Qi Gong (pronounced “chee gung” and also spelled chi kung) is one of the three main branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), along with herbal medicine and acupuncture.
Qi Gong comprises exercises that manipulate the chi, or life force, within the body, moving it around and getting it to where it needs to go. The focus on breathing while performing specific smooth, flowing movements builds chi and makes it stronger, which leads to strength, mental and physical relaxation, and a longer and healthier life.
What is Qi?
Qi is the life force or vital energy that flows through every cell and atom of our bodies. We are each endowed with a finite amount of qi upon conception, and this qi is naturally used up as we mature and grow from infancy to adulthood. We also use up chi by doing things in excess. Eating a poor quality diet, getting inadequate sleep, overindulging in alcohol and other drugs, and remaining chronically stressed are all actions that deplete our natural qi.
Qi Gong translates as “life energy cultivation,” describing perfectly the act of attracting and moving life energy or life force into and throughout the body.
Fortunately, we can supplement our own life force with environmental qi, and this is the main purpose behind Qi Gong. Each movement is designed to move qi from one part of the body to another, gather qi from the universe, and allow it to enter our bodies at specific points. Qi Gong movements also help to expel stagnant or harmful qi that has accumulated.
Health Benefits of Qi Gong
Unlike Western exercises that focus on getting the heart rate up, sweating, and causing muscle contractions, Qi Gong and Tai Chi (which is a subset of Qi Gong) build both external and internal strength. Studies have shown that this gentler method of moving and breathing actually produces most of the health benefits of sweating and grunting.
For those who are not physically able to participate in strenuous exercise, Qi Gong is ideal. Even the very ill can practice Qi Gong from a bed or chair.
Some of the many health benefits of Qi Gong include:
- Loosening muscles and building internal power
- Strengthening the organs in general and in specific
- Strengthening the lungs and heart (cardio-pulmonary system)
- Strengthening the nerves
- Reducing risk of injury to ligaments, bones, and joints
- Improving circulation
- Reducing recovery time after illness or surgery
- Easing stress and anxiety while balancing emotions
- Decreasing pain, stiffness, and other ailments from sedentary jobs or a sedentary lifestyle
Finding the Right Qi Gong Exercise for You
Sorting through the hundreds of thousands of Qi Gong styles and techniques could overwhelm you. Because it’s been around for at least a couple millennia, many different styles and techniques have been invented. In fact, if each person in the world practiced Qi Gong regularly, there would be as many styles of Qi Gong as there are people on the planet. This means that there is no rigid way of performing Qi Gong, and you can adapt the movements to suit your specific needs and tastes.
Fortunately, there are plenty of people willing to show you exercises that can benefit you in any aspect of your life—whether you are young or old, fit or unfit, sedentary or active, ill or healthy, a night person or a morning person, or whatever.
One of the most popular Qi Gong styles in China is the ancient Fragrant Qi Gong. This can be done sitting or standing depending on your physical capabilities, and it is a mindful exercise as well as a physical exercise. A few minutes in the morning is all it takes.
Walking Qi Gong has also been incredibly popular, as is Tai Chi, which is a subset of Qi Gong.
Sites such as YouTube include many video tutorials on various Qi Gong exercises performed by people from all over the world and from all walks of life. You can’t go wrong by trying out whatever Qi Gong program you find interesting.
Along with practicing Qi Gong as a morning routine, it is advisable to also incorporate a healthy diet and quality supplements in order to help the chi move freely throughout your body. As you become used to the gentle movements and the focus on breathing and mindfulness during your morning routine, you’ll find yourself feeling less stressed, more calm and focused, and with an increasing sense of wellbeing.