During the Han Dynasty, Chinese peasants used the ritual of qigong to manage daily stresses such as goiter and invading barbarians
Two millennia later, the ancient practice is returning — showing up alongside spinning, yoga and aqua aerobics as the hottest trend in stress relief at spas, gyms and health clubs. As the wizened masters cringe, bankers, supermodels and housewives are twisting themselves into poses like ‘bending bear’ and ‘flying wild goose’. The goal is to cultivate ‘qi’ (pronounced ‘chee’), the Chinese notion of restorative energy that flows through the body
What is Qigong?
Qigong, which is sometimes spelled Chi-Kung (and pronounced chee-gung), is the study and practice of cultivating vital-life-force through various techniques, including:
- Breathing techniques- Postures
- Meditation- Guided imagery
Gong means ‘work’ or ‘effort’ and is the commitment you put into any practice or skill that requires time, patience, and repetition to perfect
Through study, you aim to develop the ability to manipulate Qi in order to promote self-healing, prevent disease, and increase longevity
There are two types of Qigong practice:
- Wai Dan (External Elixir) involves physical movement and concentration
- Nei Dan (Internal Elixir) involves sitting meditation and guided imagery or visualization
According to the traditional teachings of Qigong, beginners first learn physical movements coordinated with breathing techniques. They practice sets of exercises (similar to Tai Chi) until each movement or posture is perfected. Once they learn the form, the next step is to find the subtle flow or fluctuation of energy within the postures, movements, breathing patterns, and transitions. This is called moving meditation
Among the exercises, there are many postures that are held for long periods of time. These postures are somewhat similar to those of yoga. They are practiced to strengthen the limbs and increase energetic flow. These postures fall into the category of still meditation
Sitting meditation focuses on becoming more acquainted with the breath, body, and mind.
Qigong uses combinations of these practices in an effort to promote health and improve digestion; boost the immune system; and relieve headaches, sinus congestion, aches and pains, and stress- to name but a few
What are the types of Qigong?
There are many forms and styles of Qigong, but they all fit into one of three main categories:
- Medical Qigong to heal self and others
- Martial Qigong for physical prowess
- Spiritual Qigong for enlightenment
Generally, all Qigong practitioners incorporate exercises and techniques from all three categories-the only difference is their focus
This is the most popular of the three categories. It is the oldest of the four branches of traditional Chinese medicine and the foundation from which acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Chinese massage originated. Qigong shares the foundational theories of traditional Chinese medicine and uses similar diagnostic and treatment methods
This type of Qigong focuses on physical prowess. Martial Qigong practitioners can break bricks, bend steel wires, place sharp objects in vulnerable parts of the body without damaging the skin, or sustain physical impact from baseball bats. Martial Qigong practitioners can demonstrate physical feats considered ‘impossible’ by modern science
This type of qigong uses mantras, mudras (hand positions), sitting meditation, and prayers to pursue enlightenment. These techniques are heavily influenced by Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Spiritual Qigong teaches discipline and leads to self-awareness, tranquility, and harmony with nature and self
How might Qigong benefit you?
All living organisms give off a bioelectric field. Proponents believe that a Qigong healer can detect these fields, as well as their imbalances. The goal of Qigong is to correct the imbalances that have accumulated throughout your lifetime. Imbalances occur for many reasons, including deep-seated emotions (stress, anger, anxiety, depression, grief, etc.), trauma or injury, improper diet, and lack of exercise
Qigong practitioners believe the Qi that course through our entire being must flow properly, like a river. If there is a block, Qi becomes stagnant and prevents other parts of the body from being nourished. If the Qi flows too rapidly, it causes degeneration or exhaustion of the internal organs. The practice of Qigong helps to balance these energies: filling deficiencies and removing excess
Practicing Qigong and receiving Qigong healing activates acupuncture points, meridians, and organ systems, according to traditional Chinese medicine. So practicing and receiving Qigong is similar to a powerful acupuncture treatment. Qigong also works in the same manner as other physical exercise to relieve emotional stress
Where to find a practitioner
Practitioners are listed under many Qigong organizations that can be found online. Here’s a good starting point
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