The practice of qigong aims at balancing and strengthening qi in the human body. In Medical Qigong, for example, the objective for healing illness is to build the patient’s qi to counteract the pathogenic influences and to regulate the balance of yin-yang energy, thereby returning the body to a normal physiological state, thus regaining health. This way the energetic imbalance is rebalanced and the root cause of the illness is removed.
If qi in the human body is strong, then it will be difficult for the pathogenic influences to adversely affect the body. Even if the pathogenic influence does attack the body, the abundance of qi increases the immunity of the body and prevents disease from occurring. Only when the qi is weak or deficient will the pathogenic influences be able to cause irregularities in the physiological systems and result in diseases.
The TCM approach to treating illness includes the use of herbs, acupuncture, moxibustion, and massage to counteract the effects of pathogenic influences, thereby regaining health. Another approach would be to practice qigong and/or take herbs to strengthen the qi, thus improving the immunity of the body for fighting against the pathogenic influences.
One of the ways doctors and healers can remove the physical manifestation of an illness is by balancing a patient’s energy; and prescribing external assistance such as drugs, herbs, or nutritional supplements. In drastic cases, surgical removal of the manifestation of the illness is necessary. However, it is up to the individual to work on maintaining the balance of energy within the body to prevent the illness from remanifesting in a similar or other form. External assistance is not a permanent solution to problems associated with energetic imbalance. Once the external assistance is removed or stopped, the individual’s body still may not have a natural response to prevent the illness. By practicing qigong, the natural response to establish balance within the body is achieved and strengthened, thus illness is prevented.
In Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, and Wushu (martial arts) qigong training, the same approaches are also used to achieve a healthy mind and body. With a healthy mind and body, the higher levels of any achievement in any field can be accomplished because the foundation is strong enough to withstand the demands of continuous learning.
What is Qigong?
Qigong is the oldest art of health exercise developed in China. Qigong exercises were developed to strengthen and circulate Qi (life or vital energy). Smoothly flowing Qi is the basis for good health in Chinese medical theory. Proof of its ancient uses have been unearthed and preserved until this day in various styles and forms throughout the world. The purpose of Qigong is more of a therapeutic process. A wide variety of practitioners and professionals attest to its effectiveness in relieving stress, increasing brainpower and physical stamina. From a study of various physical basic structures, Master Yu teaches the basic acu-meridian points associated with each of the many style and types of Qigong practices.
Qigong (Ch’i Kung)
The history of Qigong (Ch’i Kung) commences beyond the era of written records, in the mists of prehistory. Earliest estimates suggest that self-enhancement and empowerment practices date into the time of Chinese shamans, previous to 500 BCE.
While Qigong has strong roots into mystical and philosophical ground, the practical healing and stress management applications are the most popular aspects of the tradition in China today. Both the health and spiritual applications are rapidly gaining in popularity in the Western world as people realize that disease and stress are relieved by peace of mind.
Qigong is one of the four pillars of traditional Chinese medicine: Acupuncture, Massage, Herbal Medicines and Qigong. Of these, Qigong is the one that can be most easily self-initiated. Both massage and herbal remedies can also be done as self care, however, Qigong is the mother of Chinese self-healing. Patients who use Qigong faithfully need less medication, less acupuncture and heal faster.
The word Qigong breaks into Qi and Gong: Qi = vitality, energy, life force, Gong = practice, cultivate, refine; Qigong = to cultivate and refine through practice one’s vitality or life force. The Chinese believe that the primary mechanism that is triggered by the practice of Qigong is a spontaneous balancing and enhancing of the natural healing resources in the human system. Over thousands of years millions of people have benefited from these practices believing that improving the function of the Qi maintains health and heals disease.
In the paradigm of mechanistic Western science, the practice of Qigong triggers a wide array of physiological mechanisms, which have profound healing benefits. It increases the delivery of oxygen to the tissues. It enhances the elimination of waste products as well as the transportation of immune cells through the lymph system. And it shifts the chemistry of the brain and the nervous system. You can find a summary of the many physiological mechanisms that are initiated by the practice of Qigong in the Information Center.
There are various estimates for the number of varieties of Qigong. There are at least a thousand. Some elaborate and complex, some mysterious and esoteric and some simple and practical. If you adjust to a relaxed, upright posture, take a deep breath and relax your mind – you are already doing Qigong. Try this: sit up, relax your body, take a deep breath, and rest your mind for just a moment. Already you are stimulating an automatic self-healing response.
On any morning in the parks throughout China you will find literally thousands of people doing Qigong practices. Some practice individually quietly among the trees. Others practice in large groups of hundreds or even thousands. Often, one will see a patient, in hospital pajamas, doing a special form of cancer recovery Qigong – at form of slow and intentful walking. Or a group might stand in a circle chatting as they do a simple form based on hand movements.
Qigong is one of the most powerful self-healing traditions ever developed in human history. It is literally a health wonder of the world.
Every time you return to this Qigong and Taiji Resource Center you will find that our libraries are growing.
You may wish to explore the words that are used to describe Qigong (Ch’i Kung) and Taiji (T’ai Chi); it will help to clarify a few important points.
History of Qigong
In the 1600’s the social, scientific and philosophical history of western culture experienced a radical shift. The work of Newton and Galileo literally revised our world. For thousands of years the humans were locked in the stagnation of the dark ages, with little advance since fire, the wheel and the sword. Then, in less than the life span of an oak tree, tremendous and sudden evolution occurred with the rapid development of engineering, the automobile and antibiotics.
Western culture is at the edge of another profound and dramatic transformation. For the last 400 years we have understood that the world was a dynamic interrelationship of substances, particles and bodies. Now, through the most refined scientific inquiry, it has become clear that there is no substance. What we thought was substance has been revealed as a dynamic interrelationship of energies. Physics is now redefining time and space and generating whole new sciences of resonance and energy fields. There is even emerging agreement on a theory that suggests that there are more than three dimensions of space and one of time. Again as in the 1600’s everything is dramatically changing.
Acupuncture, however, is really just a modality, a tool used by doctors of oriental medicine to help the patient. Like surgery, though much less invasive or like medication though less likely to cause side effects, acupuncture has startling implications for the future of medicine. The aspect of oriental medicine that has the potential to truly rock the western world is Qigong. Healing patients without touching them and with no medication, causing anesthesia by just pointing a finger and generating acupuncture like response without needles are well documented effects of Qigong. Many observers have seen Qigong masters light fluorescent tubes with their hands, break massive stones and thick steel bars with their hands and feet and start fires by projecting the Qi. The implications for the transformational impact of Qigong on western science are profound.
Qigong has captured the imagination and the scientific attention of the world. In China there is a multitude of Qigong research institutes. The need for research in the rigorous scientific method of the West, with control groups and ample statistical methodologies has shifted Qigong research out of the tradition ways. In the United States Qigong associations and institutes are proliferating rapidly. The Chinese National Chi Kung Association, which has an extensive written and video training course. Master Manuel Marquez was one of the first groups to graduate from the Chinese National Chi Kung Association in 1984 in the USA.
Qigong is one of the great mysteries of the Asia. It is the most profound of the aspects of Asian medicine. It is the root of self-care, in the Chinese health care system. It is the essence of the how “physician heal thy self” operates in China. Qigong is the grand overriding structure of the martial arts and is the central practice of the “internal arts”. It is the current link to the ancient source of Asian shamanism and magic. And yet, with all of these qualities of the unusual and the esoteric, Qigong has a very practical role in the maintenance of health and the healing of disease.
Cultivating the Human Bio-Electric Field
The Chinese character that gives us the word Qi means the human vitality or essential functional energy of life. It also means breath. Bioelectrical breath, resonating bioelectrical field and human bio-magnetic field are other translation attempts that give a rich and graphic image for the Qi. It is the Qi or life force that maintains the healthy and harmonious function of the human body’s self regulating systems. It is the Qi that the doctor of oriental medicine manipulates with acupuncture. It is the Qi that binds the planets into a solar system, holds the electrons in their orbital shells around the nucleus of the atom and drives the sprout upward, against 14.7 pounds per square inch of gravity, to reach for the sun.
The character that gives us the word Gong means, “to cultivate” or “engage in”. In every Asian community there is a wonderful place called the cultural hall or institute of culture. Sometimes it is called the school of physical culture. This idea of culture derives from the act of cultivation, which requires time, discipline and intention. Gong means to practice, train, enhance and refine but it also implies enjoyment, devotion and commitment. If some one loves to cook, garden or meditate and if they are devoted to practice and refinement, then, one’s engagement in these practices is Gong. Because one of the all time favorite pastimes in China is gong fu, which in many historical periods has meant fighting or boxing, the idea of gong is often associated with the martial arts. . In fact, however, gong is applicable to any practice, discipline or self-development art in which a person is deeply involved.
Qigong, simply stated, is the cultivation of Qi or vital life energy. Stated in a more modern and scientific language, Qigong is the practice of activating, refining and circulating the human bioelectrical field. Because the bioelectrical field maintains and supports the function of the organs and tissues, Qigong can have a profound effect on health. Beyond this Qigong expands into a discipline of mental and spiritual development.
There are many systems and traditions of Qigong ranging from simple callisthenic type movements with breath coordination to complex auto regulatory type exercises where the practitioner alters brain wave frequency, heart rate and other organ functions intentionally. In extremely advanced levels of practice the Qigong practitioner can transmit Qi or energy across distances and through substances. There are cases where the practitioner can manipulate the limbs of a subject from a distance and diagnose physiological disturbances without conversation or palpation.
There is a growing literature on the history, tradition, science and practice of Qigong. Its origin is shrouded in the mystery of ancient China. There are stories of special techniques of breath practice that leads to immortality, healing powers, and special abilities. During the ancient Shang dynasty (1766-1154 BC) there is evidence of a system to stimulate, what are now called acupuncture reflexes that help to resolve disturbances of the Qi?
From Lu Buwei (221-207 BC) and his book to Huang Di and his book Nei Jing (476-221BC) the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic. During the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 BC) widespread was received. Lao Zi (770-476BC) and Zhuang Zi (369-286BC) the founder of Zhuang Chi Kung the masters where compiling more information on this subject. During the Chou dynasty and the Warring States periods (1100-221 BC) records appeared on bamboo and on bronze that refer to breathe practice. A number of Lao Tze’s greatly revered verses suggest breath practice and the benefits of merging with the forces and elements of nature. A famous prescription of the period is frequently referred to and because of the wide variation of possible meanings for early Chinese ideograms it has many various translations.
The great Taoist poet/philosopher Chuang Tzu stated, in 300 BC, “The ancients breathed down to their heels”. This suggests that the breath, in the form of the Qi, is projected and circulated throughout the body. In 1973 an archeological excavation of a Han dynasty (220 BC-220 AD) tomb in Hunan Province revealed a series of over 40 figures painted onto a silk scroll doing various Qigong movements. It is reported that while many of the inscriptions have become unreadable one is clear which says, “Look skyward and exhale”. In this same period one of the first great acupuncture and herbal medicine practitioners, Bien Chieuh, taught breath practice to enhance the circulation of the Qi.
It is a strong tradition in oriental medicine to teach a person to maintain health and many famous physicians developed systems of exercise. In the third century AD, Hua To, whose place in the history of oriental medicine is so illustrious that a series of important acupuncture points bear his name, developed a series of Qigong exercises called the “five animal forms”. In the sixth century, Ta Mo, a monk in the tradition of Mahayana Buddhism, also known as Bodhidarma, came from India and found the monks of Shaolin Temple weakly and undisciplined. He introduced a combination of movement forms with Buddhist meditation that invigorated the monks and increased their power. This was the beginning of the tradition of the superior martial artists of the Shaolin Temple.
Many lineages of Qigong have developed over the centuries. The martial Gong enhances the strength, endurance and spirit of the warrior. The medical Gong can be used to heal diseases. Confucian Qigong is focused on self-cultivation, ethical development and refinement of personal temperament. The Taoist Gong is aimed at alchemical transmutation, merging with nature, longevity and immortality. The Buddhist Gong seeks refinement of mind, transcending the world of illusion and salvation of all living things.
In the “New China” following the revolution in the 1940’s Qigong briefly disappeared. In the 1970’s and 80’s numerous institutes for the study of Qigong have sprung up in China. Many hospitals now have Qigong doctors on staff and Qigong classes as regular allied treatment with acupuncture, herbs and western medical modalities. There is a genuine renaissance of Qigong occurring in China. The western world, with its tremendous breakthrough of quantum physics, has taken up a sincere fascination with the bio-energetic of Qigong.
Here at the school we teach various forms of Qigong from the oldest and most diverse form is Daoyin Nei Dan or Wai Dan exercises. Dao refers to the fact that physical movements that are guided by the strength of the mind and in turn stimulate the internal flow of qi within the body. Yin means that with the aid of physical movements, qi can reach the bodily extremities. Nei is the soft internal way to distribute the qi to the body. Wai is the hard internal to distribute the qi to the body and Dan is the form of exercise.
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