The history of Qigong (Ch'i Kung) commences beyond the era of written records, in the mists of prehistory. Earliest estimates suggest that self enhancement and empowerment practices date into the time of Chinese shamans, previous to 500 BCE.
While Qigong has strong roots into mystical and philosophical ground, the practical healing and stress management applications are the most popular aspects of the tradition in China today. Both the health and spiritual applications are rapidly gaining in popularity in the Western world as people realize that disease and stress are relieved by peace of mind.
Qigong is one of the four pillars of traditional Chinese medicine: Acupuncture, Massage, Herbal Medicines and Qigong. Of these, Qigong is the one that can be most easily self initiated. Both massage and herbal remedies can also be done as self-care, however, Qigong is the mother of Chinese self healing. Patients who use Qigong faithfully need less medication, less acupuncture and heal faster.
The word Qigong breaks into Qi and Gong: Qi = vitality, energy, life force, Gong = practice, cultivate, refine; Qigong = to cultivate and refine through practice one's vitality or life force. The Chinese believe that the primary mechanism that is triggered by the practice of Qigong is a spontaneous balancing and enhancing of the natural healing resources in the human system. Over thousands of years millions of people have benefited from these practices believing that improving the function of the Qi maintains health and heals disease.
In the paradigm of mechanistic Western science, the practice of Qigong triggers a wide array of physiological mechanisms which have profound healing benefits. It increases the delivery of oxygen to the tissues. It enhances the elimination of waste products as well as the transportation of immune cells through the lymph system. And it shifts the chemistry of the brain and the nervous system.
There are various estimates for the number of varieties of Qigong. There are at least a thousand. Some elaborate and complex, some mysterious and esoteric and some simple and practical. If you adjust to a relaxed, upright posture, take a deep breath and relax your mind - you are already doing Qigong. Try this: sit up, relax your body, take a deep breath, rest your mind for just a moment. Already you are stimulating an automatic self healing response.
On any morning in the parks throughout China you will find literally thousands of people doing Qigong practices. Some practice individually quietly among the trees. Others practice in large groups of hundreds or even thousands. Often, one will see a patient, in hospital pajamas, doing a special form of cancer recovery Qigong (Guo Lin Qigong)- a form of slow and intentful walking. Or a group might stand in a circle chatting as they do a simple form based on hand movements (Fragrance Qigong).
Qigong is one of the most powerful self healing traditions ever developed in human history. It is literally a health wonder of the world.
© Roger Jahnke O.M.D.