Xiong Yao Han Xu (the chest must contain emptiness)
“After Taiji practice, legs sore, cheeks pink, palms warm and red, this correct Taiji practice. Out of breath, no pink, pain anywhere else all incorrect Taiji Practice.” Cheng Jin Cai
“Sweat don’t Pant.” Taoist saying on Neijia practice.
This blog is an additional article to Bradford’s post on the Facebook page found here;
During Neijia practices is it of vital importance for xiong yao han xu (the chest must contain emptiness), this is the part of the meaning of the Quotes above. Cheng Shifu once introduced me to one of his students who came to him to start practicing Taiji and this student had been practicing Taiji for a number of years. The student told me they had high blood pressure, knee pain, ringing in his ears and headaches.
Cheng Shifu told me this was all due to years of incorrect Taiji practice and incorrect breathing during Taiji practice. The student told me that after several months of practice with Cheng Shifu his blood pressure had come down, the ear ringing had calmed down and his knee pain and headaches were gone. Cheng Shifu told me “Qi become lodged in Chest because of incorrect breathing and practice.”
He showed me how the student initially raised their chest during practice, this allows the shoulders to raise and stifles the diaphragm. So during the students prior years of practice the student had been mildly hyperventilating during their entire practice and not getting any oxygenation during physical exercise. This is the Taoist saying of “Sweat don’t Pant,” if you pant after practice the breath is becoming trapped in the Chest.
This is an important concept in Chinese Medicine, Zong Qi (Central Qi), this is the Qi of the upper chest and the interaction between the lungs and heart. In Modern Medicine this is the equivalent of the Cardiopulmonary system and how the lungs oxygenate the blood and the heart circulates the blood through the body. If this area is held with stiffness and tightness the lungs and heart have to work that much harder to do their respective functions.
This is one of the Health aspects of xiong yao han xu (the chest must contain emptiness), if the chest is empty then it can become “full.” Full of all the functions of the cardiopulmonary system and Zong Qi (Central Qi), once this area becomes “Full,” the Qi should then begin to descend and nourish the Kidneys (Metal of Lungs, nourishes the Water of the kidneys), this then assists the Rising of the Yuan Qi (Ancestral Qi). This Yuan Qi then rises and nourishes the Heart (Water regulating Fire), and this is a system known in Western Medicine as the Renin Angiotensin System that regulates blood pressure.
When blood pressure increases, some possible symptoms are what Cheng Shifu’s student had above. When the Chest is tight and not Empty as described in Bradford’s Article this entire system breaks down and we will know this has occurred based on the quotes above; “After Taiji practice, legs sore, cheeks pink, palms warm and red, this correct Taiji practice. Out of breath, no pink, pain anywhere else all incorrect Taiji Practice.” Cheng Jin Cai “Sweat don’t Pant.” Taoist saying on Neijia practice.
As we relax and the Chest Empties allowing the above to naturally take place during our practice, this is why you will have warm and red hands, pink face (all signs of increased blood circulation and oxygenation of blood), Sore legs (so that the Qi and energy sinks or Clear rises and turbid sinks-uniting the upper and lower), no other pain (Because of relaxation and increased circulation inflammation decreases). Sweating is also a sign of increased blood flow and circulation, in fact in Chinese Medicine the sweat is seen as another fluid of blood. If one “Pants,” during practice again Qi is becoming stuck in the Chest and “Sweat” (blood) is not flowing smoothly.
Lastly, it is important to allow the practice of xiong yao han xu (the chest must contain emptiness), to become soft and natural. The Chest should neither raise in front or become concave, forcing the chest down or the back to unnecessarily protrude. This will cause the same issues, just rather than allowing too much Qi to rise it will all become compressed and trapped in the lower part of the body. Possibly leading to digestive issues, or even gynecological problems for female practitioners.