What is this thing called Qi Gong?
Qi (chee) is well known in many cultures outside of Western influence but fortunately those of in the West are learning about this “subtle breath” or “vital energy” and its significance in our lives. In Hawaii, Qi is referred to as “ha” meaning breath of life or “mana” meaning one’s life energy that flows through all things and is highly individual: you have a chance to gain or lose mana in everything you do. In Japan, Qi is known as “ki” and in India it is called “prana” or “shakti”. The term Gong refers to skill cultivated through steady practice.
In China, the understanding of qi is inherent in the very language. For instance, the literal translation of the Chinese character meaning “health” is “original qi.” The literal translation of the character for “vitality” is “high-quality qi.” The literal translation of the character meaning “friendly” is “peaceful qi."
Different Classifications of Qi
Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the martial sciences have identified many different classifications of qi. Within the human body there is the qi that we’re born with (Yuan qi or ancestral qi); the qi that we absorb from food, water, air and qigong practice is called Hou tain qi or post-natal qi. The qi that flows at the surface of the body, as a protective sheath, is called Wei qi or protective qi. Each internal organ also has its own qi/life-force, e.g. spleen-qi, lung-qi, kidney-qi, etc. Strong post-natal qi is dependent upon the health of our food (junk vs. good quality), clean water and air and how well we deal with strife in our lives. Do we dwell on the bad or the good?
Balanced and Free-Flowing Qi = Health
The fundamental belief of qigong is that balanced and free-flowing qi results in health; while stagnant or imbalanced qi leads to disease. Qigong opens the flow of energy in meridians used in acupuncture and Chinese medicine. It enhances our ability to feel the Life Force underlying the physical world and to deepen our communication with it.
Physically, slow gentle qigong movements warm tendons, ligaments, and muscles; tonify vital organs and connective tissue; and promote circulation of body fluids (blood, synovial, lymph). These specific qi gong exercises can be done sitting in a chair or even lying down.
Feeling the Qi
The capacity to perceive the flow of qi directly - to actually see or feel it - is something that can be cultivated through training in qigong. Even if it’s not consciously cultivated or acknowledged, most of us can tell the difference between someone who has “positive energy” and someone from whom we feel a “bad vibe.” And most of us can notice, when we enter a room, whether the atmosphere seems relaxed and uplifted, or tense and heavy. To the extent that we notice such things, we are perceiving the level of qi.