Qigong (often spelt Chi Kung, 氣功) is a powerful type of health exercise, which has been practised for centuries by millions of Chinese people. It is based on repetitions of very precise sets of movements, specifically designed to benefit health on many different levels.
It is a set of gentle exercises suitable for all ages. Historians believe Chi Kung to be over 2700 years old. The origins of Qigong date back thousands of years, probably to ceremonial dances carried out by tribes in various parts of China. It is believed that specific rhythms and movements of the dances were developed in order to strengthen the dancers, both physically and mentally and toward off disease.
Over time, the original dance movements were systematised, creating health exercises that could be practised every day. One of China’s legendary founding emperors Huang Di (the Yellow Emperor) is said to have practised Qigong on a daily basis and as a result to have lived healthily for well over one hundred years.
Later, during China’s agitated Warring States period (419BC–220AD) many Chinese sages and scholars developed various practises and philosophies. Among them were the alchemists, who tried to use Qigong, along with diets, herbs and regulated sexual practices etc, as a means to achieve immortality – it was reported that many of them lived to a remarkable age. One of the main insights they left behind was that the “elixir of life” resides within each of us and that by cultivating it regularly, everybody can achieve health and longevity. (It is also interesting to note there is a Lakota legend which talks about the Creator hiding the realization that people create their own reality inside them – more on that in my email newsletter).
Since that time, various systems of Qigong have emerged, including the 8 Pieces of Silk Brocade (described below), which, today, is still one of the most commonly practised sets. They are usually attributed to General Yue Fei (1177–1279 AD) who is said to have developed them as a means to train his army – and it is said also that thanks to these powerful exercises it was never defeated.
Chi Kung is believed to rejuvenate the body and mind helping the adept to activate the body’s natural healing process so that it remains fit and healthy. Chi Kung is also an outstanding cultural heritage of ancient China and also forms a part of Chinese medicine. Although practised largely in East Asia, it is now receiving an impressive reception worldwide. Research show people are turning to Chi Kung after finding both Western and Eastern medicine unsatisfactory.
The Aims of Chi Kung:
- to prevent and cure diseases
- strengthen the constitution
- avoid premature ageing
- provides a gentle massage to the internal organs
- prolong life
In ancient China Chi Kung was regarded as the key to immortality. Qigong is easy to learn and enjoyable to do. Even a few minutes of practice can have an invigorating and rejuvenating effect. Regular practice brings about a deep strengthening effect for the whole body and its various systems (nervous, digestive, respiratory, skeleton-muscular, hormonal, gynaecological, etc). Its ability to help in healing a large variety of chronic and acute injuries and illnesses has been the subject of various research programmes. Systematic medical observation has proved that Chi Kung exercises are beneficial in the treatment of hypertension, gastric and abdominal ulcers, chronic hepatitis, arthritis, asthma and many other mental and physical ailments too numerous to list.
The aim of Qigong is to promote the correct movement of Qi/Chi (energy) in the body; this is done by opening certain gates and stretching and twisting energy channels. A fundamental in Qigong practice is relaxation and deep breathing, both of which are prerequisites to allow Qi to flow.
Some Qigong movements are very gentle, others more vigorous. Some movements are large and expansive, while others are more subtle, almost imperceptible. All are different and have a very specific effect on the body and mind. The longer one practises, the more one can understand the purpose of each movement, allowing the Qigong practise to become ever more enjoyable.
Recent studies have linked the health benefits to activation of the Vagus Nerve and Chi Kung (Qigong) is listed as one exercise which can activate this nerve and benefit your health.
Note that the instructions here are notes for my own benefit based on classes I attended many years ago, and anybody wishing to take up Chi Kung, Tai Chi or any form of exercise is advised to consult their doctor before doing so. If you are inspired to study Chi Kung or Tai Chi as a result of reading the information here, please contact Tai Chi UK or drop a comment and I will help where I can.
- Ba Duan Jin Form (Eight Strands of the Brocade)
- Zhang Zhuang Form (Five Tree Postures)
- Cool Down