The brain is the physical site of the functioning of our mind and intellect. It is the central processing unit and directly or indirectly controls all the other organs. Through an intact spinal cord, the nerves go to the whole body to convey instructions and receive feedback. Some nerves project out directly from the different parts of the brain to serve the sensory organs and muscles of the head.
I have described in detail the importance of a healthy spine to protect the spinal cord, and this applies to both the normal functioning of the nervous system as well as the flow of qi through this system. Any disruption of the nervous transmission channel also disrupts qi flow.
Any serious Qigong practitioner must master the art of concentrating and focusing – not only on the breath, but also on the posture or movements. For maximum qi flow and healing, the mind must “guide” the qi along the intended meridian or energy path.
The power of the mind has been investigated and much more is now known than before. Thirty years ago, it was said that most of us use only about 10% of our brain potential. Now, it is believed to be only 1 to 3%. If we compare the vast differences between geniuses and the average person, I think we are not even using 1%.
The mind can register thought, intention, will, consciousness, awareness and imagination, and when these are focused, physiological and energetic effects result. The connection between mind and body is so strong that actually there is no separation between them in Chinese Medical Theory.
The mind is also the master of qi. Qigong Masters can direct qi without making any movements, and can cause automatic movements in others to occur. Some Masters have enough qi and focusing power to create intense heat, exert immense force or perform other supernatural feats. Healing Masters also direct and guide their qi with their focused minds. Qigong Masters who also understand the detailed structure and functions of the cells, organs and systems are able to focus, with greater precision, at the target for healing. This is true for all energy healing methods. Although qi itself is intelligent, guided by the mind, it is more effective.
In the resting state, the brain consumes most of the oxygen we breathe. Thus any exercise that increases oxygen availability, and its uptake by the brain cells, will improve brain function.
I have explained how Qigong exercises, combining conscious breathing with the postures and movements, have been shown to increase the oxygen uptake by all cells. The benefit to the brain cells is most obvious due to their higher consumption.
One of my joys nowadays is to see my one-and-half year old daughter do her deep-breathing, visualization and imagination exercises before her mother bombards her with hundreds of flash cards ( and the child always wants more! ) as part of her daily training in a program taught by the brilliant Professor Shichida of Japan. Even the learned Professor recognizes the importance of conscious breathing.
Children taught these techniques will not only have oxygen-rich brains, but have been shown to tap into more of the 99% of the brain that lies dormant in us adults. Many of these children become multi-lingual, multi-talented geniuses, often with photographic memories, psychic powers and healing abilities. They have enhanced behavioral maturity, and grow up to be responsible and caring youths. They become closer to what human beings are meant to be.
Our brain cells have already established a certain pattern of networks ( through neuronal synapses ) determined by how we learned as we grew. The critical years are from birth to six years of age. These network patterns tend to be permanent and so it is difficult to re-program to the multi-tasking, multi-channeled networks that these Shichida kids’ brains develop. However, it is still possible to do many things to maximize our brain health, and our brain function.
QIGONG EXERCISES FOR BRAIN HEALTH
All Qigong exercises are beneficial for the brain since they all involve awareness. However, the exercises that require imagination and visualization are especially good:
From the basic Qigong stance, bring your arms forward to shoulder level and imagine you are holding a big energy ball in between your palms. Feel and gently massage this ball. Feel the qi circulating in your hands and in between your palms. Next slowly bring the ball upwards over your head. Imagine the ball resting over the top of your head. Send the energy down into your head through the topmost energy centre (Bai hui). Charge your brain with the qi that will nourish your brain cells and make you more alert, sharp and smart. Do this for about one minute. Then slowly bring the energy ball downwards back to the original position, and end by bringing your arms down by your side. At all times breathe in a relaxed manner. You should not have difficulty doing this exercise because even my little daughter plays with her energy ball several times a day.
There are many other brain-enhancing exercises that will be described in future articles.
One other very good exercise is using the trampoline. This is an enjoyable aerobics exercise (especially for children) that also improves balancing and co-ordination, and also improves left and right brain coordination, which is crucial in developing the full potential of the brain.
FUNCTIONAL FOODS FOR BRAIN HEALTH
Many foods have been found to improve brain function. The Chinese Emperors, in their quests for health and longevity, summoned their subjects to search far and wide for the healing plants and herbs. Among these remedies are gingko biloba and ginseng, probably the two most famous brain-boosters. Both also have a long list of health benefits, attributed to the flavonoids and saponins they contain, respectively. Most of us are aware of the many other functional foods, nutraceuticals and adaptogens which are available, especially now with the surge in health-consciousness among us. The traditional explanation for the healthy effects of these medicinal foods also include improving the body’s qi dynamics.
The fruit of the mahogany tree, called skyfruit ( or tunjuk langit in Malay ), is a remarkable functional food that is rich in both flavonoids and saponins, and is excellent for brain health as well as all the health benefits expected of gingko and ginseng. It was used by Malay traditional healers for kidney and sexual health, but now it has been discovered that it has a whole range of other health benefits. What is remarkable is that Malaysia is the first and only country to produce this supplement.