Qigong dates back at least five thousand years to when ancient Chinese recognized that Qi was the most building block in the universe and came to understand the role of Qi in physical health and life cultivation. Methods were developed to improve the Qi condition in order to promote better health and a higher level of consciousness. The term “Qigong” (氣功) was first used to describe this work on Qi in the Jin Dynasty (265－420 A.D.) and is currently in wide use as a generic term for all methods that are designed to work on Qi. New methods have been created throughout the long history of Qigong, and this continues today.
In Ren Xue, Qigong is defined as a self-training method that uses Jingshen (heart, consciousness, and Shen), the body (postures and movements) and, in some methods, breathing to bring direct change to Qi in order to enhance the health and wellbeing of the body and Jingshen. This is the definition applied to Yuan Qigong system.
We can look at the three elements referred to above – Jingshen, breathing and physical postures and movements, to gain more clarity on the nature of Qigong.
Use of Jingshen by following the required heart, consciousness, and Shen activities is what makes Qigong a unique practice. For example, the activities may involve using the consciousness or heart qualities to create a certain state, focusing on a specific part of the body, having certain thoughts or intentions, maintaining awareness of Qi, or visualizing in a certain way in order to help create the desired effect on Qi.
Some Qigong methods use breathing techniques to work on Qi, and this can be very useful. Because breathing is an internal activity that naturally occurs all the time, focusing on the breath is a simple and effective way of directing the awareness inward. The simpler the mind activity, the easier it is to maintain a healthy state and stay focused. Breathing can also enhance the effect the practice has on Qi. The natural movement of Qi in and out of the body with inhalation and exhalation means that breathing can be used as a convenient way to work on Qi. For example, focusing on breathing can increase the amount of Qi going in and out and is therefore an effective way to gather more Qi.
There are many different techniques for using the body in Qigong practice, but they can be roughly divided into two categories: Moving Qigong and Still Qigong. Moving Qigong is good for promoting Qi flow and clearing Qi blockages and Still Qigong, in which the body remains in a fixed posture for a period of time, is especially good for gathering and internalizing Qi. These two types of Qigong complement each other, so it is advisable to include both to maximize the effect of the practice.
The basic effect Qigong practice is expected to deliver is increasing the amount of Qi, improving the flow of Qi, and enhancing the quality of Qi in the body. For Qigong to be an effective and safe tool for healing and health maintenance, it is important to choose a sound system or method and to follow proper guidance.
Many different systems or methods have been created throughout the long history of Qigong. Each is designed with its own theoretical base and its own intention purpose. While almost all Qigong methods can have positive effects on health, for more consistent and profound effects, choosing a sound system will be very important.
Effectiveness, efficiency and safety are the main criteria for assessing the soundness of a system. Good understanding of the law of Qi and life and the experience of the designer are crucial for ensuring them. To assess effectiveness, we need to look at how well the practice fulfills its purpose. A good way to judge this is to find out how it has worked for those who have practiced it consistently for some time. If the purpose of the practice is to improve health, we can examine how well it has helped people deal with health problems. Has the practice helped improve overall health condition, including energy levels? Efficiency relates to the amount of time and effort a person needs to expend in order to achieve a significant level of improvement. We need to look at how long it takes for obvious changes to occur. The differences between systems can be quite significant. Safety is also an important factor to consider. Design flaws can pose as a risk and create problems when practitioners practice the method.
It is also essential to learn from teachers who have been trained properly. Qualified teachers should be able to help students understand what the method is for, how it works and how to use it properly. Instructions should cover all aspects of the method, including the movements, the mind activities, and the state. Leaving any aspect out can compromise the effectiveness and safety of the practice.
Trained teachers should also provide ongoing guidance for students on how to practice the method properly, including answering any questions that may arise. This is especially important for beginners, as Qigong practice can often lead to experiences with which they are not familiar.
For more information about Qigong, please read the book ‘Wellbeing Begins With You’ by Yuan Tze. You can purchase it on our Learn REN XUE website here.
This is an excerpt from the book ‘Wellbeing Begins With You’ by Yuan Tze, if you would like to read more from Wellbeing you can purchase it on our Learn REN XUE website here.