Wednesday, February 8, 2017

BIGU with Qigong Exercises

This is an excerpt from an article by Dr. Marty Eisen writing in "Yang Sheng"...

Chinese Bigu (避谷) for Yang Sheng

by  Martin Eisen, Ph.D.

What is Bigu?

In Chinese “Bi” means to stop or avoid, and “Gu” means grain, including rice, corn or wheat. Therefore, Bigu means to avoid grain or stop eating. One of the earliest descriptions of Bigu was found in silk scrolls, from the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD), discovered in tombs in Changsha, China at Mangwnagdui. The first scroll had over forty diagrams and descriptions of Dao Yin exercises. Dao Yin was an early form of Qigong, which induced, promoted and conducted Qi for health and to cure diseases. The second scroll described Bigu as “Abandoning Gu and Taking Qi”. Thus, Bigu is refraining from eating food and eating Qi instead.
In terms of degree of involvement there are two kinds of Bigu – full and partial Bigu. In Full Bigu a person drinks a small amount of water without any food. In Half Bigu there is a small intake of food like fruit, nuts, and honey – traditionally called “Fu Er Bi Gu” – fasting with a pill.
Moses, Elijah and Jesus fasted for forty days. Theresa Neumann lived on one consecrated wafer a day. There are records in China and India of people who have gone without food for long periods of time.
Western fasting is different than Bigu. It cannot be continued for a long time. Eventually, the body begins to break down. In China, some people have been in a Bigu state for years. An important characteristic of the Bigu-fasting is that practitioner’s overall condition improves rather than weakens (1).

Can Bigu be explained?

Recently, western scientists have become interested in Bigu, as evidenced by over 500 participants and about 100 papers at a Bigu conference at Penn State University in 2000. However, western science cannot explain Bigu, since the body requires fat, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, vitamins, etc. found in food.
Traditional Chinese Medical theory can explain Bigu. There are different forms of Qi in the body, which have a different name depending on their function and location. Food (Gu) Qi is combined with Air (Kong) Qi to form Gathering (Zong) Qi. Under the catalytic action of Original (Yuan) Qi, Zong Qi is transformed into True (Zhen) Qi, which circulates to the internal organs and nourishes them (2). Thus, it is theoretically possible to produce Zhen Qi without or very little Gu Qi, by absorbing Qi from the universe.
More credence is given to the above theory by the experiment in (3). Results indicate that mouse hybridoma cells can survive in Dulbeco’s modified Eagles medium, without serum, or in phosphate-buffered saline buffer, without other nutrient ingredients, after Qigong master projected Qi into the cells. These results are the first evidence that a cellular equivalent of the human Bigu phenomenon can occur.

Types of Bigu

Chinese history indicates that there are many ways to achieve Bigu. Most styles of Qigong have their own method of entering a Bigu state. Many different techniques originated from the Taoist in different temples. In Taoism, the goal was to become an immortal or “Shen Xian”. Since immortals do not need to eat, the Taoist practiced Qigong to enter Bigu. Thus, another name for Bigu is Xian Tao. The Taoists believed in following nature and so ate when hungry and drank when thirsty. Thus, they did not force a Bigu state to occur.
During the Song Dynasty, some Taoists tried to use chemicals, such as mercury and lead, to become immortal. This was called “Lien Dan” “Lien” means melting or exercise. “Dan” in ancient Chinese could be interpreted as medicine for longevity. Many people died from an overdose of these chemicals. People realized that Dan is produced in the Dan Tian by Qigong practice, and not by taking chemicals and the alchemical approach ceased.
There are ancient Chinese records of herbal formulas for Bigu. Food intake was gradually curtailed and instead, herbs were taken. People achieved Bigu in ten days to a month.
Some masters recommend reducing food intake gradually. This method does not use herbs, but the person does Qigong and will be discussed in greater detail in Section 7.
The Buddhists’ ambition was to become a Buddha and they had their own form of Qigong to achieve this. The Buddhists were more forceful in using their minds. If they felt hungry in a Bigu state, they endured it until their hunger disappeared and they entered into Bigu.
Others forms of Bigu arose from Confucian, martial arts and Traditional Chinese Medicine Qigong.
To aid their students achieve a Bigu state, some masters project their own Qi to their students’ Dan Tian and stomach area to relieve and prevent hunger. However, this is usually a temporary measure and the students must still practice Qigong daily.
Another temporary aid is that the master charges water by projecting his Qi into it. The student relieves hunger by drinking the charged water...

Uses of Bigu

In ancient China, Bigu was used mainly for religious purposes and by martial artists, who went into seclusion to perfect their art and discover new methods. Food was scarce and they did not want to waste time foraging. Hence, they probably practiced Bigu. Perhaps the most famous was Bodhidharma, the patriarch of Zen Buddhism in China and the founder of Shaolin Kung Fu. He meditated for 9 years facing a wall in a cave near the Shaolin Temple in He Nan Province.
Bigu was also used by Taoism practitioners (what we called Qigong today) to preserve life energy for longevity, and to reach higher level of cultivation rapidly.
There is no record of Bigu being used to combat starvation. Teaching Bigu in third world countries, where famine exists, could save many lives.
Bigu could also be used to survive temporary food shortages. For example, land or space explorers could become lost. Soldiers could be trapped behind enemy lines or in a desert. Sailors or airmen could be lost at sea.
There is no history of Bigu being used for weight loss in ancient China. The reason might be that there were not as large a percentage obese people as in modern times. People did more physical work and ate less fattening food. Further, being overweight was considered a sign of wealth. Recently, Bigu has become popular for weight loss (4), (5); (6). You don’t have to worry about counting calories, choosing and preparing food or do strenuous exercise.
Next I will discuss some medi cal applications of Bigu. There are differences of opinion on its application. Some practitio ners believe that Bigu should not be used for children, because they are in a period of intense growth and any shortage of nutrients may be detrimental. Adults with a weak constitution are also excluded (1) and other methods of Chinese medicine are used. Others apply Bigu for treating cancer even though such patients usually have a weakened constitution, since some improvements in their physiological state occurs during Bigu. However, Qigong and other methods are used to improve their health before Bigu.
Bigu should be investigated as a possible treatment for diabetes. One participant, described in (6), was in Bigu for forty days. She was able to decrease the amount of insulin as well as the number of injections per day. Some days she was down to one injection while teaching, performing ballet, coaching gymnastics and swimming.
Dean Ornish”s program for reversing heart disease consists of diet, stress reduction, and exercise. The diet for reversing coronary artery disease is a vegetarian diet high in complex carbohydrates, low in simple carbohydrates (e.g. sugar, concentrated sweeteners, alcohol, white flour), and very low in fat (approximately 10% of calories). Yoga (meditation, breathing and stretching) is done for stress reduction. Participants exercised aerobically a minimum of 30 minutes a day or for an hour every other day for a total of three to five hours of aerobic exercise per week. Clinical trials have shown that this program is successful (7). Although there have not been large scale, clinical trials, it seems logical that Bigu and Qigong would work, since the dietary guidelines would obviously be followed.
Preliminary results indicate that Dean Ornish’s program is also effective for treating prostate cancer (8). Hence, Bigu should also be effective. This hypothesis is reinforced by the result cited in (9). A male, aged 58, had a PSA of 11. It went up to 12 after his mother died. His urologist suspected cancer and suggested a biopsy. After practicing Bigu, his PSA was 4, which is within normal limits, and the biopsy was negative. His doctor had no western medical explanation of this result.
During the intensive qigong seminar (9), which included Bigu, the patient also lost 35 pounds and his blood pressure dropped from 220/110 with medication to 120/75 without medication (this occurred within 2 weeks). His resting pulse rate dropped from 88 beats per minute (bpm) to 68 bpm in the mornings and 55 bpm in the evening after his regular work (seeing patients) continuing throughout the evening. The edema in his legs went away. His allergy and asthma remitted even though the workshop was in the Spring—the worst time of the year for an allergy patient. These results in suggest that Bigu should be tried for hypertension, cardiovascular problems, allergy and asthma especially, since simultaneous recovery from multiple “incurable” conditions cannot be explained by any known medical theories.
Taoists thought that not having to eat was one of the steps to immortality. Some people after Bigu appear younger – their hair darkens, scars are less noticeable and their skin is softer and smoother. This not just their imagination, but Qigong and Bigu enhance the free flow of Qi or bioelectricity which improves their metabolism.
Researchers have verified many times on many different animals that calorie-restriction produces youthfulness. In 1935, Professor Clive McCay, a nutritionist at Cornell, fed laboratory rats about two-thirds of the food they would have freely chosen to eat. He discovered their life spans increased by 40 percent to 50 percent. A Russian biologist stopped feeding 1000 old hens for one week and then resumed feeding them. After a month, they began to grow new feathers and some began laying eggs again. The calorie-restricted hens lived three times longer than the fed, control group of hens (6). A diabetes researcher at the University of Maryland, Barbara Hansen, has spent 20 years investigating the effects of calorie restriction on rhesus monkeys. The old calorie-restricted monkeys did not have heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension, and their cholesterol was lower. They were healthier than the old monkeys that ate what they wanted. Researchers think that semi-starvation may make metabolic processes more efficient, producing fewer free radicals and also perhaps boosting cells’ DNA repair systems.
Besides research, Okinawans are living proof of the benefits of a calorie restricted diet. They eat 40% fewer calories than Americans and 17% fewer calories than the Japanese average, but they still maintain adequate nutrition. Okinawans also have the longest average lifespan in the world and the highest percentage of centenarians. Compared to American elders, Okinawan elders are: 75% more likely to retain cognitive ability, 80% less likely to develop breast and prostate cancer, 50% less likely to develop ovarian and colon cancers, 50% less likely to experience a hip fracture, and 80% less likely to suffer from a heart attack.
Thus, it seems plausible that Bigu will also produce youthfulness in clinical trials.
It is also reported that Bigu could be used as a supplementary therapy in restraining cancer growth and build up immune system (10). However, there is generally a lack of study and evidence in this area for a clinical application. I would not recommend anyone to do Bigu on his/her own without the guidance of a professional and experienced instructor.
A Bigu conference was held in Sept. 2000.  The conference report can be found in (11) and the program and papers in (12).  More research on the mechanisms and the reliable medical applications of Bigu technique are warranted.
1. Wang JJ. Thorough Clinical Experiment on Bigu-fasting,
2. Giovanni, M.  Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists, Churchill Livingstone, 1997.
3. Yan, X., Traynor-Kaplan, A., Li, H., Wang, J., Shen, H.; Xia, Z.  Studies on the Fundamental Theory of Bigu (Food Abstinence)—Preliminary Experimental Observations of Cellular Bigu, Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 22 (5), 392-396 (2002).
4. Gao, G. Utilizing the Innate Self-regulatory and Self-healing Capacity on Weight Management, 1999 ISSSEEM Conference in Boulder, Co, 1999.
5. Gao, G. Bigu and Weight Loss: Qi as a Food Source, Second World Congress on Qigong, San Francisco, CA, November 1997, and Kung Fu/Qigong Magazine, November 1998.
6. Tam, T. Pi Gu – The Way of Qigong Fasting, Oriental Culture Institute Press, 1998.
7.     Ornish, D.  Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease: The Only System Scientifically Proven to Reverse Heart Disease without Drugs or Surgery, Ivy Books, 1995.
8.     Ornish, D. et al. Intensive lifestyle changes may affect the progression of prostate cancer, J. of Urology, vol. 174, 1006- 1070, 2006.
9. Chen, K. and Turner, F. A case study of simultaneous recovery from multiple physical symptoms with medical qigonq therapy, J. Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 10, 2004.
10. He B. and Chen K.  Integrative tumor board: advanced breast cancer — Qigong analysis, Integrative Cancer Care, 1(2): 200-202.
11.    Bigu Conference Report, 2000.
12.    Bigu Conference Program and Papers, 2000.

Dr. Eisen is a retired scientist, who constructed mathematical models in medicine. He has studied and taught Judo, Shotokan Karate, Aikido, Qigong, Praying Mantis Kung Fu, and Tai Chi in different places.  He took correspondence courses in Chinese herbology and studied other branches of Chinese medicine with a traditional Chinese medical doctor.  He was the Director of Education of the Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Institute in Upper Darby, P.A.

for brevity, portions of the above article have been omitted.  The entire article can be found at:

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