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The Healing Resources of Qigong and Taijiquan

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Editor's Message: We have all seen pictures from Asia showing people practicing qigong and t'ai chi in parks. What about the trend in the Western world? Qigong is often broadly defined to include mind-body exercises. "Qigong refers to the mind-body operational skills and techniques that integrate the adjustments (regulations) of mind, body and breathing into Oneness," (Liu, 2005). Based on this definition, qigonginstute.org reported that there was a 22% increase in US population who practiced qigong in the five years ended 2007. The biggest increase came from yoga and meditation. Is this exercise for you? Find out more about its origin and healing power.

Live a happier, healthier, more productive lifestyle by learning the ancient art of self-directed healing, meditation, and movement exercises known as Qigong. Qigong literally means: Qi (vital energy, pronounced Chee) and Gong (work or effort over a period of time). Qigong is a holistic therapy that promotes wellness and disease prevention by balancing the body, mind, and spirit.  Practice naturally develops the "internal medicine" by combining breathing and mental visualizations, that activate internal chemical processes, and movements that strengthen the muscles and help Qi flow more efficiently through the energy channels of the body. The internal medicine is comprised of Qi (the unifying energy that permeates the entire universe), Jing (body chemistry, essence) and Shen (spirit and enlightenment). Qi, Jing, and Shen are known as the "Three Treasures" - each one vital to good health.

The Origin of Qigong

The roots of Chinese Qigong go back to prehistoric times. Ancient sages learned that by observing and following the cycles of Nature and by imitating the movements of certain animals that their energy and vitally was greatly enhanced. For centuries, Qigong was held as a closely guarded secret available only to initiates within Taoist and Buddhist sects. Qigong evolved into five main branches: Medical, Martial, Scholarly (Confucian), Religious (Taoist, Buddhist, Tibetan Buddhist), and Divination (Feng Shui). The five branches share the same underlying principles: (a) self-discipline, (b) physical conditioning, (c) strengthening the auto-immune system, (d) increasing mental capacity, (e) longevity, and ultimately (f) spiritual enlightenment. Medical Qigong, probably the most important of the five branches, focuses primarily on activating the healing resources naturally produced within ourselves. The martial branch of Qigong has more to do with supplemental training and energy enhancement than self-defense. When Qigong is integrated with Western medical practices, patients often experience accelerated healing and a much more positive outlook on life. Qigong significantly reduces the negative effects of stress and aging; particularly relevant today especially with the rising cost of health care.

Acceptance of Qigong in Western Medicine

Twenty years ago, Qigong was virtually unknown to the Western world. The Western medical establishment was slow to understand how Qigong had any basis in reality. Today, there are an increasing number of medical professionals that accept Qigong as a relevant healing and disease prevention method. Dr. Wang Xue Zhi, O.M.D., L.Ac., is one of the first masters to introduce Qigong to the general public in the Seattle area. Dr. Wang's family linage of healing with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Qigong goes back six generations. Initially, taught to his medical patients as a supplemental therapy, Dr. Wang began to accept students who had the desire and dedication to learn and teach others about the profound benefits of Qigong practice.

In the Chinese culture, adopting a Qigong lifestyle is called Jian Kong meaning "healthy living". Whatever the cultural background, daily practice of Qigong and embracing the way of natural energy (Tao) is the first step on the path to inner peace and harmony.

Taijiquan Shares the Same Roots with Qigong

Taijiquan, more commonly called Tai Chi is a form of martial arts that was developed in China about 1000 years ago. Taijiquan loosely translates as "Grand Ultimate Fist". Taiji features smooth flowing movements, coordinated with a variety of breathing techniques, and visualization patterns. Taiji has five major styles named after the founding family patriarchs. Yang and Chen are the most popular in the Seattle area. Yang style is soft and flowing, while Chen style is more dynamic. There is no one superior style of Taijiquan; all the styles share the same basic characteristics and health benefits.

Taiji shares the same roots with Qigong. Both were developed out of the principles described in the Taoist Book of Changes or Metamorphosis (Yi Jing) and philosophy of Lao Tzu in The Way and the Power (Tao Te Jing). Yi Jing is based on the cycles and patterns found in Nature. The Five Elements or Phases: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood, and the Eight Diagrams (Bagua) have martial applications in Taiji, while in Qigong they relate to the internal viscera and their associated meridian connections.

The healing aspect of Taijiquan can be illustrated in story passed down to me from my Taiji teacher. "A famous Taiji master had taken seriously ill; so ill that he was bedridden. He asked that his friend, also a Taiji master, to come and practice Taiji in his hospital room. After a few days, the doctors were amazed by how quickly the master was recovering." This is an example of the "shared" energy of Taiji practice. The two master's energy (qi) resonated sympathetically energizing the energy channels of the patient's body activating his natural internal healing resources.

Taijiquan practiced on a consistent basis has tremendous health benefits. Practitioners notice increased physical strength, improved flexibility, better coordination and equilibrium, and a more active metabolism.

Learning More

Several venues are available for those people who are interested in learning more about Qigong or Taijiquan. Community centers are usually the most affordable, and offer classes that fit most people's schedules. Continuing education classes at local community colleges are also an option.

Dennis R. Sharp is the founder of the Five Mountains Institute of Qigong and Taijiquan. Dennis can be reached at (425) 775-9609,  fmi.qigong@gmail.com.

Photo credit: By gigisko