Actually, Qi Gong (pronounced ‘chee’ ‘gong’) is all of these things…
Permeating almost all segments of current and ancient Chinese society (health, religion, arts, sports, literature, music…), Qi Gong (also known as Chi Kung) revolves around the idea of ‘Qi’ (energy or life force).
Both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Martial Arts are based upon the the concept of Qi energy.
‘Gong’ in Chinese means ‘work’ or ‘cultivate’ so:
Qi Gong literally means ‘energy work’, or ‘to build up or cultivate the life force in the body’.
It is both an art and a method of harnessing Qi (energy) through intention, breathing exercises, mindful movement and meditation.
One of the key principles of this philosophy is balance (think of the yin-yang symbol), having neither too much nor too little of anything.
The other key principle is moderation or the so-called “middle way” worldview, which is key to understanding the Chinese culture.
Practising Qi Gong can help you excel in almost any area of your life (health, career, sport, art, spirituality, relationships etc…).
However, to fully benefit from these exercises, you must first develop an awareness of the flow of Qi in your body, as well as in your environment.
Only then can you use your mind to guide the Qi to where you need it most…
What is Qi Gong?
In a chaotic, stressful and fast-changing world, many people are desperately searching for a way to slow down, manage their stress and find a natural way of addressing or preventing disease.
Qi Gong may be a non-invasive solution to many of the challenges we face today.
Through the use of intention, meditation, postures, mind-body integration, and breathing exercises, it can help you strengthen and cultivate your Qi energy and channel it throughout the body to remove any existing energy blockages and re-align scattered energy.
It can be thought of as a self care practice, moving meditation, martial art or spiritual practice.
The 3 Key Elements of Qi Gong
The purpose of any Qi Gong practice is create a harmonious coordination between the body and mind to achieve optimal health.
In Daoism, the life of a person is represented as ‘Jing‘ (body or movement), ‘Shen‘ (consciousness or spirit) and ‘Qi‘ (breath or energy). With ‘Qi’ linking both ‘Jing’ and ‘Shen’ to create a unified whole.
These 3 representations are commonly known as ‘The Three Treasures‘ and are key elements of Qi Gong.
Let’s dive a bit deeper…
1. Movement (Body)
While yoga offers similar benefits to those of Qi Gong practice, it is largely based on static poses (often in the shape of sacred geometry).
Qi Gong postures, on the other hand, are based on:
slow flowing movements that mirror nature…
It is during these movements that the flow of blood and the supply of oxygen to the body is increased.
Movement is the foundation for regulating the breath and mind. When the movement is correctly performed with relaxation, smoothness and proper alignment, then the Qi (breath) will flow and the mind (Spirit) will be at ease.
“Qi cannot circulate smoothly if the shape is improper; Mind will be restless if Qi cannot circulate smoothly; Spirit will be scattered if the mind is restless” .
2. Breathing (Energy)
Control of one’s breath is considered one of the most important aspects of Qi Gong practice…
Deep-breathing and relaxation techniques are important because they have a soothing and calming effect on your brain, encouraging alpha brain waves.
These brain waves create a state of relaxed alertness, something that’s of great importance for all martial arts forms – being relaxed, but also focused.
The aim of Qigong breathing is to encourage you to breathe in a way that creates a circular breath – starting from the belly and ending in the belly, rather than breathing from the chest, as most of us do.
The main benefit of breathing this way is that it relaxes your neck and shoulders, provides effective massage to your internal organs, and improves the flow of qi through the body.
Controlled breathing and slow movements energises the body and puts it into a parasympathetic (relaxed) state.
A 2018 study on ‘Qigong and Tai-Chi for Mood Regulation‘ published in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine stated that:
“…the slow movements in Qigong and Tai-Chi with slowing of breath frequency could alter the autonomic system and restore homeostasis, attenuating stress related to hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis reactivity and modulating the balance of the autonomic nervous system toward parasympathetic dominance.”
3. Mind (Spirit)
The main purpose of controlled breath, flowing postures and focused intent is to direct Qi (the healing energy) to where it’s needed most.
Qi Gong works on the assumption that where the mind goes, Qi (energy) follows.
So the the main benefit of Qi Gong is to increase your Qi energy levels and get it to flow to areas where your energy has become stagnant or scattered and need to be re-balanced.
It is this ability to move Qi around your body for self-healing, that is what distinguishes Qi Gong from other energy healing methods.
The ancients said that, “the key to Qi Gong practice is tranquility and tranquility gives birth to wisdom” .
This key element is to train your mind or consciousness using specific techniques (e.g. focusing on a certain part of the body) to ultimately create a peaceful state of mind. This will help to balance the emotions and improve willpower, focus and attention.
A calm and tranquil mind will enable the body to shift into a parasympathetic nervous system state of ‘rest and digest’.
When these 3 key elements of Body, Qi and Spirit work as a unified, interrelated whole, then you can achieve harmony and balance within.
The 3 Types of Qi Gong
Medical Qi Gong
With a history that goes back over 5,000 years, Qigong is considered a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Some even consider it acupuncture without needles, because both healing methods are based on manipulation of one’s energy flow.
The so-called diseases of modern civilization (such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, depression, autoimmune diseases and allergies) are reaching epidemic proportions…
However, according to a 2006 review, well over 70% of several diseases are potentially preventable and a recent report on chronic diseases by the World Health Organization, states that “80% of premature heart disease, stroke and diabetes can be prevented“.
Qi Gong can help with many of the life-threatening diseases simply by directing the Qi energy to the diseased or weakened part of the body where energy flow has, for some reason, been blocked.
The recent findings and revelations in the area of Quantum Physics are now starting to provide the scientific evidence needed to change the perception and worldview of the mas population on this.
This means that self-healing is not a so called ‘miracle’, but is within the reach of anyone who has learnt the tools Quantum Self Care.
According to TCM, at the root of all health problems are blockages in our meridians (energy centres) which prevent Qi energy from circulating throughout the body.
Blockages can be of physical, mental, or spiritual origin (such as undigested food, stress, grief etc…) and before a body or mind can heal, these blockages need to be released.
There are many therapeutic methods based on energy healing (such as homeopathy, Reiki, chakra healing, energy psychology, acupuncture and acupressure etc.), but the two that developed exclusively around the idea of uninterrupted circulation of life energy as the main prerequisite for a healthy body and mind, are acupuncture and Qi Gong.
Qi gong is a simple, yet very effective way of self-healing and disease prevention. It can also be used to enhance other energy medicine therapies.
When stress, a poor diet or negative emotions create blockages or scattered energy in your body, this disrupts the flow of Qi energy which eventually manifest in the physical realm as an imbalance in some of your vital functions.
We now know that the build-up of toxins (physical or emotional) that causes a Qi imbalance, is the cause of most physical and emotional disorders.
However, Qi is found both within us and around us, so the state of your health will to a large degree depend on the quality of Qi both in your body and in your environment (e.g. the clean air in rural areas vs the polluted air of the big cities, or the nurturing atmosphere of a happy family vs the toxic atmosphere of a family plagued with violence, addiction, or poverty).
15 common health disorders that Qi Gong can assist with:
- Anxiety and depression
- Chronic fatigue
- Negative mood and low self-esteem
- Upper respiratory infections
- Autism and Attention Deficit Disorders in children
- High blood pressure
- Heart disorders
- Chronic pain including fibromyalgia
- Headaches and migraines
- Post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD)
- Pre-menstrual syndrome
- Balance and posture
That’s one useful treatment modality!
Qi Gong in Martial Arts
Qi Gong is also the foundation of many martial arts forms and it revolves around the idea that energy generated by a person with a strong external Qi can be a powerful, and sometimes even a deadly weapon in self-defense or attack.
To become a true master of martial arts, one has to learn how to control the flow of Qi through one’s body. However, for this to happen they first need to be in control of their mind.
As with everything else in China, balance is the key, so for the best results, Yin and Yang have to be in perfect harmony.
The main activator of Qi (i.e. of energy needed for a fight) is the mind and not the raw physical strength.
So, to get the muscles to generate force, the mind must first direct Qi to the muscles which need to be activated.
When the strength of the physical body (Yang) and a smoothly flowing Qi inside the body (Yin) support each other, you can be sure that your internal and external powers are “in sync”.
In other words, strength without the mind to control it and direct it is of very limited use to oriental fighting styles.
But, if physical strength and mental strength are coordinated (i.e. if there is a Yin-Yang balance), you get a perfect martial art form.
Spiritual Qi Gong
Most people outside East Asia are probably not even aware of their own Qi, let alone how they could harness it.
However, the good news is that this energy lying dormant within us can be awakened and strengthened by tapping into the Universal energy around us – using Qi Gong exercises.
Whichever type or form of Qi Gong you decide to use, there is always an element of the spirit in the process. However, if you want to focus specifically on the spiritual aspect of Qi Gong, you have to have at least basic knowledge of the key elements of Chinese philosophy, particularly the Yin-Yang, the Five Element and the The Three Treasure philosophies.
Developing spiritual awareness with Qi Gong can be approached in two ways. On the one hand, from the Taoist point of view, the chief purpose of spiritual Qi Gong is to achieve enlightenment and become one with nature. On the other, the spiritual effect of Qi Gong can be explained through the ability to use your intention to heal yourself – the placebo effect.
There is no simple explanation as to how Qi Gong contributes to healing, however, Quantum Science is now providing many significant insights.
If we can control our mind, breath and body and direct Qi energy to where it is needed most, this causes very real biochemical changes in the body (now proven by science).
Positive thoughts, visualisation and intention are very much part of Qi Gong practice.
As the Shaolin Monastery grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit pointed out:
“Qi Gong therapy, as well as other branches of Chinese medicine, can be reduced to two simple principles: the cleansing of meridians to achieve harmonious energy flow, and the restoration of yin-yang balance”.
Do you practice Qi Gong or would like to learn more?
As a qualified Qi Gong instructor I can give you the self-care tools you need to thrive.
To schedule a consultation with me on-line or in-person, you can contact me HERE: https://soniaperezchinesemedicine.com/contact/
. Li, W.L. & Wang, J.F., 2010; A journey into Health QiGong. Published be People’s Medical Publishing House
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Sonia Perez Chinese Medicine or its staff.