Qigong

About qigong     My qigong teaching   History of qigong   My qigong videos   Qigong and tai chi research

About qigong

Qigong (pronounced chee gong, also spelled chi kung, simplified Chinese: 气功; traditional Chinese 氣功) is an umbrella term in use since the late 1940s for an enormous variety of traditional Chinese body-mind-breath cultivation practices. They have their origin in Daoist, Buddhist, martial and medical traditions and range from simple quiet meditative sitting through to tough training to harden the body for martial arts. Read more …

My qigong teaching

I regularly teach classes in my home town Brighton in the UK and run weekends internationally. You can see my teaching programme here

History of qigong

Cultivating and integrating the body, breath and mind, plays a key role in a multitude of practices developed over the centuries in China. Some had Daoist, Buddhist or Confucian roots; some were purely medical; some aimed to achieve spiritual connection, transcendence and even immortality; some prioritised maintaining health, curing disease and lengthening life; some were still and quiescent, prioritising meditation, breath training, visualisations, mantra recitations, sexual cultivation and internal alchemy; some were allied to the more physical realm of the martial arts, especially ‘internal’ styles such as tai chi (taijiquan). Read more …

My qigong videos

You can view a series of demonstrations and talks on qigong and related subjects here

 

Qigong and tai chi research

Research findings with references to peer-reviewed studies on these subjects and more

General health • Addiction/substance abuse • Arthritis • Balance/Falling • Cancer • Chronic fatigue • COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) • Diabetes • Heart/Cardiovascular disease • High blood pressure • Immune function • Menopause • Mental health • Multiple sclerosis • Pain • Parkinson’s disease • Prostate health • Sleep • Tinnitus

Read more …

 

 

 

 

My personal history of qigong practice

I started practising qigong fairly regularly in around 1993. I came back from a spell in China with a cold that turned into acute pneumonia a couple of days later. I had to cancel an important teaching trip and the experience spurred me to restart some kind of regular health practice. I’d previously had fairly dedicated spells of practising yoga, as well as meditation and tai chi, but now I was caught by the idea  of qigong.

I started with a book – the Way of Energy by Master Lam Kam-Chuen. I was reluctant to find a teacher, bored with the limited number of ways I usually responded to the teacher-pupil relationship – none of them especially positive. This time, for good or ill,  I was going to fly solo from the off, learning by reading and trying.

Since those early days, with a couple of gaps of several months, I have practised most days, initially standing qigong, and subsequently a range of practices including wild goose qigong, taichi shibashi qigong and – under the wonderful guidance of Roy Jenzen (I have become less stubborn in the teacher department)  – five animal primal qigong, the baduan jin and bone marrow washing. My experience of, and devotion to, the practice has deepened steadily, and it now feels like an inseparable part of my life, woven into its fabric. So here are a few words about why I practise, and what it means to me.

Health

I have never experienced the most robust health (perhaps it was my degenerate habits in the 1960s) and for much of my life have felt the need to work to enhance it.

Because of the low stance adopted during practice and the slow weight shifting, qigong helps to strengthen the body, especially the feet, knees, legs, hips, waist and back. By strengthening the lower body in this way, the Kidneys are tonified and agility and balance improved. Whilst the lower body is strong and full, the upper body is soft and relaxed, indeed softness and relaxation are the underlying principle of all qigong practice. This softness in the upper body helps to sink the qi, counteracting the tendency of yang qi to rise excessively – a design flaw of the warm yang body. And the many and varied arm and shoulder movements, combined with turning, stretching and opening the waist, chest and sides, help promote free flow in the channels/fasciae and hence the internal organs.

One way that Chinese medicine defines health is the free and unobstructed flow of qi and blood. There are 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body and Western medicine too is increasingly interested in how to maximise blood circulation, especially the microcirculation. There seem to be two main ways to achieve this. One is aerobic exercise which activates the pumping action of the heart and oxygen exchange in the lungs, thus pushing the blood along its pathways. The other is softening and relaxing the vessels (and channels) thus allowing the spontaneous circulation of qi and blood that is the natural expression of life (this relaxation of the blood vessels has also been shown to result from happiness and laughter, alcohol, tea and sex). This flow of qi and blood/vasodilation is of course enhanced by slow, deep and relaxed breathing. Both ways – aerobics and relaxation – have their place, indeed some forms of qigong practice work with both, but relaxation is a lifelong practice that – with long application – affects underlying levels of tightness in the body throughout the 24 hours of the day, and further can be practised at an age when vigorous aerobic exercise may no longer be possible.

Qigong is almost always practised equally on both sides, and this, combined with immersion of awareness in the body and slow movements or even just relaxed standing, helps improve body alignment, adjusting and equalising the two sides of the body, enhancing proprioception and  awareness of all parts of the body, and perhaps even helping harmonise the sides of the brain.

Connection

Perhaps one of the greatest attractions of qigong is that it is practised outdoors, in all weathers except heavy rain and howling winds. Standing beneath the sky/heaven, feet firmly rooted to earth, we are reminded of our place in the universe. Standing like a tree, imitating the movements of birds and animals, performing movements such as ‘playing with clouds’, ‘playing with waves’, ‘scooping water from the sea’ we tune into the wonders of the natural world and become part of it. And as we warm ourselves with practice and become friends with the elements, winter can turn into spring and spring into summer.

If we study Chinese medicine we are familiar with the idea of the body as an integrated whole. This gains a new depth of meaning when we start to experience it in the body. In qigong we work towards fully integrated movements;  the body moves as one. The hands are ‘attached’ to the feet, the elbows to the knees, the shoulders to the hips, the head to the feet, the front to the back. And the more we practise, the more we start to feel that all this connection and movement is driven by the dantian, or the wu ji, like a great central cog that initiates the inevitable movement of the ever smaller cogs within the joints of the body,

Wuji

Wuji is a state of emptiness – that which exists before the manifestation of yin and yang. The central point of balance in the body is neither forwards nor backwards, neither to the left nor the right, neither up nor down – it is the place of infinite potential before any of these dualities manifest and it is the place all movement starts from and returns to. Resting in, and moving from, the wuji lends meaning to all the movements of qigong and offers a deep experience of rest, nourishment and renewal.

Yinyang

From wuji comes yin and yang and it is the simple attunement of ourselves with yin and yang that is the core of qigong – integrating strength with gentleness, rising with descending, coiling with uncoiling, opening with closing and so on. Simple yet profound because yinyang is of course the core principle of the universe we belong to.

Awareness

It is the seamless integration of body, breath and mind/awareness that ‘defines’ qigong. Awareness may involve dwelling in the body or any part of the body, or simply being present to the external environment (breeze, smell, sound etc.). This being in the moment – which is the starting point and perhaps end of all meditation – we now know brings about clear physical changes in the brain. Areas associated with positivity and emotional control grow and develop greater gyrification (folding within the brain). Thus we cultivate a healthy and competent brain and become better able to resist the swirls and tides of negative emotion.

No aim

I’d be dishonest if I said I didn’t have an aim in doing qigong – like most of us I want to be wise, healthy, buff, irresistible and immortal. But I remember sitting on a beach once discussing the differences between qigong and yoga. Of course these are very much generalisations as there are hundreds of different kinds of qigong and many kinds of yoga. One difference that was apparent was that the limbs in qigong tend to be relaxed and rounded and, unlike much yoga, are rarely extended fully. In qigong terms, full extension is less effective at promoting smooth flow. But a more significant difference seemed to me to be that much yoga practice approaches an asana as a posture to be attained and held. The movement is usually rapid and functional from the starting position to the full posture – the extension, the bend, the balance – which is the aim, the end point, the attainment. Qigong is much more concerned with continuous flowing movement, no part of which is more important or more of an aim than any other. I think this difference is very important  physically, psychologically, even spiritually. I am struck by the fact that yoga has been much more successful in appealing to Westerners than qigong, and one reason may be that it ties in well with the Judeo-Christian foundations of our culture which we absorb without even knowing that we do. Self-improvement, reaching for the light, the heavens, cleansing and detoxifying the body, getting somewhere … we take many of these ideas and desires for granted. In qigong, moving from the wuji, up is no more important than down, the end no more than the beginning, everything is circular, continuous and therefore all there is, is the flowing present.

2012

Comments

  1. lovely words! and a clear set of reasons..
    and what a good choice of website! same as mine. could do with a few more visuals!

    see you in a field – soon
    big love

  2. Peter,
    I love your perspective. One thought on qigong/yoga differences: yoga, yes, as it’s practiced in the West, can be about quickly moving into results. That is not however, the true essence of yoga. Being in the moment and SLOWLY moving into asanas, while being aware of where YOUR body is, is the true goal. Soaking in the sensations of the free flow of qi & blood, while in the midst, is what transfers to all aspects of our lives. Our bodies and minds are the teachers.

  3. I have just started on a qigong class over the weekend by a lovely park with a pond. It is a free form class and I found it strange that there was no instruction except to just relax and go with the flow. It seems similar to yoga in principle but at least I had asanas to follow. Here, I didn’t know what to,do : ) is it normal?

  4. Thank you for this wonderful explanation of your experience. It’s great to know where years of continued practise can “take” you. I find that both can be very contemplative and energy driven practices. ..but the play of qigong seems to improve awareness, flexibility through relaxation. ..and yet yes also improves the body’s speed in movement and strength. The movement of energy is much more prominent and flowing with qigong more than yoga for me.
    Thank you again. ..

    • Peter Deadman

      Hi Evie. I wrote this piece quite a long time ago and would probably express it a little differently now as I understand there are many different kinds of yoga and some are not unlike qigong. best wishes Peter

    • Peter Deadman

      Hi Angelika
      I absolutely agree and I have practised qigong in many places. Of course I prefer outdoors to indoors, and I could list a quiet spot in a Buddhist temple garden in Tokyo (just last week), beneath coconut trees in India, atop a mountain in France and many more. Plus all sorts of odd indoor spaces.

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