Qigong is the Mandarin Chinese term used to describe various Chinese system of physical and mental training for health, martial arts and self-enlightenment.
Qigong or Chi kung (an equivalent term derived from Wade-Giles Romanization) is an English Romanization of two Chinese characters: Qi and Gong. The dictionary definition for the word “qi” usually involved the meaning of “breathing”, “air”, “gas” and “vapor” but it can also be used in the context of describing the relationship between matter, energy and spirit. The dictionary definition for the word “Gong” (功) is that of achievement or results. The two words are combined to describe systems and methods of “energy cultivation” and the manipulation of intrinsic energy within living organisms.
There are many forms of Qigong originating from different segment within Chinese society. The traditional Chinese Medical community uses qigong for preventative and curative functions. The Chinese martial arts community considered qigong training an important component in enhancing martial abilities. The religious community including both Taoist and Buddhist traditions uses qigong as part of their meditative practice. Confucian scholars practice qigong to improve their moral character. In the 1940’s and the 1950’s, the Chinese government tried to integrate those disparate approaches into one coherent system with the intention of establishing firmer scientific bases for those practices and as part of the political philosophy of the Cultural Revolution. This attempt is considered by some sinologist as the start of the modern intepretation of qigong science. Through the forces of migration, tourism and globalization, the practice and the promise of qigong has spread from the Chinese community to the world.
The practices of Qigong are differentiated by four types of training: dynamic, static, meditative and activities requiring external aids. Dynamic training involves special movement and applies to exercise such as Tai Chi Chuan. Static training requires the practitioner to hold the body in a particular posture. Meditative training involves visualization or focus on specific ideas, sounds, images, concepts or breathing patterns. There are also training methods that involve an external agent such as the ingestion of herbs, massages, physical manipulation or interactions with other living organisms. A qigong system can be composed of one or more types of training.
Qigong is considered to be part of alternative medicine. with positive effects on various ailments. Despite its promise, many researchers are skeptical of some of the exaggerated claims for qigong and label the subject matter a “pseudoscience”. In addition, the origin and nature of qigong practice has lead to misconceptions and misuses. The abuse of qigong practice had lead to the formation of cults and potential psychiatric problems.
Uses of Qi Gong
Today tens of millions of people in China and around the world regularly practice qigong as a health maintenance exercise.Qigong and related disciplines are still associated with the martial arts and meditation routines practiced by Taoist and Buddhist monks, professional martial artists, and their students. Once more closely guarded, in the modern era such practices have become widely available to the general public both in China and around the world.
Medical qigong treatment has been officially recognized as a standard medical technique in Chinese hospitals since 1989. It has been included in the curriculum of major universities in China. After years of debate, the Chinese government decided to officially manage qigong through government regulation in 1996 and has also listed qigong as part of their National Health Plan.
Qigong can help practitioners to learn diaphragmatic breathing, which can be helpful in combatting stress. In contrast, Taoist qigong employs the inverse breath of inhaling to the back of the thoracic cavity rather than diaphragmatic breathing. Improper use of diaphragmatic breathing can lead to reproductive pathologies for women. (Nan Huai-Chin) Meditation and the cultivation of immortality, Gu lu press, Tawain 1991 p. 59)
Yan Xin, a doctor of both Western and Chinese medicine as well as founder of the relatively popular Yan Xin qigong school, suggests that in order for qigong to be accepted by the modern world it must pass the test of scientific study. Without such studies, Yan maintains, qigong will be dismissed as "superstition" (see "Criticism of Qigong" chapter below). In the mid-1980s he and others began systematic study of qigong in some research institutions in China and the United States, more than 20 papers have been published.
While uncertainty persists regarding the spiritual aspects of qigong, qigong may also be seen as a socially conducive warm-up to the day. Many practitioners choose the early morning to practice qigong and find it an easy way to stretch and warm up the metabolism.
Although not a martial art, qigong is often confused with the Chinese martial art of tai chi. This misunderstanding can be attributed to the fact that most Chinese martial arts practitioners will usually also practice some form of qigong and to the uninitiated, these arts may seem to be alike. There are more than 10,000 styles of qigong and 200 million people practicing these methods. There are three main reasons why people embrace qigong: 1) To gain strength, improve health or reverse a disease; 2) To gain skill working with qi, so as to become a healer; 3) To become more connected with the "Tao, God, True Source, Great Spirit", for a more meaningful connection with nature and the universe.
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