A gentle practice that can help to improve focus, immunity, balance, and coordination, with simple to learn movements that can be done by anyone, regardless of fitness level.
Definition of Qigong
Qigong (pronounced chee-gong) is an ancient Chinese practice that involves moving meditation, controlled breathing and static postures. The translation of the word "Qi" is a combination of two Chinese kanji characters, which are Air, and Rice.
The combination of these characters mean 'energy' in Chinese terminology, as Qi is cultivated inside our body from the air we breathe, and the food we eat, two of the essential components to sustain life.
The 2nd character in Qigong, "gong," suggests cultivation or mastery, therefore the word Qigong is roughly translated as: 'internal energy cultivation', or more simply, 'energy work'. There are many variations of Qigong taught throughout the globe. A few of these include breathing and meditation, to promote spiritual development as well as health and wellness, while others are much more vigorous, and incorporate martial arts practices.
Tai chi, a popular mind-body workout, is occasionally referred to as a type of Qigong, because it "cultivates influences and distributes Qi throughout the body, during practice".
Qigong vs Tai Chi
While they share numerous attributes, Qigong and Tai Chi are actually two distinctive methods of practice, which have overlapping outcomes for the practitioner. Nevertheless, when it comes to the positive benefits that both practices have, it is better to concentrate on the resemblances between Qigong and Tai Chi, rather than on their differences.
The method of Tai Chi, when practiced slowly, in my point of view, is comparable to a form of Qigong. The aim of the practitioner is to increase their awareness and also control over their 'life force', and guide this energy throughout the body, to release stagnation, improve the function of vital organs, and ease tension and stress.
Many forms of Qigong practice entail easy, slow-moving techniques, combined with smooth and controlled breathing, which is often described as 'moving meditation'.
Even though the movements of Qigong might be different from those of Tai Chi in many cases, both techniques integrate strength, balance and flexibility, with breathing practice, focused attention and visualisation.
The biggest difference between Qigong and Tai Chi has more in common with the public's understanding or perception of these mind-body methods, than it does with the practices itself.
Baduanjin - The Eight Pieces of Brocade
Among the most common types of Qigong is the 'Eight Pieces of Brocade' or Baduanjin, which utilises eight distinct exercises aimed at stretching and relaxing the muscles of the body, in particular the spine, and allowing energy to flow naturally throughout the bodies Meridian network.
The Movements of Baduanjin
The movements of Baduanjin are:
1. Pressing the Heavens with Two Hands
2. Drawing the Bow and Letting the Arrow Fly
3. Separating Heaven and Earth
4. Wise Owl Gazes Backward
5. Shake the Head and Swing the Tail
6. Touching the Toes then Bending Backwards
7. Punching With Angry Gaze
8. Bouncing on the Toes
Persecution of Qigong Practitioners in China
There are religious sects [in China] that have Qigong practices, and this has caused political friction between several of these sects and the Chinese federal government, due to the fact that they're 'cult-like' and ‘esoteric’. Chinese authorities denounced one kind of Qigong, known as Falun Gong or Falun Dafa, labelling it a cult in 1999. This caused a huge demonstration of Falun Gong enthusiasts in Beijing, which triggered the federal government to disallow the practice entirely, bringing about the arrests of hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners.
The subsequent imprisonment as well as torture of these practitioners’ motivated actions from human rights companies, as well as several resolutions from the United States Congress, that denounced the Chinese federal government’s fascism, of what it referred to as a "peaceful spiritual activity."
I find it a terrible shame that a practice as deep and profound as Falun Gong was shunned and outlawed in China, as at one point there were more than 100 million practitioners of this Qigong, practicing daily throughout the world.
Exercise vs. Healing
For a number of those that exercise it, Qigong is a specific mind-body exercise, much like Yoga. Yet there is also another form of Qigong that focuses on healing others. The Qigong techniques you practice yourself are distinguished from what's known as 'external Qigong,' which is a technique that resembles distant Reiki healing techniques. In external Qigong, a therapist first diagnoses an individual according to the principles of conventional Chinese medicine (TCM), and after that utilises their hands to "emit Qi", to promote recovery, as noted in a 2010 paper, published in the American Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, which evaluated the wellness benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi. The authors of the paper concluded that both internal Qigong (solo training method) as well as external Qigong (clinician-emitted Qi) are effective at impacting the balance and also flow of energy, and also boosting performance of the body and the mind.
However research into the broader, associated field of biotherapy treatment is continuous and more studies are needed. One pilot research study, released in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, reviewed randomized controlled studies of biofield treatments, consisting of external Qigong, Healing Touch, Johrei, Reiki, and Therapeutic Touch, and discovered that two thirds of the 18 trials evaluated demonstrated at the very least partial effectiveness. This led the authors in conclusion that more research in this field is warranted.
Scientific support of Qigong practice
One of the largest fields of research involving Qigong is the 2010 review of 66 studies, with a total of 6,410 participants, published in the American Journal of Complementary Medicine.
The researchers incorporated Qigong and Tai Chi studies in their review, and did discover different favourable outcomes, suggesting that both forms of exercise improve bone health and balance. A 2007 research study published in Journal of Hypertension, found that Qigong workouts had a mildly positive impact in lowering high blood pressure, though the writers did state that further research was needed to validate these outcomes.
The writers of a 2007 research study & published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine issued a similar statement, concluding that Qigong exercise has a mildly positive effect on controlling diabetic issues. Research is ongoing into the effectiveness of Qigong as a complementary treatment for cancer patients.
My Experience Practicing Qigong
Over the past twenty years I have been training in Internal Martial Arts, I have experienced first had the wonderful benefits Qigong and Tai Chi have had in reducing my stress levels, improving my concentration and focus, and helping me to avoid common illnesses such as colds and flus, that often affect members of my household, particularly in winter months.
I can say without doubt that my dedication to Qigong practice has made a significant difference in the quality of my life, and I am confident if you give the practice a try, you will see the same benefits too.
Qigong can be performed by anyone, regardless of age, or physical fitness levels, and may just help to change your life for the better.
If you are interested in learning more, you can see tutorial videos on our website: www.kungfuonline.com.au, or our You Tube channel Wu Xing Dao Kung Fu.