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Qigong: The Ultimate Healing Practice

by Ed Howard

Qigong is rapidly gaining recognition as a remarkably effective tool to counteract chronic ailments, enhance an individual’s sense of well being, and even increase longevity! Bold claims indeed, but the benefits of this ancient practice have been recognized for thousands of years. Millions of Chinese citizens participate in Qigong practices daily and now more and more people around the world are experiencing the profound benefits of these simple self healing exercises.

What is Qigong?

To understand Qigong we must first understand the concept of Qi (pronounced chee). Cultures around the world have described a universal energy that animates, and connects, all living things; a universal life force. The ancient Daoist in China called it Qi; the Japanese named it Ki; in India it was known as Prana; the ancient Greeks described it as Pneuma; Native Americans perception of this energy was Great Spirit; and the Christian description is the Holy Spirit. Recently, modern science has come to undertsand the reality of this universal energy and calls it the Quantum Field. Thousands of years ago ancient cultures knew intuitively what modern science has ultimately confirmed…the entire universe is connected in a field of energy; that everything is, in fact, energy!

Qi is energy; the universal life force that connects and animates all things. This energy moves the planets, powers the stars, and empowers our very breath. Gong (often pronounced gung) is practice or work. Therefore, Qigong is an energy practice. Further, it is the intentful practice of enhancing the flow of Qi through our body’s energy system, often described as meridians, or streams; pathways for the energy to flow through and animate our physical bodies.


Qigong practices have been around for several thousand years. It is said to be as young as 3000-4000 years and as old as 40,000-50,000 years; it seems clear that it predates written language. Its origins were in China and developed by the ancient Daoists, humanity’s first true scientists. For most of these thousands of years these practices were kept very private and past on selectively from Master to student. Then, individual families began to develop their own distinctive styles of Qigong practices that were passed on from generation to generation. Because of this diversity, and also because there is no one true or correct way to practice Qigong, there are literally thousands of different styles or practices in existence today.

How is it Done?

The common ground for most Qigong practices is three basic principles.
First are the postures and/or movements; the postures are designed to align the energy pathways, and relax the muscles. This reduces tension in the body, and brings the body into a state of relaxed awareness or peace. The movements are slow, precise and intentful, and are usually coordinated with the breath, which is the second basic principle. Most of us take our breath for granted; it is “just something our body does” without thinking, much like the beating of our heart. However, in not being mindful of our breath we tend to breath very shallow and up in our chest. A Qigong practice teaches you to slow and deepen the breath, breathing deep into the body. Watch a sleeping baby; the belly rises and falls in a very deep, relaxed motion. This is how we are intended to breathe. The breath has remarkable healing benefits in itself and can be utilized to counteract many of the effects of stress on the body.

The third basic principle is the mind. In Qigong you are taught to quiet the mind and use your intention to connect to the Qi and move it through the body. Intention is a key component in moving the energy through its pathways, clearing blockages and allowing the energy to flow freely. Many things can cause the blockage of energy flow, stress being the primary culprit, and these blockages can lead to all sorts of dis-ease. This is a primary health benefit of a regular Qigong practice; keeping the energy pathways open.

Because there are so many different styles of Qigong, and because there is no one correct or “official” way to practice, there are many opportunities to discover a practice that resonates with each individual. In fact, utilizing the three basic principles you can create your own style or practice. You don’t need a Qigong Master to show you the way…”the Qi is free!” That being said, there are many benefits to working with a Qigong practitioner. A skilled practitioner can guide you on your path of discovering the benefits of a practice; introduce you to different Qigong styles; and help you to realize the true potential of this ancient, beautiful, self healing art form. These practices are simple, easy and profoundly powerful! Another wonderful truth about Qigong is that it is accessible to everyone. Many forms can be done standing, sitting in a chair or even lying down if the physical condition of the individual requires. Benefits from a Qigong practice can even be experienced by lying in the back of a room where Qigong is being practiced. In fact, Qigong Masters will tell you that pets and plants benefit from being in the proximity of a Qigong practitioner! There are also many benefits of practicing in a group. The energy levels in the space of a group practice are elevated exponentially and this group effect enhances the individual experience.

What are the Benefits?

There are many, many benefits to be gained from this very simple practice. These include strengthening your endocrine and immune systems; reducing stress, anxiety and depression; a deeper sense of well-being, emotional stability and balance; becoming empowered to attract positive changes into your life; enhancing other mind-body-spirit practices you may be following; deepening your connection to universal healing energy, and more!

So, now you know. You are encouraged to find a book, DVD or local class; try it, play with it, see what happens. Many of these practices are described as a moving meditation, so you will realize all the benefits of a meditation practice without having to sit for hours attempting to quiet the mind. Often the exercises are fully guided, coordinating movement with breath, so you don’t have to think or try to memorize the form; you are free to experience and realize the healing power of Qigong.

Ed Howard is a certified Level 3 Instructor. Classes weekly at Awakening Wellness in Malvern, PA. Qigong Instructor Certification Training begins September, 2016. More at www.AwakeningWellness.info

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