There are many ways and approaches to what we call qigong. In this post I wish to make a case for NOT utilizing breath control inside of qigong practice.
But Wait! Isn't qigong inherently a breath control practice?
The answer is no. Some of this confusion stems from the current Chinese character for Qi from which a literal translation can be "air". But if we look at older translations Qi is seen as the vapor rising up from cooking a bowl of rice. Personally and as a Teacher I have found the 2nd translation to be much more accurate. Yes, qi is in the air that we breathe, but air is not the ultimate source of energy.
If qigong isn't a breath control practice, what is it?
This is not complicated. Qigong is the study and practice of energetics that requires time & effort; Energy Kung Fu .
So why would utilizing breath control during the actual practice be "bad"?
I don't say it is bad. I say it is limiting. My approach is to learn how to breathe naturally without limitations before practicing real qigong exercises. One of the problems with breath is that most people do not realize they are missing the top portion of their breath. The best way I know to solve this is to do running or rebounding. When these exercises are done we will find that missing top portion of breath and, through the exercise itself re-gain natural use of it. I would say anything over 3 miles a day will definitely both show the missing portion to a person and allow the person to re-gain this missing top portion of breath. If rebounding, a minimum of 30 minutes will do the same thing.
Ok, we have taken care of the top portion of breath, what about the bottom portion?
One of the missing keys in proper natural breathing is to expel all the air. One can simply utilize the diaphragm and push all the air out at the end of the breath.
All of this is fine, but what does it have to do with qigong?
We have learned to breathe better naturally through re-gaining both the top portion and the bottom portion of the breath. The breathing now becomes a natural NON-MIND, NO-BRAIN process. So now on to the qigong.
One of the keys to having a non-limited qigong practice is to go to the energy directly instead of indirectly. If we access the energy indirectly by utilizing body/mind then the energy process will always be limited by the body/mind. Brain waves are measurable and anytime anyone utilizes the brain/mind to access or manipulate the energy the outcome is always finite as is the case when breath control is added to a practice. But if we give up that brain/mind input and access energy direct we have transcended these brain/mind limitations and have access to that which potentially is instantaneous and has no limitation on amplitude.
This is why Stillness-Movement is such a powerful practice. We let go of the brain/mind energy manipulation, stop the world by shutting off all internal dialogue, breathe naturally, set up an awareness of the energetics, set INTENT on accessing and pulling in the energy, and then just BE. This allows the energy to naturally do what needs to be done without any brain/mind limitations.
And thus the Tao, doing nothing and letting nothing be not done.