Qigong is now somewhat in vogue, a firm favourite in the west’s bodymindspirit circuit. But what is it, where is it from and what is it doing here?
The practice of Qigong arises from the deep past of China and its neighbours. It is known as the root of all Chinese medicine and philosophy. Through the profound perceptions of its early practitioners, the meridians and points of acupuncture were discovered and charted and the healing nature of foods and herbs was established.
Qigong can broadly be defined as the practice of cultivating the subtle energy, or Qi. Qi may be translated as breath, as the cosmic breath of life itself, as the vibrational force which animates matter. Gong implies work and the benefits accumulated over time through dedicated practice. Qigong, then, is a way of working with subtle energy to achieve some benefits.
Exactly what benefits will depend on style and focus. There are many styles ranging from the martial to the meditative. Qigong may be used to achieve good health, to develop healing abilities, to become powerful in combat, to become accomplished artistically or to achieve spiritual realisation, or sometimes a combination of these.
This article is not a practical guide to Qigong but rather a discussion of some of its essential principles. These principles are part of the guidance I usually give to a class as preparation for Qigong and as a way of entering the ‘Qigong state’. They can be seen as forming the foundation of good practice. My hope is that this article will give the reader some sense of what Qigong is about and perhaps lead on to trying it out.