Qigong (“chee-gong”) is an over 5000 year-old Chinese health method that combines slow graceful movements with mental concentration and breathing to increase and balance a person’s vital energy. It has been popularly referred to as Chinese yoga. Qigong is an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, along with acupuncture, acupressure, and herbal medicine. Literally millions of people practice Qigong in China and around the world each day to successfully treat diseases ranging from osteoarthritis to cancer, to improve their overall health. Qigong is especially effective in reducing stress, thereby enhancing the immune system and preventing illness. As such, it is a proven way to implement anti-aging (for more information on the research that has shown this, see The Scientific Basis of Qigong and Energy Medicine). Qigong shows people how to take more responsibility for their own health care and achieve benefits for their body, mind, and spirit. This is vitally important in our society in the face of declining health care services and options. Qigong is not just a physical exercise system or a healing technique; it is a way of being.
Qigong can be done sitting, lying down, standing, or moving. The Qigong shown below is standing and moving Qigong. The main psyiological differences between the moving and non-moving forms of Qigong are additional oxygen intake and the exercise of additional parts of the body. There are thousands of different forms and movements of Qigong. Shown below are repeated movements. There are other forms of Qigong that are similar to Tai Chi in that they take some amount of time to complete, e.g. Wild Goose IV can take eight minutes or more, depending upon how slow the form is done. Another example of a Qigong form that involves many individual movements is Wild Goose 5 demonstrated by Medical Qigong Master Bingkun Hu. Thus, the term "form" can refer to individual movements repeated, as shown below, or a form like a Tai Chi form, that can take years to learn and up to forty minutes or more to repeat once. By contrast, the forms shown below are repeated movements. Repeating the same Qigong movement over and over is sometimes referred to as 'Tai Chi Qigong', but more commonly, just 'Qigong.' The easier movements can be learned very quickly. Qigong requires no special clothing or place to practice, is free, and can be done anytime.
As with the rest of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the main focus of Qigong is eliminating deficiency (associated with chronic illness) and stagnation (indicated by pain) of your qi (energy) through a combination of movement, breathing, and awareness. At first, the dynamic adjustment of posture, breath, and mind is only done during the time you set aside to do Qigong. With more practice, you’ll begin doing these adjustments throughout the day as Qigong becomes a natural part of your life and personal healthcare program.
Practicing Qigong - The Three Intentful Corrections
"Qigong is not exercise -- it is dynamic meditation. Doing repetitions is not the focus - it is conscious application of the three intentful corrections - lengthen the spine, deepen the breath, clear the mind or visualize healing." Dr. Roger Jahnke, OMD.
The first intentful correction (i.e. mindful adjustment) involves body posture. Incorrect posture results in decreased or blocked energy flow, the unnecessary expenditure of energy, a decrease in stamina, and greater susceptibility to injury or illness. An excellent text on posture and balance that can have a dramatic effect upon your health, all by itself, is Ageless Spine, Lasting Health: The Open Secret to Pain-Free Living and Comfortable Aging
. Doing moving forms of Qigong is a particularly appropriate way to train for sports like climbing because you must adjust and be totally aware of your weight distribution, balance, and posture as you make each move.
The second intentful correction involves breathing. In spite of years or decades of practice, most of us breathe in a non-optimal way: On the in-breath, our chest fills up with air and little air gets into the abdomen. Interestingly, we all came into the world knowing and practicing the right way to breathe; we had to learn the wrong way through the experience and conditioning of growing up. The form of breathing most used with Qigong is abdominal breathing, where on inhale the lower abdomen expands and fills with air before the chest, and the abdomen contracts on exhale. Tai Chi & Chi Kung Breathing Tutorial - from World Tai Chi & Qigong Day.
The final intentful correction involves mental state or awareness. Regulating your mind is a practice designed to reduce stress and increase your awareness of the moment, helping you to achieve a state of pure consciousness by stripping away thoughts and emotions that keep you unnecessarily immersed in the complexity of your daily life. Qigong meditative techniques, such as mindfulness meditation, are combined with slow, deep breathing and gentle movement. Start your Qigong practice using any meditative technique with which you are familiar. Three Intentful Corrections are explained in detail in Jahnke's The Healing Promise of Qi. Meditation and spiritual Qigong.
It is Qigong’s gentle movement that demands more oxygen in the system and helps regulate the body's critical oxygen/carbon dioxide balance. Slow, deep breathing dilates the blood vessels so that the heart doesn’t have to work as hard. Besides muscle contraction, the main way to enhance the functioning of your lymph system is through breathing. The lungs have been called the heart for the lymph system, which is key to your body’s immune function as well as removal of toxic metabolic by-products from your cells. Your body goes into a waking regeneration mode during Qigong practice as your nervous system switches from the overactive sympathetic mode to the restorative parasympathetic mode, with an immediate calming effect and an astonishing increase in focused awareness and effective performance. Note that when you are dreaming, even though you are not awake, your nervous system is still engaged and not in the restorative state.
As with all Qigong, use slow deep abdominal breathing, a relaxed posture, and alert but focused on nothing in the mind. No thoughts. This has been described as "cheerful indifference". All of these movements can be modified for practice sitting in a chair, lying on the floor, or in a hospital bed.
Remember, with Qigong, “Pain is no gain”. Note that there are thousands of different types of Qigong. Enjoy, experiment with, and discover new forms and adapt them to your personal practice. Figure out what works best for you. Remember to breathe.
To get the most out of your practice there are a few basic principles that apply to the styles of Qigong presented in this book. Generally, you can practise Qigong at any time of the day, so choose a time that best suits you. Remember, we are creatures of habit and you will benefit more if you practise at the same time on each practice day. Some styles of Qigong are best practised at a particular time and sometimes facing a certain direction. In time you will find the best time that suits you. Exercising in the early morning and late afternoon, when the sun rises and sets, is a very powerful time as it’s a natural transition between dark coolness of night (Yin) and the bright warmth of day (Yang).
There are many different ways to put together Qigong moves to form a practice session. For example, "Progressive Looping" is a term coined by one circle wellness to describe a way of remixing Qi Gong exercises. A simple exercise is broken into some of its component “loops,” finding the points where new transitions can be created. For example, watch the above exercise for the Lung.
The principle of Progressive Looping can be applied to many Qigong exercises. Never be afraid to take things apart and put them back together differently.
This exercise is slow and simple. Touch the thumbs to pointer fingers, and extend the remaining three fingers. During the inhale, raise the arms, palms up, close to the body, eventually reaching the space over the head. The transition to an exhalation is accompanied by the arms now lowering, palms down, away from the body. This exercise can be repeated many times. Next, look at some of the loops that can be found by dissecting the movement.
There are certain pause points where we can begin to reverse the motions. Inhale and raise the hands, palms up. When the hands are level with the top of the chest, slowly exhale, and reverse the motion, as if you had a rewind button. The next loop is the opening and closing of the elbows in front of the face. The shoulders and chest act like a bellows to allow for very deep breathing and stretching during this loop. As the elbows and chest open, inhale. As they close together, exhale. This can be an extremely slow movement. Lowering of the arms can be broken into three parts: from the very top to the midpoint, from the very top to the bottom, and from the midpoint to the bottom. As the arms descend, exhale. As the arms float back up, inhale. Keep the palms down the whole time. Any of these loops can be performed and repeated as an exercise in their own right. It becomes very interesting, though, when we merge these loops together, and tighten up the transitions.
Here are some sample installments from the Breathe Deep e-Newsletter in which Qigong Institute Chairman of the Board Francesco Garripoli offers "hints" for your personal Qigong practice that could inspire you and support your healing and personal growth.
Conduit or Container?
I believe that the underlying concepts and belief systems that we hold about life affect everything from the way a technique works to the actual physics involved in any action. The things we do in life do not stand alone. There are no fixed rules that allow something to simply "happen" in an independent way. How and what we feel, think, and believe about something totally affects the outcome.
That said, I see that many people hold a certain belief that can curtail their development and self healing as it relates to Qigong. This belief system revolves around how we "see" ourselves... Whether it was taught to you by a teacher or whether you simply found yourself accepting it, you hold the belief that "you" (energetically and physically) are either a "Container" or a "Conduit."
This may sound funny, but answer the following four questions and please just answer with the first response that comes to your mind:
1) When I practice Qigong, Tai Chi, Yoga, Reiki, or other energy art, I feel...
a. I am gathering energy and storing it
b. I am channeling energy and being recharged by it
2) When I breathe during my personal practice...
a. I fill up with air and hold it
b. I fill up with air and let it go simultaneously
3) When my body feels sick or uncomfortable...
a. I feel my Qi is low
b. I feel my Qi flow is blocked
4) When I am feeling tired or exhausted...
a. I feel I have run out of Qi
b. I feel my Qi is stagnant
Ok, note how you answered either "a" or "b" (you need to commit to one or the other, whichever feels the strongest pull.)
If you answered with even one "a" you are living with a belief system that you are in the Container Category.
If you only answered with one "a", then we may be dealing with only semantics...
If you answered with two or three "a" answers, then we need to play with these concepts for a bit.
I you answered with all "a" answers, then I think we have our work cut out for us :))
If you answered with all "b" answers, then you are a full-fledged Qi Conduit so please pass "Go" and collect your 200 dan tians...
Now granted, we can get into some philosophical discussions here and split hairs over the details and words, but I have a simple goal here in sharing this exercise. My hope is to get you to rethink the way you see your body/mind/spirit.
To see yourself as a Container is to live in a world of limits and scarcity. You will always be concerned with making sure you are "full" and you will begin to worry when you are less than full. A Container can only hold so much. You will always "want" more. The Container compares itself in capacity to other Containers, always externally referencing, looking outside to be satisfied. This is the way of the ego, driven by fear. You will be happy when you are full and sad when you are empty. This is the roller coaster world of the ego/fear/belief system for the Container Category of Qigong practitioners.
To see yourself as a Conduit is to live in a world of abundance. You will embrace the infinite nature of our Universe and sense your immersion in boundless Qi. A Conduit can channel the whole of the Universe while holding onto nothing. Every breath you take will pass through you and you will receive exactly what you require. Your inhales are as fulfilling as your exhales, knowing that each release is a cleansing and an offering to the world. The Conduit is focused on loving self reflection and inner flow ... infinite connection to every atom in the Universe and you see everything as a reflection of self, as the infinitude of existence, our Dreaming, constantly passes through us. The Conduit doesn't need to store Qi... the Conduit knows she is Qi and immersed in an infinite field of Qi. Access is implicit in the Way of the Conduit.
I suggest you revisit those four questions above now that you've read this... see if any of your "a" answers have changed... and if they haven't, maybe this has inspired you to question a little deeper and embrace the Way of the Conduit.
How much time does it take to Qigong?
Does that make you smile? I hope so... It's like asking, how long does it take to become a Qigong Master? In China, no one would EVER call themselves a "Master"... it is bestowed upon you by peers... Nowadays the term is used way too loosely... Anyway, Qigong isn't about "time"... I know people who spend hours each day and they seem way too caught up in the details and intense to be gaining any real benefit... and I see others who say they "just have ten minutes a day, but I do my practice daily" and THEY seem to be flowing and healthy. It's not "what" you practice, it's "how" you practice. I would MUCH rather see you practice ten minutes regularly than sporadic long sessions. Qigong is a healthy habit... and as humans, we are extremely pattern oriented. We can't easily escape our pattern/habit orientation, so it is better to then use it to our advantage. Get a personal practice going that is achievable and you will feel so much better about yourself! Find TWO MINUTES a day to do one Qigong form that you like... just two minutes (we have some nice DVDs you can pick from :)) I promise those two minutes will feed your spirit and start wiring your plastic brain... Soon you will find sessions that naturally extend to ten minutes or even twenty minutes... You will begin to trust that your body/mind/spirit "knows" what it needs... Trust, listen, act... Qigong is timeless... healing takes place in a split second...
When should I practice Qigong?
This is a good question and it comes up a lot in my workshops. There are SO many theories about when is the best time to practice Qigong. Some talk about certain hours to feed certain organs, some discuss connecting with various stars at specific times. Theories abound. The problem with theories is that many disagree with each other... and many aren't proven... such is the way of theories. For my personal practice (which is influenced by many Masters who I studied with) includes a routine of Qigong energy harmonizing and physical stretching immediately after waking. Yes, this means before you check emails or make phone calls or eat breakfast. This is a great way to set your "resonance" for the day. I also do a shorter set right before I go to bed. Again, this is the last thing you do to set your resonance for sleep... so after you brush your teeth and after emails and so forth. I usually only spend 15 minutes on this session... it is a slow and deep practice, designed to put me into a peaceful state of mind/body/spirit. I immerse myself in gratitude for waking to a new day each morning... and immerse myself in gratitude at night for all the "waking dreams" I had during the day. The real key in Qigong practice is to find your own groove and savor your forms when it feels right for you... when you can be in your presence. Sometimes this may be amidst the chaos in the middle of the day, when you need to stop the patterns that get you all caught up... and then just take time for yourself to return to your core, to honor your energy, and return to gratitude and self appreciation and love.
In addition to movement, breathing, and awareness, Qigong consists of self-massage practices. Here is an example practice for improving eyesight from the article 4 Ways to Improve Your Eyesight by Qigong expert, Dr. Maoshing Ni.:
These simple exercises will help you maintain optimal vision and may also keep those annoying eye floaters at bay. Perform these exercises first thing in the morning, before bedtime, or any time your eyes feel fatigued. Make sure that your hands are clean and that your mood is relaxed. Commit to daily practice and you may just see better results within one month.
• Warm your eyes. Rub your palms together to create heat, and then place them against your eyes for five seconds. Repeat this three times.
• Roll your eyes. Start by looking up and then slowly circle10 times clockwise and 10 times counterclockwise.
• Focus. Hold a pen at arm's length, focus your eyes on it, and slowly bring the pen closer until it's about six inches away from your nose. Then slowly move it back, keeping your eyes focused on the pen, 10 times in all.
• Massage your temples. Using your thumb knuckles, massage your temples in small circles, 20 times in one direction and 20 in the other. Repeat the same actions above the mid-point of the eyebrows at the forehead, then below the eyes on both sides of the bridge of the nose.
Sample Qigong Exercises
These Qigong exercises and practices are often done slower than shown. Videos may take a few moments to load.
Note: The Qigong Institute makes no suggestions, claims, or recommendations regarding any medical therapy, treatments, exercise program, or medical practitioners. For medical advice or before embarking on any exercise program, we recommend that members of the public consult with a qualified physician.
To watch demonstrations, click on the name in the viewer below, or click on the individual images.
One of the easiest forms of Qigong is Flowing Motion, from Enhance Vitality Method, shown in the DVD Qigong Chi Kung by Dr. Roger Jahnke. Breathe in as you go up and out as you go down. For more exercise, go up onto your toes.
The Rolling the Ball movement is used to feel the qi between your hands and get out of your normal way of thinking. Imagine you have a ball between your hands and you can move it anywhere, but your hands cannot move through the imagined ball, just like they couldn't go through a real ball. Many different types of Qigong have a movement like Rolling the Ball.
This one is called Flying Wild Goose, and comes from a form of Qigong called Tai Chi Qigong.
There are hundreds of different versions of Wave Hands in Clouds. This movement is usually done as part of a much longer T'ai Chi form, but it can also be done by itself. T'ai Chi is a moving form of Qigong.
The Double Helix movement has its origin in Hua Shan Qigong and can be found in the DVD Creating Flexibility through Qigong
by Medical Qigong Master Bingkun Hu. See if you can discover the figure-8 pattern (infinity symbol) made by the arcs described by your hands. When the hands pass each other, palms are facing so that energy flows between the Lao Gong points (Pericardium 8 acupuncture point) located roughly in the middle of each palm.
A little more challenging practice is called Rejuvination, from the DVD Creating Flexibility through Qigong
by Medical Qigong Master Bingkun Hu. Be sure that your arms describe circles both in front and in back of your body as you go through the range of motion.
The next set of movements are a little more vigorous and difficult. They are shown standing with little movement, but are normally done moving around, especially Drawing the Taoist Symbol.
Tuoa is the signature move from Wuji Hundun Qigong, featured in the PBS Qigong documentary "Ancient Chinese Healing for the 21st Century" (Click to preview the documentary). Traditionally, rocks were held in the hands to make sure that the palms were facing up throughout the range of motion. Imagine you are a waiter carrying a tray with a glass on it, and the glass cannot fall. See if you can spot where the two-armed pattern changes. There are at least two more remaining variations on arm movement patterns that are not shown.
About the music: Initially created for use in a Taiji intervention study at the University of Illinois, Elixir: Music for Moving and Still Meditation is a music CD for moving and still meditation practices. This CD is unique in that it was composed and performed in entirety by both a master traditional Chinese musician and longtime practitioner of qigong meditation. For more information, visit www.yangying-music.com .
Wuji Swimming Dragon is a very simple and easy to learn yet powerful form of Qigong. The video was created by Francesco Garripoli, the Chairman of the Board of the Qigong Institute. It is part of a longer DVD. See Qigong Study Materials for how to purchase this and other Qigong DVDs.
A Very Simple Qigong Practice Example
This is one of the most simple Qigong practices. This practice is taken from the Crane form of Hua Tou’s Five Animal Frolics, one of the oldest and most revered forms of Qigong. Hua Tou was a famous physician during the Eastern Han Dynasty (circa 200 A.D.). He is famous in the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine as the first doctor to successfully practice abdominal surgery and for creating the Five Animal Frolics. The Five Animal Frolics are movements designed to mimic the energies and strengths of five different animals: the crane, bear, tiger, monkey, and snake. The five animals also correspond to the five elemental energies as well as the five seasons, with the fifth season being late summer. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine history, the Qigong exercises developed by Hua Tou have been proven to be some of the most effective for restoring health and promoting vitality. This particular exercise is the most basic one in the Crane form: Develop Qi Sensitivity and Restore Balance to the “Three Jiaos” with a Powerful Exercise from Master Hua Tou.
A More Comprehensive (and FREE) Introduction to Qigong Practice - The Global Qi Project
Singapore Provides Beginning Qigong Practices to its Citizens
Singapore's Health Promotion Board (HPB) is the country's main driver for national health promotion and disease prevention programmes. Its goal is to increase the quality and years of healthy life and prevent illness, disability and premature death. HPB implements programmes that reach out to the population, specifically children, adults and the elderly. Getting Started on Qigong Health is a brochure for people starting out with Qigong that includes illustrations of basic Qigong practices. National Health Qigong Programme Launch shows large numbers of citizens practicing Qigong during the launch of the program.