Qigong means energy work. It is an ancient Chinese practice including set of exercises and meditation techniques that allow our mind to remain calm and clear-sighted while improving our physical condition, well-being and health.
The routine practiced will be different depending on whether you want to improve your physical activities (pre-martial art), improve your health or even cultivate the spiritual side of Qigong.
Most of us practice Qigong to preserve or improve our health, but it is also possible to practice external Qigong where the experienced practitioner leads the energy to another person for the purpose of healing them. Qigong is particularly powerful to help in the treatment of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, pain due to osteoarthritis, to treat tendonitis or to help insomnia, anxiety and circulation problems. Qigong does not replace in any way a traditional medical treatment which would have been prescribed to you but it will improve the effects.
Difference from acupuncture :
Qigong is mainly individual. You are in charge of your health and your practice.
More than just unblocking areas of stagnation or overload you will learn how to cleanse your body of toxins and disease. Even more, you will accumulate energy in certain areas of the body and you will be able to circulate this energy when you need it. Finally you can reach meridians inaccessible by needles or inconstant meridians.
Effects of regular Qigong practice ;
Cleansing of body and mind impurities, toxins and pathogens
Collecting energy (Qi) in the body's natural reservoirs (3 Dantians and 5 yin organs)
Circulation of vital energy
Clarity of mind
How does Qigong work?
Qigong is a set of movements and meditation associated with different breaths aimed at balancing the energies of the body, Qi. During this process you will start by working 3 basic elements in order: strengthening the body, improving breathing and controlling our mind. Each element will be worked on and reinforced to allow the passage to a higher level of education. So if the body is stiff and weak, your posture will be poor and therefore your breathing will not be optimal. You will not be at ease and you will remain concerned about pain creating tension affecting your breathing. This will be sporadic and too fast and your mind will be preoccupied. You will not be able to breathe calmly and deeply and you will be unable to slow down the millions of thoughts and anxieties that will go through your mind. Qigong gives you precise tools to deal with these situations.
A beginner's Qigong class is like an exercise class with warming up, muscle building, stamina and stretching in all kinds of positions. Much emphasis will be placed on the flexibility and strength of the spine, on the transfer of weight from one leg to the other and on the flexibility of the hips.
Breathing is the vehicle of Qi (life energy).
Qigong uses diaphragmatic breathing and will be done mainly through the nose. This breathing takes place both in the abdomen and in the back. Breathing includes all facets of Qigong: purification, the storage of new energy in the different energy centers (organs and Dantians) and the circulation of this energy through the body. The breathing will always be deep, calm and slow, never forced.
Your mind will remain calm but alert. It is not necessary to view particular images. The first difficulty at this level is to calm the mind, to prevent looping thoughts related to our anxieties and our everyday life. Stay detached from these thoughts. Be curious and listen to the small changes that will occur as you exercise. Observe your body and mind after each one and ask yourself if you feel a difference.
What can you expect when practicing Qigong?
As a beginner, it is not uncommon to have certain unpleasant but transient physical manifestations such as tickling, tremors, nausea or heat. These manifestations will disappear quickly with regular practice and are linked to the unblocking of areas where energy stagnates.
As you circulate energy through the body, you will observe certain symptoms:
Heat especially at the fingertips and feet
Vibrations or tingling
A feeling of heaviness in the legs but a lightness of the upper body
A feeling of serenity and inner calm
Important principles related to Qigong
Both Qigong and Chinese medicine are based on Taoism.
The Tao is at the origin of the black hole and from this nothingness is born the yin and its opposite the yang, both present in everything. This duality is found in our body, in our actions and everywhere around us. There must always be a balance in everything or there will be blockage and disease.
Each of us is born with a certain vital energy inherited from our parents. This energy is found in our kidneys at birth. Our excesses in everything (physical, food or otherwise) as well as our lifestyle contribute to deteriorate or improve this energy. The loss of this vital energy will be the origin of many blockages and diseases.
By practicing Qigong you will slow down and in some cases reverse this process.
Indeed, the regular practice of Qigong allows you to increase and store new energy but also to unblock areas of stagnation of Qi at the origin of many diseases. Certain areas of the body act as energy reservoirs: the 3 Dantians and the 5 yin organs.
Your health and vitality will be preserved if your reservoirs are filled with Qi (life energy) and if this energy travels freely through your body through the meridians (energy highways of your body).
The three Dantians are:
1) the upper one between the eyebrows. It is responsible for the management of spiritual and mental energy, consciousness and intuition. It is a strong and masculine energy
2) the middle Dantian which represents the energy of the heart. This energy is both yin and yang and represents the energy coming from the breath, from the food as well as the energy inherited from the parents.
3) The lower Dantian is the reservoir of yin (jing) energy or generative and sexual energy.
These three Dantians are also called the 3 treasures; Shen, Qi and Jing
The 5 yin organs
From yin and yang are born the five universal elements or 5 stages of life (see graphic below): Everything on earth as in the universe is governed by the relationships that exist between these 5 elements. For each of these elements you will find a yin organ which will be the reservoir of a particular energy.
In fact, there are 2 types of organs important in Chinese medicine; the yin organs: liver, heart / pericardium, spleen, lungs and kidneys. These solid organs store energy. The hollow organs are yang, they receive the fluids and the nourishment. These are the gallbladder, small and large intestine, bladder and stomach. There is an additional yang organ called the triple warmer which has the role of balancing the functions of the upper and lower body (breathing, digestion and elimination). To be healthy all these organs must be strong and functional, which is why many exercises and meditation aim to heal and strengthen them.
The 5 elements
These are 5 stages of transformation that you will find in the body and all over the universe. There is a cycle of creation and destruction between these 5 elements. These elements must be in balance to stay energetic and healthy. In the practice of Qi gong it is preferable to work all the organs even if only one of them is sick or weak because the weakness of one of the organs affects the others.