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Practiced by millions of people in the United States alone, Qigong (or Chi Gong) is a broad term used to describe practices of energy refinement and meditation developed and refined in China. Meaning “energy work,” Qigong takes on myriad forms and practices but it is most commonly seen as any number of a series of physical movements performed in a relaxed and mindful way in conjunction with breath.

Beginning in the ancient past, people who spent many decades in the observation of nature and practiced indigenous shamanic arts along with inward meditation, discovered an energy in their bodies and everywhere in creation. In China, this energy was called Qi (Chi). With deeper engagement, these practitioners had the dawning insight that the Qi moved through the body rather like travelers moved on roads. The pathways that the energy moved upon came to be called meridians. They also discovered body postures that when held and/or moved in certain ways and combined with specific methods of breathing, could increase health, fitness, and spiritual development. These energy centers were called Tantiens and, like the Chakra system developed in India (and the main Tantiens do fit into the Chakra system), correspond to places within the central axle of the body where nerve clusters can be found. These meridian “roads” in the body upon which Qi travels can be manipulated through efforts like acupuncture and acupressure.

Over the years, a variety of systems and techniques have been created that work with Qi – sometimes focusing on very specific things such as bodily functions and internal organs, sometimes addressing general issues like energy refinement Everything from just general health to exultant spiritual development has been created and woven in to the tapestries of myriad postures, forms, and the routines of Qigong. Qigong has even become an integral component of what are considered Internal martial arts like Xingyiquan, Baguazhang, and the more famous Taijiquan (aka Tai Chi).

The different positions of the body also have an effect upon the work the energy is doing. While standing, for example, the polarity between the crown of the head and the Earth is as great as it can be in regards to the human frame; this is when a lot of energy can be gathered and pumped through the body. When doing sitting work and meditation, the poles of the crown and the ground are much closer together so that’s when a lot more refining and tuning work gets done – the smaller, less flashy stuff that ends up yielding incredible results. If the person is lying down however, the polarity between crown and ground is virtually nonexistent so the work being done is mostly going to be relaxation and breathing.

Qigong is a world treasure and its versatility is borne-out by the longevity of its existence as well as the myriad publications, videos, and practitioner-led events that can be found the world over that pertain to Qigong. From basic relaxation practices to high-level spiritual development, this gentle art can be practiced and modified for practically any need or desire.

Sifu John Cosma of Stella Luna will be leading a workshop, Wudang 5 Animal Qigong, on Saturday, May 27th, from 12:00 to 1:00 pm at the Stella Luna Counseling & Wellness center. If you’re interested in energy work, martial arts, or heath and wellness, this event is a great cross-cultural happening that you don’t want to miss for its experiential education impact.