Qigong is an ancient Chinese practise of breath and movement stretching back over 4,000 years. It’s simple to learn and can be done by everyone. There are over 3,000 different styles of Qigong which are mainly divided into three branches - martial, health and healing and spiritual.
Qigong is one of the most popular sports in the world, with over 80,000 people practicing daily, yet it's relatively unknown in the west. Every morning in parks throughout China you see people of all ages practising different styles of Qigong.
Qigong can also be spelled Chi Kung or Qi Kung - translated it means energy work, or the art of effortless power. It is the art of gently moving energy through your body, with the intention to boost health and healing. Often in China it's referred to as playing with energy. The Chinese character for Qigong shows steam rising from rice or mist rising from water. The rice relates to form, to the body. The mist or steam relates to the formless or emotions.
This beautiful short film was created by Todd Villegas of our class practising on the beach when I was in Santa Cruz studying with Lee Holden, it captures the power and flow of Qigong.
How is Qigong different to Yoga?
Qigong and yoga are similar, yet different. They are both ancient systems designed to help move energy through the body to improve health. Qigong is from China, yoga is from India. In fact they both have a shared ancestor - Tao Yin. Thousands of years ago, Indian yogis travelled to China and shared their wisdom with Chinese sages and Tao Yin was born. In Tao Yin many of the poses are similar to Yoga, yet they are done with flowing movement in time with the breath.
At Bliss Calm Qigong we begin with gentle warm ups and stretching, activating the energy system and releasing and letting go of tension and stress. Then we explore various flowing moves, like a moving meditation, to bring free flowing energy to the body. There is an emphasis on moving energy through the meridians and working on acupressure points for self healing.
What's the difference between Qigong and Tai Chi?
Tai Chi is a well known example of a martial style of Qigong. Although the movements are slow, it is a powerful martial art. In Tai Chi you are often taught set movement patterns, and flow from one move to the next in order. In Qigong class we sometimes also do a move that you would see as part of a Tai Chi set, but instead of doing it just once we repeat it 3 - 12 times and soften and relax even deeper into the movements.
Does Qigong really work?
Qigong is part of an ancient system of health and healing called TCM, or Traditional Chinese Medicine. Other aspects of TCM include acupuncture, herbs, food and massage. Qigong is different to the other aspects of TCM in that you can do it yourself. You are not relying on others to do healing for you, you can take responsibility and actively participate in your healing journey.
Sometimes it can be useful to have a little extra help if you are facing a difficult challenge, so all aspects of TCM work in harmony to boost your health and energy. Qigong does not replace western medicine, but can be a really helpful addition, especially for things like chronic stress, mental health and recovery from illness or injury. It is said that Qigong does no healing, but through Qigong practice you support your body to heal itself.
Why is Qigong good for you?
One of the guiding principles of Qigong is no pain, no pain (rather than no pain, no gain). Rather than pushing your body to the limit, through Qigong we train our body to relax and let go in the face of challenging situations. Through doing less, you achieve more. The art of effortless power. It is important that you listen to your body in Qigong class. Even when stretching, we aim for 30 - 70% of maximum stretch, to allow space for your body to relax. Through this approach Qigong is really beneficial to people of all fitness levels and all ages, working with where your body is at any particular moment. By keeping the body gently moving, we can retain good balance, flexibility and strength even as we age.
Anybody, at any age or fitness level, can use these moving meditation techniques – not only to improve physical fitness, but also to assist in recovery from injury and illness, to achieve a deeper sense of calm, and to relieve tension and stress.
– Lee Holden