What is Qigong?

Vapors emerging from treesIn Mandarin,  Qi means energy and Gong means skill or work, thus Qi Gong means energy work or skill with energy.  This is a very broad term, which is appropriate as Qi Gong is a very big field of study.  When you study how energy works, you study how everything works.  Everything is energy (e=mc2).

To be more specific, the Qi that we work with in Qi Gong is the life force energy that animates the human body.  What is it that differentiates between a living human and a corpse?  It is Qi, the life force energy.  It is something very subtle, that we really don’t know how to define, but that all of us recognize.  This, even more than our body, is who and what we are.

Daoist masters recognized long ago that humans are born with different amounts of Qi.  This level of Qi makes a great difference in how we experience life.  Those with abundant Qi enjoy a healthier body and have more energy to fully experience life.  Another thing that these Daoist masters came to recognize is that it is possible to cultivate Qi, to increase the amount of life force energy in the body.  Just as a singer can improve the quality of their voice, or an athlete can cultivate their physical strength and agility, so can a Qi Gong practitioner cultivate the quality and quantity of their life force energy.  One aspect of Qi Gong is the exercising of the Qi “muscles”, strengthening the life force energy within the human body.

Qi Gong history


The first written records pertaining to Qi Gong are over five thousand years old, and these reference a tradition that was ancient even at that time.  The roots of Qi Gong and the system of Traditional Chinese Medicine go back to the tribal Shamans.  This world view is the foundation of Qi Gong practice.  Shamanistic practices are remarkably similar throughout the different traditional cultures of this world.  Modern Qi Gong represents the Shamanistic practices of the most sophisticated “traditional” culture on earth, that of Ancient China.

In the early days of Communist rule, there was a movement in China to bring to light the ancient secrets of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners. Up until that time, TCM healing lineages were passed down through families, each having their own signature practices, techniques and traditions.  This is why there are so many different styles of Qi Gong, over 3000 in the subset of Taoist Qi Gong alone.  These lineages were compelled to exchange their secrets and an overview of the different systems started to come together.  Again, the practices were remarkably similar though the details vary. This combination of practices resulted in modern  Qi Gong.

Medical Qi Gong

The bagua harmonized with 5 elements

The bagua harmonized with 5 elements

Qi Gong is the most complete preventative self care system ever developed. It is one of the four pillars of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) along with acupuncture, herbalism, and massage, and has been practiced for thousands of years. Medical Qi Gong provides a system for self-healing, preventative medicine, longevity, and wellness. Through postures, breathing exercises and meditations, your body begins to regulate and improve its natural ability to heal. In TCM theory it is believed that chronic disease is caused by an imbalance in our energy system.

By practicing Qi Gong, we strengthen our ability to feel this Qi in our bodies.  We use breath, visualization and meditation to disperse stagnant or toxic energy that accumulates in our bodies.  We build up the Qi and strengthen the energetic structure of the body, enabling us to handle more Qi.  We move the Qi through the energetic channels of the body, bringing balance.

Frequently Western Medicine is unable to provide holistic solutions for chronic conditions and can only provide a pharmaceutical solution that simply addresses symptoms. Practicing Qi Gong activates our parasympathetic nervous system’s ability to heal the body. Our modern world pushes our adrenal glands into a constant low level fight or flight sympathetic nervous system response. This sympathetic response is necessary for our survival in a fight or flight situation, but is not meant to be under the constant stress that our modern lifestyles tends to put us under. Under this stress the hormone cortisol is constantly dumping into our system which inhibits our ability to relax and turns off our immune system’s ability to self-heal. Regular Qi Gong practice improves our bodies ability to heal and gives us an understanding of how to harmonize with our environment.

Working with the five internal (or Yin) organs is also a major emphasis in Medical Qi Gong. Each of the five major organs (or more accurately organ systems) is a center for the body’s physiological activities on the physical plane, a center for feeling and emotion on the energetic plane and a source of light and divine virtue on the spiritual plane. In the course of our lives, we accumulate traumatic experiences which are stored in the organs and their associated energetic systems, blocking, diminishing and diverting the smooth flow of Qi within the body and meridian systems. This can be a cause of chronic disease.

Shamanic Qi Gong

TCM has its roots in traditional healing and shamanistic practices that were refined over thousands of years within the Chinese culture. An unbroken chain of knowledge was passed from master to student through the generations. From this grew the TCM system of energy work, which I believe to be the most sophisticated and comprehensive system of describing and working with Life force energy (Qi).

One of the  fundamental principles of Qi Gong is that there are three bodies or the three planes of existence. The physical body, flesh and blood, that which has substance; the energetic body, a subtler level of existence, the realm of emotion and feeling; and the spiritual body, the light body, thought, imagination, vision. All three of these bodies coexist in the same place at the same time, each body reflecting and mirroring the others. What affects one, affects the others. Thus we find that physical disease is often a manifestation of disharmony in the emotional or spiritual body, and it is often that here we will set to work. Indeed it is understood that the main internal source of disease is emotional imbalance.

We also work on the spiritual/mental plane, clearing ancestral patterns, spiritual oppression, destructive ideologies and thought patterns, unconsciously held patterns of destructive behaviour, lack of will, lack of meaning, lack of connection with the Divine. The absence of connection between spirit and body is also a cause of disease. A great part of our work involves settling and harmonizing the three bodies, so that they are in tune with each other. When there is harmony of intention between the body, mind and spirit, we find ourselves in accordance with Divine Will.


“Jacob, Thank you so much sharing your knowledge with us” – Rosemary

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