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Excerpt from "Qigong Illustrated"

Three Applications of Qigong

by Christina Barea

From Qigong Illustrated by Christina Barea. Copyright 2011 by Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc. Excerpted by permission of Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. www.HumanKinetics.com

Three Applications of Qigong

There are several ways to practice qigong, and the approach taken begins to define which type of qigong you’ll be doing and perhaps the difficulty of obtaining results. Qigong practices can generally be classified into three applications: martial, medical, and spiritual. Each of these applications relies on the same foundations and definition of qigong but with a much different intention. Knowing that the foundation of qigong is the same regardless of the application is important because it explains why a person can practice one type of qigong yet obtain benefits in other areas.

To better understand the differences between each application, we can begin by asking, “Why? Why are you practicing this qigong?” The answer to this question is fundamental since it reveals the first path that you’ll travel upon to discover the sphere of qigong. Ultimately, if your practice is long enough, you’ll have the answer to all perspectives. But for now, let’s assume you are interested in the health benefits.

Keep in mind that many qigong movements may look identical to the observer but are a completely different exercise to the practitioner. This is referred to as changing the intention of the qigong. We’ll return to intention shortly. First, let’s take a quick look at the three applications of qigong.


Qigong is not solely a martial art, although there are aspects of qigong training that can be and are used in martial arts training. Martial qigong means practicing qigong in order to develop fighting skill or physical aptitude. It focuses on the body and increasing strength, resistance, and power. Training with qigong for martial purposes emphasizes tendons, muscles, and bones. The various types of Iron training are martial qigong (e.g., Iron Palm, Iron Shirt, Iron Fist). Martial artists bending spears with their necks or breaking seemingly impenetrable objects demonstrate this type of qigong.


Medical qigong means practicing qigong with the intention of improving one’s health and wellness. It focuses on qi circulation and target areas for body–mind conditioning. It also tends to be gentler than martial qigong. Training with medical qigong places focus on joint flexibility, cardiorespiratory capacity, organ health, and blood circulation. Noncompetitive tai chi (or taiji) is an example of this. We will be focusing on qigong for health in this book.


Spiritual qigong means practicing qigong for the purpose of developing one’s spiritual path. It focuses on developing, refining, and strengthening one’s spirit. It tends to be more on the mental side as opposed to physical and can be the most gentle form of qigong (but not the easiest!). It is sometimes referred to as shen gong. Meditations and prayer are examples of this qigong.

What are common side effects of practicing qigong?

Qigong stimulates the flow of energy, creating tangible expressions of it’s movement. Because of each persons’ individuality, how it feels may not always be the same, however, some common descriptions are tingling, buzzing, raised energy level, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, insomnia, deep sleep, hot, cold, rushing wind, sharp pains, dull pains, etc. These are all indications that qi is moving and readjusting. In all cases, these symptoms should pass within a very short time (less than an hour). If, for any reason, you have symptoms that last more than an hour, contact your qualified qigong instructor for guidance.

Christina Barea is an ordained Daoist priest who holds a master’s degree in medical qigong (MMQ) from the International Institute of Medical Qigong (IIMQ), where she studied with internationally recognized founders Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson and Dr. Bernard Shannon. She is a certified level III qigong instructor through the National Qigong Association and has taught at the University of East-West Medicine. She is also a member of the National Qigong Association’s board of directors.

Barea was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is fluent in English, Spanish, and Italian. She currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, and enjoys spending time in nature, playing the Native American flute, and exploring other cultures.

Purchase Info: $18.95   http://www.humankinetics.com/products/all-products/QiGong-Illustrated

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