Qigong is a fundamental pillar of Chinese medicine. It is classed as a form of internal exercise. Internal exercise is any combination of considered movements with breath and mental engagement, another example would be yoga. Qigong is, quite simply, the ultimate self-healing technique. By learning to manipulate qi around the body, you rejuvenate and energise, lower the heart rate and blood pressure and support the immune system.
If you’ve done a martial art or tai chi, the wide stance and relaxed, flowing movements of qigong may be familiar. It was invented as ‘dynamic meditation’, to allow Taoist masters to keep their muscles relaxed, supple and strong after hours of sitting meditation but without breaking their focus. Its roots can be traced as far back as 8000 years . By the 3rd century BCE, this practice had crystallised into the beginnings of qigong as it is today. Despite its ancient roots, it’s as relevant to modern life as it has been for millennia.
To sum it up, if qigong is the grandmother, kung fu is the parent and tai chi is the child. Tai chi is a stylised martial arts form of qigong, rumoured to have been created by a Taoist master called Zhang Sanfeng in the 14th century. The story goes that he saw a magpie and a snake fighting in the forest and was inspired by the contradictory yet balanced nature of their battle.
To a beginner, the similarities between the two will stand out more than the differences. Both tai chi and qigong focus on using breath, body movement and visualisation to move qi around the body. But while each tai chi move can theoretically be used for self-defence, most qigong motions exist solely for the purpose of meditation, health and healing. And while tai chi is typically a highly choreographed and complex series of movements, qigong is easier to learn, a more repetitive practice that you can easily do at home. This makes it ideal as an effective self-treatment.
There are a lot of studies that show tai chi and qigong are incredible for health; the two are often used interchangeably in research. They have been shown to have a positive effect on muscle strength, flexibility and balance, to improve fitness and the endurance levels of the heart and lungs. One 2013 study concluded that tai chi was nearly as effective as jogging at lowering the risk of death! The Chinese government has recently adopted tai chi as a solution to help cut stress in the workplace.
For the class, please make sure you are wearing relaxed, loose fitting clothing. You can go barefoot or wear comfortable flat soled shoes. You don't need any equipment, just room to move your body.
If you can be outside for the sessions that would be great. If not, please have a door or window open to let some fresh air in.