Qi Gong: Breath is Life

When you see an acupuncturist, you hear a lot about Qi. There is an English translation for just about every part of Chinese Medicine except for this elusive concept. It is normally described as energy, which is the closest single idea to use as a translation.

What is Qi?

First and foremost, Qi is everywhere. Our animal friends’ blood flows because of Qi. Plants take in water from the ground because of the Qi they take in from the sun. In terms of Qi within the body, it’s not only the functional energy of the body. It is the potential energy for the work that can be done; it is the communication between the different systems; it carries the message of the treatment through the body. With the potential and the function of the body relying on Qi, it is important to cultivate and strengthen it.

Eat, breath, make Qi

There is one Qi, but this Qi takes many forms and it’s function depends on where it resides. It is also important to know that just as there is clean, righteous Qi, there is turbid, evil Qi. The functional Qi within us is formed by the intake of two external Qi. The first is Gu Qi; this is the Qi of water and grain. A topic for another time, but short story is we are what we eat, if you put clean food and water in, you create clean Qi inside with less turbid Qi for the body to process out. The second form of Qi our body requires is Da Qi, or great Qi. It is through our breath that we take in Da Qi, which combines with Gu Qi to ultimately create the Zhen, or True, Qi that defends and nourishes the body. The Chinese use the breathing meditation technique called Qi Gong to help cultivate Qi through breathing regulation.

What is Qi Gong?

Gong means to cultivate through practice; Qi Gong is the practice used to cultivate Qi. There are different schools of practice, but all have a few things in common. The practices involve either a static or moving posture, breath regulation, and mental focus. Through practicing Qi Gong, Qi is created, circulated, used to cleanse the body or mind, or used to help others heal. It’s practiced helps with health maintenance, healing, and increasing vitality.

The Benefits of Qi Gong

With all the chaos we have in our lives, meditative practices such as Qi Gong are an important way to quiet the mind of this external stimulation. Qi Gong achieves this by turning the minds focus to the posture and breath. Practicing Qi Gong on a regular basis will help one's posture be more upright, it will help one's breath be deeper, and it will help the mind refocus when the day gets hectic.

Qi Gong Posture

With the increased use of computers, smartphones, and tablets, many of us suffer from forward focus postures: shoulders rolled forward, neck leans forward, and the muscles at the base of the skull tighten. This posture easily leads to neck pain, shoulder pain or headaches. What this also does is close off the chest, making breathing short and shallow. During the practice of Qi Gong, shoulders are pulled back and down and the head is held up straight, as if supported by string from above. This helps combat the forward focus posture. More importantly, it opens the chest and provides space for the Lungs to expand and do their job better.

Breath is Qi

Usually, when things get hectic, our chest tightens and our breath gets short and shallow. We often get headaches or are unable to think straight. When chaos abounds, there is one thing we can control: our breath. Taking just a few seconds to close our eyes and regain a deep breath can help the mind focus on the tasks at hand, and that is the benefit of Qi Gong. The open posture of Qi Gong is the start, giving the Lungs the space they need to completely expand. The next step is returning to the proper, Buddha Belly breath. This is the breath we have as a baby, that gets lost as we grow. The Buddha Belly breath is quiet, controlled and deep, resulting in the expansion of the abdomen. When performed properly, the shoulders do not raise and the chest is the last thing to expand. I liken it to a well. Just as a well fills from the bottom up, so should your breath fill your lungs.

Everyone can do Qi Gong

The wonderful thing about Qi Gong is that anyone can do it. Breathing is good for everyone, regardless of age or fitness. The stances help with strengthening the legs and provide improved balance. Though most of the postures are standing, many can still be performed seated; it still helps to open chest, provides space for the lungs to expand, and gives the mind time to let go of life’s chaos.