Health: May the force be with you
Qi or Ki is word that refers to our life force or breath, and Gong means work or skill. Put simply, Qi Gong refers to mind, body and breath practices that develop our vital energy. This fundamentally differs from Western exercise approaches that aim to build muscle power, function and flexibility.
Qi Gong classes are characterised by slow, moving or standing exercises, co-ordinated with conscious breathing.
In practice this calms the mind and improves mind-body connection. When the force is with you then everything feels better.
Qi Gong aims to activate and extend the energy of life itself – rather than to build muscle or improve flexibility. Its beginnings are lost in the mists and crags of Chinese mountain ranges where Taoist and Buddhist hermits developed purification and immortality practices.
At least that is the romanticised version. Ancient drawings indicate the roots of Qi Gong stretch back for two thousand years. Sadly most traditional Qi Gong teachers fled or died during the Chinese Cultural revolution.
The Chinese government then had to reconstruct their Qi Gong systems in the 1980s, oddly enough, in response to the interest of visiting US president Richard Nixon. Yes, he of Watergate notoriety. This led to a period of “Qi Gong Fever“ – when all manner of ancient exercise systems were dusted off or re-created to prove China hadn’t destroyed its heritage during the terror years of the Red Guard.
Qi Gong practitioners say that focusing on repeated movement sequences helps calm the mind and builds more sense of connection in the body. The aim is to have mind, body and energy work together in harmony to create wellbeing. Many people can feel Qi as a slight pressure in the air around them or get sensations of heat, cold or internal movement when they practice Qi Gong.
Energy flow is as fundamental to the Eastern concept of what we need for healthy living as is blood circulation is in Western medicine. Much as restricted blood flow can cause major health issues – blocked energy is regarded as lying at the root of most mental or physical health problems.
Blocked energy can be caused by anything from poor posture to emotional tension freezing up certain areas of the body. Optimising healthy energy flow basic to oriental medicine such as acupuncture and shiatsu, to support the natural self-repair functions of the body. Qi Gong exercises offer a simple, effective way to do this for oneself.
As Qi Gong has developed over thousands of years in China many different types of Qi Gong have developed and are taught in Bristol, including Hua Gong (based on Zhixing Wang’s artistic, spiritual and gently meditative teaching) and Taijiwuxigong (Dr Shen Hongxun’s dynamic, self-healing set of exercises based on Tai Chi).
Find out more about local Qi Gong classes: www.qigong-bristol.co.uk
Read more: Dancing with Parkinson’s