What is Qi Gong
Qigong is a collective term for the many systems of therapeutic exercises developed in China. Qi means animating spirit; gong means practice. There are many styles of qigong, ancient and modern, developed for medical healing, spiritual opening, or for gaining martial arts prowess. All qigong systems share certain fundamentals: conscious breathing, postures (with movements) and focussed mental intention. Chinese Medicine often speaks of the lower, middle and upper regions (burners) of the abdomen. Although not precisely analogous, qigong systems constitute a methodical path of self-cultivation working in progressively with these regions. In Qigong parlance they are referred to as lower, middle and upper dan tien (fields of transformation) a term that first appeared in the writings of Ge Hong (283-343 CE), 4th generation master of the Jade Purity Daoist tradition.
In qigong, we cultivate our lives as we experience communication among our internal energetics and our stance as humans in the world, dynamically poised between the heavens above and the earth below.
Qigong as a Complete Modality
Qigong can be used in many ways: as gentle exercise, as preliminary practice to other things, as a support for acupuncture, herbal medicine or dietary focus. From its own point of view, however, qigong practice can be a stand alone modality, capable of facilitating all the transformations necessary for an individual at different times of their life. In practice, qigong is usually combined skillfully with diet, lifestyle discipline, acupuncture, herbs, meditation, Western Medicine and any other modality. The difference is that, like constructing an herbal formula or a therapeutic diet, qigong can be the Principal modality with others used for fine tuning and support as Associate, Assistant, Harmonizer and so forth, or, for example, Western Medicine is used as the Principal modality with Qigong as an Associate, Assistant, Envoy or Harmonizer. No way is better or worse. The place of qigong in an individual's life depends best upon personal choice and a varitey of personal markers that a teacher can assess.
Qigong and its Benefits
Each person who practices even a bit of qigong should understand very clearly what they are focusing on as they practice. For qigong to be authentic we need to have a very clear idea of what we are doing on the levels of body (postural/movement work, Jing), energy (breath work, Qi), and mind (focused intention, Yi, Shen). The movements should be precise, but qigong is never only about the movements. The role of a teacher is to introduce the traditional movements and insure that understanding matches movements, no matter how simple or complex the practice.
Once some fluency in the practical language of qigong is developed, a general set of qigong can be applied in many different ways. Now you are in control of your practice, like a master violinist who can express nearly anything through Beethoven’s violin concerto without changing a single note of the written score. To be more pragmatic, when practicing a well-known qigong set such as the Eight Silk Brocades (Ba Duan Jin), a skilled practitioner can use the set for strength training, boosting immunity, relaxing specific energetic excess, tonifying qi, building blood, generating fluids, and so forth. At this level, one has learned to locate and call energy, then apply the principles of Chinese medical practice. Qigong then becomes a complete modality of Chinese Medicine, as important as acupuncture or herbal therapy.
In spiritual or religious qigong, the intention is to facilitate the opening of portals of awareness. Once open, the world outside our narrow self becomes more real; possibilities open.
Martial arts qigong begins with grounding practice and proceeds from strengthening work to the development of explosive speed and power.
As different as the three categories of qigong are—each includes many separate complete systems—there are broad similarities. All qigong begins with grounding and includes some transformation from material to energy, or at least the sensation of this. In the meantime, benefits abound from the first time we synchronize our breathing, stance and eyes during our first qigong lesson.