Alternative Health • June 7 2012
What is Qigong?
by Mark R. Reinhart
Qigong is an ancient Chinese health maintenance system practiced for healing, increased vitality and longevity. It integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention.
Qigong (Chi Kung) is made up of two Chinese characters. The first character, Qi, pronounced "chee" usually denotes the life force or vital-energy that flows through all things in the universe. The second character, Gong, pronounced "gung" means the accomplishment or mastery of any skill that is attained through steady practice. Together, Qigong means mastery of energy cultivation.
As Mark R. Reinhart, president of the National Qigong Association (NQA), likes to say: "Fads don’t last for 5,000 years. If something's around that long, it’s because it works." And as Dr. Oz has said: "If you want to be healthy and live to be 100, do qigong." The prestigious Mayo Clinic referred to Qigong and its sister practice Taiji (Tai Chi), as an "all inclusive exercise."
Qigong practices can be classified as martial, medical or spiritual. All styles have three things in common: they all involve a posture (whether moving or stationary), breathing techniques and mental focus. Some practices increase the Qi while others circulate it, some use it to cleanse and heal the body, others store it, and many use it to help heal others. Practices vary from the soft internal styles such as Taiji, to the external, vigorous styles such as Kung Fu. However, the slow gentle movements of most Qigong forms can be easily adapted, even for the physically challenged and can be practiced by all age groups.
Like any other healthcare system, Qigong is not a panacea, but it certainly is a highly effective healthcare practice. Many healthcare professionals recommend Qigong as an important form of complementary integrative medicine.
Why Do Qigong?
Qigong creates an awareness of our being not usually addressed in traditional exercise programs. Most exercises do not involve the energetic system of the body nor do they emphasize the importance of incorporating mindfulness and breathing techniques into their physical movements. However, when these dimensions are added, the benefits of any exercise system will increase exponentially.
It has been reported that the gentle, rhythmic movements of Qigong reduce stress, build stamina, increase vitality and enhance the immune system. It has also been found that Qigong practice improves cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive functions.
Those who maintain a consistent Qigong practice find that it helps regain a youthful vitality, maintain health even into old age and helps speed recovery from illness. Western scientific research confirms that Qigong reduces hypertension and the incidence of falling in the elder population. One of the more important long-term effects is that Qigong reestablishes the body-mind-spirit connection.
When these three aspects of our being are integrated, it helps foster a positive outlook on life and enables one to eliminate harmful attitudes and behaviors. It also creates a balanced (nothing in excess) lifestyle, bringing greater harmony, stability and enjoyment to our lives.
Who Can Benefit?
Qigong's great appeal is that anyone can benefit from its practice regardless of your level of physical fitness, whether you are young or old, your belief system, income level, or life circumstances.
There is a wide variety of Qigong practices ranging from the simple, internal forms to the more complex and challenging external styles. There are Qigong classes for children, senior citizens and every age group in between. And, since Qigong can be practiced anywhere or at any time, there is no need for special clothing or to join a health club.
Anyone can enrich their lives by adding Qigong to their daily routine: children learning to channel their energy and develop increased concentration. Office workers learning Qigong to reduce stress. Seniors participating in gentle movements to enhance balance and their quality of life. Caregivers embracing a practice to enhance their ability to help others. Prisons instituting Qigong programs to restore balance in inmates lives. Midwives using Qigong techniques to ease childbirth. People working with addictive disorders. Qigong massage and qigong-based practices have been found effective for austic children and children diagnosed with ADD and ADHD. Grandparents gaining the energy and flexibility to keep up with their grandchildren.
Whenever an individual or a group assumes responsibility and takes action for their health and healing, we all benefit.
How to Find a Qualified Instructor
It is best to get referrals from people whose judgment you have confidence in. Check the Yellow Pages for Tai Chi schools, acupuncturists or martial arts academies. The National Qigong Association (NQA) directory, www.nqa.org/members is also an excellent source for finding instructors.
Where Do I Begin?
Begin by familiarizing yourself with the many resources available for learning Qigong. For example, the Internet is one of today's best tools today for learning about Qigong. The NQA website, www.nqa.org is a good place to start. From the links page, you can access many websites that offer information about schools, local classes, the latest scientific research, as well as books, magazines and videos. Better yet, get involved by becoming a member of the NQA.
One of the best ways to gain a working knowledge of Qigong is by attending the annual NQA conference, which takes place on July 27-29, 2012 at the Hilton Vancouver in Washington. For complete conference information and to register, visit www.nqa.org or call 888-815-1893.
When beginners ask, "What is the most important aspects of practicing Qigong?" The answer is always, "Just do it."