Discussing “Swallowing Qi” methods:
By Robert James Coons.
In a recent post, I discussed briefly the concept of “Fu Qi” or “Swallowing air” practices in Daoism and why the Internal Elixir Meditation pioneer Zhang Boduan spoke against them in his book “Understanding Reality.”
In this post, I would like to touch a bit more on the subject of Fu Qi, how it works, and what it is meant to do. It should be noted here that this post does not include any practice methods, nor should you try to guess how the practice works by yourself without the instruction of a qualified teacher.
Fu Qi is essentially predicated on the use of the breath to serve three major purposes:
– 1: To improve circulation of Qi in the body and nourish the internal organs.
– 2: To allow one to eat less (for purposes of fasting)
– 3: To calm the mind.
There are many different methods of “swallowing Qi,” and it can’t accurately be described as a single school with on unified theory. Swallowing Qi methods also each have slightly different goals, with some focused on more material results such as cleansing and strengthening the body, and others with more spiritual goals such as realizing emptiness and becoming enlightened. Regardless of the goals, usually every method seeks to reduce the amount of food required by a person to survive.
Fu Qi is typically practised in all of the major postures of lying down, seated, standing, and walking and usually involves a breathing method mixed with a certain type of visualization or visualizations.
Some methods are very simple, such as breathing to the various sections of the abdomen and imagining that the belly is full, but other types can be as complex as following very specific cycles of visualizations related to the major organs of the body while imagining that the breath is being drawn to them.
Fu Qi is sometimes closer to types of meditation based on visualization, sometimes closer to Nei Dan, and sometimes more based on breathing methods without the same degree of intention based activity.
Swallowing breath is a very important historical pass at what would eventually become Qi gong, and ultimately went on to have its theory combined with various other arts such as leading and stretching (Dao Yin), and visualization (Cun Xiang) in order to create the various popular 20th century Qi gong methods popular today.