7 Secrets of the Small Universe Qigong

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Throughout most of the long history of qigong, the following techniques were kept a well-guarded secret.

The techniques were kept alive mainly through an oral tradition, from master to disciple. But typically, you would have to wait years before a master would teach you advanced techniques like these.

Some ancient manuscripts recorded the techniques. But these manuscripts were incredibly hard to get.

Even if you got your hands on a manuscript, it wouldn’t have done you much good. Qigong classics were intentionally vague. This was known as “Hiding Secrets in the Open”.

The secret was there for all to see, but they were impossible for the uninitiated to decipher.

In this article, I’ll break with traditional and reveal the actual techniques of the Small Universe in a clear and intelligible way.

In part 1 of this series, I talked about the risks and the benefits of an advanced Qigong technique called the Small Universe. If you haven’t read it, then do so now before continuing.

Seriously. Go read the other article first. It’s important. I’ll wait.

So why do it? Why reveal the secrets now, especially after highlighting the dangers of practicing them without a master?

Everything on the Internet is True, Right?

We live in the information age. It’s an amazing time to be alive. With a few clicks, we can get information on virtually any subject.

But is it quality information?

We all know that the Internet can sometimes provide awful information. This is especially true with esoteric arts like Qigong, Tai Chi, and meditation. If you go searching for information about the Small Universe (also called the Microcosmic Orbit), for example, you’ll find a ton of terrible advice out there.  (I covered this subject in part 1 of the article.)

So my goal is to contribute quality information on this subject, not for self-instruction, but for education, edification, and also for posterity. Of course, those who have already learned the Small Universe from me will benefit greatly from this page, which will serve as a valuable review. And those who hope to someday learn the Small Universe from will be inspired by reading these secrets.

Now, on to the techniques.

The 7 Techniques

In my school, we use a series of Qigong techniques to open the Small Unviverse. Practicing them in the correct series allows us to safely and effectively induce the breakthrough of the Small Universe in a relatively short period of time. If the student has already laid a solid foundation by practicing basic Qigong techniques like the 18 Luohan Hands, Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow, Sinew Metamorphosis, and/or Bone Marrow Cleansing for 2-3 years, then the Small Universe breakthrough can be induced in a matter of days (with my help, of course).

This is quite remarkable. In the past, if a master had the breakthrough in a decade, it was considered amazing. To do it in a few days, even after 2-3 years of diligently practicing the basics, was unheard of. But then again, maybe we never heard of it because they kept it secret? Who knows?

The series of techniques are as follows:

  1. Belly Breathing
  2. Dan Tian Breathing
  3. Path Breathing
  4. Submerged Breathing
  5. Long Breathing
  6. Forceful Small Universe Breathing
  7. Gentle Small Universe Breathing

1. Belly Breathing

Before we can do any of these techniques, we need to master Belly Breathing. Actually, Belly Breathing is not a Qigong technique. It’s just mechanical. It involves breathing from the belly as opposed to the chest. Good singers do this even if they’ve never heard of Qigong.

If you’re like most people, you’ve spent years breathing incorrectly. To correct this, you need to practice two preparative exercises. The following two exercises are safe for everyone to practice, even from this website:

Preparative Exercise #1 – Book Breathing
Lie down and place a heavy book on your lower belly, just below your belly button. Breathe naturally, but gradually allow your breathing to come from your lower belly. The book should rise as your breathe in, and fall as you breathe out. Practice this for 5 minutes a day, separate from your normal Qigong practice.

Preparative Exercise #2 – Sitting Belly Breathing
Sit upright (but relaxed) on the edge of a chair with your back straight. Place both hands, one on top of the other, gently over your dan tian. Try to recreate the feeling of the Book Breathing exercise. If you cannot feel your breath coming from your belly, then go back to the Book Breathing.

All future progress depends on your ability to do Belly Breathing easily and smoothly. If you can’t do it well, then you won’t benefit from any of the other stages. Spend time with these preparative exercises. You’ll be glad that you did.

For those who know the following exercises, Three Levels to Earth and Lifting Heels are also excellent for helping to pave the way for future progress. These two exercises from the 18 Luohan Hands help to bring the energy around the Ren and Du meridians. So if you want to prepare yourself before learning the Small Universe, you may emphasize these techniques as well.

Warning: If you skimmed down to here, then let me be absolutely clear: Don’t try the following exercises on your own. You’re going to hurt yourself. You can practice the preparative exercises listed above, but not these. If you want to understand why, then read part 1 of this series.

2. Dan Tian Breathing

Dan Tian Breathing is a fundamental Qigong technique where, not surprisingly, you breath energy with dan tian. Whereas Belly Breathing is mechanical, Dan Tian Breathing is energetic. The difference may seem minor, but it’s not. It’s the difference between tapping into a flow of Cosmic energy, or just standing around and breathing for 20 minutes.

Dan Tian Breathing Technique:

  1. Stand Upright.
  2. Relax.
  3. Smile from the Heart.
  4. Clear your mind of thoughts.
  5. Gently place both palms over your dan tian, one on top of the other.
  6. As you breathe out gently through the mouth, gently press the palms and help the belly to “deflate”. Gently visualize letting go of negative energy, stress, tension, etc.
  7. As you breathe in gently through the nose, gently release the palms and help the belly to “inflate”. Gently visualize taking in fresh cosmic energy from all directions toward dan tian.

Closing visualization:
At the end of the session, gently visualize a golden pearl of energy, full of vitality, at dan tian. The energy from dan tian radiates out, in all directions, like the light from the sun.

The technique is simple, but the skill is extremely subtle, and thus easy to miss. Remember that everything must be super gentle — the breathing, the pressing and releasing of the hands, and the visualization. If you’re forcing any of these, then you’re doing it wrong.

A heart-to-heart transmission is useful to acquire this skill. Once you get it, you’ll have the ability to tap energy from the cosmos. As I tell my students, I honestly don’t know how it works, but I know from experience that it does work. It’s an incredible technique, and I hope that you get the opportunity to learn it one day.

3. Path Breathing

With this technique, we breathe energy down and up the Ren meridian (see part I of this article).   So we bring energy down to dan tian as we breathe in, and then back up as we breathe out.

Path Breathing Technique:

  1. Stand Upright.
  2. Relax.
  3. Smile from the Heart.
  4. Clear your mind of thoughts.
  5. Gently place both palms over your dan tian, one on top of the other.
  6. As you breathe out gently through the mouth, gently press the palms and help the belly to “deflate”. Visualize negative energy flowing up the Ren Meridian, and out the mouth.
  7. As you breathe in gently through the nose, gently release the palms and help the belly to “inflate”. Visualize fresh cosmic energy coming in through the nose, down the Ren Meridian, and down to dan tian.

Closing visualization:
At the end of the session, use the same visualization as in Dan Tian Breathing.

This is the first time we are focusing the Qi along a path. In Dan Tian Breathing, the flow of Qi was general. Here, it’s more specific. Because we are directing Qi to a specific channel, the technique is much less forgiving of mistakes, which is yet another reason to learn it from a master.

4. Submerged Breathing

With Submerged Breathing, we sink the energy from dan tian down to hui yin, the energy point at the perineum. This must done gently. It can’t, and shouldn’t be forced.

Again, I’ll sound a warning. If you try to do this on your own, you’re likely to mess up your energy system. What’s worse is that it may take months for you to realize that anything is wrong. Don’t practice this without direct instruction from a good teacher. I don’t know how to be any clearer than that.

Submerged Breathing Technique

  1. Start with Path Breathing for a few breaths.
  2. Then shift to Submerged Breathing as follows.
  3. As you breathe in, gently bring the energy down the Ren channel from your nose to dan tian.
  4. As you breathe out, gently “sink” energy down the Ren channel from dan tian to hui yin.

Closing visualization: At the end of the session, gently visualize a beautiful, full, silvery moon at the bottom of a lake at hui yin. Let the pleasant moon energy gleam up at your body. At an advanced level,you may feel a coolness at hui yin.

When you finally get the hang of Submerged Breathing, when you first feel the energy sinking down to hui yin, it’s a wonderful feeling. But if you don’t have enough energy at dan tian, then you probably won’t feel much. In that case, you need to continue building energy at dan tian so that you have something to sink down to hui yin. You can build energy using Dan Tian Breathing, or other techniques like the Warrior Postures, One Finger Zen, Lifting Water, or the Three Circle Stance.

5. Long Breathing

In this technique, we “breathe” energy from hui yin all the way up to bai hui at the top of the head. It’s a long way, hence the name. The technique is as follows:

Long Breathing Technique

  1. Start with Path Breathing for  breaths.
  2. Then shift to Submerged Breathing for a few breaths.
  3. Then shift to Long Breathing as follows.
  4. As you breathe in, gently bring the energy down the Ren channel from your nose down to dan tian.
  5. As you breathe out, gently bring the energy from dan tian, down to hui yin, and then up to bai hui.

Closing visualization: Gently visualize energy pulsing at ming men, the vital point opposite your navel.  When this has been accomplished after some training over a few (or many) sessions, gently focus at ling tai (opposite tanzhong, or solar plexus).

In the learning stage, you’ll first breathe energy from hui yin up to ming men rather than bai hui. Then, once you get the hang of that, you’ll breathe the energy from hui yin up to ling tai, the energy point in the middle of the back. Then finally, you’ll breathe it all the way up to Bai Hui. It’s a bit like the mercury (or whatever they use these days) gradually rising in a thermometer.

6. Forceful Small Universe Breathing

This technique “forces”the full connection of the Small Universe. The Small Universe, as I described in part 1 of this series, is a continuous flow of energy in an orbit down the Ren Meridian and then up the Du Meridian. But there are two gaps in the flow — one at the perineum, and one between the upper and lower jaw. With this technique, we connect the upper gap by lifting the tongue to the upper palate, and the lower gap by lifting the muscles near the anus.

The breathing mode for this technique is called “Reverse Breathing”.  It’s the opposite of Belly Breathing (sometimes called Natural Breathing because babies do it naturally), hence the name.

Forceful Small Universe Breathing Technique

  1. Start with Path Breathing for a few breaths.
  2. Then shift to Reverse Breathing as follows.
  3. As you breathe in gently through the nose, your abdomen deflates and your chest inflates gently (the reverse of what we’ve been doing so far). The energy flows from hui yin up to bai hui. Gently grip your toes, lift your perineum, and touch the tongue to the roof of the mouth while breathing in.
  4. As you breathe out gently through the mouth, your abdomen inflates and your chest deflates. The energy flows from bai hui down to dan tian. Lower the tongue while breathing out. The perineum and toes should be relaxed now.
  5. As you are breathing out, you should also save 30% of your breath. So you breath in 100%, but breathe out 70% and save the other 30%. As you “save” the breath, swallow your saliva, and feel as if it is dropping all the way down to hui yin.

Closing Visualization: Gently feel a beneficial, glowing sun at bai hui. Later you may experience what they call The Opening of the Five Petals.This opening is spontaneous, but may be gently induced with gentle visualization. Meanwhile the flow of the Small Universe continuously round the ren and du meridians is realized.

Compared to the previous techniques, this one is much more complicated. It’s hard to remember all the steps, let alone do them. This can lead to some serious energy blockages if you do it incorrectly. A master’s supervision is critical. Even with a master’s supervision, it’s still challenging!

I typically have students practice Reverse Breathing for a while without worrying about the perineum, toes, or tongue. Once they can do that well, then they can add those details one by one. I also encourage them to leave out the “swallow” until they are ready.  Another secret is to practice the technique called “Gathering Qi from the Cosmos”, which helps to teach Reverse Breathing in a very gentle way.

This method is relatively forceful, but it’s also very, very powerful.  For some masters, this is the only method they had, and it worked well. We are lucky to have both the Forceful and the Gentle Small Universe, which is as follows.

7. Gentle Small Universe Breathing

With this technique, we go back to Belly Breathing (rather than Reverse Breathing).  The technique is much gentler, and also simpler, than the Forceful Small Universe. I spent years practicing this technique — mainly because I was terrible at Forceful Small Universe Breathing.  But hey, it worked!

If you’ve done the other stages well, then this one should be easy.

Gentle Small Universe Breathing Technique

  1. Start with Path Breathing for a few breaths.
  2. Proceed to Submerged Breathing for a few breaths.
  3. Proceed to Long Breathing for a few breaths.
  4. Proceed to Forceful Small Universe Breathing for a few breaths.
  5. Proceed to Gentle Small Universe Breathing, as follows.
  6. As you breathe in gently through the nose, the tip of your tongue touches the upper palate, your abdomen inflates, and the energy flows in to dan tian.
  7. As you breathe out gently through the mouth, your tongue relaxes, your abdomen deflates, and the energy flows from dan tian down to hui yin, up to bai hui, and out your mouth.

Closing Visualization: Gently visualize a smooth, continuous flow down the Ren meridian and up Du meridian. Later just enjoy the realization of the Small Universe.

What is the “realization” of the Small Universe? It’s when it flows automatically, and you just enjoy it. You no longer need to actively visualize because the Small Universe has its own momentum.

Putting It All Together

Once you’ve been through all of the techniques, it may not be necessary to continue using each of them.  This depends on your developmental stage.  If you succeed in opening the real breakthrough of the Small Universe, then you may only need to continue practicing one of the final two techniques.

At an advanced level, you can add the Goat-Riding Stance.  The techniques are done exactly the same, except for the addition of the stance.  Adding the stance magnifies the power of the technique, but also magnifies the risks.  Both your stance and your Small Universe better be really good before you even attempt this!


So that’s it. We’ve talked about the risks and rewards of learning the Small Universe, and we’ve talked about all 7 techniques. I hope that I’ve succeeded in educating you about this amazing Qigong technique. I also hope that you’re excited to learn it — not so excited that you try to learn it from a website, of course, but excited enough to keep practicing the basics. In a future article, I’ll talk about the Big Universe, and how it relates to the Small Universe.

Drop me a comment below if you have questions.  Or if you haven’t already gotten your free ebooks and free lesson, then make sure to grab them here.  If you liked this article, then please share it using the Facebook, Twitter, and Email buttons below.

Mindfully yours,
Sifu Anthony

I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world to use qigong for their own stubborn health issues. I teach online courses, and also lead in-person retreats and workshops.
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16 Responses to 7 Secrets of the Small Universe Qigong

  1. Mike Rocha November 29, 2012 at 11:14 am #


    Great article.

    In the Coconut Grove training when we met, Sifu taught “Dan Tien” breathing. In St. Pete he taught “Abdominal Breathing”. They both seem to be the same thing. Is this true?


    • Sifu Anthony November 30, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

      Yes, they were probably the same, but Sifu used slightly different terminology. Hopefully, this article will clear it up.

  2. Fred Chu December 1, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    Dear Sifu,

    Very intriguing article! I intentionally skipped the grey boxes because I don’t want to unwittingly introduce deviations to my practice, though.

    In the past, were masters of other arts able to obtain the Small Universe without going through these methods? For example, if some master only practiced Golden Bridge, or Bagua Circle Walking, or One Finger Zen, could they also eventually obtain the real breakthrough?

    These two articles have instilled in me the desire to learn the Small Universe when I’m ready for it. Could take me a few years, I’m still far from perfect with my current force training!

  3. David Burch December 15, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

    Thanks Sifu. This is handy.

  4. Wade January 16, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Hello, I have noticed this in other instructions by teachers. When you visualize the air coming in through the nose, and cycle it through the small universe breathing, you visualize it going to the top of the head. This leaves a gap between the du 20 and the nose. So once the breath is at du 20, and it is exhausted, do you then breath in to connect the cycle from du 20 to the nose? Simply, it would take an inbreath to connect du 20 to the nose, and then another inbreath from the nose down to the dan tian. Does this make sense? I’m not sure if I’m missing the final connection between the top of the head and the nose.

  5. kevin boyd April 20, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    Great article as ever Anthony!

    In the first exercise known as dantien breathing do create yang, yin or yuan chi with this technique? It sounds like countforce breathing where you press the abdomen lightly on the inhale and release it lightly on the exhale – is that what this is?

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais April 24, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

      Hi Kevin. I don’t know what “countforce” breathing is. Sorry. But Dantian breathing is not forceful. It’s super gentle.

  6. Stephen September 17, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    Dear Sipak,

    Is it necessary to build up energy at the huiyin via Submerged breathing prior to Forceful Small Universe? Or can we just jump into Forceful Small Universe directly?

  7. elena June 8, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    what the hell are you talking about?small universe big universe real breakthought…you are all crazy creating unnecessary problems..if its not safe why the hell you are posting it?i see …cause they need guidance and you can help them..in 1000000 milion lifes and still you will not awake your real self ..you know why?because you are so lost in this bulshit.I know that qigong helps.im practicing myself basic stuff..but honestly i’m telling you i practice meditation for more than 15 years ..and you are lost in knowledge.you can come home in this moment only if you drop bullshit you will not come to an end.You are in an endless sea of superstitions and knowledge.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais June 8, 2015 at 11:37 am #

      Hi Elena. Thanks for the comment. I’m glad to hear that you’re benefitting from Qigong and Meditation. 🙂

      If you reread the article, I explained why I decided to publish the details.

      Be well!

  8. FreeJazzTony May 30, 2016 at 5:23 pm #

    Hello Sifu Anthony,

    I remember reading this months ago and feeling excited to learn it from my master. Just recently he showed me the technique which is the last exercise to the Tai Chi Qigong sequence. Right now this is the second day I practiced the small circulation (from my master’s theory) though it feels alright it feels relatively similar to the other exercises in the set minus imagining the energy from the perineum rise from the du meridian to the ren and perineum and vice-versa. Other than that I did not experience anything crazy than what I already experienced since I already feel relatively healthy. Does it take a few weeks or months to experience the big breakthrough?

    Thank you

  9. Ray Morneau September 14, 2016 at 6:50 am #

    VERY disturbing, Sifu!! But, whew, I guess this means I’m just not yet ready …so I’ll just keep practicing my basics and come back in a few years … But it feels like a huge gap – I’ve got so much that I don’t know- – so much to learn – would it help if I moved to Florida? Anyway, I know how to calm down – listen to one of your earlier presentations, like a meditation or instructional video. You are powerful, Sifu – Thank You for using your energy wisely.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais September 14, 2016 at 8:30 am #

      Yes, there’s lots to learn. But that’s exciting, isn’t it?

      No, it wouldn’t help if you moved to Florida. That chapter is over. 🙂

      Be patient. I’ll have more and more awesome stuff available online, plus I’ll do more and more retreats, which are a great way to learn and go deep.

  10. austin judge May 11, 2017 at 11:13 pm #

    Hey anthony. I’ve been practicing abdominal breathing for probably about 6 years now and reverse breathing(periodically) and dan tian breathing(tho I’ve only recently put more intent in this type) for about 5 years with it being used more in recent times. I originally didnt intend to use either of there breathing methods nor some others ive learned (like cool breathing) they just gradually got used more by my unvonscious.

    My question is without true intent towards guiding qi into the du and ren channels would it have much of any risks or benefits?

    That im aware of ive only got benefits from these types of breathing but my intents only been either on just breathing(with whatever method id be using) or nourishing my dan tian and no intention on du or ren. Could this be why i havent hurt myself and got some benefits from them?

    Also do you see any improvements when you go into a zen state after you’ve opened the SU? Weather it be increasing the ability to go into the state or just other differences?

  11. Sifu Anthony Korahais May 16, 2017 at 12:54 pm #

    There are always risks with internal arts. And the risks are really hard to ascertain through the internet. I’ve never met you, have no idea how old you are, don’t know anything about your personality, etc.

    For example, if the person asking me the question is a 55-year-old with a history of manic episodes and also a history of dabbling in internal arts — then I’d say the risk is much higher.

  12. austin judge May 25, 2017 at 11:46 pm #

    Im 27 years old. I have 7 years of history(practice but not in clinic) in chinese medicine mainly herbalism(5 elements, 5 spirits ect ect) but also have some knowledge in basic acupoints. I have about 6 months of internal martial arts(tai chi, xing yi and bagua) with a instructor and around a year total(i take several seminars on the arts each year to). Since ultimately my goal is to become become a daoist sage/mountain hermit(since i live and breathe nothing but martial arts and tcm) im constantly aware and adjusting myself throughout the day(posture and internally whenever i sense a blockage). Typically people explain my personality as very laidback love to judt hangout and talk or help people, very social, very strong willpower(when its something i want) and happy go lucky guy that loves trying new things.

    My only health problems have been seizures since i was 3 until age 11 when i had brain surgery which took away my seizures(except at night sometimes but rare and usually its when i just get careless with supplements and diet) but gave me hemiplegia. So the past 16 years ive spent my time learning to control my emotions(since they use to run ramped do to brain trauma) and regain my strength and balance in my left side. Ive regained around 85-90% of my leftside back so far.

    The reason i asked about improving zen state is because ive had many times especially when im sparring and sometimes training where i go into this kind of trance(i think its the theta wave state) almost where im completely relaxed and my minds empty and each body part moves on its own while sparring (far stronger, more accurate and faster then i could ever go when fully conscious). I also have times where i have almost unlimited energy(even though im training physical hard 3-4 hours a day) for between 1-3 weeks.

    Is this anything like experiences with false su? Or something different you know of?

    Thank you for all your help. I get you cant do much without meeting me(which i wish i could do) nut i really appreciate your help and advice.

    Have a great day

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