Qigong (EM Technique) – Biography Points

Qigong

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Qigong Exercise And Meditation Technique

Maintaining physical and mental well-being is essential in today’s fast-paced world. One ancient practice that promotes this balance is Qigong (pronounced “chee-gong”). This holistic system integrates exercise, meditation, and breath control to enhance health and spiritual growth. Whether you’re an experienced practitioner or a curious newcomer, Qigong offers numerous benefits that can improve your overall quality of life.

Qigong (/ˈtʃiːˈɡɒŋ/) is a coordinated system of body posture, movement, breathing, and meditation. It is valuable for health, spirituality, and martial arts training. With roots in Chinese medicine, philosophy, and martial arts, Qigong is traditionally seen in China and across Asia as a practice to cultivate and balance the life force known as qi.

Qigong typically involves moving meditation, slow-flowing movements, deep rhythmic breathing, and a calm, meditative state. Qigong also serves as a foundation for martial arts training and is practiced worldwide for recreation, exercise, relaxation, preventive medicine, self-healing, and meditation.

Pronounced “chi-gong,” Qigong is an ancient Chinese system of exercise and meditation that blends movement, breathing, and mental focus. It serves as the basis for tai chi chuan, which began as a martial art and later became popular for its health benefits.

Known as dao yin, Qigong’s origins trace back to Daoist traditions around 2146 BCE. The term dao yin, meaning “guiding the qi,” appears in early Daoist texts like the Zhuangzi, attributed to the philosopher Zhuang Zhou. These texts describe exercises inspired by animal movements and breathing techniques designed to promote longevity and treat various health issues.

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Qigong
 Songkran Festival
氣功  / 气功
Traditional Chinese 氣功
Simplified Chinese 气功
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese khí công
Chữ Hán 氣功
Korean name
Hangul 기공
Hanja 氣功
Japanese Name
Kanji 気功
Kana きこう

Qigong, which means “cultivating the qi,” gained popularity in the mid-20th century. Modern Qigong focuses on moving qi through channels called meridians, believed in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to influence the health and function of the body’s organs.

Qigong faced a brief ban during the Cultural Revolution due to its spiritual elements and ties to the controversial Falun Gong movement. However, changing political climates and a focus on scientific health approaches led to its reintegration into Chinese society. Today, Qigong is a vital component of TCM, alongside acupuncture, acupressure, and herbal medicine.

In recent decades, Qigong has attracted significant Western medical research, showing it can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve breathing and coordination, manage pain, and alleviate fatigue. Research suggests Qigong may benefit individuals with Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular issues, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and various cancers. It has also been shown to improve cognition, memory, and fall prevention, making it particularly beneficial for older adults. Its slow, low-impact movements, which can be done standing or sitting, make Qigong accessible for all ages.

What is Qigong?

Qigong is a centuries-old Chinese practice rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, martial arts, and philosophy. The word “Qigong” is composed of two Chinese characters: “Qi” (energy) and “Gong” (work or skill). Thus, Qigong translates to “energy work” or “skillful practice of energy.” It involves coordinated movements, controlled breathing, and meditation to cultivate and balance the body’s vital energy.

Etymology

Qigong, ch’i kung, and chi gung are romanizations of the Chinese words “qì” and “gōng.” “Qi” typically means air, gas, or breath, but it is often interpreted as ‘vital energy,’ a supposed force that circulates through the body. More broadly, it can refer to universal energy, including heat, light, and electromagnetic energy, often involving the relationship between matter, energy, and spirit. “Qi” is a fundamental concept in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts. “Gong” (or “kung”) means cultivation or work and can also denote practice, skill, mastery, achievement, or accomplishment. Together, these words describe systems aimed at cultivating and balancing life energy for health and wellbeing.

The term qigong gained prominence in the late 1940s through the 1950s. It was used to describe a wide variety of Chinese self-cultivation exercises, focusing on health and scientific approaches while downplaying spiritual practices, mysticism, and exclusive lineages.

History and origins

Qigong has deep roots in ancient Chinese culture, dating back over 2,000 years. It has evolved into numerous forms, each serving different purposes within Chinese society. In traditional Chinese medicine, qigong is used for both preventive and curative functions. In Confucianism, it promotes longevity and moral character. Taoism and Buddhism incorporate qigong into meditative practices, while Chinese martial arts use it to enhance self-defense abilities. Modern qigong integrates various traditions, such as Taoist “internal alchemy” (neidan), “circulating qi” (xingqi), “standing meditation” (zhan zhuang), and “guiding and pulling” (daoyin). Traditionally, qigong was taught from master to student through training and oral transmission, with scholars focusing on meditative practices and the working masses on dynamic exercises.

From 1949 to 1999: The Qigong Boom

In the late 1940s and 1950s, the Chinese government aimed to unify different qigong practices into a coherent system and establish a scientific basis for them. In 1949, Liu Guizhen coined the term “qigong” for the life-preserving practices he and his colleagues developed, rooted in daoyin and other traditions. This effort marked the beginning of the modern scientific interpretation of qigong. During the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, qigong was tightly controlled and limited to state-run rehabilitation centers, universities, and hospitals. After the Cultural Revolution, qigong and tai chi became popular morning exercises practiced by millions across China.

In the 1990s, qigong’s popularity soared, with estimates of 60 to 200 million practitioners. In 1985, the China Qigong Science and Research Society was established to regulate qigong practices and the activities of Qigong Masters. Prominent figures, including the atomic scientist Qian Xuesen, supported research into the paranormal aspects of qigong, advocating for “somatic science” to explore human body potentials cultivated through qigong.

However, the rise in popularity also brought controversy, including claims of supernatural abilities, pseudoscientific explanations, the mental condition known as qigong deviation, formation of cults, and exaggerated claims by masters for personal gain.

Control and Crackdown

In 1999, in response to the revival of spirituality and perceived threats to State control, the Chinese government took strict measures against public qigong practices. This included shutting down qigong clinics and hospitals, and banning groups like Zhong Gong and Falun Gong. Since then, qigong research and practice have been officially supported only within the context of health and traditional Chinese medicine. The Chinese Health Qigong Association, established in 2000, regulates public qigong practice, limits public gatherings, requires state-approved training and certification of instructors, and restricts practice to state-approved forms.

Conventional medicine

Since the 1990s, conventional Western medicine has increasingly followed the evidence-based medicine (EBM) model. This approach prioritizes results from controlled, especially randomized, clinical trials over medical theory, clinical experience, and physiological data. While some clinical trials suggest qigong may be effective for certain conditions recognized in Western medicine, the quality of these studies is generally low, and their results are mixed.

Qigong
Qigong

Techniques

From the perspectives of exercise, health, philosophy, and martial arts, several core principles define the practice of qigong:

  1. Intentional Movement: This involves careful, flowing, and balanced movements.
  2. Rhythmic Breathing: Slow, deep breathing synchronized with fluid movements.
  3. Awareness: Maintaining a calm and focused meditative state.
  4. Visualization: Imagining the flow of qi, integrating philosophical ideas, and appreciating aesthetics.
  5. Chanting/Sound: Using sound as a focal point during practice.

Additional key principles include:

  • Softness: Maintaining a soft gaze and an expressionless face.
  • Solid Stance: Ensuring firm footing and an erect spine.
  • Relaxation: Keeping muscles relaxed and joints slightly bent.
  • Balance and Counterbalance: Moving with a focus on maintaining the center of gravity.

Advanced goals of qigong practice are:

  • Equanimity: Achieving a more fluid and relaxed state.
  • Tranquility: Cultivating an empty mind and heightened awareness.
  • Stillness: Progressing towards smaller movements, eventually reaching complete stillness.

Ultimately, the most advanced qigong practice is characterized by minimal or no motion.

Key Techniques and Course Structure

Technique Description Timing Duration of Course Level
Ba Duan Jin Eight simple exercises to improve health and vitality. 10-15 minutes per set 4-8 weeks Beginner
Wu Qin Xi Five Animal Frolics imitating animal movements. 20-30 minutes per set 6-12 weeks Intermediate
Liu Zi Jue Six Healing Sounds to Promote Internal Organ Health. 15-20 minutes per set 4-8 weeks Intermediate
Yi Jin Jing Exercises aimed at transforming muscles and tendons. 20-30 minutes per set 8-12 weeks Advanced
Zhan Zhuang Standing meditation to cultivate inner strength and Qi. 5-10 minutes per session, up to 30 minutes 4-6 weeks Beginner to Advanced
Shibashi 18 movement forms integrating Tai Chi and Qigong. 15-25 minutes per set 6-10 weeks Beginner
Fan Huan Gong Rejuvenation exercises focus on the spine and joints. 20-30 minutes per set 8-12 weeks Intermediate
Dao Yin Guided stretching and breathing exercises. 15-20 minutes per session 6-8 weeks Beginner
Shen Gong Spiritual meditation for deep inner peace and awareness. 10-20 minutes per session Ongoing practice, often lifelong Advanced
Taoist Qigong Practices focusing on aligning with Taoist principles. 15-30 minutes per session 12 weeks to several months Intermediate to Advanced

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