Qi Gong, sometimes spelled Chi-Kung (and pronounced chee-gung), is the study and practice of cultivating vital life-force through various techniques, including:
- Breathing techniques
- Guided imagery
Qi means “breath” or “air” and is considered the “vital-life-force” or “life-force energy.” Those who practice Qi gong believe that this vital-life-force penetrates and permeates everything in the universe.
Gong means “work” or “effort” and is the commitment a person puts into any practice or skill that requires time, patience, and repetition to perfect.
Through study, the individual aims to develop the ability to manipulate Qi in order to promote self-healing, prevent disease, and increase longevity.
What are the different Qi Gong techniques?
There are two types of Qi Gong practice:
- Wai Dan, which involves physical concentration and movement
- Nei Dan, which involves sitting meditation and visualizations or guided imagery
Beginners first learn physical movements coordinated with breathing techniques, according to the traditional teachings of Qi Gong. You practice sets of exercises until each movement or posture is perfected. Once you learn the form, the next step is to find the subtle flow or fluctuation of energy within the postures, movements, breathing patterns, and transitions. This is called moving meditation.
Among the exercises, there are many postures that are held for long periods of time, similar to those of yoga. They are practiced in order to strengthen the limbs and increase energetic flow. These postures fall into the category of still meditation.
Sitting meditation focuses on becoming more acquainted with the breath, body, and mind.
Moving, still, and sitting meditations can all be practiced with or without visualization. By allowing the practitioner to guide the energy in accordance with the visualization it can enhance the scope of the practice.
Qi Gong utilizes combinations of these practices in an effort to promote health and improvedigestion, boost the immune system, relieve headaches, sinus congestion, aches and pain, andstress.
What are the types of Qi Gong?
There are many forms and styles of Qi Gong, but they all fit into one of three main categories:
- Medical Qi Gong, to heal self and others
- Martial Qi Gong, for physical enhancement
- Spiritual Qi Gong, for enlightenment
Generally, all Qi Gong practitioners incorporate exercises and techniques from all three categories–the only difference is their focus.
Medical Qi Gong
This is the most common of the three categories, the oldest of the four branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the energetic foundation from which acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Chinese massage (Tui Na) originated. Thus, Qi Gong shares the foundational theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine and uses similar treatment and diagnostic methods.
There are two types of medical Qi Gong:
- Self-Healing Qi Gong, during which individuals practice Qi Gong exercises to enhance their health, prevent disease, and address illness.
- External Qi Gong or Qi Emission, during which Qi Gong practitioners emit Qi with the intention to heal others. In addition to emitting Qi for healing, a good Qi Gong practitioner should prescribe specific exercises designed to help regulate Qi. The patients incorporate these Qi Gong exercises into their daily practice as well as practicing intermittently with sessions from the Qi Gong healer/practitioner.
Martial Qi Gong
This type of Qi Gong focuses on physical enhancement. Some martial Qi Gong practitioners can break bricks, bend steel wires, place sharp objects in vulnerable parts of the body without damaging the skin, or sustain physical impact from baseball bats, physical feats deemed impossible by modern science.
Spiritual Qi Gong
This type of Qi Gong uses mantras, mudras (hand positions), sitting meditations, and prayers to pursue enlightenment. Spiritual Qi Gong teaches discipline and leads to self-awareness, tranquility, and harmony with nature and self.
Spiritual practitioners train their Qi to a much deeper level, working with many internal functions of the body. They practice to have further control of their body, mind, and spirit, with the goal of escaping from the cycle of reincarnation.
What should I expect a Qi Gong healer to do?
Qi Gong healers practice the same foundational techniques as everyone else, but they have practiced so much that they understand every move, breath, and thought behind the techniques. Through effort (“gong”), Qi Gong healers have been able to gain a deeper understanding of the exercises and aim this effort toward learning how to control Qi.
Qi Gong practitioners believe that those who have the ability to control Qi can emit Qi to heal others. This can be done in many ways depending on the healer and your needs:
- Qi Gong massage: placing hands on the receiver through massage, acupressure, or touch.
- Tool manipulation: using a pointed object, acupuncture needle, precious metals, or stones (silver, gold, brass, jade, etc.) to manipulate various areas of the body.
- Item empowerment: energizing precious metals or stones, water (for washing or drinking), teas, and herbal formulas to enhance their own healing properties.
- Qi emission: placing hands several inches above the body and emitting Qi to remove negative influences and supplement deficiencies.
- Distance healing: focusing on an individual many miles away and emitting energy with the intention of correcting his or her imbalances. Some see this as similar to a very powerful prayer.
Practitioners believe that to effectively emit Qi to help heal others, Qi Gong healers need to maintain their personal health. Therefore, they continuously practice self-healing Qi Gong to regulate their personal health. The practice of Qi Gong teaches that without self-healing, the Qi Gong healer’s ability to heal diminishes as well as his or her own health.
In addition to their strong practice, Qi Gong healers understand Traditional Chinese Medicine theory (Qi, five-element, meridians, and other theory) and its applications. A healer uses this foundational knowledge in partnership with intuition to balance the patient’s Qi. However, if a Qi Gong healer relies too heavily on theory, or too much on intuition, he or she won’t become a great healer. Only those who find the balance do so.
How might Qi Gong benefit your health and wellbeing?
All living organisms give off a bioelectric field. It is believed that a Qi Gong healer can detect these fields, as well as their imbalances. The goal of Qi Gong is to correct the imbalances that have accumulated throughout a person’s lifetime. Imbalances that can be caused by deep-seated negative emotions, trauma or injury, imbalanced/improper diet, excessive sexual activity, lack of exercise, etc.
Qi Gong practitioners believe the Qi that course through our entire being must flow properly, like a river. If there is a block, Qi becomes stagnant and prevents other parts of the body from being nourished. If the Qi flows too rapidly, it causes degeneration or exhaustion of the internal organs. The practice of Qi Gong helps to balance these energies: filling deficiencies and removing excess.
Physically, slow gentle qigong movements warm tendons, ligaments, and muscles; tonify vital organs and connective tissue; and promote circulation of body fluids (blood, synovial, lymph). Thousands of studies have shown qigong effective in helping to heal life challenges ranging from high blood pressure and chronic illness to emotional frustration, mental stress, and spiritual crisis.
Practicing Qi Gong and receiving Qi Gong healing activates acupuncture points, meridians, and organ systems, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine Therefore, practicing and receiving Qi Gong is similar to a powerful acupuncture treatment. Qi Gong also likely works in the same manner as other physical exercise to relieve emotional stress.
Qigong opens the flow of energy in meridians used in acupuncture and Chinese medicine. It enhances our ability to feel the Life Force underlying the physical world and to deepen our communication with it.