What is Qi Gong?
Qi Gong is pronounced “chi kung”, where Qi translates to “Energy or Life Force” and Gong translates to “Work or Training”. It is a very broad term and therefore is used to name many forms of exercise or meditation that involves Energy or Life Force.
Similar to the word “kung fu”, which is a name used in the western world to refer to all martial arts that originates from China. The word “qi gong”, is a name given to all energy related training or practice that originates from China.
The spectrum of qi gong practices is vast and diverse as with the rich tapestry of Chinese culture of over four thousand years. To help understand it better, we can classify qi gong into 2 broad categories: Hard Qi Gong and Soft Qi Gong.
Hard Qi Gong is a skill used to train the body to withstand blows to the body that would normally incapacitate a person. Practice involves meditation and breathing techniques to allow the body to train under adverse conditions to toughen up the muscles, skin and bones. An example of hard qi gong would be Shaolin monks breaking bricks on their heads or bending a spear with their throat.
Soft Qi Gong involves cultivating the flow of qi within our body. Sometimes it is referred to as Yang Sheng Qi Gong, where Yang translates to “cultivate” and Sheng translates to “Life”, meaning Qi Gong that is practiced for Health. Yang Sheng Qi Gong or Health Qi Gong can be further classified into 2 sub categories: Static (Passive) and Dynamic (Active). Static Qi Gong does not require any body movements and can be performed in a standing or sitting pose, while Dynamic Qi Gong does require body movements.
Dynamic Qi Gong
Even within the realm of dynamic qi gong, you will encounter many different schools and forms of qi gong. However since movements are involved, these movements are compiled into a form and then given a name. Therefore it is comparatively easier to identify the type of qi gong you are practicing. For example, if you say I am practicing “Yi Jin Jing” or “Tendon Changing Classic” then people know exactly what you are practicing.
The following qi gong forms are officially recognized by the Chinese Health Qi Gong Association:
- Tendon Changing Classic (Yì Jīn Jīng 易筋经)
- Five Animals (Wu Qin Xi 五禽戲)
- Six Healing Sounds (Liu Zi Jue 六字訣
- Eight Section Brocade (Ba Duan Jin 八段錦)
- Tai Chi Yang Sheng Zhang (太极养生杖): a tai chi form from the stick tradition
- Shi Er Duan Jin (十二段锦): seated exercises to strengthen the neck, shoulders, waist, and legs
- Daoyin Yang Sheng Gong Shi Er Fa (导引养生功十二法): 12 routines from Daoyin tradition of guiding and pulling qi
- Mawangdui Daoyin (马王堆导引术): guiding qi along the meridians with synchronous movement and awareness
- Da Wu (大舞): choreographed exercises to lubricate joints and guide qi
This list is only a small fraction of the numerous qi gong forms practiced in the world today.
Qi Gong Key points
- Each set of exercise comprise of several movements, each movement is repeated multiple times before moving on to the next movement.
- The movements may include one or more of the following characteristics:
- Movements coordinated with breathing
- Movements that contort the body to stretch specific muscles, tendons or ligaments
- Movements are performed slowly
- Movements that require squatting down low or intentional tensing of muscles for the purpose of strengthening the body
- Movements coordinated with the phonation of sounds
- Depending on the exercise or movement, the mental aspect may be one of the following:
- The mind is calm and relaxed
- The mind is focused on a specific point or meridian line
- The mind is focused on breathing
- The mind is focused on the vibration when expressing a sound
- The goal of practicing qi gong is to cultivate the flow of qi (life force) within our body to promote health or healing combined with stretching and strengthening of muscles and joints.
- The reasons for practicing qi gong slowly:
- To prevent injury when stretching muscles, tendons, ligaments
- To allow the body to relax and open up the pathways for qi flow
- To allow the mind to focus on the flow of qi within