qi gong: Chinese yoga

Qigong has been called "Chinese Yoga", just as Yoga has been referred to as "Indian Qigong".

Curious to try qigong? The ancient Chinese healing technique dates back more than 4,000 years -- and as more eyes are turning to China and interest in alternative medicine mounts, the trend is going global.

More than 80 million people reportedly practice qigong in China, and foreign interest is growing. The Chinese Health Qigong Association has a reported more than 50 organizations outside China in 29 countries.

What it is: Qigong (pronounced "chee-gong") is made up of two Chinese words. Qi is usually translated to mean the life force or vital energy that flows through all things in the universe. Gong means accomplishment, or a skill that is cultivated through steady practice. Together, the two words mean cultivating energy to maintain health and increase vitality.

What it looks like: The practice involves a series of exercises and postures, such as slow, circular movements, all while employing regulated breathing, focused meditation, and some self-massage.

Qigong can be considered as a combination of a number of Yoga (the science of self-realization) and Ayuerveda (the science of self-healing) practices. Both Yoga and Qigong are excellent for focused stretching, strengthening, and health maintenance. Unlike Qigong, Yoga has no direct martial art application and it is not part of a particular healing tradition per se. Qigong is the foundation of both Tai Chi and Kung Fu (now referred to as Wushu) as well as being considered both part of and precursor to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Most Yoga involves very little, if any, movement, and breathing practices are key to Qigong from the beginning. Although the founder of Yoga (Patanjali) describes a progression from asanas to pranayama (breath practice), breathing isn’t built-in to a lot of Yoga classes or instruction, or it isn’t taught until some skill with asanas is achieved. This can take years, depending upon the style of Yoga. Yoga also does not have counterparts to Qigong's medical practices that involve energy transmission or self-massage. Although there are these differences, the practices are ultimately quite similar in their physical, mental, and spiritual effects.

Historically, yoga and qigong have had different types of movement and posture. The important "cross over" of practices like yoga and qigong, however, where the practices may be considered functionally equivalent, is the meditative state. The important difference, of course, is how you get there. In yoga, you generally become very still to meditate. The vigorous yoga vinyasa practice is considered the way you "prepare" to meditate -- the way you prepare your body to be and sit still. In qigong, the entire movement (which can also be vigorous), is a meditation. You don't prepare to meditate with your movement as much as you are meditating as you move already and meditating throughout. This is the only way Bruce Lee was able to accomplish his feats -- with focus and power throughout. And it is the secret of qigong that even ordinary movement (like pouring tea) can be imbued with the same conscious principles of movement and stillness. This kind of attentiveness amounts to virtually injury-free practice, and this kind of movement and awareness-imbued qigong practice is already being used to teach people how to rehabilitate from injury or how to prevent falls (and prevent injuries) during movement. (text:Qigonginstitute.org


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