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Alternative & Holistic Therapies
“Qigong therapy, as well as other branches of Chinese medicine, can be reduced to two simple principles: the cleansing of meridians to achieve harmonious energy flow, and the restoration of yin-yang balance.” Wong Kiew Kit - The Art of Chi Kung
It is thought that qigong, as a form of healing, may have originated as far back as four thousand years ago in the era of Tang Yao. During this time it was found that dancing and imitating animal movements kept the joints flexible and also strengthened the flow of qi energy. Between 770 and 221 B.C., a number of different schools arose and qigong became systematized on both practical and theoretical levels. New concepts began to emerge about the essence of life, qi energy and mental abilities.
The years between 221 B.C and 220 A.D saw many advances in the field of medicine and qigong practice and theory were quick to progress along with these developments. A number of books have been discovered from this period depicting colored paintings of human figures imitating the movements of several animals such as the bear, monkey, wolf, crane and vulture and describing the benefits of such movements accompanied by breathing exercises. Some of the exercises developed at this time, such as the Frolics of Five Animals are still popularly practiced today.
Over the next three hundred years, qigong developed as a means of preserving health and treating illness through emitting qi and restoring the body’s natural balance. It was also widely used by doctors in clinical settings. During the Ming (A.D. 1368-1644) and Quing dynasties (A.D.1644-1911), doctors began to use qigong with a much broader application. Qigong benefits and instructions are to be found in many influential medical books written by great physicians of the time.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1955, qigong has once again developed rapidly and has become increasingly popular in the Western world. Scientists have studied and publicized the practice in relation to biochemistry, physiology, psychology and modern medicine. Today qigong remains popular throughout the world as a practice for improving health, curing disease and balancing the metal and emotional faculties.
The Functions of Qigong
There are a number of different styles of qigong, each of which has a slightly different purpose and series of different forms. Here are some of the most popular:
Relaxation qigong forms the basis of the static style and is easy to learn and practice, making it suitable for beginners who may later wish to move on to another style. The general function of this style is to reduce stress and to improve relaxation. It may be practiced sitting, standing or lying down with eyes half or fully closed. The body is systematically relaxed, by means of a step-by step process involving easing and connecting the whole body and regulating breathing techniques.
Static qigong is also known as jing gong or quiescent exercise. This style includes all the qigong exercises that involve no movement of the body and limbs such as the Relaxation Exercise, Standing Exercise and Foster the Internal. These exercises help to focus the mind and regulate the posture and breathing technique.
The aim of roborant qigong is to regulate breathing, and focus the mind on Dantian – the “elixir field” or energy store. It is practiced to invigorate qi levels, prevent and cure disease and maintain general wellbeing.
Inner-nourishing qigong involves the co-ordination of the silent reading of phrases or words with breathing exercises. It is beneficial for regulating the nervous system, improving the circulation and eliminating digestive disorders.
The Frolic of the Five Animals
This style of qigong was created by the renowned medical scientist Hua Tuo. It involves five sets of exercises which imitate the movement of the deer, tiger, bear, monkey and birds. Exercises combine internal and external movements with relaxed and static state, integrating the mental and physical. The movements are simple and easy to learn.
Dynamic qigong is also known as Dong Gong and includes exercises which require movements of all parts of the body. Examples of such exercises are Shadow Boxing, Ermei Standing, Health Preserving and Frolics of the Five Animals.
Yijinjing is also known as Changing Tendons Qigong. It is a form of fitness developed in ancient China which is aimed at strengthening the muscles and tendons. This style of qigong is aimed at turning weak tendons and muscles into strong, healthy ones. Yijinjing focuses on coordinating a set of movements with breathing and determination in order to improve the circulation of qi without haste and obstruction.
Benefits of Qigong
There are numerous benefits of qigong including:
How to Find a Qigong Instructor
When choosing a qigong instructor, make sure you find someone who is well qualified and has several years experience teaching students. Here are some resources to help you:
Qigong Groups and Organizations
What kind of experience do I need to take a qigong class?
None at all; beginners are just as welcome to qigong as are people who have been practicing for years. Everyone brings their own individual experiences to qigong which helps them learn how to use it to improve their life style.
How do I known which qigong form is right for me?
Most forms of qigong can benefit anyone, although there are certain particular methods that do address specific imbalances and tensions between the mind and the body. Think about what you want most to achieve from qigong before choosing a style that will be most appropriate.
Can children learn Qigong?
Qigong is perfect for children and the Frolic of the Five Animals form has been practiced by children in China for centuries. Other forms that are appropriate for children include Six Sounds Therapy, One Thousand Hands Buddha and Eight Treasures.
Can older people learn qigong?
Yes. Qigong is a very beneficial form of exercise and healing for the elderly. Its gentle but powerful movements can be practiced by all ages and even those who have limited mobility. It is a great way to reduce the effects of aging, prevent illnesses and injuries and improve concentration and memory.
Can pregnant women practice qigong?In general yes, though it should be remembered that every woman experiences pregnancy differently and so should consult with her healthcare provider as well as an experienced qigong instructor before taking up qigong.