by Shems Heartwell
At one time, the only people learning about the practice of Qi Gong were martial artists and healers. Today more and more people are able to discover its science and art through their path to improving their health, wellness and fitness. Others may have heard about Qi Gong training peripherally through other exercise endeavors. They may be taking part in yoga or read articles online or in magazines about this ancient practice for health and wellness. So what exactly is Qi Gong and what benefits can one gain from it?
In Chinese characters “Qi” (chee) means energy and “Gong” means work.
Basically it is an ancient Chinese system of health cultivation that has been around thousands of years. Like Yoga, it has been refined by teachers and masters over the centuries. Recently the practices have been adapted to be performed by those living a modern lifestyle and not just for martial artists and healers. In modern China, hundreds of people can be seen in the mornings doing their practices in the parks.
While there are numerous different schools of thought which revolve around the art, there are a few common, universal components present within all approaches to Qi Gong training. Mainly, the process of performing Qi Gong will entail special breathing exercises, the performance of physical postures, gentle movements and meditation based focused concentration.
Some might wonder what makes Qi Gong training different from Yoga and other types of exercises. The main difference is that Qi Gong centers on the cultivation of the very important life energy that circulates through the body. This life energy is called Qi, Prana or Mana.
Qi can be best described as the natural life force energy that helps the human body and mind remain healthy. It connects the life sustaining meridians, nerves and blood flow with the universal energy that exists in the world. The universal life energy or Qi is commonly misunderstood in the western world and other parts of the globe, which is unfortunate because understanding Qi allows one to better understand how to prevent illness and treat diseases. Qi is the energy at the core of all living things. In Chinese medicine, it is noted that once a person’s Qi flow is congested, a person will become sick, angry or agitated. Qi flows through the meridian points of the body and when these meridians are blocked, the body cannot gain the full benefits necessary for health and vitality. This is where Qi Gong practice becomes incredibly helpful.
Many will note that the practice of Qi Gong is roughly 2,500 years old based on many historical records. This may not be an accurate listing of the time the concept was discovered. Rather this could be the point in time when the various exercises became much more refined. The reason this is thought is because there are records of Qi Gong exercises dating back 5,000 years.
The “Gong” part of Qi Gong refers to the performance of good effort. Many assume the term Gung/Gong/Kung Fu means martial arts. It does not. It refers to performing something with great, positive effort. This can include the martial arts or any other task. In this particular case, we are noting the great performance of cultivating Qi energy. This is achieved through the many movements, postures, meditations, and breathing exercises done to enhance Qi flow and accumulation.
There are many reasons why people will study the art of Qi Gong. The aforementioned concept of healing would be the most common. However, there are also schools of Qi Gong which are directly related to martial arts and sportive training. There are also schools of spiritual Qi Gong which are employed by many to help attain higher levels of consciousness and spiritual development.
To get the benefits of Qi Gong you do not need to understand it. As long as you practice the exercises consistently in a relaxed manner, you will find your Qi and blood circulation is enhanced. From this, many benefits associated with Qi flow can be gained, such as joint regeneration, better sleep, stress relief and improved mental focus to name a few.