Qigong is an ancient Chinese health practice dating back 3000 years that aligns the breath and physical activity to promote mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. It includes aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Martial Arts but its main emphasis is on preventing illness.
A literal translation of the term Qigong is “breath work”. The Chinese character Qi meaning air or breath is the energy that circulates within the body. Gong means work or self-discipline. Gong is the term used for any study or training which requires a lot of energy and time, work or self-discipline. Thus Qigong is the training or study dealing with Qi, which takes a long time and a lot of effort to master. It is a method to build up Qi.
Western society is only now beginning to understand the long-established health virtues of Tai Chi and Qigong. Researchers worldwide are starting to find through scientific studies and robust research a much clearer understanding of the benefits surrounding Traditional Chinese Medicine and Chinese Health Systems. However, while the studies show definite improvements to health and wellbeing, the “why” remains somewhat of a mystery. It is hoped that the reasons for such positive results will be established in the coming few years.
In the meantime, we must accept that strengthening and building the body's Qi is something that has preoccupied seekers of health in China for centuries. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the flow of Qi along channels or meridians in the body is viewed as central to a person's health and wellbeing. Illness or disease are seen as being due to restricted or blocked Qi flow, so it is this concept that provides the basis for acupuncture and Qigong. To be able to build and direct the Qi flow in your body will enhance your health and reduce the chance of illness.
Therefore, it is seen that Qigong increases vitality, impacts positively to improve medical conditions and is a way to improve and prolong your quality of life. Studies have also shown that regular practice can being about increased muscular efficiency and coordination, improved breathing and blood flow, greater flexibility, a higher level of internal balance and harmony and an improved immune system.
The Taoists and Buddhists celebrated and cultivated the art of living in accord with the cyclical play of natural energies, maintaining an easy, humorous, yet common sense approach to everyday life. In this spirit, they created refined qigong systems of meditative movement to induce harmony with nature, generate energy, and at the highest levels, to achieve spiritual illumination.
Qigong divides into two main categories—tranquil and dynamic. What we see as “typical Qigong” is tranquil - motionless on the surface, yet moving the qi internally. Dynamic Qigong also cultivates tranquillity, but the practitioner moves more vigorously while the core is still. Taijiquan is often referred to as Dynamic Qigong. Skilful practitioners learn to be aware of and incorporate the full spectrum of internal and external activity, equally comfortable with the tranquil or the dynamic, always cultivating the seed of one within the soil of the other.
Qigong is now regarded within the Chinese health and medical science fields as “a shining pearl in Traditional Chinese Medicine”. It has helped millions of people with severe and lingering health problems to improve their health and is widely practiced throughout the Western as well as the Eastern world.