Combining the energy work of Asian medicine with Taoist meditation and physical movement is the ancient art called qigong (also known as qi gong and chi kung). Masters claim that as well as deeply relaxing the body and mind it can boost athletic and intellectual performance, prevent and heal illnesses and even reverse the degeneration of aging.
Bruce Kumar Frantzis, in his book Opening the Energy Gates of Your Body, carefully outlines the precise bodily alignment of the standing posture and explains the special method of breathing whereby the chest becomes rounded and the spine is raised. This can be quite tricky for westerners to learn as it is the opposite of the chest-out, shoulders-back military pose. Instead it is similar to the posture of a baby where the chest is very relaxed with the shoulders relaxed downwards and the belly rounded and dropped.
After perfecting the posture the practitioner scans the body with eyes closed learning to feel the energy gates whose positions and purposes are carefully outlined in the book. The most important energy gate is the tantien, located in the center of the body where all energy lines related to physical health and wellness connect. It is this physical health upon which spiritual development is built. Frantzis explains that it is in the lower tantien that all energy affecting the physical body is generated, processed and purified.
The time spent in the standing posture is gradually increased and once the body’s complete energy system is dissolved from above the crown of the head to below the feet the vital chi awakens in the tantien. The entire body’s energy system now begins to feel heightened like a blunt razor becoming sharp once again.
Our body and its surroundings are both made from different arrangements of tiny atoms most of which are empty space. I believe it is probably the perfection of this dissolution into the universal energy of the surrounding ether and sharpened awareness that gave birth to the ancient Chinese myths of shape shifting and dematerialization that were believed to arise from mind-over-matter control of the subatomic.