Kenneth Cohen translates qigong as “working with life energy, learning how to control the flow and distribution of qi to improve the health and harmony of mind and body" (The Way of Qigong, New York: Ballantine Books, 1997, p.3). Such practices have been prevalent in China for 2000-3000 years. The term qigong in the sense that we are using it, the practice of cultivating and refining qi, is a relatively new usage. In ancient China, these exercises were commonly called “dao-yin" which Cohen translates as “leading and guiding the energy" (The Way of Qigong, p. 13).
The grandfather of Chinese Daoist philosophy, Lao Zi (or Lao Tzu), describes dao-yin practice in his Dao De Jing (or Tao Teh Ching) written in the third and fourth centuries B. C. The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine recommended dao-yin exercises in the first and second century B. C. to cure colds and fevers, to attain tranquility, and to cultivate vital energy. A folded piece of silk from the second century B. C. , called the Dao-yin Tu, shows four rows of painted figures representing “all major categories of modern qigong: breathing, stances, movement, and self-massage from standing, seated, and supine positions. . . Of great interest are the captions that name specific disorders, such as kidney disease, flatulence, painful knees, lumbago, rheumatism, gastric disturbance, and anxiety, suggesting that by 168 B. C. specific exercises were used to treat specific illnesses" (The Way of Qigong, p. 18).
Today, according to Qigong Master Tianyou Hao, there are over 35,000 different forms of qigong exercises. Master Hao says that “A Qigong form is a specific mental and/or physical exercise or coordination of a series of exercises all prescribed to train, develop and condition the mind and body for the purpose of health, healing, longevity, and opening wisdom" (from Master Hao's Qigong Instructor Training Course).
Although there are so many forms of qigong, the underlying theory, energetic anatomy, and principles of practice are common across most forms. The system taught in my Learn Qigong Meditation Program is a complete system of meditative qigong, along with some simple movements to release tension and increase energy flow.
Meditative qigong is called jing gong or quiet form (with standing and seated versions). This is in contrast to moving qigong forms, such as Taiji (or T'ai chi), which use bodily movement to mobilize qi. The emphasis in meditative qigong is the development of mind and spirit through the calm entrainment of body and emotion. This is accomplished by using your mind to relax your body, adjust your emotional attitude, and lead qi along specific pathways through your body.
Qigong meditation develops our ability to feel qi, build and store qi, and circulate qi smoothly throughout the body. The effects of meditative qigong are holistic: they positively affect all four levels of our being. The smooth flow of qi is the key to physical health, emotional balance, mental clarity, and spiritual integration. Cultivating awareness of qi flow is a path of personal growth.
If you are interested in more articles in this series or in the Learn Qigong Meditation Program visit: http://www.learnqigongmeditation.com
Copyright 2006 by Kevin Schoeninger
Kevin Schoeninger: M. A.in Philosophy, Certified Qigong Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Reiki Master. http://www.learnqigongmeditation.com