Text reprinted with permission from qi-journal.com:
Qigong (Chi Kung) comes from the Chinese words "Qi" meaning "Energy" plus "Gong", meaning "work" or "practice". It is a term that describes a Chinese Exercise system the focuses on cultivating and attracting "Qi" or "lifeforce" energies. Pronounced like "Chee Gung", Qigong is a unique Chinese exercise system.
Qigong draws on many elements. It includes "regulating the body" through posture, "regulating the mind" through quiet, relaxation and concentration of one's mental activity," regulating the breath", self-massage and movement of the limbs. It covers a wide range of exercises and styles, such as "tuna" (venting and taking in), which emphasizes the practice of breath; "still" qigong, which stresses meditation and relaxation; "standing stance" qigong, which emphasizes the exercise of the body by relaxed and motionless standing posture;moving and dao-yin qigong, which emphasizes external movement combined with internal quiet and practice in control of the mind; as well as various forms of self-massage.
Moving or static, hard or soft?
The term soft qigong usually refers to exercises which enhance spiritual, mental, and physical health with meditation and gentle exercises. Hard qigong refers to exercises done in martial arts to strengthen and protect the body from vicious blows.
Some divide qigong into Medical, Martial, or Spiritual categories depending on the purpose of the practice.
Within China, qigong is generally practiced in two major categories, still and moving. Still qigong lays emphasis on quiet, motionless meditation, generally employing methods of internal concentration and regulation of breathing. It is usually practiced in outwardly motionless postures such as the lying, sitting or standing positions, and since it emphasizes exercise of the internal aspect of the body, it is often known as internal qigong.
"Moving" qigong involves movement of the limbs and body under the conscious direction of the mind, and since the movement is expressed externally, it is also known as external qigong.
The first step in the practice of qigong is to assure correct posture. It is vital that the posture is natural and relaxed so as to allow smooth breathing and help lead the mind into a relaxed and quiet state.
The most common postures are:
- Normal sitting Posture: Sit upright on a chair, feet on the ground, legs apart and torso at right angles to the thighs. Let the eyes and mouth rest gently closed, tongue resting on upper palate, assuming a slight, unforced smile.
- Cross-legged Posture: Sit upright on a hard bed or platform, legs naturally crossed, hands resting in front of lower abdomen.
- Half-Lotus Posture: Sit upright on a firm bed or platform, left foot resting on right thigh, right foot under left knee, or vice versa. Rest hands on knees.
- Supine Posture: Lie on one's back on a firm bed, pillow not to high, legs straight and arms resting by one's sides.
- Sideways lying Posture: Lie on one's side on a firm bed, with a low pillow; upper body straight, legs slightly bent; rest upper hand on hip and lower hand palm up on pillow.
- Standing Posture: Stand erect, feet parallel and apart at about shoulder width with toes pointing slightly inward. Bend knees slightly, hold in chest and raise arms so that hands are no higher than shoulders, elbows drooping slightly, with the hands about one foot apart, palms down. Keep fingers separated and curved as if around surface of the ball. Eyes and mouth are lightly closed, with a slight smile.
- Walking Posture: Stand quietly for about two or three minutes, then take a pace forward with the left foot, heel touching first, body and hands swaying to the right as one moves forward. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. When weight is fully on left foot, take a pace forward with the right foot, heel first, body and hands swaying to the left. Practice in this way moving forward and back for about half an hour or for as long as one can without tiring, the length of time varying, of course, according to the practitioner and their state of health.
Entering a Quiet State
Another basic skill to be gradually mastered in qigong is how to concentrate and regulate one's mental activity so as to enter a quiet, meditative state. Much of the success of Qigong practice depends on the level of peace and quietness one can attain. This "entering a quiet state" refers to a settled and peaceful state of mind not disturbed by extraneous thoughts, the mind concentrated on one point such as the "Dantian" (about one inch below the navel) or on the very act of breathing.
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