What is Qi Gong ?
Qi Gong (Chi Kung) means ‘energy practice’ and began around the time of the Yellow Emperor 4500 years ago. It is deeply intertwined with the philosophy of Tao and the Chinese way of life where it is taught in schools, universities and hospitals. Originally, Qi Gong was based on Taoist and Buddhist healing techniques to improve the flow of Qi (natural healing energy) between humans and nature, and was practiced as a daily self-renewal method to tune the body, breath and mind and bring them into unity.
Popular styles of Qi Gong include; Medical Qi Gong which uses herbs, massage and acupuncture; Martial Qi Gong is practiced by martial artists to increase fighting power; Spiritual Qi Gong is practiced by monks to energize the brain for enlightenment. However, the most popular style is Health Qi Gong which encourages a regular practice of deep breathing, stretching, energy meditation and healthy diet to increase the quantity and quality of Qi in your body which can increase strength and vitality and help you maintain a healthy active life.
Goals of Practice
- To teach beginners to feel their qi – Beginners usually do not have even the slightest concept of qi. Our courses gradually give you an understanding of qi through feeling and experience. This kind of knowledge is necessary for any kind of advancement in Qi Gong and Tai Chi Chuan. For this reason, beginners are usually taught some of the many simple Wai Dan forms.
- To teach beginners to regulate the body, breathing, and mind – Once you have grasped the idea of qi, you then start to learn to regulate your body. This includes how to relax the body from the skin to as deep as the internal organs and bone marrow. Through this relaxation you are able to feel and sense your center, balance, and root. You must also learn to regulate your breathing—normal abdominal breathing for relaxation and reverse abdominal breathing for qi expansion and condensation. Most important of all, you must learn to regulate your mind until it can be calm and concentrated without disturbance. All of these criteria are the critical keys to the correct practice of Qi Gong and Tai Chi Chuan. If you start learning the sequence without having already done this basic training, you will be preoccupied with the complicated movements and will only be able to perform them in a superficial way.
- To teach beginners to use their mind to lead the qi efficiently – Once you have regulated your body, breathing, and mind, you will then be able to use your concentrated mind to lead the qi to circulate smoothly and effectively.
- To teach practitioners to circulate qi in the twelve primary qi channels and fill up the two main qi vessels – If you are able to use your mind to lead the qi efficiently, you have completed the basic training. This is then the time for forms or sequence training. In addition, you should continue your Qi Gong and Tai Chi Chuan training and learn to build up your concentration to a higher level and, consequently, build your qi to a higher level. In addition, you should also learn to increase the qi in the two main vessels—the yin conception vessel and the yang governing vessel. Still meditation is normally used for this.
- To teach practitioners to expand their qi to the surface of the skin and to condense the qi to the bone marrow – When the body’s qi has been built to a higher level, you then start learning to lead the qi to the skin to increase the skin’s sensitivity and into the bones to nourish the marrow.
- To teach practitioners to use the qi to energize the muscles for maximum jin manifestation – When you are able to lead the qi to the skin and condense it to the marrow efficiently, you can then use this qi to energize the muscles to a high level. This is the secret to internal jin. Internal jin is the foundation and root of external jin.
- To lead advanced practitioners into the domain of spiritual cultivation – The ultimate goal of Qi Gong and Tai Chi Chuan practice is to lead you into the domain of emptiness, where your whole being is in the no-extremity (wuji) state. When you have reached this goal, the qi in your body and the qi in nature will unite and become one, and all human desires will gradually disappear.
Difference Between Tai Chi & Qi Gong
Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) and Qi Gong (Chi Kung) are two forms of mind-body exercise from ancient China that have more similarities than differences. Most people who practice Tai Chi Chuan also incorporate Qi Gong into their practice as they result in similar benefits including increased oxygenation of the whole body, mental calmness and renewed strength and vitality. Tai Chi Chuan and Qi Gong both centre around the philosophy of cultivating Qi, the life force or vital energy in our body. Both involve good posture and gentle movements. Both practices integrate breath with movement and use cognitive skills such as imagery and visualization to heighten awareness of energy circulation.
One major difference is that Tai Chi Chuan was originally created as a martial art with all its movements being either attacking, defensive and neutralizing. Tai Chi Chuan also has partner exercises known as Pushing Hands for developing advanced techniques, self-defense and martial power. Health Qi Gong is not a martial art and does not have any self-defense movements or Pushing Hands exercises. Health Qi Gong can be practiced sitting, standing and moving, but Tai Chi Chuan only has moving exercises. People get confused because when practiced slowly for health and relaxation Tai Chi Chuan is categorized as a form of Health Qi Gong.
However, both are easy to do, benefit everyone, and the results can be extraordinary. Each lesson builds on the next which helps to create a conversation of sensing, feeling and relaxing that engages your whole being in a process where old habits can be replaced by new awareness and skill. To train the mind to deeply connect with the language of the body is an art that requires guidance form a teacher and regular practice. As your own inner wisdom awakens it guides you through your healing journey and beyond.
Nei Gong & Wai GongGenerally speaking all Qi Gong practices can be divided into two categories: Nei Gong (internal training) and Wai Gong (external training). Understanding the difference between them will give you an overview of most styles of Chinese Qi Gong, and increase the effectiveness of your practice according to the training theory and methods of your Qi Gong tradition.
- Nei Gong is regarded as an internal practice that focuses more on mental training. It emphasizes relaxed muscles and mind power to build Qi in the lower abdomen and centre, which then flows out to the organs and throughout the meridian system and whole body. Nei Gong is mainly based on relaxed training exercises, and normal abdominal breathing (Zheng Hu Xi) to increase the effectiveness of leading Qi inwards.
- Wai Gong is regarded as an external practice that focuses more on physical training. It emphasizes stimulated muscles to build Qi in the skin, arms, legs and extremities, which then flows in to the organs and throughout the meridian system and whole body. Wai Gong is mainly based on vigorous training exercises, and reverse abdominal breathing (Ni Hu Xi) to increase the effectiveness of leading Qi outwards.
How It Works
Health Qi Gong is a unique and comprehensive approach to personal development based on Yin Yang philosophy and Traditional Chinese Medicine for cultivating Qi, where good health is regarded as a result of a free-flowing, well-balanced energy system. Physical, mental and emotional illness occurs when Qi flow is blocked or impeded, or when there is excess or deficient water (Kan) and fire (Li) causing imbalance and dysfunction in the body’s energy system. With regular practice Health Qi Gong cleanses the body of toxins, restores energy and balance, reduces stress and anxiety, and helps maintain a healthy and active life.
Health Qi Gong practitioners can practice both Nei Gong and Wai Gong , depending on your Qi Gong tradition, to develop sensitivity to Yin Yang imbalances in the body, and learn to guide their energy back into balance. This can lead to self-healing skills and the ability to work with the natural energies of the universe to heal one self and others. Mastering these skills takes many years of training, patience and effort, leading to profound wisdom and spiritual growth, and what the ancient masters refer to as ‘Becoming One with the Tao’.
5 Fundamentals of Qi Gong
The body communicates with the mind through your feelings which are transmitted through the nervous system. The first step in connecting your mind and body is by developing your internal vision and listening skills (Ting Jin). Listening is extremely important in sensing your feelings, which are the Yin and Yang changes in the body and mind, and sending accurate information to the brain. Yin and Yang can be: insubstantial or substantial; small or big; closing or opening; bending or extending; inhaling or exhaling; rising or falling; soft or hard; internal or external; coming or going; passive or active; retreating or advancing; defensive or offensive; gathering or releasing; etc. Developing this sensitivity is extremely important to the success of your practice, requiring a calm mind (Yi) with full awareness in the present moment capable of accurate listening.
The length and depth of your training and experience (Gong Fu) helps you to judge what you are feeling and understand the yin and yang changes in your body and mind. This allows you to decide on a proper strategy, make appropriate adjustments in the way you train, and how you live your life according to your lifestyle and environment. By developing these understanding skills (Dong Jin) you can awaken your inner guru and start to rely on intuitive wisdom (Yi). You should always remember that Yin and Yang are mutually exchangeable, and ponder this theory by searching for the applications. If you are able to understand the theory of Yin and Yang and know their applications, then your comprehension will become deep and your knowledge profound.
Relaxation can release energy that is trapped in the body and allows it to flow freely through your whole being. To create the optimum structure for smooth and efficient Qi flow, you must reduce all resistance (Wu Wei) that blocks the energetic system. This requires maintaining correct body alignment (Chong Ting), and body mechanics based on optimum structure (Song), sinking (Chen), opening (Kai), and most important raising your spirit of vitality (Xu Ling Ding Jin). This means activating the tendons more than the muscles, and using intention of the mind rather than brute force. With meditation you learn to neutralize the emotional mind (Xin) which can cause mental resistance and hinder focused attention. Only then can you open the energy gates of your mind and body and unite with the qi of nature, and realize your oneness with nature.
To energize the body with life force energy you must understand the Three Treasures (San Bao) and how to combine pre-natal Jing (anti-aging hormones) with post-natal Qi (air, food, water) and unite them with Shen your spirit. But it is your breathing that stimulates the Jing and Qi to unite and produce your life force energy. Therefore, integrating correct abdominal breathing into your movements and meditations is essential in the production and storage of energy in the body. This leads to harmonizing your breath (Xi) with your spirit (Shen). When your spirit seems to be doing the breathing you can control the energy flow more efficiently. Advanced techniques include reverse abdominal breathing (Ni Hu Xi), and martial grand circulation (Da Zhou Tian) for manifesting Qi power (Jin).
A relaxed mind is a useful mind. Therefore, you need to learn how to be calm and focused with clear intentions. Usually most beginners with an untrained mind are slaves to their emotions, confusing impulsive living for freedom. However, when the emotional mind (Xin) is neutralized, and the wisdom mind (Yi) is increased, the mind becomes more balanced with harmonious thoughts leading to ‘one mind’ (Wu Xin). To maximize the desired effects of your meditation and movements, use your feelings to detect and identify the current situation so your ‘one mind’ can decide on the proper strategy, which can then direct the Qi with clarity. Your mind is considered the most important component to successful training, and plays an important role in mutually combining your spirit (Shen) and energy (Qi) which control the water (Kan) and fire (Li) in your body: the keys to balancing the health of your whole being.