Qigong (pronounced ‘chee gung’) is a form of health exercise originating in China. It combines mind, body and breathing to promote health and longevity. Qigong is similar to tai chi, with two major differences: There are not such long sequences of movements to learn, and it isn’t a martial art (which some people are surprised to learn tai chi is).
Cultivate mental stillness, fluid movement and relaxed power
First we work on creating the proper structure. This involves not only standing and moving correctly, but also gently stretching and conditioning the body to open the joints and relax the muscles. The result is improved alignment (preventing future pain and injury), suppleness, rootedness and balance.
By combining different postures and movements with specific breathing techniques, we can direct the movement of blood and Qi to different parts of the body. This can be used medically or to develop internal martial skill.
Many people struggle to settle the mind in meditation. The movements of qigong are interesting enough to help the beginner maintain concentration. But the movements are simple and repetitive enough that the practice can be deeply meditative. Sometimes we wish to use a relaxed awareness – listening to what is going on in the body. Other times we need to use a stronger focused intention in order to create change. Qigong develops both of these skills.
Personally, I find Qigong to be an incredibly efficient practice. It combines postural work, stretching, breath work, relaxation, and mindfulness, and can be done anywhere with no equipment.