What Indeed Is Qigong?

what is qigong

Although many people are practicing “Qigong” (chi kung, chi gung) all over the world, few of them could tell what Qigong really is. Here are some of the definitions that you will find from online search:

“Qigong is an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention.”
– American National Qigong Association

“Qigong is a form of gentle exercise composed of movements that are repeated a number of times, often stretching the body, increasing fluid movement (blood, synovial and lymph) and building awareness of how the body moves through space.”
– Energy Arts

“Qigong is a powerful system of healing and energy medicine from China. It is the art and science of using breathing techniques, gentle movement, and meditation to cleanse, strengthen, and circulate the life energy (qi). Qigong practice leads to better health and vitality and a tranquil state of mind.”
– Qigong Research and Practice Center

Those definitions are not wrong, but incomplete. They use the ways of practicing (breathing, gentle movement, meditation, building awareness, strengthen qi, etc) as the definition. But different qigong practices use different ways of practices. They don’t necessarily use all of the ways.

For example, Zen practices do not involve physical movements or talk about qi at all. However Zen is one kind of qigong. Another example, in high level of Dao (Tao) practice, movement or qi practice is no longer the focus.

Different qigong practices have different goals or focuses. Healing or better health is an obvious achievement from most qigong practices, but definitely not the main or only purpose. Qigong is more than a healing system or energy medicine.

For example, some modern scientific Qigong is to develop human potentials and super abilities, which could be debatable among Qigong practitioners. However many Qigong practitioners only learn to practice to heal or improve their health, which is a basic level of achievement and also okay.
buddhism zen practice

So what really is qigong? Its definition should reveal its core, regardless of forms or focuses. In one of Dr. Pang‘s qi theory books, he gave qigong a scientific definition:


His qigong definition includes three parts:

1, Qigong’s theoretical foundation

Qigong believes that human life unifies with the society world and the nature/universe. They are deeply connected in an entirety.

2, Core of any qigong practice

Qigong uses mind inwardly. Qigong practice focuses on consciousness practice. If any breathing or gentle movement is involved in the practice, it is directed by the consciousness. The process goes: consciousness mobilizes qi then mobilizes movement if any.

Our conscious mind often go outward to outside things in daily life. We seldom use our conscious mind to go inside to study our own body and mind. No matter what type of qigong we practice: Buddhism Zen practice, Taoism practice, Confucianism practice, medicinal/healing or martial arts qigong, we all have to use conscious mind inwardly.

3, Common purpose of all qigong practices

Qigong practice aims to transform and enhance our vitality and human life functions.

Although “Qigong” is from Chinese words 气功, although Chinese has the longest (over 2500 years) qigong history, there were quite a few practices originating from outside of China. They have different names, but they also involve qigong in their practice.

This includes Tantric, Yoga, Reiki, relaxation therapy, meditation, Psychotherapy, visualization, imagination and so on. That being said, if any practice ever uses consciousness to improve human body mind and energy, they are qigong, just in different forms and have different focuses.

When people open their mind to see what qigong really is, it’s easy to accept that everyone needs qigong in every aspect of life.

2nd Revision: April 22, 2020

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