Qi gong literally translates to “working the chi”. The essence of qi gong is to work the energy in your body and help it circulate and heal. In many cases, you will find qi gong as part of your internal training, be that specifically called out such as Tai Chi or integrated into your daily work.
When you are practicing qi gong, the main focus is on how you breathe. Breathing is the most critical function that our body can perform. Without it, we would die in seconds. However, most people don’t utilize the full capacity of their lungs.
The way the lungs work is there are many little sacs which the air can pass into. Blood vessels close to the lining of the sac allow the needed oxygen to transfer into the blood and the wastes to come out. These vessels are very small, thus it is to a person’s benefit to use as much of your lungs as possible to gain the most efficiency in this transfer.
Many athletes in many sports work to try to increase their lung capacity so they can prolong their endurance. However, not many of them do focused practices such as qi gong, which could help their efforts greatly.
It is also believed that the deeper breathing that comes with qi gong can help to extend life and cure diseases. In one of the first qi gong classes I ever attended, my instructor, Sifu Bobby Earl, informed us:
Place a baby on its back and watch how it breaths. You will notice that the child actually breaths from the belly, not the shoulders. This also happens to be the period of time which we as humans see the most growth and development. Yet, somewhere as we grow up, we forget this and start breathing higher up in our lungs.
In qi gong, it is believed that this shift in how we breath from our infancy to our adult lives is tied in the aging and deterioration of our bodies. Thus, qi gong is often looked at as a means to rediscover how to nourish our bodies again.
Anyone of any age and disposition can practice qi gong. In fact, I regularly practice it while sitting behind my computer to give me a boost of energy when I need it. The focus is on the breathing and what a student will learn is different breathing and meditating techniques. Some of the practices involve sound as sound is a powerful means to get your body involved with the exhalation of air. The forms that are part of this art are normally very minimal in movement and strongly emphasized on timing this movement with your breathing to optimize the energy flow of your body.
Qi gong is practiced worldwide. Classes can be found in many Chinese disciplined martial arts schools (Kung Fu) and have started to appear in local YMCAs and healing centers across the nation. Even just taking one class of this can be beneficial.
With how popular these classes have become, it is important to note that proper qi gong is very powerful. If done incorrectly, you could do your body more harm than good. So the guidance I always like to give someone who is about to attempt qi gong (and pretty much anything for that matter) is:
- Know yourself. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t push yourself to do it. Chances are something is wrong and you’ll be hurting yourself more if you try to continue. The body is very smart in realizing when something isn’t right.
- Make sure your teacher has some accreditation. Anyone can walk off the street and claim to be a Martial Arts, just like anyone can say they are a painter. Having that accreditation from a larger organization is ones of the ways to know they are legit.
- Observe and listen with open eyes and ears. The other way to know if they are legit is to hear and see what they are saying. Respect their title and honor it, but do not be blinded by it. In some organizations, it’s very easy to “buy” a title. But when you are sitting in class, listen and watch what they are doing and if it doesn’t seem right, you get a queasy feeling in your stomach while you watch them, do not be afraid to walk away from it.