What is Qigong?
Qigong exercises can often look like, and can be wrongly taught like, slowed down aerobics. Qigong is more than the movement of the body…….much more. It is the movement of the Qi through focus, relaxation and intent. It is an art that is almost impossible to appreciate without being exposed to proper tuition and the development of the ability to listen to the Qi.
Qigong is the art or science of using, working with and cultivating Qi “life energy” to enrich ones life by controlling and strengthening the flow of Qi throughout the body. This is an art that is steeped in Chinese history, legend and myth with fantastic claims as to its values. Before discussing Qigong in any depth it is important to view Chinese cosmology and how theories and beliefs developed through the millennia compare with those now held by the great scientific minds of the West.
“The Tao begets the one, The one begets the two, The two beget the three and the three beget the ten thousand things. All things are backed by the shade, Faced by the light And harmonised by the immaterial breath.”
Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching.
The source of all things is the Tao, which can be interpreted as God or Godhead. From this, the quotation from Lao Tzu may be interpreted as: – In the beginning there was God and when God became self-aware, this act of self-awareness created matter. Matter was then sub divided into two qualities, matter and energy (Yin and Yang). These two qualities are held together in balance by energy (Qi). The combination of matter and energy created what we perceive as the universe. The second quotation explains that all nature is either Yin or Yang and that it is Qi, “the immaterial breath” that balances the two.
Qigong exercises can be sub-divided into Passive Qigong and Active Qigong, and these can be further sub-divided into Medical, Martial and Spiritual Qigong.
- Active Qigong is when there is body movement along with the movement of Qi – Shibashi exercises, Embroidered Brocade, etc.
- Passive Qigong is when there is no body movement and the focus is purely on moving the Qi – Standing as a Tree, Standing as a Column.
- Medical (health) Qigong promotes the smooth, free-flow of the Qi in the meridians. When there is a deficiency or stagnation of the Qi, this leads to illness. Qigong balances and harmonises the Qi, bringing health and vitality.
- Martial Qigong packs Qi into the facia and organs. This is to strengthen the body so that it can withstand heavy blows, etc. The most famous of these sets of qigong are Iron Shirt and Golden Bell.
- Spiritual Qigong is used to alter states of awareness, giving access to higher levels of being.
Stillness within Qigong
With Yoga, one of the goals is to find stillness within. The Taoist sages said that this stillness, the stillness within stillness, is not the true stillness – only when there is stillness within movement is it the true stillness. In Qigong you can find this stillness within movement, but you will also find movement within stillness.
Our universe is in constant flux, the change is ceaseless with the myriad qualities of Qi swirling, altering and manifesting in different forms and energetic fields. This flux is reflected in each of us, the continual changes in the quality of our Qi affects us physically, emotionally and spiritually. These changes start with the Qi before being manifest as physical or emotional dis-ease. Therefore by practising Qigong we can ward off disease before it can be come established. Qigong is now being positively promoted for people who are recovering from major illnesses and surgery heart bypass etc. However, it is not being used to anywhere near its full potential as a method of treating chronic illness, or for its potential to treat illness at a sub-clinical level.
Qigong within Chinese Medicine
The cornerstone of Chinese medicine is built on the concept that the universe is made of Qi and that all living things have a particular quality of this Qi. Qi is life, without Qi life does not exist. During the Healing Qigong course you are taught to listen to the Qi, and by using these listening skills you are able to identify the changes in the Qi occurring during the treatment. This instantaneous feed-back brings accuracy and confidence, and in the knowledge that all illnesses have an energetic pattern you can treat any dis-ease that may be presented to you.
As a therapy, Healing Qigong can be used either on its own or to augment any other therapy. In China it is used in the treatment of cancer as part of a regime that may use allopathic medicine, surgery, or Traditional Chinese medicine (herbalism and acupuncture). Although Qigong is the Chinese name for this type of therapy, as a method of healing it is known to exist in many different cultures. Even with the new scientific technology available to us today, the validity of these ancient arts has not been diminished and current research is only now rediscovering the wisdom of our forbears.
Theoretically, Qigong follows the same rules as Acupuncture, Shiatsu, etc. in that it uses the concept of Yin and Yang, uses the meridian system and the exceptional vessels, and incorporates the Five Element Theory. The goal is to reduce excess and feed deficiency, reducing Yang conditions and increasing Yin conditions. In acupuncture this balancing is brought about by the techniques of stimulation and reduction that involve the way in which the needles are turned, or inserted and retracted. In Shiatsu these conditions are known as Kyo/Jitsu and the techniques are called tonification and sedation. These techniques are utilised to facilitate the raising or lowering of the condition (Yin or Yang), to either cool or heat the Qi in order to achieve a particular result; healing the patient, or to act as prevention against illness.
By practising Qigong, the therapist/practitioner can increase their Qi capacity, and their ability to direct the Qi, so that the energy can be used during treatment. The therapist is also able to prescribe specific Qigong exercises to be used by the client in the healing process. For the healer to heal, he/she must first be healthy and have strong Qi. By the daily practice of Qigong, the therapist/practitioner remains in good health (the immune system is boosted and the endocrine system is more active). This health is not confined to the mere physical; it is health/balance of body, mind and spirit – Qi, Jing and Shen. The Qi affecting the physical, the Jing increasing and maintaining vigour, and the Shen affecting the consciousness, providing clarity of thought.
The practice of Qigong is mainly used to treat chronic aliments although it can also be used to treat acute conditions like aches and pains. However, as in most of the oriental healing arts, the Qigong therapist is like the gardener who is constantly tending his plot, weeding and making sure that the ground is nurtured – rather than the repair-man who only calls when there is already something wrong.
- A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Taiji
- Chi Kung Ameliorates Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue: A Pilot Uncontrolled Study.
- A review of clinical trials of tai chi and qigong in older adults.
- Psychophysiological outcomes of health qigong for chronic conditions: A systematic review.
- Cognitively Oriented Behavioral Rehabilitation in Combination with Chi Kung for Patients on Long-Term Sick Leave Because of Burnout: REST-A Randomized Clinical Trial.
- A preliminary study of the effects of Tai Chi and Chi Kung medical exercise on indicators of metabolic syndrome, glycaemic control, health related quality of life, and psychological health in adults with elevated blood glucose.