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"What is Qigong?"

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I wrote this a couple years ago at the request of a physical therapist who wanted me to hold classes at his practice. He said the newspaper wanted two pages but when I submitted it, they said they only wanted two paragraphs. So, it got chopped down to the most basic statements, which may have been an improvement...


This doesn't really represent my approach to Qigong but rather my approach to appeasing a physical therapist who was trying to exploit me to get people into his practice amidst tough competition. But, it is a real article ;)


Reading it over now for the first time in a long while, I realize how much of it was influenced by Roger Jahnke's book, "The healing Promise of Qi" (a book I owuld include on my "highly recommended" list). I hope my article isn't too derivative.


Here it is:


What is Qigong?

Qigong (pronounced Tschi-Kung) is an ancient Chinese approach to attaining and maintaining health and achieving a long life. It's closely related to, and is sometimes referred to as the mother of the better-known art of "Tai Chi". The history of Qigong lies somewhere deep in Chinese pre-history. The earliest Qigong texts go back about 3000 years and the sophisticated descriptions of the art from that period indicate that it was well developed long before writing appeared in China. It developed out of shamanistic spiritual dances, most of which closely mimicked animal movements and were an attempt to build up physical energy and gain a closer relationship to nature. Indeed, Qigong excercises can be more accurately compared to dance than to aerobics or gymnastics.


There's more

The term "Qigong" should be viewed as a generalization as opposed to a specific system of excercises. It's a term as broad as "science" or "music". Strictly defined, Qigong means "concentrated care and maintenance of one's energy (or life-force)". The energy being described is "Qi", a concept that modern western physicists have determined for themselves should be called, among other things, "Quantum Fields", a kind of magnetic field that permeates and supports everything in our universe. Points in these fields of pure energy condense and result in substance and "life". Indeed, it's more accurate to view Qigong as applied Physics than to correlate it to western medicine. Qigong practice will usually include excercises to make this energy, the Qi, experiential, to activate it and to develop the ability to guide its flow through the body.


The water principle


For practical purposes, it's probably best to compare Qi with water, or water mist. Water collects in pools and oceans, moves through mighty roaring rivers and bubbling mountain streams and finds its way into the tiniest crevices on the planet. It also fills the air, continually changing its form from ice, to water, to misty clouds, and returning to Earth in a continuous cycle. We don't need to do anything to make water flow, just be patient and allow it to bring its gift of life when it's ready. What we can do however, is disturb the flow, interfering with its natural tendencies, holding it up from bringing its benefits where they're most needed.


And Qi?


All of this is true with Qi. Qi flows, it sinks from heaven to earth and rises again, it collects in pools and flows through channels, in the environment and in the body. Qi is always present, it flows through everyone and everything, and changes its form continually. Qi is a powerful, life-giving energy but its flow can be blocked easily, and that's what we humans are particularly good at. With our stressful minds, unnatural diets, and distancing ourselves from the natural world, we create trouble and energetic stagnation where there should be free-flowing Qi and happiness. Small blockages in the flow of our lifeforce may reveal themselves as chronic muscle or joint pain, or mood swings, or through a whole host of other "minor" symptoms. When the Qi stagnation becomes too extreme, however, the results can be traumatic, ranging from tumors to heart attack and any other severe illness imaginable. A total breakdown of the Qi flow in the body can be compared to the violent bursting of a dammed river or a massive landslide caused by unthoughtful, unnatural irrigation systems. Wise prevention is not difficult, in land management or in personal health.


Passive Qigong?


We were all born with an equal claim to an unobstructed, happy life. We came to the world open to the natural flow of universal lifeforce and have learned over the span of our lives, mostly through the paradigms and standards of our own societies, to close ourselves up, to resist our natural, internal inclination for simple harmony. Qigong is a method we can use to undo the damage caused by the misleading lessons, and prevent further damage. So, Qigong's ultimate goal, it could be said, is not to "increase" the "amount" of life-giving-force, but rather to minimize the obstructions to what is already there, to return to our original, simple state of being. For this reason, the mental aspect, the relaxation and breathing techniques, are inseparable from authentic Qigong practice. And when we practice enough Qigong, we build up a defense to breakdowns in our energetic structure, i.e., we become healthy and we remain healthy. In the west, we would simply call this boosting the immune system, but in actuality, the "boost" goes much deeper than the white blood cells. We also become immune to emotional sicknesses like depression and over-excitability.


For everyone? YES


Although some forms of Qigong become quite complex and physically challenging, Qigong is much more meditation than gymnastics. It demands a different perspective on what it means to be "fit". We move ourselves differently, guiding the movement from deep inside, it isn't just aerobics or dance in slow motion. Indeed, at the advanced stages of practice the movements become less and less necessary for effective Qigong practice and the simplest movements can become the most effective when perfomed at a deep level with sincerity. This means that there need be no physical limitations to Qigong practice, literally anybody who isn't severely mentally damaged can practice Qigong effectively.


Theory? Or Logic?


Gentle, slow breathing coordinated with equally slow, gentle physical movement and mental concentration are the three main elements of all Qigiong routines, whereby the movements can be replaced with simple posture corrections. Each component has an equal effect on the other. For example, good posture can ease our breathing, which can help to still a distracted mind. And we can optimize our posture by applying creative concentration. For example, we'll stand straighter and taller when we envision ourselves being lifted to the heavens by a golden thread gently pulling us upward.


Qigong is Natural Science


Because Qi is a product of the natural world, or better said, the natural world springs from the unobstructed, natural flow of Qi, most Qigong practitioners prefer to practice outdoors, among the trees, the blue sky and the green grass. A simple Qigong exercise can involve not much more than an aimless, relaxed walk along a winding country path, observing colors and sounds and breathing in the atmosphere of the surrounding environment. But, because we can't always depend on good weather, Qigong courses generally will be scheduled indoors.

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Qigong is a made up term by the modern Chinese in response to the popularity of " secret " techniques. Back in the 60's and 70's they were just known as " warm up exercises... "

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