What is Qigong?
The word “Qigong” (pronounced, “Chee-Gong) is unfamiliar to many people in the West. In the modern Chinese Romanization into English letters (called “Pinyin”), the “Q” generally makes an English “Ch” sound. You will sometimes see Qigong spelt as “Chi Gong,” “Chi Kung,” and other variations.
The literal translation of this word is difficult to convey, since it has so many connotations. Some common approximations for the meaning of Qigong include, “energy cultivation,” “breath practice,” “life-energy cultivation,” “breathing exercises,” etc. The core concept of the “Qi” (pronounced, “Chee”) of “Qigong,” is related to the ideas of “breath” and “energy.” The “Gong” of “Qigong” is related to the idea of “practice,” “work,” “ability,” “cultivation,” etc. An accurate Western scientific description would be something like “the maintenance and cultivation of bio-electrical energy.” The word “Qi” has similar parallels in other world cultures. In India it is referred to as “Prana,” in Japan it is called “Ki,” and in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament it is referred to as “Ruach” (“breath”), the “breath of life” that God is said to have breathed into the first man (Genesis 2:7). Numerous other conceptual parallels can be found in other world cultures, but the core idea is remarkably similar; “breath = life = energy.” Put simply, “Qigong” is family of breathing exercises designed to stimulate “life-energy.”
The gentle movements, relaxed diaphragmatic breathing, and the mental focus upon
these simple factors, cause the practitioners mind and body to get into a state known
as “the Relaxation Response.” This term was coined years ago by a famous medical
researcher from Harvard Medical School, Dr. Herbert Benson. It is the physiological
and psychological effects of this “Relaxation Response” that activate the bodies own
natural healing ability. Doing these easy and gentle movements over time can shift thebody from the devastating effects of chronic stress, over to a more normal, healthy, and relaxed state of being. Modern medical research indicates that over 70% of all illness is a direct result of the negative physiological effects of stress. Qigong and Tai Chi are powerful antidotes to these effects. These positive effects continue to work even when not doing the exercises. Just as good nutrition, exercise, and proper rest have a positive “hangover” effect on our bodies, so does a relaxing mind-body practice like Qigong.
As human beings struggle with the stress of modern living, the challenges of urban
crime, traffic, pollution, environmental hazards, and as we too often become prisoners of the technology that was designed to “help us”, many in the West are turning to an ancient “technology,” Qigong and Tai Chi, in order to have a powerful natural resource to cope with these challenges. In our busy lives, many people are sensing a need to take time out for themselves, slow down, and invest a few minutes a day into cultivating their own physical and mental health. A powerful tool in this quest for enhanced health and for a moment of peace in this hurried world, is the daily practice of these simple mind-body exercises called “Qigong.”