Qi Gong: Ancient Wisdom for the Modern World?!
Qi Gong essentially means energy (qi) work or cultivation (gong), and is a modern Chinese term for a series of time-honoured energy work, breathing, movement and stretching techniques from systems known as Nei Gong and Dao Yin (Do-In in Japanese) going back 1000’s of years. Qi Gong is pronounced “chee-goong”, and often spelt Chi Kung or Chi Gung. (The different spelling systems is academic, and I keep to the modern Chinese transliteration system, hence Qigong).
Based on Traditional Chinese medicine and philosophy, Qigong is both an art and a science, an integrated system of bodywork and energy healing, movement and breathwork, meditation and mindfulness, personal development and spiritual cultivation. Much of the theory used in Qigong is also found in the healing practices of Acupuncture and Shiatsu (Japanese Bodywork), for example: the concepts of Qi (Ki in Japanese) life-force energy, Yin-Yang, and the energy meridians that flow around the body. The exercise movements promoted by Qigong, can be highly therapeutic, and can be helpful is many ways: musculoskeletal alignment, reducing physical pain, keeping joints supple, internal massage for the digestive organs, deeper breathing, reduction of stress, and boosting the immune system.
You may be wondering what the difference or similarity Qigong has with Yoga (better described as Hatha Yoga) and Tai Chi (Taijiquan)? In a nutshell, with Yoga you stretch to relax, with Tai Chi and Qigong you relax to stretch. Just different sides of the same coin. The difference between Tai Chi and Qigong, is that Qigong is the mother of the Tai Chi. Tai Chi is an internal martial art that has Qigong techniques within it. Qigong is generally easier to learn and practice than Tai Chi and Yoga. All these systems are have their benefits and the choice of what to learn comes down to personal preference.
The more meditative and mindfulness side of Qigong can help us to become more attuned to our natural body intelligence, and the rhythms of nature, the environment and even the cosmos. Qigong helps integrate that Cartesian split between body and mind. The body, mind, emotions and energy are not separate disconnected chunks, but are interconnected to each other and effect one another, and any lack of integration can lead to ill health. Interestingly enough the Chinese character for Heart also means Mind. Can you really separate the two?
We are living in times of constant stress and over-stimulation, whether from work or financial pressures to the bombardment of social media. Qigong helps to let go of stress, and allow the practitioner to be more grounded and centred in this (what seems to be) mad times we are living in. A calmer mind and more healthier relaxed body handles problems and strife in a less reactionary way, enabling us to make more intelligent decisions. The more centred and balanced we become, the harder it is for external forces, psychologically and energetically speaking, to influence us.
Is Qigong ancient wisdom for the modern world? or Qigong ancient wisdom for the modern world! There actually room for both the question and the statement. This is a very Oriental philosophical way of thinking – things don’t always have to be Yes or No, Black or White. Getting too stuck in one way of thinking becomes restrictive, lacking in potential and possibilities. So don’t be shy, give Qi Gong a try, and discover what’s true for yourself.