body movements, concentration, and qi (life energy)
This stage deepens the practice by using a CD guide, to carry out the exercises and which includes a description of energy (qi) as part of the exercises. For example, one of the exercises guides a student to do the following:
Go out with your arms, palms facing upwards and in your concentration focus on gathering life energy from nature and from heaven.
Then turn your palm downwards, imagining how you are bringing in lots of life energy which you have gathered.
Imagine how you are bringing the energy of life through the top of your head, letting it flow down inside the middle of your body, down to the dantian.
For qigong or Chinese Medicine practitioners, the concept of qi or the dantian will generally be well-known. However, when teaching Biyun Qigong to new people, the concepts of qi will be less well understood. This is one of the reasons, why this aspect of teaching is at stage 3 and not stage 1. By practicing the first 2 stages, they could gradually develop a sensitivity to their qi.
Spontaneous Qigong: Stage 4 – Qi and body movements without concentration.
Stage 4 is where Biyun Qigong utilises spontaneous qigong. It is described as ‘qi and body movements without concentration’. The focus of this stage is to “let qi work on us without our mind interfering with the qi movements”.
The spontaneous qigong movements are activated in this way:
The exercises are, as usual, carried out with closed eyes and assisted with very quiet and soft Chinese music. The sequence of exercises starts with relaxation and inner awareness. Then, it continues with exercises aimed at gathering qi from the elements of nature; from the sun, moon, stars, mountains, waters, forests, or flowers.
Thereafter, while connecting with qi from nature and at the same time making slow, soft, wave-like movements with our arms, we should “let the concentration go” and allow ourselves to move with the qi that we are feeling within us. When, or if, our consciousness is activated, we should not hold on to these thoughts, but let them also go.
The use of music as an aid to relaxation and inner awareness is also used in the Japanese variation of Zifagong, called Katsugen. The steps of taking “slow, soft, wave-like movements with our arms” is a gentle way to slowly tune into the bodies own rhythm or ‘dance’ and is a way to gently activate the spontaneous qigong state.
Spontaneous qigong movements
Gry also describes the kind of movements can that occur with spontaneous qigong activation:
The instructors explain that the movements of qi can reveal themselves in a variety of ways: in spontaneous body movements; in a feeling of tiredness or stiffness; in an awareness of painful areas of the body; in the awakening of long-forgotten memories; or in an urge to cry, sing, laugh, or let out other forms of emotional or expressive feelings. “This is qi exercising you”.
Gry offers an insight into the mechanics of spontaneous qigong movement. He states that this movement is an activation of the ‘Original Qi’ (Yuan qi), the qi inherited from out parents and which is related to our naturalness and spontaneity in childhood:
The form of qi primarily activated in this exercise is referred to as the “original qi” (yuan qi) within us.
The students are told that this is the qi we have inherited from our parents and former generations. It is the deepest, truest, and most authentic dimension in us. This form of qi demonstrates itself most clearly in children’s naturalness and spontaneity. Qigong can help up to get in contact with our “inner child”; the naturalness and spontaneity in us, which we have learned to control and disregard in order to be respectable grownups.
Benefits of spontaneous body movements
Gry mentions the beneficial effects of these spontaneous qi type exercises that the qigong participants experience:
From interviews and conversations in class, I got the impression that, in addition to the feeling of gaining energy, increased creativity and a feeling of reaching awareness are also common experiences attributed to this stage.
Nils, for example, who practices almost every day the “free form”, as he calls it, explains that he feels that this form is helping him to be more flexible; it releases both muscle tensions of his physical body and other kinds of problems. “It gets the mess to the surface,” as he says, “and after some days the problems tend to dissolve. They don’t appear so difficult anymore.”
Nina explains that she practices this form only when she feels she is in need of something extra, as she puts it, “when I need to see myself.” “The effect I get from doing this form of qigong is that I feel very creative. After practicing I write a lot. It goes very deep. In a way, it goes into your soul.” She explains that she has a lot of visions, almost like dreaming awake, and she sees small films from her life. “It feels like being a treasure hunter.”
Creativity opened up with Spontaneous Qigong
In this article, there is also a paragraph which talks about how this activation of spontaneous qigong, activates the creativity instincts in a person:
Wholeness, namely, the unity of qi and the body, is given a prominent place in the exercises constituting this stage. This unity learns to be influenced by qi in the meaning of qi as a source of self-insight and creativity, in addition to the beneficial effects the qi movements are felt to cause on the physical body.
The 5th Stage – Body in stillness and moving qi.
Compared to the first 4 stages, the 5th stage of Biyun qigong is static. These exercises are referred to as “jinggong” or “stillness qigong”. In this stage, the body is kept still in a sitting, standing or lying pose, and it is the qi that is moved around, guided by the mind internally.
Some exercises involve visualization exercises such as envisioning light from the sun or moon, or light in the internal organs. There are various jinggong exercises utilised at different levels – depending on whether you are at beginners level or advanced.
This stage is also associated with the developing of the heart, the inner self and the soul. The creator of Biyun, Master Fan discusses the importance of developing the power of the heart:
If one wishes to gather life force, one needs to develop the power of one’s heart, the inner self, the soul… Jinggon has the effect that it clears our hearts. The heart is the seat of the spirit. The heart is like a mirror. To reach a better understanding of ourselves, we need to polish the mirror.
How these 5 stages of Biyun work on the qi
Ultimately, the smooth flow of qi in the body is necessary for good health. Gry writes:
An abundance of vitalizing qi, and its free flow, is, according to Biyun, the prime source for healing, health, and longevity, and qi is perceived as an unquestionable reality by Master Fan and by other Biyun instructors.
The 5 stages of Biyun helps achieve this. For example, in the first stage, the students develop new understandings of the mind-body state and learn to become more sensitive to qi. They become more “affected by qi” and learn to feel qi as bodily sensations for example – “feelings of warmth, coldness, swollenness, and pricking, and as electrical and other sensory experiences”.
After the student is familiar with the sensations of qi in his or her body, we reach stage 4 (the spontaneous qigong stage), where they start to experience other manifestations of qi through “emotional outbursts, thoughts, memories and creative activities”.
In the fifth stage, (the stillness stage), the qi is cultivated into other forms such as “self insights, ethical consciousness, and spiritual power”.
I am not a member of Biyun or have I attended any classes. All my information is from the research article – ‘Learning and Experiencing Chinese Qigong’ , which was published in the East Asian Science Journal. So I presume it is all correct.
I do not know how commonly spontaneous qigong is practiced in this system of qigong. If any Biyun members would like to contact me regarding this post, please do get in touch.
Picture Accreditation – Screenshots of Fan Xiulan and Biyan Website Logo.
- Encounters with Spontaneous Qigong: Serialisation
- 30 Day Trial of Spontaneous Qigong Practice
- Spontaneous Qigong (Zifa Gong) in Germany
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