Qi means life-force energy. Gong means effort, exercise or techniques.
Qigong, therefore, includes exercises used to tap life force energy from the universe into our bodies. Further, it involves slow and gentle movements of the body. These movements coordinate with breathing. Normally, it also incorporates visualization and imagery.
Every person is a living matrix of Qi. Therefore, the state of our energy affects the way we feel and think. Similarly, the way we think and feel affects the state of our energy. The first step to becoming skilled in working with your Qi is to be able to sense and feel your Qi. There are days you feel tired. On other days, you feel energized and revitalized. Hence, to bring a balance of Qi in your body, Qigong would be the perfect exercise. It helps your body to experience energy.
There are two major techniques used in Qigong.
The first one is Wai Dan or external elixir. It is mainly taught to beginners. This technique involves sets of physical movements with coordinated breathing. Sets of exercises are usually practiced until each posture is well perfected. Once a posture is well learnt, learners get to know the flow of energy. Each posture has a specific flow of energy to various parts of the body. As the energy flows, coordinated breathing helps to sense the flow of Qi throughout the body.
The second technique is Nei Dan, also known as the internal elixir. Nei Dan involves still meditation. In this technique, individuals practice poses similar to yoga. Through meditation, one learns how to focus on breathing, body and mind. While at it, visualization and imagery are at play. It is through this meditation that individuals tap energy from the universe. They guide it throughout the body.
Types of Qigong
Qigong comes in many forms. But these fall into three broad categories.
First of all, there is spiritual Qigong. Its intention is to bring enlightenment. Also, it draws us closer to our spirit. Spiritual Qigong makes use of hand positions, sitting postures and mantras. During these sessions, practitioners recite prayers. Techniques used in Spiritual Qigong borrow from Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism principles. For this reason, it helps to promote harmony and tranquility with oneself and nature. The ultimate goal of spiritual Qigong is to teach individuals how to sync their mind, body and spirit. As such, they are able to escape from the cycle of reincarnation.
Secondly, there is medical Qigong. It is the most common form of Qigong practiced. Acupuncture and Chinese massage (tui na) originated from medical Qigong. This shows that Qigong and Traditional Chinese Medicine are closely related.
There are two types of medical Qigong. To begin with, individuals practice self-healing Qigong. The aim is to enhance health, address illness or prevent disease. Besides that, medical Qigong practitioners use external Qigong (Qi emission). They emit Qi in order to heal others. Their energy concentration helps to get rid of the pain in their patients. Also, the practitioners also prescribe specific Qigong exercises for their patients.
Finally, we have martial Qigong done for physical prowess. Practitioners demonstrate extraordinary physical abilities. Abilities that seem impossible in real life. These include breaking bricks, bending steel or placing sharp objects in their bodies. All this time, they do not break bones or suffer injury.
Benefits of Qigong
First of all, medical Qigong reduces chronic pain. Research has shown significant pain reduction in patients. This is when compared to those who use conventional medical treatment. Qigong increases patients’ energy levels and improves their physical functions.
In addition to that, Qigong helps to improve immunity. There are medical reports indicate that Qigong helps to prevent chronic illnesses such as cancer. It also helps to reduce and suppress the symptoms in cancer patients. Also, Qigong improves the quality of life, reduces fatigue and lowers the levels of cortisol.
Furthermore, Qigong reduces the effects of stress. It promotes a personal psychological well-being. It helps to reduce depression and anxiety as well as promoting self-efficacy. Also, it helps with reduced gastritis and ulcers owing to the close connection between digestion and stress.
Even more, Qigong lowers the risk of falling over. This is especially so among older adults aged above 70 years and above. Qigong improves body balance and boosts physical performance.
Finally, Qigong improves the health of the heart and other internal organs. Qigong movements stimulate natural energy in an individual’s body. The movements make the body warmer. Thus, they improve blood circulation and drainage of the lymphatic system. Studies show that Qigong improves stamina, strengthens the heart and boosts circulation. These help to lower stress levels. For this reason, heart diseases are rare among people who practice Qigong.