Qi or Ki or Chi or Gi, depending on which Eastern culture you learn it from, translates to breath, air, energy, or life-force. Qigong is the art of moving life-force energy through the body.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the body has certain pathways known as meridians and when the flow of energy is hindered through these pathways, disease and ailments occur. Qigong exercises allow these pathways to flow strongly once more, returning the body to its full strength and health.
Qigong is divided into many forms of practice, such as the Healing Techniques practice in Chinese traditional medicine, or the purely meditative practice of Sitting Qigong. Here are handpicked Qigong exercises and movement styles for you to try.
Elements and Aims of Qigong Exercises
Qigong has a variety of different focuses and elements which, if are not in place, can render it ineffective. It is with these elements that the benefits of qigong are obtained and thus must be present in any practice you choose.
The movements done in qigong exercises are slow and controlled with an emphasis on intention and focus when moving. Calmness and concentration are important if the benefits of this practice are to be attained.
The practice of qigong can range from merely swaying your arms back and forth while counting your breath to one of the more complex styles seen in martial arts.
With such a range of practice, it is important to include these elements in your qigong exercises.
The elements of qigong exercises are:
1. Intentional movement
The key here is to apply intention to your movement by focusing on why you are moving, how you are moving and the controlled pace of your movement.
This element increases body awareness, weakness of the body, and proper execution of the exercise.
2. Body posture
To allow energy or qi to flow through the body effectively, you must be focused on the posture of your body.
This will not only improve the flow of energy through your body but will also aid in strengthening the skeletal musculature of your body. This intern will promote self-confidence and better aesthetic appeal.
3. Rhythmic breathing
Rhythmic breathing is an essential key to calmness and tranquillity. The act of rhythmical breathing can also promote balance in your body’s acidic and alkaline levels.
In qigong, there are certain energy points that are focused on, which increase body awareness, calmness, and energy or qi flow.
The awareness is usually kept on one of the major energy points of the body. There are about 23 main points that are used in the standing practice of qigong, as well as many others in other styles.
The power of chanting and sound in qigong is strongly related to the 5 elements of Chinese traditional medicine.
These five elements are earth, water, fire, metal, and wood. Each element has a color, sound, season, and focused organ. The idea behind using a certain sound in chanting qigong is to stimulate the organ and element by using the related sound.
The elements are broken down as follows:
- Organ: Lungs
- Color: White
- Sound: “SSSS”
- Season: Fall
- Organ: Kidneys
- Color: Blue
- Sound: “CHOOO”
- Season: Winter
- Organ: Liver
- Color: Green
- Sound: “SHHH”
- Season: Spring
- Organ: Heart
- Color: Red
- Sound: “HAAHHHH”
- Season: Summer
- Organ: Spleen
- Color: Yellow
- Sound: “WHOOOO”
- Season: Late summer
Throughout the practice of qigong exercise, you will be constantly in a focused state of mind, concentrating on movement, breathing, and awareness of the body.
The aim is to be relaxed and calm while in practice.
It is this relaxation that allows the energy to flow through the body, the body to restore energy, and the mind to come into balance.
Although increased balance is a benefit to doing qigong, it is also a focus. You must actively be adjusting your center of gravity with the movements to keep a stable and supportive base.
As long as the above elements are present in your practice you will get the benefits of qigong in whichever style or form you choose.
Common Styles of Qigong
As qigong is merely the art of moving energy throughout the body, the forms of practice are vast and different.
Qigong involves practices such as acupressure, acupuncture, massage, meditative practice, use of external agents, and even sleeping, sitting, and walking qigong.
In this article, we are focusing specifically on the dynamic practice of qigong. This is a style of movement encompassing meditation, self-healing, and breathing exercises.
Within the section of dynamic qigong, there are, as mentioned before, many styles.
Below is a list of some of the dynamic qigong movement styles of which there are over 100 000 different styles.
Here are some of the most common styles in qigong:
1. Soaring Crane
This form was created in 1979 by Master Zhao Jin-Xiang. It is popular due to the ease of learning and applying the style as well as being one of the most effective forms of medical qigong practice.
2. Wisdom Healing
Dr. Ming Pang, a Grandmaster of qigong, trained in both western and eastern medicine chose to use his knowledge from both perspectives and create the wisdom healing qigong style or otherwise known as Chi-Lel Qigong. This style is often practiced in groups with the help of an instructor.
3. Pan GU Mystical
Otherwise known as Pangu Shengong, derives from the word “Shen” as spirit, mind, consciousness, or divine. It focuses on kindness and benevolence by absorbing the primary sources of qi in the universe such as the sun and moon energies.
4. Dragon and Tiger
A doctor of traditional Chinese medicine named Zhang Jia Hua passed the art of Dragon Tiger Qigong down by teaching thousands of instructors in the 1960s and 1970s. Dragon Tiger Qigong has the added emphasis on flexibility and agility in its practice.
This style was developed by Chan San Feng, a Chinese Sage of Taoist belief. It goes by other names such as Wuji Qigong or Tai Chi of enlightenment and involves 13 movements created for self-defense. A second short form was created for enlightenment.
Qigong Exercises vs. Tai Chi
It is fairly difficult to state a clear difference between Qigong and Tai Chi, as they both encompass a lot of the same focuses and benefits. It is also difficult because Tai Chi has 5 major styles (and each one with variations) and qigong has over 100,000 styles.
The first big difference is that tai chi is a derivative of qigong. While qigong encompasses many different aspects of energy or qi (or chi or ki) work, tai chi only encompasses its styles and forms. Tai Chi, which is a part of Tai-chi-Chuan, came from one of the branches of a 3,000-year-old Taoist qigong tradition.
The other not-so-significant (yet sometimes the details make the difference) difference, is that both forms have different movements. Even though tai chi and qigong focus on similar elements and benefits, the movement style and flow are very different.
Level Up Your Qigong Practice
With over 100,000 styles available to choose from, it can be extremely confusing to begin your practice of qigong. The key to starting a practice lies within the focus and consistency of practice, not the style of practice you choose.
To help you begin, here is a great beginner’s video by Qigong Master, Lee Holden:
Choose the qigong exercise you like best and begin. Whether it’s 10 minutes a day or 1 hour, you’ll find the benefits to it, so just begin. Move your way to self-healing and soulful balance with the ancient and beautiful art of qigong.