Why Chi Kung?

written by Jane Hallander
information from Doc-Fai Wong

What is the allure of this mystical Chinese healing art, chi kung (qigong), that so many people flock to its ranks - to the point where one chi kung system has even been labeled a cult and outlawed in China?

The chi in chi kung translates to air or breath. My own chi kung teacher, a famous and respected person in China, further defined chi as related closely to the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Some refer to chi as the body's life force. Yoga stylists call it prana. Everyone agrees that chi is an essential ingredient to all living beings.

Kung means work in Chinese. Put the words together and you have chi kung - work or develop your chi energy. Chi kung is a personal development program that improves your individual ability to generate more chi; cause chi to flow smoothly throughout your body and prevent disease by strengthening your immune system.

The health effects of chi energy are many. Besides strengthening the immune system, it slows down and partially reverses the effects of anti-oxidant damage to body cells. When your chi slows smoothly and without blockages, you are getting more oxygen to your cells, including your brain. You can concentrate better. You have more energy and stamina - all while staying completely relaxed.

There are two basic parts to personal chi kung training and development - standing meditation and chi kung exercises.

Standing Meditation

Its Chinese name is zhan zhuang. We call it standing meditation and that's exactly what it is. You stand in one place for at least 20 minutes, with as few thoughts in your mind as possible. Why stand, instead of the more conventional sitting meditation positions?

Chinese medicine places great importance on a balanced body, with the spine as the center. Each side of your body should be equally relaxed and balanced before your chi energy can move smoothly and evenly through the chi (acupuncture) meridians that line your body. Standing upright is the only way to evenly balance the body. Sitting positions either stop chi flow by bending joints in unnatural ways, or are so comfortable that the person doesn't know his body is unbalanced. However, there's no question with standing meditation. If there is tenseness in any part of your body, you soon feel the pain during your zhan zhuang practice. I've had many students who didn't realize how tense and stiff their shoulders were until they started practicing standing meditation.

Chi Kung Exercises

While standing meditation develops more chi energy and sends it traveling smoothly along the body's chi channels, chi kung exercises are designed to teach you how to move this healthy chi wherever you want in your body. One of the purposes of chi kung training is to learn how to heal yourself.

Each exercise is for a specific part of your body and combines three important principles to produce the most powerful self-healing chi kung techniques. These three principles are shun, I (yi) and chi (qi). Shun means spirit, and defines your emotional state. Yi translates to mind. Your mind directs your chi to its intended destination. When these three are combined you have a powerful, natural form of self-healing.

This represents only an overview of chi kung practice and training. Other columns specifically with actual chi kung techniques and principles, all directed toward making your life longer and healthier.