What is Qigong?
(8/2012) Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Principles
As I have discussed in previous articles, TCM is the oldest continuously practiced medical system in the world (more than five thousand years). TCM deals with balancing the flow of the natural vital energy, or Qi (pronounced "chee"), which flows through all living things. This Qi flows through the body on specific pathways called Meridians,
and is essential for health.
When the Qi is balanced, moving smoothly, and in sufficient quality and quantity, health and wellness are promoted. When the Qi is unbalanced or blocked in any way, disease or dis – ease, will occur. This dis – ease may show up as symptoms on a physical, mental/emotional, or spiritual level. It is important to realize that these symptoms
are only the end result of an imbalance, and not the illness itself.
The ancient Chinese also observed a cyclical pattern in nature. They called this the Five Elements. These Elements are felt to be the prime energetic building blocks from which everything in the material world is composed. So, every living thing and every person is a unique embodiment and combination of these Five Elements. The Five
Elements are Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal. Therefore, when it comes to our health, if all Five Elements are in balance within us, then we are at a state of optimal health/wellness.
TCM uses Qigong (pronounced "chee gung") along with acupuncture, acupressure, massage and herbal medicine as a way to open the door to healing and allow the body's organ systems to work in harmony. Qi is usually translated to mean the vital life force that flows through all things in the universe. The second word, Gong, means
accomplishment, or skill that is cultivated through steady practice. Qigong is the art and science of increasing vitality, health maintenance, illness prevention, and healing that originated thousands of years ago.
Qigong can be divided into martial, medical, or spiritual categories depending on the purpose of the specific practice. No matter what style of Qigong is practiced, they involve a combination of simple movements and postures, breathing techniques, and focused intentions (including meditation and visualizations).
There are styles of Qigong that are used for one or more of the following: cleansing and healing the body, invigorating your Qi, storing your Qi, and circulating your Qi, etc. There are styles that involve vigorous movements, such as Kung Fu (pronounced "kung phoo"); and there are slower, more gentle styles similar to Tai Chi (pronounced
"tie chee"). Qigong can be practiced sitting or standing, and in a stationary or moving position. Most styles are simple and gentle, so that anyone can practice them at any age.
Deep breathing is important in Qigong. The goal during Qigong is to change from shallow chest breathing to deep abdominal breathing. Deep breathing has the effect of expanding lung capacity, promoting circulation of oxygen in the blood, massaging the internal abdominal organs, and helping digestion and assimilation of food.
During Qigong the goal is to focus your mind on something that allows you to enter a quiet, meditative state. The greater the level of peace and quietness that can be achieved mentally, the greater healing that can be achieved.
According to the study on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Adults and Children: United States, 2007 (done by the National Institutes of Health, NIH), about 625,000 American adults had practiced Qigong in 2007, an 18.6% increase over the number practicing Qigong in 2002.
Those who maintain a consistent practice of Qigong find that it helps one regain a youthful vitality, maintain health even into old age and helps speed recovery from illness. One of the more important long-term effects is that Qigong reestablishes the body/mind/soul connection.
Many health care professionals recommend Qigong as an important form of alternative complementary medicine. The gentle, rhythmic movements of Qigong reduce stress, build stamina, increase vitality, and enhance the immune system. It has also been found to improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive functions.
Western scientific research confirms that Qigong reduces hypertension and the incidence of falling in the aged population (National Qigong Association, www.nqa.org). If you are interested in reading more about the health benefits of Qigong, go to the website: http://www.qigonginstitute.org/html/usgovernment.php, there you will be able to read an NIH interview with
Dr. Roger Jahnke, OMD, entitled: Awaken the Healer Within: How Qigong and Tai Chi - Chinese Mind-Body Wellness Practices - Promote Healthy Function.
How is Qigong Different from Physical Exercise?
I like the way that my Qigong teacher, Dr. Nan Lu answers this question, so I am going to paraphrase his response: Generally, exercise makes your physical body change. To go beyond just physical changes, you need to have a practice like Qigong. Qigong, because it benefits your vital life force, works from the inside out. There is an ancient
Chinese saying, "To change the outside of yourself, you must begin from the inside." Qigong helps improve your body’s function; it balances your emotions, and sharpens your intuition. By opening up your intuition and increasing your Qi, Qigong is the key to discovering your very special inheritance that is locked away inside of yourself. You discover your
"If you want to be healthy and live to 100, do Qigong."
- Dr. Mehmet Oz
If you are interested in seeing some Qigong practiced, visit the following websites: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/cam/faq/video/cam4_na.html?intro=yes , http://nccam.nih.gov/video/taichiDVD , and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyLPA8t4WbU&feature=relmfu (Dr. Nan Lu).
Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist, physical therapist, and Reiki Master with over 20 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA. She can be reached at 717-752-5728.