I’ve written before about my first qigong lesson. Nowadays, I still go the classes and am much more knowledgable on the subject.
But first, what is Qigong, anyway? Qigong (pronounced like chee-kong) is an ancient Chinese system of working with the Qi (Chi) energy. The translation from Chinese is something in the lines of “energy cultivation” or “Working with energy”. It is a system of exercises involving postures, movement, breathing, meditation and mind body interaction. Qigong was the basis both for the Chinese healing and to martial arts. As such there are many variations to qigong and some are more relevant to combat while others to healing.
I’ve learned that the specific form of qigong that I study is called YiQuan qigong (pronounced e-chuan). This specific form of qigong was founded in the 1920ies by master Wang Xiangzhai, who developed it out of another martial arts system, xingyiquan. Although it started as a form of martial arts qigong it is now studied mostly for health benefits. In many places it still learned as a martial arts qigong, similarly to kungfu. At the end of the post I attached two videos of master Yao Zongxun (1917-1985), who was the formal successor of Wang Xiangzhai. In these videos one can see the exercises.
As I wrote before, there are several types of exercises in the Yiquan. One type is call Shi li and they are motion exercises. The motion is usually slow and has many aspects to mastering it, including body control, relaxed and diaphragmic breathing, synchronous movements of various joints and energy control. You can see many Shi Li performed in the first video of Yao Zongxun starting with around 2:43 minutes.
Other type of exercises are called Zhan Zhuang and these are motionless postures that are held for long periods of time. Their purposes include meditation, relaxation, yin-yang energy separation in the body and the gathering the qi energy. Starting students start with only a few minutes of standing in a posture and advance to 40 minutes to 1.5 hours of standing in one posture. Since postures include hands in the air, standing in one place with relaxed body from the waist up (yang) with all the body weight going to the legs (yin), they are physically difficult exercises, but they mostly train the mind. There are more depth to these exercises than I can write here and I guess there’s also much more depth to them than I know. You can see them in the first video from the beginning.
Third type of exercises that I wanted to write about are Fa Li exercises. We do them alternating with the Shi Li movements. These exercises teach fast release of energy, moving it through the body and relaxation at the same time. They look like fast blows in martial arts but are fast and strong not because of physical strength applied, but instead because of relaxed movement and release of qi energy. See my master do it seems almost impossible, as he can release great force and energy through almost still position. His movement looks like he was a loaded spring released. You can see Fa Li performed by Yao Zongxun in the second video from the beginning. There are also other types of exercises but these are the main ones that I study.
But what are the health benefits of Yiquan qigong? I’m going to the classes for a bit more than 6 months now and I have seen some benefits to personal health, even though I don’t practice qigong at home as much as I would like. First I have seen improvement in my posture. All my life I have bad posture which caused me troubles in the form of neck and back pains, in addition to it being not esthetical. I even had to go to chiropracter about 2 years ago to relief my neck pain and about 8 months ago I had the “pain in the pain in the calf caused by lower back problems. At about the same time I started going to qigong, since I assumed it could help to prevent or lessen the problem in the future.
I must say that I find that performing qigong indeed helped my back. I started to stand straighter with ease, the pain in neck appears much less often and not as severe as before. I’ve not had major back pain since. I learned to relax my body and especially shoulders which were often raised when walking or sitting, which I presume was one of the causes of the neck pain.
Qigong exercises also helped me to better feel my body, my ability to control its movement, wight and usage. Even the way that I approach physical activities is changing as I learn to better utilize my body to perform physical actions with less stress.
I also usually feel more energized after qigong sessions. And although one will be right to say that any physical activity energizes, and I’ll agree with that, I feel that qigong sometimes energize in a different way. It feels like you have the power (or energy) in the body and you can use it.
With that, I know that I’m really only starting to scratch the surface of qigong’s benefits. I surely don’t practice it enough to advance fast but I believe that persistance and continuing practice will bring more benefits as the time passes and I understand more.
I would recommend almost anyone taking qigong lessons. There are many type of qigong and I don’t know them but I like YiQuan, the one I’m going to, for its health benefits.
The videos of master Yao Zongxun:
Video 1: Zhan Zhuang, Shi Li
Video 2: Fa Li, mostly