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QiGong (Chi Gong)

Chi Gong is a set of meditative exercises developed over 2,000 years ago by Taoist Monks in China. By combining simple body movements, breathing and mental imagery you can direct the flow of your body's energy to prevent disease, build strength and to advance spiritually. Qigong practice makes one sensitive to the internal operations of one's body, and it helps to reveal the body's place within nature's oneness. This permits one to build up resistance to imbalances and blockages affecting our qi, which aids the integration of one's yin and yang internal factors within the universal order -- of which we are a part. We may understand "qi" as the force that integrates the relationship between body (matter, structure) and mind (process, function). In the philosophy of qigong, a primary aim is to maintain or restore balance and harmony within the energy body and therefore, manifest changes in the physical body. Through qigong, one can build up qi and move it to where a disturbance or blockage occurs. Practitioners gain more than improved health. They learn another way of looking at and experiencing the dynamic unity of life, one far removed from the disenchanted and alienated thought-patterns common in Western civilization.

What is Qigong?

Qigong is an exercise to absorb vital energy from the universe to recover health, prolong life and promote spiritual growth.

Chinese qigong has a history of more than five thousand years. In ancient times it was widely practiced by people in the religious, medical and martial arts circles, mainly for the purpose of cultivating mental calmness, improving physical fitness and prolonging life. Through several thousand years of continuous development, a complete system of practice methods and theories was formed and the term "qigong" was established in the 1950s. Qigong comes from two Chinese words: Qi (chi) means energy and gong (Kung) means a skill or a practice. Qigong therefore means a skill or practice of cultivating energy.

Qigong is a branch of learning concerning the exercise of qi. Here the word qi has several meanings.

  • Qi refers to the air breathed in and out by man. It exists in the universe and has direct bearings on the functions of the human body. Through qigong methods, we can improve the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our bodies.
  • Qi is the medium by which the various parts of the human body, including the organs and tissues, are connected and interact on one another. The importance of qi may be seen from the old saying: "A man is alive when his qi grows but he ceases to live when his qi disappears."
  • Qi is a kind of infinitely small substance existing in the human body. Unlike the skin, bones, blood and hair, qi is invisible to the eye but forms the very essence of human life. Qigong exercises contribute to the growth of this important substance, thus adding to one's life-force and delaying the process of aging.

There are many forms of qigong exercise, but they are all designed to regulate three things: body, respiration, and mind.

  • Regulation of the body: This involves both the bodily form and the condition of the internal organs. In qigong exercise, a number of requirements are prescribed for the manner of holding various parts of the body, such as keeping the head and the spine erect, chin tucked in, joints flexed, shoulders lowered and elbows dropped. By adopting the bodily form as required, the internal organs will be placed in the right positions for performing their functions and relieved of different kinds of tension, thus avoiding unnecessary loss of energy. Appropriate bodily movements will also help exercise the internal organs and improve their functions.
  • Regulation of respiration: Normally we breathe with the nose and the mouth in a natural way In qigong exercise, however, breathing is done in a conscious manner according to various patterns, such as:
    • Abdominal respiration in which the lower abdomen swells during inhalation and contracts during exhalation.
    • Reverse abdominal respiration (kidney breathing) in which the lower abdomen contracts during inhalation and the lower ribs of the back expands.
    • Breathing while focusing your attention on "dantian". In this kind of breathing, you imagine your qi converging at "dantian", a point about 1 1/2 inches below the navel, before circulating to other parts of the body.
    • Integral respiration in which all parts of the body are involved in the exchange of qi within and without.
    • Skin respiration, which is mentally controlled.
    • All these and other breathing methods used in qigong exercise are characterized by deep, even and rhythmic breaths in both inhalation and exhalation.
  • Regulation of the mind. Modern scientific researchers have proven the physiological effects of mental activity. Through regulation of the mind (by such means as mental concentration and meditation), qigong exercise of the advanced form helps to regulate the physiological functions of man. Since all the physical activities of man are controlled by the cerebrum, "regulating the mind" is actually exercising the cerebral nerves.

Qigong is a kind of exercise that produces various effects. The most basic effect is the prevention and cure of diseases. Qigong exercise can stimulate the exchange of information inside and outside the human body, promote the accumulation of energy for sustaining life, and increase the organism's resistance to diseases. Years of practice by qigong enthusiasts have proved the remarkable efficacy of qigong exercise in treating many difficult and complicated cases of illness as well as common ailments.

Qigong is also good for molding one's temperament. Going for a state of supreme tranquility, it relieves our mind of the tension and pressure brought to bear on us by the hustle and bustle of life, thus enabling us to achieve a better mental balance.

There are various kinds of qigong -- broadly categorized as internal and external. Internal qigong is much like meditation, with visualizations in order to guide the energy. External qigong includes movement accompanying the meditation. Qigong is famous in China for curing chronic disease and promoting health.

Is qigong like Taiji?
Taiji is a form of moving qigong. One cannot truly become proficient in Taiji without understand qigong. Although Taiji has more of an emphasis on the martial arts and movement, qigong has its emphasis on energy cultivation and healing. Most of what is happening inside the mind and body while doing Taiji is qigong, but one does not see it. Without the internal qigong in Taiji, Taiji is reduced to an exercise in slow movement or dance.

Why should I learn Qigong?
Qigong can improve your physical and mental health. It provides all the benefits of meditation (reduced stress, lower blood pressure, better attitude, etc.) with physical exercises. The enhancement of the mind/body connection increases your awareness of where your body needs work - where your body needs changes related to diet, exercise, sleep, lifestyle, etc. This mind/body connection is not a trivial issue. It can influence the course of all manner of chronic diseases. In China, qigong gained its recent fame in the treatment of cancer.

What is Qi?
Qi is a kind of energy and information while qigong is a kind of exercise for regulating the whole body, mentally as well as physically. Viewing man against the backdrop of nature, it seeks to improve his faculties in an all-around way. But qigong is more than just a kind of exercise; it is also a way of knowing man and nature and a branch of learning as well. The standard answer: Qi is energy, life force, prana, that which flows through all of us and gives us life. Qi must be experienced.

Is this a religion?
Most definitely NOT. It is a tool for improving health, enhancing your mind/body connection, and connecting you with the qi or life force. It can enhance your own spirituality. You can use that to enhance your own religious path. Qigong theories are based on the philosophical concept of "li" or "dao", which is concerned with revealing the laws governing the movements of things in the world. In this sense, qigong is a science in its own right. Qigong is closely connected with traditional Chinese philosophical thoughts. It embodies much of the ancient Chinese philosophers' thinking about man and his relations with nature, about the composition and development of the world. Qigong's great beauty is that it can be used by anyone to enhance their spiritual path no matter what that path is.

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