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Qi Gong—Healing Mind, Body & Spirit Throughout History
By Christine Gervais and Master Philip Lai
© Philip Lai Qi Gong Association

Qi Gong has been an integral part of Chinese culture since ancient China. High-level qi gong masters have always been respected and held in high esteem in Chinese society. They studied qi gong not merely for the health and strength of the body but as an attempt to understand human nature and its interactions with the environment and the universe as a whole. Ancients in China observed that certain postures and movements, some based on animal movements, as well as ways of breathing and self-massage, promoted health and vitality. Their studies resulted in the formation of the yin-yang and the five elements theories and have guided, and still guide, the development and research of all ancient Chinese medicine techniques

Two People Meditating

There are four major approaches in qi gong training: the body, the breath, the voice, and most important, the mind. Training the body includes sitting, standing still and moving. Each movement is designed to directly or indirectly stimulate specific areas of the body. Most qi gong exercises are done slowly to allow the mind to register the movements and to allow the body to be in a more relaxed state. This way, the breathing can be slower and deeper and therefore increase the efficiency of the lungs to take in oxygen. Specific sounds are used for specific purposes in the same way that a song can help relax and a gentle xu can help calm the liver. All exercises consists of two parts, the inner which influences the meridians and internal organs and the outer which influences the muscles, joints, ligaments and limbs. Experiencing, balancing, circulating and promoting qi are the essence of qi gong exercises.

Practicing Qi Gong

There are literally thousands of qi gong systems in practice today. For thousands of years qi gong was veiled in secrecy and instruction was passed down from master to student by word of mouth. Variations in styles developed by inaccuracies in transmissions and from improvements learned over time. There are two categories of qi gong: the forms system or the message system. In a qi gong system based on forms, or techniques, the practitioner learns a variety of movements with emphasis on doing these correctly. If done properly, the student increases qi. In a message system, the student may also learn certain forms, but the essence of the practice is that the qi gong master transfers the message. If the forms are performed poorly, the benefits can still be received. Qi Gong can further be divided into five major disciplines or traditions: Confucian, Buddhist, Taoist, medical and martial art. Each of the five traditions has their own purpose of training as well as different methods and various forms to achieve those objectives. Not all qi gong systems were designed for health care and disease curing—only medical qi gong. No matter what the qi gong system, the ultimate goal of the energy practice is to help the practitioner’s body, mind and spirit to become one. The requirements to reach this high level are an open heart and unconditional love.