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The Art of Qigong/Chi Kung

Why is Qigong so popular?
Qigong is a simple, easy to do exercise, breathing and meditation practice system with fantastic positive results that is free and can be done by anyone at anytime, regardless of age or health condition.

Why study Qigong and what is it used for?
Qigong practice is a preventive and self-healing method that has great benefits towards achieving better physical, emotional and spiritual health, vitality and a tranquil state of mind. Qigong is used for physical fitness, as a martial art, and for health and healing.

Who can benefit and why?
Everyone can benefit from practicing Qigong. Qigong is designed to improve the general health and well-being of the practitioner so practicing it will enhance many other aspects of their life. Qigong is suitable for everyone because it includes gentle dynamic or static postures and techniques that can be practiced from standing, seated, or supine postures.

Some benefits of Qigong include:

  • Anyone can do it at any time regardless of age or health condition
  • Easy to Learn and easy to do
  • It's free
  • Improves Health and Helps to Achieve Wellness and Well-being
  • Rejuvenates Body, Mind and Spirit
  • Increases Energy, Agility and Flexibility
  • Loosens and Strengthens Joints and Muscles
  • Reduces Stress, Tension and Negative Emotions
  • Improves Concentration and Intuitive Abilities
  • Helps to control Emotions and Weight

Practices can be tailored to an individual's needs thereby making it an ideal for someone with a busy schedule or as an aid to recovery from illness or injury. Qigong is a form of complementary medicine. It works well with other forms of therapy but it should never be used as a substitute or replacement for necessary treatment by a physician.

What is Qigong?
Qigong (pronounced "Chee Gung" and also spelled "Chi Kung") is a 5000 year-old Chinese exercise, breathing and meditation healthcare method practice that is used to improve the circulation and rebalance of Qi (vibrating Human Energy Field / Universal Life Force) and to enhance overall health, vitality and well-being of the practitioner.

Its first origins in prehistoric China evolved as a medical practice then as a spiritual practice and then as a martial art. The Chinese Taoist philosophy states that the universe operates within laws of balance (Yin and Yang) and harmony, and that people must live within the rhythms of nature. These ideas are pervade in Qigong. Buddhism was brought from India to China around the seventh century A.D. where yoga techniques and concepts of mental and spiritual awareness were introduced to Qigong masters. Many martial arts such as Tai Chi and kung fu were highly influenced by or developed directly from Qigong. It had many names in the past such as nei gong (inner work) and dao yin (guiding energy) but the term Qigong was not widely known until the 1970s.

The Chinese character for Qi in Qigong can mean air, breath, or energy life force and Gong can mean working with the life energy, energy cultivation and refine through practice. So Qigong basically means to work, cultivate and refine through practice of one's internal energy life force. Qigong is widely known as energy work.

Along with herbal medicine, acupuncture, and acupressure, Qigong is considered part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture uses the same points on the body that Qigong seeks to stimulate but without the needles. Both practices involve manipulation and balancing of the body's energy but Qigong differs from acupuncture in that it also includes cultivation and balancing over time of the body's energy through self-initiated practices.

In China, Qigong masters have been renowned physicians and healers. External Qi Healing is effective for the same range of illnesses as acupuncture. Qigong is often prescribed by Chinese physicians as part of the treatment. Some hospitals in China use medical Qigong, along with herbs, acupuncture, and other techniques to heal patients. In these hospitals, healers use external Qigong and design specific internal Qigong exercises for patients.

Qigong is a system of using (moving and still) postures, gentle movement exercises, breathing techniques, and meditations that are designed to cleanse, strengthen, and circulate the life energy (Qi Chi) and to improve and enhance the health, vitality and well-being of the practitioner.

Some styles of Qigong are graceful, slow fluid dance like movements while others are exercise specific systems or parts of the body.

Do you have to be sensitive and feel Qi (Chi) to benefit from using Qigong?
You don't have to feel and work with Qi to gain benefits from Qigong but the ability to tap into, work with and incorporate it into Qigong practice has a big overall positive effect. Qi (Chi) can be felt as a vibration or electrical current that physically circulated through channels called meridians with each movement or posture. As with other energy healing therapies such Reiki, many testify to feeling of calmness and a reduction or elimination of pain through the use of Qigong.

Are there different styles?
There are thousands or maybe tens of thousands of Qigong styles and forms that can be classified as soft and hard and internal and external. The soft styles include Tai Chi (also spelled/referred to as Taiji, Taijiquan, and Tai Chi Chuan), Shing I and Ba Gua whereas the hard styles are different types of Kung Fu (also called Gong Fu and WuShu) martial art styles.

The term soft and hard and internal and external have various meanings and explanations that have changed over time. In ancient China, Tai Chi was usually a closely held familyspecial student secret not taught to outsiders. So "internal" refers to this secret and "external" were the public fighting systems available at the time.

Around 500-700 A.D a missionary priest from India brought Buddhism and a fighting system to China's famous Shaolin temple where he taught other priest that later formed the basis for many of the popular Kung Fu styles that exist today. Since these styles were brought in to China, they were considered "external" where as Tai Chi is based on native Chinese Taoist traditions and was therefore considered "internal" to China.

In the early twentieth century some martial arts styles used chi as the basis for generating attacking power and were classified as "internal" (Nei Jia Quan). Other styles used the tensing of large muscle groups, speed, power and aggression were classified as "external" (Wei Jia Quan). Other styles such as Ba Gua Zhang used both internal (Chi) and external (speed, power) methods. Tai Chi's style for example, is very sensitive to the opponent's intentions. It uses only a minimum amount of force and effortlessly flowing back and forth between defensive and offensive movements.

Regardless whether they are "hard" or "soft", Qigong provides the foundation of power, strength, focus and discipline for all of these martial arts practices through manipulation and balancing of the body's energy.

Internal Qigong (Neigong) is performed by those wishing to increase their own energy and health and External Qigong (Waigong) is healing someone else.

These days the study and practice of Internal Qigong is concerned with the health status, general harmony and flow of Qi within the practitioner's body and external Qigong is the therapeutic application of Healing Qi that is channeled and delivered by the practitioner to the person receiving treatment.

Some Qigong masters are renowned for being able to perform external Qigong, by which the energy from nature is passed through (channeled) one person and on to another for healing.

There are numerous forms of Medical Qigong therapy being practiced today including Chi Gung Tui Na, Medical Chi Gung, External Qi Healing, Chinese Energetic Medicine, Medical Chi Gung Healing, and Chinese Energetic Bodywork, to name a few. Each with its own constructs but all focus on healing.

All usually include a health assessment and healing system. The ealerpractitioner learns to feel for energy blockages and then taps into a well of healing energy in nature and funnels channels it through his or her body into the patient for healing.

External Qi Healing techniques may be used as a standalone form of wellness treatment or may be combined with massage, acupuncture, Therapeutic Touch, osteopathy, or any other form of body-work. Spiritual Qigong (Fo Gong, Tao Gong) can be described as a spiritual discipline that leads to self-awareness, tranquility, and harmony with nature. The spiritual aspect of Qigong evolved from Taoism and Buddhism.

Qigong styles and forms can also be divided into two other categories called Static Qigong and Dynamic Qigong.

Static Qigong (Jing gong) uses stationery (still) postures of lying down, sitting or standing with little or no movement at all. The main focus is to make the mind and breath-work tranquil through a stationery physical position and various methods of meditation.

Dynamic Qigong (Dong gong) are slow free flowing graceful physical movements combined with breathing methods and mental focus that promote the flow and rebalancing of Qi throughout all the energy channels of the body and aura. Some of the movements in Dynamic Qigong are based on animals' movements while others include simple single or repetitive basic movements.

How and when do I train?
The goal is to practice every day to activate the meridians and joints, stretch the tendons, train the muscles and rebalance Chi. Anytime of the day is good but Qigong is traditionally done in the morning, preferably just before sunrise when the practitioner is well rested and before the daily stressors appear.

Some of Qigong postures and movements are designed to quickly and effectively work the entire body. For example, the Eight Figures for Every Day sequence is well known and is commonly performed daily by millions of people in China.

Qigong consists of (standing, sitting, or lying down) postures, movements, breathing techniques, and mental exercises that are designed to strengthen, stretch, and tone the body to improve the flow of energy and well-being. Qigong sessions usually start with warm-up and concluding exercises.

Tai Chi works with groups or sets of movements (usually 9, 18 or 36) called forms. In Qigong a simple movement preformed in a certain way is an exercise called a form. Qigong are simple exercises that work in harmony with breathing and meditation called forms. Qigong forms can be from a single or repetitive movement to several sets of exercises that make up a full healing practice system. It can be static, a set of single repetitive movements or a dynamic flowing dance like motion that can include stretches, slow motions, quick thrusts, jumping, self-massage and bending movements. Self-massage, for example, is good way to activate muscles as part of a warm up and to release tension from your body. Self-massage can include patting, tapping, slapping, squeezing and brushing or dusting off are the body and head.

One of the great things about Qigong is that you can tailor it exactly to fit your own needs and style.

If you've never practice Qigong before, simply start by learning and practicing a few simple form movements. Through consistent practice you'll soon become comfortable and ready to add one or two more new forms. Make a conscience effort to correct body posture, include slow deep breathing and maintain a mental state of calmness and awareness with each form. Be totally aware of your weight distribution, balance, and posture as you make each move.

Qigong is also something that you can be doing periodically throughout your day. Periodically throughout adjust your posture, adjust your breath, and adjust your mind. After a while the adjustments will become natural habit; an integrated part of your life instead of just the time you've set aside to practice. Don't overdo it or dwell on it much but be aware to periodically make small adjustments that add up.

Breathing
Qigong promotes slow, deep relaxed abdominal breathing, where on inhale the lower abdomen expands and fills with air before the chest, and the abdomen contracts on exhale. Deep abdominal breathing usually requires adjusting your breathing from shallow chest breathing that most people are accustomed to doing.

Qigong's gentle movements and slow deep consistent breathing demands more oxygen in the system and helps to regulate the body's critical oxygen/carbon dioxide balance.

Use abdominal breathing when breathing normal and very slow elongated, deep (controlled) breathing when possible or it's appropriate. Unless specially trained, we strongly recommend against other breathing techniques such as holding your breath or breathing quickly. Normal abdominal and slow elongated abdominal breathing are natural. Please always consult your physician before stating any physical exercises or breathing techniques. Start with normal abdominal breathing and through practice start to slow down and elongated your abdominal breathing at few time. Stop immediately if you can't catch your breath, shortness of breath or you become dizzy or faint. Again, please always consult your physician.

Try to remember to do this type of breathing whenever you can. You may want to figure out ways to remind yourself to do this while driving, at every stop sign, when you do the dishes, watching TV, etc.

While all Qigong forms incorporate the use of breathing, not all forms of Qigong use controlled breathing techniques.

Meditation
Meditation can mean "adjusting your mind" where relaxation, a regeneration state and healing can occur.

The first objective is to achieve a mental state of calm relaxed tranquil bliss by stripping away thoughts and emotions that have accumulated throughout your day and life. The second objective is to tap into, rebalance and improve the flow of your QiChi energy.

When mind intent and breathing technique is added to physical movement, the benefits of exercise increase exponentially.

In Qigong are various methods of meditation designed to help you focus and regulate your thoughts and increase your awareness of the moment. One method is to observe your breathing and to concentrate on the body and movements. That means to observe the body, improve its posture, and relax it step by step. Try to make your breathing calm and regular and then slow elongated deep breathing. Allow the breathing and movements to work to together in harmony whenever possible. Gradually you'll become calmer, and at some point, you have gone so far that you no longer thinking about anything but your breathing, movements, QiChi and the moment.

If you are a beginner, you can try practicing with your eyes closed so that you can concentrate more deeply on the body, breathing and movements without being easily distracted. In time you can keep your eyes open without disturbing your concentration.

Other meditations and mind exercises can include sounds such as toning vibrations esonation therapy, counting to 100 or visualizations that focus on different body parts, words, ideas, objects, or joyful healing energy flowing along the meridians. One mental exercise is for the practitioner to intently meditate on connecting and increasing the flow of Qi throughout major hannels.

At first, adjustments and corrections of posture, breathing, and mind is only done during the time you set aside to do practice Qigong. With more practice, you'll soon begin doing these adjustments throughout the day as Qigong becomes a natural part of your life and personal healthcare program.

Keep in mind that all of these movements can be modified for practice sitting in a chair, lying on the floor, or in a hospital bed. Remember that there are thousands of different types of Qigong. Enjoy, experiment with, and discover new forms and adapt them to enhance your personal practice. Figure out what works best for you.

By taking the deep breaths, meditation and conducting the deliberate movements associated with Qigong, you will soon notice that you feel healthier, calmer and closer towards sensing Qi.

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