- Complementary Health Practices
What is Qigong?
Qigong (also known as chi-kung) is the ancient Chinese practice of self-healing that combines movement, meditation and breath work. Based on the same principles as acupuncture qigong is centered around the idea that there is a flow of energy, or qi, within the body. In Chinese medicine, the flow of qi is essential to maintaining health.
What is the history of Qigong?
Qigong was developed in China over 4,000 years ago along the Yellow River, where people used breathing and movement as part of their healing practices. The movements are said to be based on the movements of animals, and designed to promote healthy organ function, balance and strength. For instance, stretching the arms in front of the body in imitation of a tiger is said to ease tension in the lungs.
The first Qigong clinic was opened in 1955 in China, but closed ten years later during the Cultural Revolution. Today, the system has reestablished itself in China and is quickly spreading throughout Asia and North America.
What are the benefits of Qigong?
Qigong is mostly used as a preventive system to help both the body and the mind function at optimal levels. Practicing Qigong stimulates a number of bodily functions, such as relaxing muscles and easing tension, altering brain chemistry to control pain, depression and cravings, increasing flow through the lymphatic system to strengthen the immune system, increasing metabolism, and inducing certain brain waves that increase mental focus and clarity. Practicing Qigong can improve the disease fighting capabilities of your immune system, help you sleep deeper at night, improve mental clarity and give you more energy.
Qigong has also been effective in treating a variety of illnesses and conditions. Some common issues that can be improved by Qigong are fatigue, stress-related conditions, high blood pressure and heart disease, muscle and skeletal pain, and depression.
Are there different types of Qigong?
All three practices below are focused on posture, breathing, and mental concentration.
- Martial Qigong is focused on channeling internal energy at a particular target. Medical Qigong is used to relax the body, reduce stress and allow the body's own immune system to work to its full potential.
- Medical Qigong is most effective in improving overall health and relieving pain and stress.
- Spiritual Qigong is centered on the belief that humanity and nature are closely related, and that by aligning the body with its natural health benefits and rhythms, we reach a higher state of spirituality.
How do you practice Qigong?
Qigong is made up of both still forms and moving forms. Moving forms involve external exercise while quieting the mind. The focus of the exercise is to focus on the moment while practicing breathing techniques, a set of specific movements designed to increase the flow of qi. Still forms involve an internal focus, and are usually performed sitting, standing or reclining. Standing still is common in Qigong practices, as practitioners believe that the greater the distance between the head and the feet, the easier it is for qi to flow between them.
There are many different postures and forms in varying levels of difficulty. Therefore, people can benefit from Qigong regardless of their physical fitness.
Can I practice Qigong on my own?
Qigong is often a solitary practice, though it can also be performed as a group. It is helpful to first take a class to learn the correct way of practicing each posture, but once you have mastered the technique, you can practice on your own.
Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine. Time, Inc.
Encyclopedia of Healing Therapies by Anne Woodham and Dr. David Peters.
Alternative Healing: The Complete A-Z Guide to more than 150 Alternative Therapies by Mark Kastner, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., and Hugh Burroughs. Henry Holt and Company: 1996.
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