Qigong is closely related to Chinese martial arts training that attempted to combine physical discipline with mental concentration in order to increase power. In the past, the practice was kept within families or certain groups, but it became more widespread as people became more familiar with Chinese practices. Qigong and the meditative state is intimately tied together as part of the mind, body and spirit integration of the exercise. In Chinese monasteries, monks and nuns have used qigong for millenia to keep their bodies healthy while they pursued the meditative path.
Qi, pronounced “kee,” is translated to mean the life-energy that every person possesses. Gong, pronounced “gung,” means work or accomplishment. So, qigong is the practice of directing the life-energy of the body for health maintenance, healing, longevity an effective performance. Qigong practice uses movements, positions, breathing techniques and focused concentration to integrate the body, mind and spirit. Qigong has many levels of practice. Any age or level of health can engage in the practice safely.
Benefits of Qigong
Qigong exercise is often used to improve health and general fitness. It is frequently recommended as an adjunct therapy for patients diagnosed with certain types of diseases that can benefit from the gentle physical exercise of qigong and meditative state. Qigong practice helps to manage stress, reduce aging, increase muscular flexibility, improve balance, impart flexibility and enhance circulation.
Meditation and Health from a Modern Perspective
Meditation has long been known to have beneficial effects on health. It can not only reduce daily stress, but can also lower blood pressure, reduce pain and improve heart function. Studies have shown that cancer patients who meditate experience less pain and enjoy a higher quality of life both during and after treatment for their illness. Meditation involves manipulation of the alpha waves of the brain. Researchers believe that regular meditative practice can help to turn down the volume of pain signals, allowing patients to achieve better control of their pain levels and increase their enjoyment of life. Meditation can also release serotonin, an important brain chemical in mood regulation.
The Connection between Qigong and Meditation
The practice of qigong can an integral part of meditation. During the exercise, the mind becomes intensely focused on the movements of the body and the action of the breath. As the practitioner becomes more skilled, these activities become combined into a single action with complete mindfulness of every position and breath. Serenity suffuses the exercise and the person leaves the session feeling completely relaxed and refreshed with an alert mind and calm emotions. This ability to integrate all these factors of the human body results in better health, longevity and effectiveness.
In the Water Method of Taoist meditation, qigong practices form the building blocks of later stages of meditation. In this episode of Qigong Radio, Energy Arts Senior Instructor Paul Cavel explains the link between foundational qigong and higher levels of meditation practice.
About 20 minutes into the interview, Paul discusses the building blocks of meditation and how they relate to qigong. He says:
The basics of meditation, if you like, the four primary skills as I like to call them — presence, awareness, focus, and concentration. The more present you are to your body, the more you feel. The more your awareness opens up, the more you can take in any given moment. The more you can focus, the more you can pinpoint that which is stuck or not working. And the more concentrated you are, the more you get out of your practice. So in meditation, you’re training the mind to be able to take on board more and more and more into its awareness, into its field of awareness and to utilize it and to integrate it.