Qigong (chi kung) Qi (or chi) is often characterised as energy, (or breath, vital essence, or even air) Gong (Kung) means work, self-discipline, achievement or mastery. Qigong is a Chinese system of physical training, philosophy, and preventive and therapeutic health care, and is used as a way of conserving health and preventing diseases. Hospitals in China, use Qigong in the treatment of diseases and it is taught to patients as a means to maintain health and recover while recuperating from illness. The slow pace of the movements promotes concentration and relaxation, and having to remember and repeat the exercises keeps the mind active and alert.
Qigong uses special exercises and meditations for building healing energy, cultivating the life force and channelling it throughout the body for healing yourself and others. Developing human energy, its healing potential, and strengthening the flow of the life force has been a high priority in the Chinese culture since ancient times. We do not know how old qigong is, but we do know that some turtle-shell artefacts show the art was important at least 7,000 years ago and archaeological evidence suggests the practice may go back a million years¹.
The ‘Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine’² written about 2,000 years ago is the first book to systematically describe qigong practice. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the energy relating to the body’s internal organs flows around the extremities of the body i.e. the hands and the feet consequently the health of the internal organs can be improved and strengthened by stretching the arms and legs in specific movements. Qigong help us to gain control of the body and mind, leading to changes in the state of our health, in particular it eliminates emotional disorders and improves the status of physiological and biochemical systems.
Qigong exercises gradually reduce any nervous tension, which is then reflected throughout the body contributing to the body's rest, recovery and functional regulation. By being relaxed and using quiet and deep diaphragmatic breathing rather than upper chest breathing, we massage the abdominal organs, helping to improve our digestive function; breathing this way results in increased lung capacity and strengthened metabolism. Through qigong, one can build up qi and then move it to where a disturbance or blockage occurs.
It was not only the frugal Taoists who practised Qigong, but also practitioners of martial arts where it is used as a special method of training to improve skills such as endurance, strength, agility, concentration, determination, etc ..
Taoist philosopher Wang Chong AD 27-97 wrote:"Qi produces the human body just as water becomes ice. As water freezes into ice, so Qi coagulates to form the human body. When ice melts, it becomes water. When a person dies, he or she becomes spirit (shen) again. It is called spirit, just as melted ice changes its name to water."
Anyone can learn qigong, experience Qi, and feel its effect on their body.
¹ Dong, Paul and Aristide H Esser. Chi Gong: The Ancient Chinese Way to Health. (New York: Paragon House.1990).
²Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine. 2nd ed. Berkeley: (University of California Press). 1972.