There are common phenomena experienced in qigong practice. These "rules" have been passed down for hundreds of years to help beginners to find the right path in their qigong and meditation practice. Improper posture, timing, or training methods causes some phenomena. Since most beginners cannot generate significant Qi (energy), these issues are usually harmless. But if you ignore them and continue to train incorrectly, you build bad habits which may eventually bring you harm. It is important to attend to them and understand their causes.
1. The Mind is Scattered and Sleepy
The Daoist Ni Wan Zu said: “For one hundred days, banish sleepiness. Sleepiness and confusion make the mind scattered and disordered, and you lose the real practice.” Having a scattered and disordered mind is one of the most common experiences of beginners, with their Yi (wisdom mind) unable to control Xin (emotional mind). Though Yi is strong, Xin is even stronger, so first strengthen Yi and regulate Xin, and analyze the causes and possible results of the disturbance.
If sleepiness is the result of fatigue, it is best to stop practicing, and relax or take a nap. Lie down comfortably, and pay attention to deep breathing as you bring your mind to the deep places of your body. Smoothly and slowly release the carbon dioxide, and every time you exhale, relax deeper. Breathing and heart rate slow down, and you feel rested, with your mind clear and your spirit fresh. Now raise your spirit, and keep it at its residence, centered, and balanced.
Sleepiness can also result from relaxation and a scattered mind. Keep your mind inside and observe your inner self. Bring your mind back to the third eye, and raise your spirit. After a few minutes, bring your mind back to the Real Lower Dan Tian (center of the abdomen) for Embryonic Breathing. If you are sleepy, do not use your mind to lead the Qi, which can be as dangerous as driving a car in that condition.
2. Feeling Cold
Feeling cold during still meditation is very common. In moving Qigong you energize your body, so it is warm and more Yang. But in still meditation you calm your mind and slow your breathing, reducing your heart rate and making your body more Yin. In the winter, your body releases energy into the surrounding air more quickly than in the summer, and feeling cold can be more of a problem. So when you meditate in the early morning or in the winter, wear warm clothes and cover your legs, especially your knees, with a blanket.
Sometimes you feel cold even when warmly dressed and with the room at a comfortable temperature. This is most likely caused by your mind, which significantly influences Qi circulation in your body. Sometimes you may feel cold when nervous tension, emotional upset, or fear send a sudden chill through your body. Since your mind has such an effect on you, it is important to regulate it through meditation. You may also feel some part of the body suddenly colder or warmer. This is a common experience as Qi redistributes during deep relaxation, so do not be too concerned about it.
Numbness is very common in Qigong still meditation. When you sit for a long time, your circulation slows down, reducing the blood supply to your legs. This is very common with beginners. You should not continue your meditation once concentration is affected. Stretch your legs and massage the bottom of your feet, especially the Yongquan in the center of the sole of the feet, to speed the recovery of circulation. If you meditate regularly, you will find you can sit longer and longer without your legs becoming numb. Your body adjusts the blood supply to fit the new situation. After six months of regular practice, you should be able to sit at least thirty minutes without any problem. If your lower back feels stiff, adjust your posture by sitting on a higher cushion or a chair with back support.
4. Discomfort (Soreness and Pain)
Discomfort is frequently caused by incorrect posture. Common places are the lower back, hips, and shoulders, caused by wrong sitting height or posture. Correct the problems before they affect your concentration or cause injury, and regulate your body to a comfortable and natural state.
5. Part of the Body Feels Hot
Sometimes part of your body may feel hot, or just one portion feels cold while the rest feels hot. This usually happens when you are emotionally upset, sick, or recovering from illness. When you circulate unbalanced Qi, you may interfere with the body’s efforts to achieve Qi balance. Simply relax and meditate on your Real Lower Dan Tian, and be aware of your body and emotions.
6. Headache and Eye Ache
A common cause of headache during Qigong practice is failure to breathe smoothly. You may hold your breath without noticing it, causing Qi and blood flow to stagnate, which reduces oxygen supply to the head.
Eye ache is also common, for two main reasons. “The eyes watch the nose, and the nose watches the heart.” To keep your mind inside without being distracted by what is going on around you, restrain your vision. Focus your mind in your heart and regulate Xin, your emotional mind. You do this with your mind, not your body. Don’t actually stare at your nose, a major cause of eye ache.
Your eyes may also ache when you focus the spirit (Shen) at its residence. Do this without using force. Lead the spirit back to its center firmly but gently. Mental force will cause not only eye ache but also headache.
7. Trembling Body
Body trembling occurs spontaneously, mostly in the limbs, though sometimes also in the torso. During deep relaxation, extra Qi flows easily to activate muscles and causes them to tremble. Your upper body may sway by itself, following your breathing. These are good signs, indicating success in regulating your body, breathing, and mind, but you should not make it happen intentionally.
8. Warmth and Sweating
In still meditation, even though you are not moving externally, you are exercising internally. When Qi increases significantly, it will manifest at the surface of your skin as warmth, even making you sweat. Be sure not to expose your sweaty body to a cold draft.
This is one of the worst things that can happen during Qigong meditation. It generally occurs for two reasons. Sometimes your mind is very clear but you cannot center it, and it may start to generate fantasy or illusion. This is called entering the demon, or being bewitched. You may feel a cold draft and think it is an evil spirit, as your imagination generates thoughts to disturb you.
Unless you regulate your mind right away, you may start to believe the illusion and become very scared. The danger is that Yi no longer leads your Qi, disturbing your Qi circulation. If this happens during very deep meditation, it may cause you serious injury, so it is very important that your mind should be clear and calm, with emotions completely controlled.
If you experience this kind of fright, your Yi is too confused to lead your Qi correctly, so you should discontinue practice. There are several ways to help you collect yourself. The first is to cover your ears with your palms and tap the back of your head by snapping your index fingers off the middle fingers. This is called beating the heavenly drum (Ming Tian Gu) and is one of the most common ways for your mind to find its center. You may drink some hot tea or coffee, wash your face with warm water, or take a shower. Alternatively, generate an “An” sound in your brain, vibrating in the Spiritual Valley. This can often lead your mind into the spiritual center and stop the illusion. This is called righteous sound (Zheng Yin), commonly used to stabilize the spirit and keep it at the Mud Pill Palace.
The second type of fright happens when you realize your Qi has been led into the wrong path. For example, suddenly your heart starts beating very fast or your head starts aching seriously. When this happens, your mind is usually disturbed, and you are confused or scared. If this happens, do not stop, calm your mind and move it away from the troublesome spot. The more you keep your mind on the area of concern, the more Qi will flow there and become stagnant. This will worsen the situation instead of help it. Once your mind is calm, use it to lead the Qi to your Lower Dan Tian. Sit still for a few minutes and gradually bring your mind back to your surroundings. Do not resume practice, but instead wait until the next session.
10. Difficulty Sleeping
It is common to have difficulty sleeping for a while, because when you practice Qigong, your mind is energized and your spirit raised. This keeps you from falling asleep. Pay attention to your breathing, thinking every time you exhale that your body is becoming more and more relaxed. Inhale longer than you exhale to make the body more Yin. Don’t use Yi to lead Qi, but just breathe and relax, and soon you will fall asleep. You may also practice Embryonic Breathing, leading excited Qi down from your head to the Real Lower Dan Tian. Then the mind becomes calm and the body relaxes.
Beginners sometimes cough during practice. The most common reason is that breathing is not being regulated smoothly. You may be breathing too fast or holding your breath. Use Yi to regulate the breathing until it is no longer necessary.
The second possibility is that your body is not regulated correctly. For example, if you push your head too far back, the front of the throat will tense and cause you to cough.
The third possibility is that when you are in deep meditation, your heartbeat slows, and body temperature drops. You feel cold, which may also cause coughing, so keep your body warm during meditation. Drink a little water.
12. Sexual arousal
It is normal to have sexual feelings and even to become aroused during meditation. Abdominal breathing increases Qi circulation in your lower body, stimulating the sexual organs. While this increases sexual desire, remember you are practicing Qigong to increase production of hormones to raise your spirit. You need to regulate your mind and not waste this extra supply through sexual activity.