By Jeff Patterson 6/9/09
Qigong (or chi gong) is an internal art focusing on the study and practice of the breath and how your breath is directly correlated with the body’s over all circulation, health and well being. There are many styles of Qigong and many reasons one might start a practice.
What is Qigong for Strength?
It is common that many people are introduced to Qigong through the study of martial arts. Qigong can be used in the martial arts to increase your power, endurance, focus, raise your fighting spirit, and increase your health and prevention of injuries. All of these are valuable for any athlete, especially if you are training hard and pushing your body.
What is Qigong for Healing?
Another common reason some people turn to Qigong is the medical benefits. Qigong is used to cure and aid in the prevention of many diseases some of which include arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, insomnia, mental illness and many others, the list and the stories go on. Hearing some of these testimonials on how Qigong has helped thousands of people with so called incurable diseases is one of the main reasons it so strongly drew my attention and has made it a lifelong practice for myself.
Others will turn to the practice wanting to become healers or acupuncturists. In my home town there are three fairly large acupuncture schools; it has become pretty mainstream. It is hard to drive anywhere around town without seeing at least one acupuncture clinic. There are two paths one can take when studying Qigong to become a healer. The first one, and by far the easiest, is to learn the theory and use either needles, massage or herbs to help your patient prevent and overcome illness. By far the most difficult would be to learn the former and live the life of a true Qigong master creating abundant energy that you can pass along to your patients to aid in healing as well as teaching them how to develop a practice that will show them how to cure themselves.
What is Qigong for the Mind/Spirit?
Some people will turn to Qigong for the spiritual benefits searching for a more meaningful connection with nature and the universe. There are two main schools of thought with spiritual or religious Qigong, Taoist and Buddhist approaches. Both use Qigong for the health benefits as well as to quiet their minds open up their natural spirit and become enlightened.
What is Qigong – The Theory
When answering the question “What is Qigong?” it is helpful to analyze the roots of the art. The Chinese character for Qi in Qigong means air. Gong means skill, hard work and discipline, so Qigong therefore means breath work or skill, along with consistent practice. It is believed by Qigong practitioners that there is a direct link between breathing techniques and the electrical force that gives life and exists everywhere in the universe. In China Qigong was becoming so popular in the late 20th century that the Chinese government became concerned that Qigong would turn into a political weapon and in 1999 banned all large gatherings of Qigong practice. Most Western medical practitioners and many practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, as well as the Chinese government, view Qigong as a set of breathing and movement exercises with benefits to health through stress reduction and exercise. Other practitioners view Qigong in more metaphysical terms, claiming that Qi can be felt as a vibration or electrical current and physically circulated through channels called meridians. Many testify to a reduction or elimination of pain through the use of Qigong. With the practice of Da Mo’s muscle/tendon changing and marrow/brain washing one is able to build the external and internal body to a powerful state. These exercises are used for injury prevention as well as developing great physical abilities.
What is Qigong – The lifestyle
In all Qigong practices, it is taught that through the practice of humility ones spirit can reach the highest level. There is an old famous Chinese story of a poor beggar child about 15 years old who every day went to a local bridge where he would beg people for money or food. One day an old man threw his shoe off the bridge and told the boy to go fetch it. The boy said “yes, sir” and went to retrieve his shoe. As soon as he returned the old man threw it over the bridge again and told the boy to go fetch the shoe. The boy, thinking he was a crazy old man but too cripple to go fetch it himself, went one more time to fetch the shoe. When he returned the old man told the boy to put the shoe on his foot and he did. The old man thought since the boy was so willing to bend or be flexible that he might be worthy of some ancient manuscripts regarding martial arts and combat. So, he told the boy if he wanted the manuscripts that he should meet him first thing in the morning at a place up in the mountains. The boy, so excited, said “Yes, sir I will be there.” The boy arrived at the crack of dawn and the old man was already there. He said “You are late. You made me wait. Come back tomorrow first thing.” And so he did, 4 am, still dark when he arrived, again the old man already there said “Come back tomorrow.” Not being able to sleep the boy stayed up all night and was there waiting on the mountain at 1 am when the old man arrived and said “You are flexible and determined. You show respect and good discipline. Here are the three manuscripts I promised.” Later, the boy became a famous general in the Chinese army. The moral of the story that being humble is a necessity for raising the spirit and will make you a respected leader.
Qigong is so deep there is no way I could touch on all of the areas of study. There are thousands of books and studies on the subject and if you are interested in starting a practice, read as many as you can. The best and only way to develop a solid Qigong practice is to find a good teacher who will show you how to approach this vast art so you will move forward in the direction of your interest. One of the main reasons you cannot learn from reading book or studying videos is that you have to experience the “feeling”; a good teacher can show you this and show you what to do with your training as it progresses.