Qi Gong Breathing Exercises : How to Practice and Video Guide for Beginners
The word Qi Gong consists of two words combined: “qi” meaning air, gas, or breath but was translated as “vital energy,”, and “gong” meaning “cultivation or work.” Together they make a word which is an integral part of Chinese medicine that cultivates balance and life energy.
The term itself wasn’t determined until the 1950s even though qi gong dates back thousands of years since it was chronicled in Daoist writings around A.D. 600. Most initial forms originated from Daoist (religious movement which originated in ancient China) discipline which focused on preserving and growing personal health.
At first, the movements caricatured animal moves since people back then had less knowledge of human anatomy and physiology. Five Animal Frolics is one of the earliest Qi Gong forms and was initially practiced by field workers who used to imitate animal motions to relieve tension in their tired bodies.
What Is Qi Gong Actually?
Qi Gong may be seen as the basic exercise system in Chinese medicine. Qi Gong exercises preserve health, extend life, and prevent many diseases. Some forms of Qi Gong are used for non-medical purposes but to grow spiritually and find enlightenment.
Every person is born with a different constitution, and we all have some inner imbalance that we must work on to gain stability and longevity by practicing our Qi energy.
The routine of Qi Gong is usually gentle and that is the reason why so many elderly people began to practice it daily. There can be some dynamic movements which are used to explode your Qi energy. Qi Gong restores health, both mental and physical, and empowers body/spirit and mind to behave with less stress and more efficiency.
Qi Gong helps you to open your mind to yourself but most importantly to those around you. The universal energy “qi” connects people in one big energy, and you will feel more relaxed and comfortable with those who share the same mindfulness with you. You will get acquainted with individuals all around the world, from different backgrounds and different ages.
By transmitting your energy through Qi Gong meditation, we create spaces around us that matter, and we let go of things that shower us with bad energy. You will be able to improve your moods, general look on life and attitude toward others.
Techniques of Qi Gong
The groundwork of Qi Gong relies on three basic intentful corrections which consist of movement and posture, breathing, meditation and mindfulness.
In today’s world, most people suffer from incorrect posture since their jobs usually involve sitting or standing all day. Incorrect posture can result in many long-lasting injuries or illnesses of the spine. It can also provoke blocked energy flow, waste of energy, and decrease stamina.
How can we improve our body posture using Qi Gong? Here is an example:
You can stand fully upright, sit, or lie outstretched. You must visualize string connecting your head to the heavens. Downward pull and upward lift open the central part of your body and fill it with Qi. By doing this simple thing every day, we improve the inner flow of blood and lymph in our bodies.
What is seemingly interesting is that when we came to this World, we all knew how to breathe properly. Since life, job and stress happened, we all forgot what the right way is and began to breathe in non-optimal way. Qi breathing focuses on abdominal breathing, and it is the most powerful tool in gathering the Qi itself.
The right way to practice breathing to gather Qi
Inhale breath through your nose and hold it and count one, one thousand; two, one thousand; three, one thousand. You should let your breath go deep and to be slow and relaxed. While exhaling, you should feel even more relaxed.
Clear Your Mind!
The third technique involves mental awareness and mental state in general. Various emotions that we experience every day can capture us in this state of unconsciousness of the world around us, thus causing anxiety and stress. By regulating your mind, you can reduce everyday stress and increase your awareness and, most importantly, stay in the present moment. Here, meditative techniques of Qi are used combined with proper breathing and gentle movement.
What to Think About?
There is a Qi Gong proverb that says: “When the mind is distracted, the Qi spreads.” For a moment or two, try to relax and think about nature as clouds traveling across the sky, fields of tall grass on the summer breeze, and waves hitting the shore and just smile gently.
Other Qi Gong Breathing Techniques
- Wai Dan consists of physical movement and concentration. Traditional Chinese Qi Gong state that beginners should first learn physical movement in connection with breathing techniques. They practice until all the moves are mastered so that they find their own flow of energy. This is called moving meditation.
- Nei Dan consists of sitting meditation and visualization. Some postures are like those of yoga, and you practice strengthening your limbs and improving your energy flow. This is called still meditation.
There is also sitting meditation and visualization. The former focuses on breath, body, and mind altogether. The latter is optional since we don’t all the power to visualize while meditating, even though it would be helpful to transmit your mind imagery to some relaxing place.
Types of Qi Gong
Qi Gong consists of many types and forms, but they all fall under these three categories:
1. Medical Qi Gong
There are four branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine and medical Qi Gong is the oldest one. Acupuncture, herbal medicine and Chinese tui na massage also originated from it. Medical Qi Gong functions in two ways:
- Self-Healing Qi Gong is the period when you practice improving your health, preventing, and addressing illness.
- Qi Emission or External Qi Gong is the period during which you accept Qi to heal others. You will learn how to pass specific exercises to individuals who need to regulate their Qi.
2. Martial Qi Gong
Martial practitioners demonstrate physical strength in a way that science sometimes can’t explain, so they focus mainly on physical mastery. They become able to break bricks, place sharp objects in some delicate parts of the body with no skin damage and bend steel wires.
3. Spiritual Qi Gong
These Qi Gong practitioners use prayers, mantras, and sitting meditation to achieve complete mental awareness and experience enlightenment. Confucianism and Buddhism influenced these techniques. The goal is to accomplish harmony and become one with nature and self.
Ways In Which Qi Gong is Beneficial for You
Ease the pain
Most pain that we experience in our bodies is a result of insufficient movement on a regular basis. So, we can simply say that disease is the product of our own behavior and treatment of our body. Our bodies are made to stretch, climb, reach, push and pull.
There is a saying about muscle flexibility and motion of our joints that states: “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Practicing Qi Gong even a little every day can help reduce muscle stiffness, back pain, knee pain and neck pain and other chronic pains that people suffer from nowadays.
A study from 2019 (no follow) observed office workers who experienced back pain. They divided them into two groups: those who practiced Qi Gong for six weeks and those who did not. Those who practiced reported to have a great reduction of pain in lower back, regained functional abilities and motion range.
Internal Organs Can Benefit from Qi Gong Practice
Qi Gong does not only improve flexibility and state of mind but affects entire bodily systems and all organs. Four organs in our body are crucial for the proper function every day:
- Lungs – Breathing as an important part of Qi Gong can support respiratory health, reduce inflammation, and support the entire immune system. If you suffer from asthma, allergies or shortness of breath, Qi Gong is a great way to treat your lungs with deep breaths using the diaphragm.
- Heart – Meditation, relaxation, and breathing may help your heart health in many ways. Long, slow, controlled, and repetitive breathing reduces blood pressure and heart rate. Since the movements of Qi Gong merge the whole body, it is beneficial for circulation in your extremities.
- Kidneys – As we grow older our ability to process and eliminate water lessens. Qi Gong movements massage kidneys and, in that way, helps with better blood flow and make sure they do their job well.
- Liver – According to traditional Chinese medicine, the gentle movement of Qi energy comes directly from our liver. It also helps regulate women’s period cycles and the blood that surrounds our body which helps soften the liver.
How To Practice Qi Gong (Video Guide)
Enjoy the video and try Qi Gong for general well-being!
The most important and central focus in Qi Gong practice is posture.
Our posture can either limit or promote our Qi, but also the efficiency of relaxation and breathing. As you move through Qi Gong positions, your posture will differ when in an active state of Qi Gong or assume different positions in passive states. Nevertheless, you should always follow Qi Gong posture as the foundation of everything.
In the video attached Mike Woodworth, a certified practitioner of Chinese medicine and acupuncture, presents us with standing or posture intro as the foundation of Qi Gong. He explained few important points in this video:
Dan Tian is one of the most common terms used among Qi Gong practitioners. There are three different dan tians, and each responds to different parts of our body.
The lower dan tian is the most important place in the lower abdomen near the navel, storing sexual energy Jing (towards the earth) and qi itself.
The middle dan tian is placed near the heart level and responds to the respiratory part of our body.
Lastly, the upper dan tian is located between our eyes and contains shen, referring to consciousness and spirit.
Important Body Parts That Will Help Improving Posture
Xu Ling Ding Jing: “Empty the neck, let energy reach the crown.”
Your spine should feel long and open as your head is holding to a string from heaven. Release the tension in your neck muscles and lightly place your tongue to the top of your mouth.
Chen Jian Zhui Zhou: “Sink the shoulders, drop the elbows.”
Allow shoulders to naturally sink down to stop muscle tension in that part of your body since it usually causes stress and anxiety. Knees, fingers, and elbows should be slightly bent.
Chen Jian Zhui Zhou: “Central and erect.”
The highway of Qi is the spine since its cord transmits information from the brain to other body parts. If the spine is bent all the time, it will decrease the number of messages that we receive and cause chest pain. Chests should also be open and sink just a bit. Our chest posture largely depends on spinal and shoulder posture.
Song Kua: “Relax the Kua.”
By relaxing the muscles around kua, an area of hips where thighs and trunk meet, will allow the Qi from lower dan tian to flow through the body, thus allowing better movement, flexibility, and increased motion in all body parts.
Benefits of Qi Gong for Our Mental and Spiritual Health
Qi Gong has a major impact on our central nervous system, and it can benefit us a lot since people are overwhelmed with stress and anxiety. Every time we experience stress, we compromise our digestive system, ability to sleep well and to think clearly.
If you suffer from depression, anxiety, or fight addiction Qi Gong is great choice since it involves slowing things down and requires presence in the moment.
Many studies reported that depressed individuals who tried Qi Gong for at least two years improved their mental and emotional state. For example, by using the principles of Ying and Yang, we would progress the flow of our Qi.
If we look into psychology, our body will be in a state of regeneration and relaxation and our mind will recognize enlightenment as the result of meditation itself. Qi Gong can further help in improvement of cognitive performance, such as the speed at which our brain processes, attention, impulse control, and executive function.
Side Effects of Qi Gong
No evidence so far has shown any risk or side effects which can be connected to practicing Qi Gong. Since Qi Gong is an exercise, people who perform it may be at risk of injuring themselves by falling or pulling a muscle. On the other hand, Qi Gong involves slow movements, so the risk is lower than in other sports or exercises. It is very important to mention that it can only ease the pain or slow down certain diseases, but it is not a substitute for medical treatment.
Difference Between Tai Chi and Qi Gong
Ying and Yang principle is important for both Tai Chi and Qi Gong, defining all relationships between the union of the opposite.
For example, the lower parts of your body versus the upper body parts or external versus internal. Tai Chi is basically a martial style of Qi Gong. North Americans enjoy practicing it, and it has become their most common system of training.
Tai Chi can be seen as a series of movements which have flowing sequences and impact the whole body. Qi Gong, on the other hand, is a movement you make for only one specific part of the body, and you repeat it a few times. The thing is that Tai Chi classes usually include theories and movements of Qi Gong while Qi Gong does not involve Tai Chi movements. Nevertheless, they are both beneficial for our mind, body, and soul.
About Makari Wellness
Makari Wellness is a San Diego and Oceanside acupuncture clinic founded by Mike Woodworth who is also the leading acupuncturist in his area. He is a licensed Chinese medicine practitioner and Qi Gong practitioner too. He can treat various diseases such as fertility, autoimmune diseases, stroke and neurological problems, orthopedic conditions, eye conditions and pediatric neurology. His treatments include a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine.
There are many advantages to Chinese Traditional medicine and herbs usage. It is a holistic approach to treatment that contains both physical and emotional sides of a patient’s health. The goal is to treat patients and inspire them to accept healthier lifestyles to improve their general state.