Qi as it is sometimes spelled is the energy within the human body, but it is also present in nature as well. The Chinese perceived a link between chi in nature and chi in the human body. It was hoped that by strengthening these connections people could live long and healthy lives. The Daoist religion also believed that by cultivating chi it could lead to an eternal spiritual life after death. The body's internal energy (chi) is related to one's emotions and the cultivation of spiritual calmness. In order to have true good health you must have a healthy body, a healthy mind, and balanced chi circulation. Since your internal energy is closely related to your mind, maintaining a calm and healthy mind is essential. To gain health we can exercise the physical body through traditional methods to work our muscles. So how does one exercise the internal body along with the mind?
Qigong was developed as a means to answer that question. Although most people think of Qigong as meditative exercise, the basic definition is any training or study dealing with chi that takes a long time and much effort to develop. It should be noted there are many styles of Qigong and perhaps thousands of routines that developed over the centuries.
Qi is the source of life and prevalent throughout all of nature. We are all part of the natural cycle. If you go against these cycles, you may become sick. Qigong exercises help people to become attuned to the energy flow both within and outside their bodies. The awareness of natural energy flows may be more difficult to achieve in our culture due to the way we live and work. In the past, most work was done outdoors and closely tied to nature. It was not only easier for them, but also essential to pay attention to the variations that occur within nature. As we have progressed and conquered our environment, we have isolated ourselves from some of those natural forces. Perhaps it is even more important today, for our society, to reestablish that connection.
Most of the foods we eat are processed as opposed to natural foods. There are impurities in the air we breathe. The use of chemicals is prevalent; we use them to kill things, to make our grass grow, and ironically to clean things. Today, many of us do not have physically demanding jobs, but we expend a lot of mental energy. People are sleeping less, gaining weight and having to deal with stress on a daily basis. All of these conditions can unbalance us mentally, physically and spiritually. By practicing Qigong we can help restore and maintain a natural balance between our internal selves and the external world. Now that we have some theory and the reason why it is important for us to practice Qigong, we are almost ready for the specifics of how it is done by describing a Bagua (Pa Kua) Qigong set.
Pa Kua Chang, or Eight Diagram Palm, essentially means changing principles. A relatively recent (1800's) Chinese martial art that combines Daoist meditative circle walking with martial arts techniques. This style is characterized by quick stepping, palm strikes, and rapid changes of direction with circular, twisting movements teaching the practitioner to use their entire body when executing techniques.
Proper practice of Pa Kua employs three elements regardless of whether one is doing Qigong or a martial technique. Those three elements are breathing, movement and concentration (mental focus). If any one of the three is missing then ones practice is not complete. For instance, it is not difficult for someone to imitate the physical movements of the following routine. However, simply learning a choreographed routine is not sufficient to maximize the benefits from Qigong. Unfortunately, this is exactly how many people in America learn arts such as Taiji and Yoga. Proper attention to all three makes for true Qigong.
By proper practice of Qigong we can help restore and maintain a natural balance between our internal selves and the external world.