It's Good for Your Internal Organs

The idea that something is good for your internal organs gets thrown around Chinese culture all the time.  Usually it is done with little understanding.  For instance I heard the other day that Eight Silken Brocade Qigong is good for your internal organs.

Putting aside for the moment that qigong, as a category, was invented in the 20th Century, Eight Silken Brocade is obviously a muscle tendon style of martial arts warm up of great antiquity (possibly 800 years old).  It involves stretching, twisting, sinking and lengthening.  One of the "Eight" is standing in a horse stance while pulling an imaginary bow.  It is clearly a form of gongfu.

None of this precludes it being good for your organs, as I will explain, but categorizing it as "Qigong for the Organs" is going too far.

Traditionally in China, and by that I mean anywhere from one hundred years ago to 1200 years ago, if you learned how to write you were first taught how to sit and hold the brush for proper circulation of qi and alignment, and how to breathe while you were writing.  Everyone copied the calligraphy of the same master from the Fifth Century in the hope that by writing the way he did, you would become like him.  His writing was his movement, his gongfu, and by copying his movement you would be invoking his upright (cheng) character (Cheng is also the name of that official style of writing).

So calligraphy could be good for your organs too, right?  The dao of Calligraphy was working with qi, it was what we now call qigong.  As was playing a musical instrument, and a hundred other activities which someone might "master."

But is it good for your internal organs?  In Chinese culture it is possible to divide up any event or object into it's component parts.  In English we usually call this "coorispondences" which is an academic way of saying linked-up catigories.  So I can take a muscle tendon style of Qigong and tell you which part is good for your kidneys and which part is good for your lungs.  But I can also do that with a the parts of a car.

The fuel is the qi.  The engine is the jing.  The fuel filter, the oil, the power steering fluid, and the coolent are all associated with the kidneys.  The air intake manifold, the fan, and the exaust are associated with the lungs.  The Heart is the battery, the distrubutor cap, and the spark plugs (the alternator is the paracardium).  Do you see where this is going? Because I can do this all day long.

It is highly likely that the associations of Eight Silken Brochade with healing the various organs were invent long after the fact, just like I made up associations for the car.  They are not meant to be REMEDIAL CURES!

So what is all this organ associations stuff?  What is it's value?  It is a tool for observing, remembering and possibly thinking.  By dividing something which is ostensibly already whole (like a person or a car) into separate categories it allows for novel observations.

Here is an example from Chinese Medicine.  People with "liver deficiency" tend to stand on straitend knees.  The main job of the liver is destributing blood.  Yes, I know the heart pumps blood but the liver is responsible for the surge of blood around the body which gives us the energy to get things done.  With a deficient liver it's hard to get up enough energy to get mad or to defend your positions-- and you will tend to stand on straightend knees.  Liver deficiancy will eventually lead to lethargy.  An early sign is the habit of lazily standing on straightened knees.

What I call the "Structure" school of Chinese Medicine posits that any problem one has will show up all over the body, including in the skeletal structure.  The reverse may also be true, that postural skeletal problems will eventually find their way into the internal organs.  For instance, I child with a perfectly healthy liver may imitate the posture of a liver deficiant parent over many years and eventually give themselves a liver problem.

The solution?  Bend your knees.  And practicing Eight Silken Bochade should teach you to keep your knees bent.  Atleast with practice you should notice that you are always getting tired and standing around on straightened knees...leading you to get some traditional Chinese medical advice.

So, in summary, if someone tells you a type of qigong is good for lungs, don't assume they mean that in a remedial way.  Try to find out exactly what they mean.  It is quite possible there is some useful or interesting information there, perhaps some complex and intreging notions burried in that simple statement--but you are going to have to seek it out.  Saying that such and such qigong is good for the liver, doesn't make it so.

Secret note for experts: Almost all exercise is good for the liver!