Relaxation Qigong (Fang Song Gong)

Relaxation Qigong

What? Appendicitis cured without an operation?!

a person lying down practicing relaxation qigongRelaxation Qigong (Fang Song Gong or Fangsonggong) is a great style of Qigong that is simple, practical, can treat a wide range of illnesses, aid recovery from sports injuries, help with stress, insomnia, relieve pain, balance emotions.  And the best part is - it can be done while sitting or lying in bed and involves no movements at all.  In other words, it is a 100% mind practice (in Qigong terminology "Jing Gong" meaning static style of Qigong as opposed to "Dong Gong" dynamic style) that requires minimum space, a little bit of concentration and can be practiced by anyone who is mentally capable, regardless of their age, sex, physical ability and fitness levels, making it a great exercise for the bedridden.  Also, since it's done with eyes closed (ie it requires no sight), the blind can practice it and as it is ideal to practice in a quiet environment (requires no listening), it is ideal for the deaf, leaving them with a very unfair advantage.  For more information on Qigong and the physically disabled, please read Qigong Chinese Health magazine issue 6, pages 6-9 or click here: Can the Physically Disabled Become Masters of Qigong?

Relaxation Qigong takes very little time to practice (an average of 20-30 minutes).  As time progresses and a persons energy heightens, the practice might take longer (sometimes several hours), however, it often feels as though it only took 5 minutes.  During the exercise, one may feel all kinds of sensations, from tingling, itchiness, heat, numbness in different parts of the body to a sense of floating and levitating, a strong flow of chi energy in the meridians, a feeling of complete melting and disappearing, "umbilical breathing"* and so on.  Once the exercise is complete, you feel energized and recharged.

Due to its simplicity and the abovementioned characteristics, especially its highly effective healing qualities, for decades it's been widely applied in the treatment of many illnesses in China, especially for high blood pressure, asthma, glaucoma, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia.  Some Chinese medicine practitioners use Relaxation Qigong as the basic treatment for any disease and then they offer other treatments such as acupuncture, Chinese massage, herbs or exercise on top of that.

It was thanks to these qualities of Relaxation Qigong that someone came up with a great idea to use it in emergencies, especially with cases of acute appendicitis to help reduce the symptoms (primarily the pain and discomfort in the abdomen) while the patients were being examined and prepared for the operation.  This interesting "experiment" took place in the emergency department of a reputable western medicine hospital in Shanghai in the early 60's.  As we all know, being admitted to emergency does not necessarily mean that the patient will receive the appropriate treatment straight away.  For one reason there are other patients just as needy of attention, for another, no doctor on duty is trained in all of the conditions that are present, plus "Emergency Units" are often understaffed.

However, even when all that is not the case, just the fact that someone looks like they are suffering from acute appendicitis does not necessarily mean they really are.  They still have to be fully examined and properly diagnosed for any treatment, especially when going in for an operation.  Otherwise if slightly rushed and misdiagnosed, once they open them up they would be surprised to find that the patient's appendix has already been removed or there is nothing wrong with it, thus delaying the treatment of the real problem which could be anything from a hernia to ovaries or tumors.  Even then, when all the necessary tests have been done, everything's confirmed that it is definitely appendicitis and the operation seems to be the only option, it still takes time.  Things like checking blood type and making sure there is enough blood supply for possible complications, checking if there are any allergies to the anaesthetics and other drugs, checking if the patient suffers of any conditions that are contraindicated to surgery, such as heart disease, haemophilia.  And last but not least, additional time needs to be given to the patient to decide whether they are willing to be operated on or not, because without their signature nothing can be done.

Anyway, while all that was happening in this Shanghainese hospital, an experienced Qigong teacher would be with all the appendicitis suspects and teach them, on the spot, how to relax and mentally block the pain and clear chi energy imbalances.  And that was all they were doing, day after day, patient after patient.  Yet, beyond all expectations, the result was more than overwhelming.  Out of nearly 200 patients that were admitted to hospital, within a period of time the experiment was carried out, more than 90% of patients left the hospital without the operation within three to five days.  Symptom-free!!!!!!

The ones that still needed to be operated on, it became clear, all suffered from complicated and more severe forms of appendicitis, such as gangrenous and similar, which did not come as a surprise.  For that sort of severity it would really be a miracle if it did work.  But you might be curious and ask - what happened to those that left hospital without the operation?  Were they all completely cured or was this only temporary relief?  Well, they kept monitoring them for quite some time and the majority of cases were doing fine.  Despite the fact that the minority had relapsed, among them, some were admitted to hospital and even been operated on, the experiment was a huge success.  We are talking here about a simple mind exercise that within days eliminated the need of surgical intervention for a condition that almost without exception is treated by the knife.  If there could be as little as only one case cured without this radical measure, that is already a success, but here it was the vast majority that avoided it.

It should also be pointed out that this project's focus was really to assist the operation by reducing the pain and preparing the patient both physically and mentally for the operation, so, towards the end it lost its focus as the researchers were trying to prove one point at a time (it's just the way that western medicine and, generally, analytic science works).  So, what happened?  Well, after they left the hospital, some of these people kept practicing Relaxation Qigong and some did not, plus they all had different lifestyles and were different ages, profession, living standards, therefore it became hard to tell what would really happen if they were all the same or at least more similar.  It's also interesting to mention that due to the lack of concentration and severity of condition, the patients were not even being taught the normal, full version of Relaxation Qigong at the time of their admittance, but a shorter, simplified one, which is not as effective, and it still worked.  The study was published in several Chinese medicine books and magazines and has been frequently quoted in many others.

Relaxation Qigong originally started as an assisting exercise or a tool to help students calm down before they could practice other styles of Qigong.  But soon it became apparent that, even on its own, it was an extraordinary practice.  It was introduced and modified in the early fifties by, at the time, a famous Qigong master - Jiang Wei-qiao, and ever since its popularity never declined.  Like many other styles, Relaxation Qigong has three levels:

  • The basic level, where the patient or student relaxes every part of the body (one at a time), following three areas - sides, front and back, combined with mentally focusing on several acupuncture points on the body in between.
  • The intermediate level, where the practitioner does a continuous, much faster energy cleansing of the body that can be done in several different ways, such as shower like - head to toe, reverse - toe to head, or radiating chi energy inside out.
  • The advanced level teaches the student a basic knowledge of Chinese medicine in order to enable them to use the mind to focus on certain acupuncture points and activate/rebalance chi energy on a much higher level producing a powerful needleless mental acupuncture effect.

* "Umbilical breathing": high level Qigong where it feels like your abdomen is breathing rather than your mouth or nose.

My experience with Relaxation Qigong

By John Dolic

When I first came to China, back in the late seventies, I did not know very much about Qigong.  I saw people doing it, or rather doing 'something', in the parks and surrounds, which I liked to watch but, at first, I wasn't interested in practicing myself.  I was into Kung Fu and, for at least two years, I was very content with just doing that.  However, after I completed my Mandarin course and started studying Chinese medicine, plus hearing more and more about Qigong, I became intrigued and wanted to 'check it out'.  I bought some popular Qigong magazines, borrowed some books from the Uni library and, I must say, I was impressed with what I read.

One of the first books I read was this little booklet written in the early sixties on Fang Song Gong (Relaxation Qigong) and some studies done on it.  Among other things, they mentioned the "Shanghai experiment" (refer to the previous article).  I simply could not believe it.  Something so monumental, written so long ago, then forgotten and lost among thousands of other similar books in this huge library in Beijing, how can this be possible?  To my, then young, ignorant mind, that was simply incomprehensible. I thought to myself, if this were true (and it all seemed so, mentioning names of people, their hospital case numbers, doctors, that could all be traced back) this should be on the front page of all the newspapers and magazines in the world as top news.

But, as I researched more into Qigong and stumbled onto many more similar studies done with other diseases and styles of Qigong, some with cancer and other severe conditions, showing no less impressive results, I myself gradually forgot about Relaxation Qigong and the "Shanghai affair".  But for some time, I could still not believe that the world was ignoring all that and using ineffective, dangerous modalities to, in most cases, only relieve or eliminate symptoms.  And then, only a couple years later, I suddenly ‘grew up'.  I understood Samsara (as the materialistic world is called in Buddhism) with all its charms.  Anyway, coming back to Relaxation Qigong, I eventually did go and learn it, but by this time I already learnt quite a few other styles that I found much more interesting.  Therefore, after a few sessions, I simply put it aside.

Some years later as I became increasingly busy, I had difficulties finding time to practice my favourite style "Five Animals Play Qigong", and started skipping sessions, to the degree of stopping completely from a few weeks to a few months.  I didn't like it.  I felt much better and performed better when I practiced it on a daily basis, so I decided to, at least for the time being, do any style I could fit into my busy schedule.  Even if it meant doing it in bed before going to sleep.  In other words, I resumed to Relaxation Qigong.  For the first few days, I fell asleep before getting half way through the exercise, but it didn't worry me.  It is normal for beginners.  It was easy and I liked it.  As soon as I started to practice, I'd feel all the tension from my body melt away and the accumulated stress lessen.  The next morning, I would wake up earlier feeling refreshed.  After a while, I could finish two or three sessions without falling asleep and my mind was much clearer right through.  Even though the sessions became longer and longer, as soon as I finished and turned on the side I would fall asleep, yet, I would still get up early feeling refreshed.  I felt great.

With Relaxation Qigong, the practitioner mentally and physically relaxes, one by one, each part of the body from head to toe and in doing so, they follow the rhythm of their breath.  However, as they progress, their breathing gets slower, which then extends the practice.  This is not exclusive to Relaxation Qigong, but it is more the case with this style.  Therefore instead of fifteen or so breaths a minute, after several months, one would have ten or less breaths and then after a year or two, five or less a minute.  Long term committed practitioners are known to have one breath a minute or one breath in a few minutes.  Their heart rate becomes much slower too, in other words instead of a normal 60-90 beats per minute, it becomes 20-30 per minute, 5-10 per minute or even as low as one in a few minutes.  Both their breathing and heart rate becomes immeasurable as their basic metabolism reaches the absolute minimum.  Many advanced practitioners develop the ability to voluntarily control their inner organs such as heart (eg. they can voluntarily make their heart beat faster or slower), lungs, stomach, kidneys, glands and other organs and systems.

I myself started to experience some of these changes and was very excited about it.  As my breathing continued to slow down, my practicing time kept increasing and I kept becoming more calm and relaxed - not only during the practice but also throughout the day.  I started enjoying every single moment of my life, even the things that used to annoy me, such as cleaning, waiting in queues.  All of life's problems and worry didn't seem to bother me anymore as if all that was just a little game.  Even others noticed and commented on that.  "Gee, you look so relaxed and carefree.  If only I could be like that", they'd say.  "Of course you can, anybody can, all you need to do is practice Relaxation Qigong and learn some basic Taoism", I'd say.  So I started teaching them, some purely for relaxation purposes and others to help them with their health problems.  And they all began improving pretty rapidly.  I myself kept practicing it every night in bed, just before sleeping.

On and off, all up, I practiced Relaxation Qigong altogether at least 3-4 years and I experienced a lot of different things during that time.  As mentioned earlier, I started practicing Relaxation Qigong as a ‘filling the gaps' Qigong, but there were also times when I could fit in other styles that I used to prefer, yet I chose Relaxation Qigong instead.  Here are a couple of experiences:

I was once invited to teach Tai Chi in a small coastal town in North West Yugoslavia as part of the artists' society that meets there every summer and offers all sorts of workshops to young artists from all over Europe (jazz, dance, classical music, arts and crafts).  It was all very interesting and inspiring - old stone houses, narrow lanes, fresh air, fresh seafood restaurants and lots of young talented people everywhere.  Was it because of all that, or was it because of my natural progression, I had a great breakthrough with Relaxation Qigong practice.  Only after a couple of nights, my breathing became so slow that, when I exhaled and relaxed a particular part of my body and waited for the next inhalation to move on to the next part, it simply wouldn't happen.  My exhalation would go on forever.  I did not care, I just let it happen.  When it did eventually happen, the same would happen with the next breath.  Then when I would bring my mind to lower Dantian (Chinese term for energy centres, same as the Chakras in Indian terminology) it felt as if I was breathing through my navel, rather than through my nose (umbilical breathing).  For a few minutes, you could block my nose and I wouldn't suffocate.  It felt great!

On one occasion, I happened to notice the time I started to practice was 12am and then, since it took so long to finish only two sessions I did not bother to do the third.  But, I accidentally looked at the time before I rolled over and was amazed - it was 2am.  That was one hour for one session, normally done in 10 minutes.  And if you know that altogether it only takes 27 breaths, plus concentrating on three spots with one minute each and on lower Dantian three to four minutes, that means that it took me almost two minutes per breath.  The only problem with all that was, I never told my partner about my nightly practice.  And so one night, as I was deep in my little "Nirvana", suddenly I felt somebody shaking my whole body and calling my name.  It took me a while to realise what was going on and then, as soon as I "came back", I responded which solved the problem.  What happened was (as I was told the next day), my partner woke up in the middle of the night, looked at me and thought I appeared too still.  She kept looking and since she could not see me breathing at all, she panicked and started calling me and shaking my body.   Normally things like that can startle an inexperienced practitioner and cause energy imbalances, but if they reach a high enough level they can be self protected and be in much better control.  I was very happy about the fact that I managed to pass that test too. 

But it wasn't only the spiritual growth that I experienced through the practice of Relaxation Qigong.  It also helped me on several occasions with my health problems and injuries.  Once, I accidentally hit my knee cap during my visit to a friend in Belgrade.  After a dinner party with plenty of food and drink which went on till late we came home exhausted and sleepy.  I also felt bloated and 'slightly' drunk.  As I was getting into bed, I hit the wooden part of the sofa with my knee cap, making me not only aware of a couple more stars in our galaxy but also that wood is still harder than bones.  In no time, my knee cap swelled a couple of inches and was very painful, I could neither bend or straighten my leg fully.  But even more than pain, I was worried that I broke my knee cap.

My friend offered to take me to emergency, but I gratefully declined.  For one, it was too late and, being the middle of winter, it was extremely cold.  We were both too tired, plus I knew I could help myself, so I did some first aid self massage which helped with the pain and I was ready for bed.  I rolled over carefully and fell asleep.  However, only an hour or so later, I woke up with an excruciating pain in my knee and I was quite feverish.  I knew I should get up and do something.  But I was still tired, bloated and intoxicated from the previous night so I just kept lying and hoping I would fall asleep again.  Yet, after tossing and turning for at least another hour, plus feeling more hot, sweaty and bothered, I started thinking of what to do.  These were the early days of Relaxation Qigong when I'd only practice it when I'd skip my Five Animals Play sessions and before I fully realised its healing potential.  I really wanted to do the Five Animals Play Qigong on this instance, but didn't think it would be appropriate because it requires a little more space than a small bedroom and can get quite dynamic and loud and I didn't want to wake anyone (or cause any undesired circumstances - not everybody is familiar with this practice and it could cause confusion in the middle of the night).  I also thought of perhaps giving myself acupuncture, Chinese massage or ear acupressure.  But that wasn't practical either.

It took me almost a quarter of an hour to realize that Relaxation Qigong would be the most appropriate thing to do, even though I did not expect too much.  And so, I laid on my back, reduced the extra covers and commenced the exercise.  Almost instantly, I felt energy build up around my knee and, as I began to approach it mentally, it got stronger and stronger, while the pain became less and less.  This was so unusual, because when I practiced it before (when I was well), I only felt more relaxed and calm but nothing like this.  I knew it was going to work so I continued the practice trying not to interfere emotionally as much as I could.  Once I passed my knee, I felt a surge of energy passing through it which not only completely took away the pain, but the tension as well.  Instant and complete relief.  And not only that:  At the same time, I felt movements in my belly and my bloatedness reduced considerably.  My temperature lessened, especially the heat from my head and around my knee.

I was ecstatic, I finished the exercise, rolled over and fell asleep.  In the morning as soon as I got up, I checked my knee.  I bent it, straightened it - it was perfectly fine, with absolutely no swelling present.  The only thing that remained was a black mark that stayed for another couple of weeks, then it gradually turned purple, blue, then yellow and then completely vanished within a couple of months.  Which never really bothered me anyway.  My friend simply could not believe such a remarkable recovery and even I myself was amazed over the power of Relaxation Qigong.

I had a similar experience with my big toe, which happened years later in the middle of the city of Sydney.  The whole toe nail had completely separated from the nail bed and the toe was covered with blood.  I carefully placed the nail back.  I was due for an immigration health check up - the final stage of getting a permanent visa in Australia, but just before arriving to my appointment I stubbed my toe on a really high step.  As I was running late, I parked the car in the building and rushed to make the appointment.  During the medical tests my blood pressure showed an increase (because of the pain coming from my toe) and the examiner was quite concerned thinking that that would have to be recorded as my blood pressure reading which, as he explained, would affect my permanent visa.  I thought to myself - what bad luck I have.  But, as if he knew, he offered me five minutes to calm down and that's really all I needed.  I did a short session of Relaxation Qigong and five minutes later my blood pressure showed a normal reading. 

As soon as I got home, I began practicing again.  It immediately got so much better allowing me to stop limping and it did not hurt even to touch.  That very night, I was teaching Tai Chi without any problems.  I continued practicing Relaxation Qigong every day, the wound completely healed and the nail re-grew.  It did turn black though, and stayed that way until the new healthy nail gradually pushed it out. 

Before living in China my teeth were really bad.  By the age of 18 I already had two teeth pulled out and six fillings. After practicing Qigong for several years and improving my diet, plus applying some other techniques (like tapping teeth) my teeth improved a lot.  In the following twenty years I only visited the dentist a couple of times and there was hardly any work needed to be done.  Once an old filling fell out so I went to get it fixed. 

I declined on having an injection, even though the dentist warned that it would be very painful.  I wasn't quite sure if I was doing the right thing - I was always scared to death of dentists.  I decided that if it got too painful, I would resort to having an injection. 

When the dentist went to work on my teeth, I began to do some pain relief self massage (hegu point, on the opposite hand between my thumb and index finger, a point known to treat any conditions covering the face and front part of the head eg. toothaches, headaches, sinus, pimples, sore eyes).  But what I found much more effective was that whenever the drill would reach a sensitive spot - I would relax and direct my energy to the soles of my feet (this is one of the basic steps of Relaxation Qigong).  This response came to me automatically.  At one stage I thought to myself - let me see what would happen if I do not do it, but because the pain became so unbearable again, I resorted to doing it again.

For the hundredth time, I realized the power of Relaxation Qigong.  I felt so confident and at ease.  The dentist was puzzled.  He felt around the sensitive tooth, gum and freshly drilled hole with the needle instrument and asked if it hurt. I said no.  He tried several times, but still nothing.  It almost felt as though he was deliberately trying to cause pain. Even though he thought it very strange, he said that as it is not painful he would not have to do root canal therapy or tooth extraction.  Therefore, he just filled it, thus not only saving my tooth but my pocket as well.

This and many other experiences that I had along the way when I practiced Relaxation Qigong made me appreciate this style even more and recommend it to many people.

The majority of people I taught Relaxation Qigong experienced positive results within days or weeks, fixed their problems, stopped taking their medication and went back to a normal way of life.  However, among them, some had strange experiences before they got on the right track.  Here are some interesting cases from my practice that are typical of some common experiences with Relaxation Qigong:

The first time my mother tried Relaxation Qigong, she not only felt the energy flow throughout her body (tingling, itchiness, warmth) but, at one stage, when she was thoroughly relaxed, she suddenly saw herself lying in bed as she floated above her body.  She was so relaxed, she did not panic, she simply kept observing her body for 10-20 seconds, then moved on with the practice upon which she "returned" back into her body.  Soon after, another unusual thing happened.  As she was focusing on her middle fingers (part of the practice) she saw something she described as buzzing like electricity - similar to lightning, coming from each finger and toe and joining in the middle.  The same happened several times afterwards.

When I had group sessions, I would verbally lead the students through the exercise.  When I finished the class, there would always be someone snoring and I would have to wake them.  Interestingly enough, many of those people suffered from insomnia.  One of my students showed the exercise to his insomniac mother and she did exactly the same thing.  Ever since, every time she'd have problems sleeping, she'd start doing Relaxation Qigong and she'd fall asleep.  She was so happy and extremely grateful to me.  I sent her my regards and suggested she practice Relaxation Qigong regularly so that she can correct the energy imbalance that was causing her sleeping problems and ultimately not need to practice anything to put herself to sleep.  The way she was using it was a typical example of how Chinese medicine gets used with a western mentality - like using a band-aid rather than fixing the cause.

A somewhat similar case with a different problem was the husband of one of my acupuncture patient's who suffered from very high blood pressure.  Originally, he would take his medication when his blood pressure hit its highest.  Now with this "amazing" (the word he used) exercise he would lower it without the pills.  He told me every time he practiced Relaxation Qigong, his blood pressure would instantly drop 30mmHg.  I told him the same - don't use Qigong instead of pills.  Practice it daily until your blood pressure normalizes (even if it takes months or years), so that you wont need to lower your blood pressure at all.  He took it on board and felt even better ever since. 

Another case was an elderly lady who stopped the practice because she felt as if she was levitating and the soles of her feet would tingle as though there were thousands of ants crawling all over them.  After explaining that there was nothing to be scared of and that this was a very good thing, she resumed the practice and achieved very good results. 

Then there were several cases where one would see pictures during the practice even though their eyes were closed.  One of them was a Spanish lady who told me she liked the exercise a lot but would sometimes see a picture of a man without eyes, so she got scared and stopped practicing.  This is a very common occurrence of many Qigong styles (ie seeing all kinds of pictures) and a sign that the so called Huigen or "wisdom root" is in that person's eyes - in other words the person that sees pictures during the exercise might start seeing auras around people and other living things, develop X-ray vision, remote sight or other psychic abilities stemming from their eyes.  I explained to her what it meant and that those pictures, no matter how unusual or scary they may seem cannot harm her.  They might mean something, either from the past, present or future, but as long as we face them and are relaxed about them, they will pass and either stop re-occurring or start making more sense as one reaches a higher level of Qigong.  They are very much like TV pictures which no matter how scary some scenes may appear they are just images on our TV screen and cannot harm us.  The explanation helped her. 

A lady suffered from many varied chronic problems (diarrhoea, migraines, lethargy, damages caused by years of alcoholism) which started improving soon after she embarked on the practice of Relaxation Qigong.  I also showed her a set of other dynamic exercises which she loved as well (8 Strands of Brocade Qigong).  However, every now and then, when she practiced Relaxation Qigong she either saw someone jumping towards her or a face flashing aggressively towards her.  That disturbed her.  After explaining the meaning of these pictures and telling her not to be alarmed, she faced it and since then, it stopped happening.  A few days later she recalled that when she was very young, a big dog jumped on her and frightened her a great deal.  For years she was extremely scared of dogs.  Since she felt even better and much more relaxed (after facing the pictures) we concluded that her fear (ie energy imbalance caused by the dog in her childhood) was still there, even after all these years, and that Relaxation Qigong probably released it for good.  But that was just our guess, what is most important is that she felt much better and that those pictures stopped occurring.  But not completely.  Once she told me she was looking for a sock in her apartment and although she looked everywhere she simply could not find it despite the fact that she saw it earlier that day.  Finally she gave up.  It was too late and it was time for bed.  After her head hit the pillow for a minute or two she had a flashback and saw the lost sock in a very familiar corner of her apartment, the only one that she missed to check.  She felt both puzzled and curious and after hesitating for a couple of seconds, she got up and found her missing sock exactly where she saw it in her flashback.  Strange?!  No!!  It's just one of those things that Relaxation Qigong brings along.

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