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Qigong page navigationWhat is Qigong?What is Qi?

Qigong calligraphyWhat Is Qigong? 

Also spelled Chi Kung, and pronounced chee gung, qigong literally means "breath work", or "energy practice". Although there are undoubtedly qigong or qigong-like practices from many cultures, I am only familiar with, and speaking about, Chinese qigong. Qigong is a general term that refers to hundreds of different exercises from Taoist, Buddhist, martial and medical arts traditions. Some are very modern and some are thousands of years old. It should be noted that qigong is a new word, coined in the 1950's or 60's. The more traditional term is Dao Yin, which roughly means guiding and leading, and refers to the intent and effect of many of these exercises– building qi and moving it through our body/mind systems.

Qigong exercises are based on the principles of yin and yang, also known as the Tao. There are self-exercises to develop the level and integrity of qi flow in the practitioner; and there are methods, sometimes referred to as "qigong healing" where a practitioner's energy is directed to affect an other person's system for balancing and healing purposes. There are case histories where people have attributed healing of mild and severe health imbalances to the practice of qigong and/or qi healing from a trained clinician. Most of the time this requires a very dedicated effort over a long period of time and many hours of practice or treatment. This doesn't make such healing any less remarkable, but shows that qigong is not magic. We might say, "you get what you pay for", the Chinese saying is , "you become what you practice". In my opinion, the best way to practice qigong is for wellness, strengthening and maintenance your body. It is much easier to maintain and increase good health, than to rebuild it when it is already diminished. Start now, and practice regularly!

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Body, Breath and MindDave Yi Healing Sound Qigong posture 

Most qigong exercises involve posture/movement (also known as form or frame), some type of regulated breathing, and mental focus. Qigong routines can be simple or complex, short or lengthy to practice, and can be done standing, walking, sitting and lying down. Some are quite vigorous and demanding, others can be practiced by people who are weak or sick to regain strength and health. Some involve making sounds or vibrations. The mind can be used to actively guide and lead qi, or one can enter into stillness and emptiness. If you are getting the idea that qigong practices are many and varied, you are right!  Though this can be confusing at first glance, it shows how complicated and adaptable we humans are.

All types of qigong work to develop and organize the energy within us, which leads to improved levels of functioning in our body/mind/spirit.Dave Storing graphic With continued practice, qigong can effect our being and outlook in many ways, guiding us to deeper self-knowledge, and more balanced integration with our environment. There are, of course, many differences among these various practices and this leads to an important point. It is good to figure out ahead of time what you want to get out of your practice, what your goals are, as this helps determine how and what to practice. For instance– do you want to learn to quiet and focus your mind through a meditative practice, discover and release energy blockages in your system, generally improve your vitality and wellness, develop a stronger body, become more in harmony with the environment, strengthen or heal a specific organ or area in your body, or maybe just put a smile on your face? With time, the right practice and a good attitude you can accomplish all these things.

Maybe you don't know what you want, or even what to look for. If you are lucky enough to live in an area with several teachers available, go watch or participate in some different classes. See how they are practicing. Is the teacher attentive to the students? Are they enjoying themselves? Do you like the feel of the class? Trust your judgement on this, it is important to enjoy what you are doing so that you will continue to practice. Then give it an honest try, I'd say at least a couple months. In that time you will learn something and be better able to evaluate the practice. (Top)





Qi calligraphy  Wang Jin-HuaiWhat is Qi? 

The character in the calligraphy at left represents qi (chi). One of the most direct translations is "breath" or "oxygen". Qi is also thought of as vital energy or life force. It is the spark that nurtures and motivates all things and activities. Qi is inside us and all around us all the time. It is invisible, yet it can be felt and experienced. Classically, qi is identified and named according to its state or condition, and its activities, ie where it is and what it is doing. You can have deficient or excess qi, stagnant or flowing qi, clear or turbid qi, heart or kidney qi, yin qi and yang qi, and so on. In Chinese medicine the state and quality of qi is diagnosed by its "traces" in the body, what we call signs and symptoms.  To greatly oversimplify, muscular pain and stiffness would suggest stagnant qi, general weakness and fatigue with an inability to stay warm indicates deficient qi, and so on. There is much more to diagnosis than this, but it gives you the idea.

Much can be learned about a concept or object in Chinese by looking at the character that represents it. Most Chinese characters are not a simple word, but a more complex picture or story. This is one of the reasons Chinese can be a difficult language to translate well. In the character for qi, the lower part represents the four compass points with a grain of rice in each of the directions. The upper part represents a steam or vapor. With this in mind, we can think of qi as an invisible force that performs work, and as something that is formless, nourishing, and everywhere. (Top)


Where does Qi come from?Dave Prayer Hands posture 

In simple terms we have pre-natal and post-natal qi in our systems. Pre-natal, or original, qi comes from our parents. It is what grows out of the union of their sperm and egg. We might think of this as our genetic inheritance, it gets us started and gives us a basis to develop from. Post-natal qi comes from two sources– the food and drink we take in, and the air we breathe. We eventually do become what we eat and breathe! It is  also possible to absorb qi directly from the environment, including from another person. This is sort of a sub category of post-natal qi, and usually involves some special training or practice such as qigong.


Five functions of Qi 

  • Qi is the source of all movement and accompanies all movement.
  • Qi protects and defends the body.
  • Qi is the source of transformation and change in the body.
  • Qi governs the containment, or "holding in" of all things in the body.
  • Qi warms the body.



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