QiGong, or chi gong, has its roots in Chinese martial arts and energy cultivation. It is a centuries old practice, focusing on the way breathing and body movements affect the body and spirit. QiGong is believed to help center the physical body, and open it up so as to open the spirit to a richer, fuller life. Much like the popular yoga, QiGong utilizes incense as a method to control breathing and as a spiritual soother (although the incense was originally used as a bug repellant during outdoor practice).
Many QiGong styles focus primarily on the belief that nature and the human body are directly and importantly linked. These styles focus on virtue—and the idea that the human body is a blank slate, or uncarved block, waiting for virtue to be impressed upon it. These QiGong styles are practiced in levels—the higher your virtue, the higher your level. The trick is gaining virtue while still cultivating a relaxed physical and mental state.
QiGong is widely used as a method of self-healing. Many believe that through QiGong practice, an individual can overcome many illnesses, from minor aggravations such as aches and pains, to cancer. This belief does hold up to scientific investigation. The regular practice of QiGong increases oxygen intake to the body over the long-term, and this causes a chain reaction. The body’s cells have a positive reaction to the increased oxygen, and begin to eliminate cellular waste more quickly and efficiently. The body itself eliminates this waste through increased urination and defecation. The body becomes healthier on a cellular, and therefore entire, level. The brain, also getting more oxygen, now receives positive input from the body and hence gains clarity, allowing the brain to better control the endocrine system. The endocrine system releases hormones, which both increases the body’s overall feeling of health, and gives the individual an increased sense of well-being, peace, and happiness.
QiGong is a generally safe, low-impact exercise regime. Due to its spiritual focus, however, many individuals have attempted to cash in on QiGong’s popularity in recent decades. Touting themselves as QiGong healers, many of these individuals have not practiced QiGong under a master to the highest levels, and masters warn that many of these false-gurus often do more harm than good. If you are seeking a QiGong teacher or healer, his (or more rarely, her) credentials should be considered closely.
In QiGong, it is easy to initiate practice by oneself, though traditionalists warn that improper practice can have negative effects on the body and thus, a reputable teacher should be sought out. Books and DVD’s on the subject can get the individual or family started with the proper techniques. As QiGong focuses on the mind as much as the body, it is important to begin practice with the belief that QiGong will better your body and mind. Many critics claim this is simply the placebo effect (when something works due solely to the individual’s belief that it will), but as belief can help one get to the desired outcome, it is necessary, placebo or not.