What Is Qigong?

Qigong (or ch’i kung) refers to a wide variety of traditional “cultivation” practices that may combine physical movements and/or regulated breathing combined with so-called “Qigong State” of heightened energy awareness. Qigong may be practised for health maintenance purposes, as a self-healing method, as a helping profession, a spiritual path and/or component of martial arts.

The “Qi” in “Qigong” is frequently translated as “energy flow,” and is often compared to the Western notions of energia or élan vital. Its literal translation is “air” or “breath” (comparable with the original meaning of Latin spiritus as “breathing”). References to ideas similar to Qi, in terms of the “flow of energy” or process that sustain life, are found in many belief systems in Asia, among the Pacific islanders and Native Americans. “Gong” means work applied to a discipline and the resultant level of skill; thus “Qigong” means “energy work.”

Oriental medical theories assert that the body has natural patterns of Qi circulation in channels often referred to as meridians. Various health issues are associated with disrupted, blocked, or unbalanced Qi flow through the organism, as well as with psychological processes either responding or reacting to the flow of Qi. Qigong practitioners may address these imbalances by affecting or adjusting to the circulation of Qi in the body (metabolic energy flow) using a variety of contact or non-contact bodywork, physical movement regimens, breathing exercises, meditations, visualizations and “healing sounds.”

Attitudes toward the scientific basis for Qigong vary markedly. Most Western medical practitioners and many practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, as well as the Chinese government, view Qigong as a set of breathing and movement exercises, with possible benefits to health through stress reduction, exercise and meditation. Such approach is sometimes referred to as exoteric Qigong. On the other hand, esoteric Qigong practitioners see their art in more metaphysical terms, believing that the flow of the universal energy represents the process of manifestation, through which the Dao (unmanifest reality) appears as manifest reality. Due to the conditioning of the human mind to pay attention mostly to the outer forms and appearances of things, rather than their inner essences, special Qi Dao training may be required to develop the ability to enter so-called “Qigong State” that facilitates such heightened energy awareness.

In accord with the modern physics, Qi Dao suggests that everything, including human beings, is made of energy fields that are in a constant process of flux and in varying degrees of resonance with each other. This resonance can be indicative of the most likely direction of the flow of energy events, since energy, like water, flows in the direction of least resistance. Trusting that it always flows where it needs to flow, as all energy events unfold according to the laws of attraction, can empower such practitioners to find resonance with the flow of Qi and surrender to it instead of struggling to guide or resist it. Being in the flow is generally associated with enjoying vibrant health, healing or improving health conditions, as well as many other conditions in one’s life. Ultimately, such practices may be enlightening in the sense of transcending the ego-centered ways of being and becoming one with the Dao.

Lama Tantrapa teaching Pushing Hands

About the Author

Lama Somananda Tantrapa is the holder of the lineage of Qi Dao – Tibetan Shamanic Qigong – that has been fostered in his clan for 27 generations. Affectionately addressed by his students as Rinpoche, Lama Tantrapa has over 30 years of experience in Qi Dao and other internal martial arts. He was primarily trained by his Grandfather who was the last Grandmaster of Qi Dao. As a reincarnate Bon Lama, he carries a title of a Tulku and was ordained as a Buddhist monk in three different traditions: Tibetan Nyingma, Thai Theravada and Japanese Nipponzan Myohoji.

Before immigrating to America, he actively participated in peace marches and conferences in the former Soviet Union supporting the peace work of his spiritual mentor and friend Junsei Terasawa who aspired to build a Peace Pagoda in the center of Moscow, Russia. His initiatives dedicated to peace work and spiritual freedom were subjected to persecution in his homeland thus he received religious asylum in the United States in 1997.

Rinpoche is an author of a book on Qi Dao and a companion DVD, as well as Qi Dao Home Study Course. Being an avid speaker and presenter, he appeared on many radio and TV programs in the US, Guam and abroad. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the US National Qigong Association. Visit us online at www.qidao.org.

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