I (Tom) was drawn to the internal arts when I was a teenager. And when I was 20, I tried out a yoga class in the basement of a local health food store, in the outpost of Queens, New York. That class made me feel so good, and because of it, I started eating better, breathing correctly, and meditating.
Along my journey at about the age of 24, I discovered qigong and tai ji chuan, two ancient Chinese practices. It was a brief encounter but it resonated with me and I knew I would come back to it.
It wasn’t until my mid-30s that I was re-introduced to qigong, and soon after, tai ji chuan. Tai ji chuan is a form of qigong, but it’s a martial arts fighting form. I started an intense practice that included getting up hours before work to do seated meditation, moving and standing qigong, tai ji chuan and yoga.
I found that I was physically stronger and mentally more relaxed. Old injuries that I thought were gone started to re-appear, but with persistent practice, they started to truly heal.
What is Qigong?
Qigong is a Chinese medical practice that is thousands of years old. It is the cultivation and movement of qi through regular practice. The word qi, pronounced “chee”, has no English translation, but some translate it as breathe and some as energy. In Chinese medicine, it is understood as having five functions: it moves, transforms, warms, protects, and contains. The word gong, pronounced “kung” or “gung,” translates into training.
Qigong Has Been Used for Various Purposes:
- to maintain health
- spiritual development
How Does Qigong Maintain Health?
The regular practice of qigong breathing and exercise promotes the flow of qi and blood throughout the body, which is vital for the health and well-being of the body. Qigong done on a regular basis keeps the joint pliable and strong, and reduces the chances of arthritis. Qigong gives a deep massage to all the organs, keeping them bathed in nutrient-rich blood. Doing this kind of exercises, the body relies on the proper alignment of the skeletal system, which reduces unnecessary stress on the muscles, and promotes bone strength, reducing the chances of osteoporosis. Qigong promotes balance and coordination, and lessens the potential injuries from falling.
How Does Qigong Promote Healing?
Qigong exercise is one of the modalities used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The TCM practitioner will assess the patient and can prescribe a series of qigong exercises to increase the effects of healing injury or disease. Medical qigong is mild and safe for all kinds of patients.
How is Qigong Used for Fighting?
Qigong by itself is not used for fighting, but is used as a warm-up for martial art forms. Regular practice cultivates qi and the skilled of the martial artist can martial this qi if in combat.
How is Qigong Used for Spiritual Development?
Qigong training brings your focus inward and quiets the mind to promote inner stillness. It is considered meditation in motion or standing meditation. Qigong was used by Taoist and Buddhist monks to attain enlightenment.
Are There Different Kinds of Qigong?
Yes, there is moving qigong, which has many forms, and can be done slowly or fast. It can be performed sitting or lying down. Another kind of qigong is Zhan Zhuang, pronounced “jan jong”, which means “standing like a tree”. During this type of qigong, one stands still in one position for an extended period of time. There are various posses from easy to more difficult. When you align your body correctly and you allow your muscles to relax and use a minimal amount of energy to maintain the position, your nervous system relaxes and works more efficiently. The nervous system regulates all the systems in the body, and when it functions correctly, the body can deal with internal and external stresses more easily.
My qigong teacher says, when you practice qigong, the qi circulates throughout the body. This ignites the fire within the dan tian (located in the lower abdomen). The source of your qi, this fire purifies by melting the gunk that clogs up the steady flow of qi.
Research studies have shown that qigong exercises and tai ji chuan have a positive effect on muscle strength, flexibility, and balance. Studies have also shown improvement in medical conditions such as: heart disease, hypertension, osteopenia, osteoporosis, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, asthma, and insomnia. It also shows an improvement in the quality of life in some cancer patients.
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