What is Qigong?
Qigong is the study and practice of nurturing your own life force.
The word “qi” is the Chinese term that defines the energy of being.
"Gong” is the word that refers to the gradual accumulation of knowledge, skills and/or abilities that are achieved through ones own experience, and years of diligent practice and study.
Everything in the universe is made of and depends upon energy, “qi”.
The World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary defines the physics of energy as, “the capacity for doing work, the ability to produce an action or effect. Energy exists in various forms, potential, kinetic, chemical, heat, atomic, etc….”
It is best not to limit your idea of qi only to this concept of energy, yet we can’t think of it as a substance either. Traditional Chinese medicine offers an even broader view of qi. Dr. Kaptchuk in his book The Web That Has No Weaver describes qi as, matter on the verge of becoming energy and also as energy at the point of materializing.
Confused? That is understandable, qi cannot really be confined into a simple description. It is formless and elusive. You cannot see it, hear it, smell it or taste it. It has no tangible qualities that you can touch; yet you can feel this energy. We know this sounds like a contradiction in terms but never the less you can become aware of qi and learn how to use it.
It might be easier to begin to understand qi by its effects. Health and disease are differentiated by it. Good qi is lively and vigorous, yet not overly abundant to the point of agitation, rather in perfect balance, neither too much, nor too little, but always free flowing and clear like a fresh mountain stream. (You will often find qi described with the same adjectives as water.) It is recognized by sensations of warmth and fullness, buoyancy and bounce. It manifests itself as flexibility, strength, endurance and serenity.
Qi can become blocked and just like a dam that holds back water, on the one side it can exhibit signs of excess, with excessive heat, turbidity, denseness, and stiffness. The longer it is held back the more stagnant and polluted it will become. On the other side it becomes deficient, with symptoms of cold, limpness, exhaustion and weakness. Unbalanced qi then becomes the basis for illness and distress.
With qigong practice we learn how to accumulate, balance and coordinate our internal energy. There are countless different forms of qigong, and in this class we are going to teach a series of moving qigong. All types though, no matter how they are done, have the same basic premise and that is to circulate blood and qi through out the whole body smoothly and freely. By that definition tai chi is qigong. So why not just practice tai chi?
The more simple and gentle movements of the qigong exercises, besides being an excellent holistic practice by themselves, also build the foundation for good tai chi chuan. These single, repetitive movements are much easier to learn, encouraging the swift development of unity and fluidity in the body. To assist us in that effort it is very important to work on also quieting the mind so that it can notice what the body is doing and feeling, uniting body and mind together. Calmness, awareness, posture, balance, integrity, coordination, stability, relaxation and expansion are all developed within these exercises.
Qigong is a low impact physical workout, which can be adjusted to suit anyone of any age in any condition of health. In class we work on developing our posture, aligning our body in such a way that our own structure supports us more efficiently using the least amount of muscular “tension”. We’re not talking about effort here; when done correctly qigong will activate every muscle bone and joint in the body. What we do want to emphasize is learning to move in a relaxed way. When we relax, this opens up the blood vessels and energy channels, lubricating tissues and bringing nourishment to every fiber and cell of the body. When we are tense that constricts the pathways so that blood and qi gets trapped and cannot flow freely. There is a key though; as we relax we must also expand. Expanding also helps to release the energy. The analogy of wringing a wet towel helps to represent this concept. To wring out the towel you need to give it a twist but what really makes the water come out is when at the same time you give it a stretch. It works in the body too, as we relax and expand the energy flows through.
Once one is proficient in the movements, they continue to be a means for a deeply meditative daily practice. The feelings of tranquility experienced during qigong gradually seep into all areas of life. We deal with our circumstances more calmly, and a profound sense of confidence and contentment develops. Other people notice this and are affected by our presence.