The word ‘Qigong’ is made up of the two words ‘Qi’ (meaning breath or gas in Mandarin) and ‘Gong’ (meaning technique or work). Thus Qigong basically means ‘breath work’. Qigong, therefore, is a technique of traditional Chinese medicine involving the regulation and coordination of breathing patterns to ensure good health.
Qigong is believed to be the result of decades of struggle by the Chinese people for survival.
It was noticed that certain breathing techniques used in conjunction with mental concentration greatly improved bodily functions. Qigong has also borrowed heavily from Taoism and Buddhism. Thus religion and spirituality plays a very important role in Qigong techniques. Some forms of Qigong even believe that an individual can attain higher levels of accomplishment only if he is very virtuous.
Traditional Chinese medicine operates on a simple but effective premise – that of ‘Chi’. Chi is the energy or life force that travels through the human body and suffuses all our organs with health and well being. When this flow is blocked or disturbed, there is a disturbance within the system that manifests itself as a disease. According to tradition, all that a doctor has to do to restore good health is to analyze the reasons for the block and to take measures to facilitate the free flow of energy once again.
Qigong teaches an individual to live in such a way that the free flow of energy happens always, so that he is free from diseases. As the two words indicate, Qigong deals with the manipulation of breath to achieve and maintain robust health. This art has found a strong role in the martial arts of ancient China where people had to mobilize energy and stamina in coordination with the physical act of breathing.
This Chinese healing art is an effective form of alternative medicine that uses a series of gentle focused exercises to coordinate the mind and the body. It is believed that most people use only a small portion of the energy within them. Most people get sick because they do not breathe properly. These two facts have been juxtaposed in Qigong, where proper breathing helps bring good health. As such, Qigong is mostly taught for health maintenance purposes. But rarely the doctor also uses Qigong for therapeutic purposes.
In the modern world, millions of people all around the world practice Qigong for maintaining their good health. Qigong and other related arts are still associated with meditation and martial arts. But as opposed to the past, these people are no longer the sole custodians of the intricate techniques involved in Qigong. These techniques have become so popular now that medical Qigong has been officially recognized as a medical technique in China.
The practice of Qigong began nearly 5,000 years ago. Today there are almost 3,000 forms of Qigong. Tai Chi is just one of the more popular forms.
Western medicine accepts that Qigong can improve the overall health and vitality of a person. But the religious connotations that are lying just below the surface have often proved to be a matter of controversy. But there are no two opinions regarding the level of effectiveness of this practice.