What is Qigong?
By William Kaplanidis
Ch’i Kung/Qigong is a relatively modern term used to describe a very wide range of exercises and practices that help cultivate your energy. There are over 3000 sets of Ch’i Kung/Qigong some of which may have over 20 exercises. There are qigong practices that specifically assist with martial arts training, for example, iron shirt qigong. Others assist with spiritual training and may have their roots in Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. But all qigong benefits one’s overall health and well-being. In fact, some forms were developed or prescribed by Chinese doctors for specific diseases as well as for illness prevention.
Chinese medicine and Qigong were primarily used for prevention of illness. When the Qi is out of balance or stagnated for too long one can develop physical illness. Balancing the yin and the yang of the body and helping the qi flow smoothly can help heal your body, prevent illness and slow down the aging process. Each organ in the body has its own yin and yang energies. These energies can be affected by your diet, sleep, exercise, your thought patterns, stress, genetics and your environment.
The Ba Duan Jin or Eight Pieces of Brocade is a famous set of medical qigong exercises that is over a thousand years old. It was the first complete set of qigong I studied and later taught. This set is done by martial artists, including those of the Shaolin Temple, as a warm up if you will. It is also practiced by many for general health maintenance and has been prescribed by doctors for specific ailments. This Qigong set helps balance the yin and the yang of the body and promotes the free flow of qi. Ba Duan Jin increases strength and flexibility; improves posture, and can improve the respiratory, circulation, nervous, digestive, and lymphatic systems.
If you have a serious illness you may want to consider adding other Chinese medicine methods like acupuncture, acupressure and herbs, in addition to practicing Qigong at least one to four times a day.
One of my patients from Hong Kong once brought me a Chinese newspaper and said, “Check out this article.” Although my ability to speak Mandarin was pretty good at the time, I could only read 300–400 characters. You need about 10,000–15,000 to read a newspaper. I was able to read that the article was about the Ba Duan Jin but that was it. After I gave him a sarcastic look and a smile, he proceeded to translate it for me. It spoke of a Chinese doctor famous for his successfully treating cancer. He was retiring and not taking new patients. A woman with cancer was desperate and asked him to take her as his patient. The doctor said he could not and told her to learn the Ba Duan Jin. She took his advice and after a relatively short time (sorry can’t remember, a few months, I think) her cancer went into remission. Although I have been trained in medical qigong and am familiar with hospitals in China that teach qigong to cancer patients, this was the first time I had heard of this set being helpful with cancer patients.
Because the Ba Duan Jin is so popular, there are many variations that are taught. Some sets are done standing, while others are done sitting. Exercises combine gentle movements with breath coordination and are simple to learn. Each exercise focuses more on the yin or the yang energies of the body and targets a specific area or organ system. If you have physical limitations the exercises can be modified for your individual needs. The beauty of qigong is that there are practices available for everyone regardless of age, health, ability or disability.
William J. Kaplanidis, L.Ac., M.S., M.A. is an internationally renowned healer and teacher with over 30 years of experience helping thousands heal from physical/emotional traumas. With advanced training in the fields of psychology, eastern medicine, qigong and martial arts, William created the Acudragon Wellness System, which fuses Eastern and Western healing methods to provide very personalized care for his clients and students in New York City and around the globe. In addition to authoring the first of the Enlightened Living 101 Series book, How to be a Great Parent to Your Inner Child, William is a NYS Licensed Acupuncturist, is Nationally Board Certified in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs and faculty of various colleges and institutions, including the Open Center since 2005.
Medical Qigong: Flowing with the Five Elements
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