History of Qigong

This Chinese medical and spiritual practice has a 4,000-year history of healing

Qigong, an ancient Chinese discipline that combines slow, deliberate exercise with meditation, may owe its roots to weather, of all things.

Four thousand years ago, when the practice emerged, the Chinese Tao Tang tribes lived in a dreary, uninviting climate. The damp, dark, musky and gloomy environment caused many people to suffer from stiff joints and fragile spirits. Qigong meditation was developed as a way to elevate moods, promote strength and release stress.

Qigong is a three-pronged body and mind experience that includes:

  • Stretching one's spine to create an erect posture.
  • Deep abdominal breathing.
  • A connection between movement and contemplation.

Part of qigong healing includes moving one's body gracefully and rhythmically in the form of dance. Qigong has been used as a physical and mental release, an art form and a spiritual joy since its inception.

Qigong and animal energy

Ancient Chinese scholars and mystics believed that, by imitating animal movements — stretching, climbing, running, stalking and leaping — one could release a flow of qi or chi, the powerful vital force of life.

Renowned physician Hua Tuo (141-208 AD) created exercises that were comparable to the distinct movements of five different animals: the tiger, deer, bear, monkey and crane. Called "Frolics of the Five Animals," these movements are still part of qigong training.

Art or science? Physical or spiritual?

For centuries, qigong has been defined as both the art and science of healing ailments, preventing illness and preserving youth and health through movement and qigong meditation — maximizing mental powers while improving posture and breath control.

Qigong is both a physical and spiritual exercise. It is composed of natural movements that some ancients thought of as "supernatural" due to the gentle but powerful impact on the body and spirit. The beautiful "ballet" performed by qigong participants clears the dancers' minds, letting them seek and receive power, pleasure and peace while strengthening their muscles, moods and minds. Even people who merely view qigong movements, without participating, report a feeling of calm and optimism.

Religion, physical exercise, mental training or medical therapy?

Qigong fits into all these categories. It is compatible with Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist doctrines, is revered as a medical protocol and is respected as a graceful but forceful martial art.

Modern-day qigong

After the creation of the People's Republic of China in 1955, new interest was placed in qigong healing. Qigong hospitals were created and staffed by doctors who based their medical therapies on the elements of qigong. Scholars and scientists took another look at qigong and deemed it worthy of further study, helping to spread interest in qigong throughout China.

In the early 1980s, there was another spike of interest in qigong healing. Chinese medical experts, scientists and qigong masters promoted a rigorous study of qigong through scientific methods, including biochemical, physiological and kinetic studies. These studies captured the attention of Western scientists and have helped to spur the qigong movement in the United States and other countries.

Finding a natural way to release the flow of chi, to achieve and maintain health, locate spiritual balance and strengthen physical endurance is a perfect fit for our busy lives in today's society.

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