Qigong, Qi gong, Chi gong: this healing technique has a lot of different spellings. Pronounced as “chi-gung”, Qigong is an ancient Chinese technique based on meditation, controlled breathing, and guided movements.
An improved immune system, relaxation, reduced stress, and better concentration are just a few of the many reasons why Qigong is such an attractive healing method. It’s a very old but effective practice with many different styles and forms.
For beginners, however, Qigong, with its different styles, poses, and exercises, can be very daunting and confusing.
That’s why we at Mindmonia wrote this Qigong Guide for Beginners. In this article, we explain what Qigong is and cover the benefits of practicing it regularly. Finally, we explain the differences between Qigong healing and Qigong meditation and show you some techniques with which you can start today.
Jump ahead to any of the sections below:
What Is Qigong?
Qigong is a natural way to move energy (Qi / Chi) through your body. It’s often used by Taoist and Buddhist monks, as well as traditional and Chinese healers. It doesn’t need to be practiced in a religious context and actually is considered and practiced as a beautiful art by countless people all over the world.
The concept of Qigong is based on meditation, breathing techniques, and gentle movements to move the “Qi” through your body.
The word “Qi” is difficult to translate. It comes from the traditional Chinese culture and means life energy, breath or mind. “Gong” means cultivation or mastery. Hence, the concept can be translated as “cultivation of life force” or “control of your own energy”.
As mentioned above, the concept is based on the basic principle of meditation and mindfulness and combines it with physical movements. This is why Qigong is often seen as “standing meditation”.
When you practice Qigong, you are working both on unifying your body and your mind. On the one hand you must learn to calm down and focus on your thoughts and breathing. On the other hand you have to concentrate on your movements. Just like you do with Yoga.
Many forms, poses, and postures of Qigong evolved over time. Some of them include breathing and meditation to promote spirituality and health, while others are more physical and more martial. Tai Chi, for example, is a common form of Qigong.
We wrote an entire article in which we explain the difference between Tai Chi and Qigong.
Although there are countless types of Qigong, the distinction between “internal” and “external” Qigong is the most common one.
Internal Qigong differs significantly from the external one. Inner Qigong focuses mainly on your own energy flow – your own Qi or chi if you wish.
The postures from inner Qigong serve your own energy healing. We mentioned that form of Qigong at the beginning of this article. It’s the type that makes you follow certain movements, breathing techniques, and meditational concepts. It’s also the better-known type of Qigong.
Inner Qigong is all about working on your own inner discomfort. In the external form, you need a second person to heal you. In this internal form of the ancient Chinese healing technique, the aim is to achieve healing from within the body without the help of others.
In internal Qigong, energy healing can be seen as an “inner cleansing”. In other words, whenever you practice internal Qigong, you create energy that you channel into your own body to heal it.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide how accurate you think this approach of “inner cleansing” is.
This is the form of Qigong that is also called Qigong Healing as it’s focused on healing others. External Qigong is a very ancient healing practice that has been used by many healers and masters for centuries.
In the external form, you use your own Qi / chi and transfer it to someone else. You do so by putting your hands on the person you want to heal. This form is very similar to the concept of Reiki.
Even today, external Qigong is still used in traditional Chinese medicine. It’s usually practiced by a qualified and competent healer. By the way: it takes years to become a competent Qigong healer.
From a scientific point of view, there is little to no evidence of the effectiveness and actual healing effect of external Qigong.
Therefore, we will exclusively cover internal Qigong throughout this article.
The Benefits of Qigong
Qigong is especially beneficial for elders, people with chronic illnesses or physical disabilities, or office workers and people in general who have little exercise in their daily lives.
From a spiritual point of view, Qigong helps to heal the body’s own energy flow by balancing and strengthening the energy connections. Also known as meridians. In fact, you will find parallels with the chakra teachings.
Besides the spiritual benefits, there are scientific sources that confirm a variant of benefits. The best known is Roger Jahnke’s “A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi” which gives an overview of existing research in this area and summarizes the results of the studies.
No matter if you see the benefits of Qigong from a scientific or spiritual point of view: what matters, in the end, is that your mind and body heal and benefit from the practice.
Qigong Benefit 1: Enhances Organ Function
Qigong can be used for the whole body as well as for individual organs. There are exercises and postures you can use to heal specific areas of your body or even focus on specific diseases. Among other things, there are poses that improve your cardiac function, support your liver or protect your lungs from diseases.
Some of these “organ exercises” (for the heart and lungs, among others) were confirmed in the mentioned study by Roger Jahnke.
Qigong Benefit 2: Prevents Injuries and Diseases
Qigong not only helps with injuries, it prevents them. It demonstrably improves your balance, stretches joints and muscles, relieves existing tensions and puts the entire body in a state of relaxation.
Since tension and cramps can lead to injuries, Qigong is a good way to stretch and relax your muscles and banish tension.
Qigong also helps the immune system. Studies showed that it stimulates the formation of white blood cell types, which is beneficial for the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system, in turn, is an important component of a strong immune system, since the lymphatic vessels are key transport channels for the immune system, and filter stations for germs and toxins.
Qigong Benefit 3: Reduces Stress
There is much evidence that stress is harmful to your health. Just the fact that Qigong is proven to help reduce stress (here is the link to the study) should be reason enough to practice it regularly.
Although Qigong has far more advantages to offer, stress reduction is certainly one of the greatest. The gentle movements focused breathing and standing meditation create a state of relaxation and balance. This slows down your brain waves and helps your brain relax and reduce stress.
Much of the new literature shows that one of the biggest factors of stress is your emotions. Many do sport, which is a solid option for relieving stress, but not for the purpose of balancing your own emotions.
Exactly this is the ingenious thing about Qigong since it combines physical activity with meditation and is therefore not only demanding for the body but assists your mind, as well. This makes it an ideal companion in the fight against stress.
If you need more tips and tricks on how to combat stress, check out our anti-stress article.
Qigong Benefit 4: Boosts Muscles and Joints
The natural movements of Qigong help your muscles and joints to improve their blood and oxygen supply. In this way, they regain their natural flexibility and strength.
If you’re spending a lot of time sitting or generally don’t move much in your daily life, you should give Qigong a chance.
While in most western cultures it’s rather common to build muscles through strength training, in eastern cultures, there tends to be a different understanding of strength. It’s called effortless strength. Effortless strength, as the name implies, comes from within you and without effort.
The already existing strength is only activated by natural and comfortable movements so to speak.
Qigong Benefit 5: Improves Sleep
Like meditation, Qigong helps you dealing with your thoughts. This will make you feel more “in balance” and you will have fewer problems falling asleep. It was also shown to reduce stress, which is a factor that contributes to a better quality of sleep.
Find further tips on sleeping here.
Qigong Benefit 6: Good for Sick and Handicapped People
There are people for whom it is more difficult to do sports due to their age, physical injuries or limitations. Qigong’s many different styles and exercises are beneficial for these people, because it can be practiced with simple movements or even sitting or lying down.
Being bedridden or restricted in movement weakens the muscles and organs after a while. Qigong gives those who are bedridden or physically weak the opportunity to exercise.
Qigong Benefit 7: Supports Digestion
Histamine, gluten, lactose and fructose intolerance are just a few of the many food intolerances and allergies that plague many people today.
To slightly support your digestion, you can practice Qigong. There are certain postures that support your digestion, such as “Buddha’s palms” and “Looking up at the sky”.
These poses are characterized primarily by the fact that they massage the digestive organs. This increases the oxygen content in the blood and supports and improves the function of the digestive system.
Qigong Benefit 8: Lowers Blood Pressure
Studies showed that Qigong can help lower blood pressure. A 30-year long study concluded that people who train regularly were able to reduce or entirely stop their blood pressure medications.
Because exercise improves blood flow, it increases the elasticity of blood vessels. Since both low and high blood pressure are problems associated with vascular elasticity, Qigong can help with both.
Qigong Benefit 9: Supports the Nerves
The nerves are the connection between your body and your mind. Because of them you are able to know and feel how your body is doing. There are several nervous systems in the body that all have different tasks. For example, there is the peripheral nervous system with which you perceive information through your skin (touch, pain, cold).
From a biological point of view, the nerves are the first step to mindfulness because they are the recipients of stimuli and moments. Information is then transmitted to the brain. The brain’s job is then to react to the stimuli and moments.
Much of the initial Qigong practice, which is about getting in touch with the body, is done through the nervous system. As you meditate while standing, you strengthen the attention to the present moment. The receptors that let us feel and experience the present moment are the nerves. That’s why Qigong is supporting and strengthening the nerves.
The nerves are strengthened even faster in Qigong than in Meditation because during a Qigong Meditation you move a lot physically. The combination of meditation and physical movement lets you perceive your surroundings even more consciously, which leads to your nerves being strengthened even more.
Qigong Exercises for Beginners
Now that we introduced you to the benefits of Qigong, we show you the most important Qigong exercises for beginners. Before you start, you should prepare your body. Stretch your arms, joints, fingers, knees, and shoulders to avoid any injuries.
In order for the exercises to be effective on your body and mind, you should do them regularly. Just like meditation, Qigong delivers the best results when you establish a fixed routine in your daily life.
To start with, you can train twice a week for 20 minutes each. Depending on what purpose you want to use Qigong for, you can form a routine from different exercises. The length of the pose and the number of repetitions vary from exercise to exercise.
Most training sessions start with the standard exercise: “awakening the Qi” also called “painting with light“.
Awakening the Qi
Stand calmly and relaxed so that the toes point to each other. Keep your knees slightly stretched. Let the whole body hang slightly and stretch your hands vertically away from you. Start at the lower level of your pelvis and pull your hands powerless upwards.
At a certain height (about shoulder height), turn your palms away from you and let them slide gently and slowly down to the pelvis. Sometimes it also helps if you imagine that you have strings attached to your fingers.
MaBu (Horse Stand)
Qigong without MaBu doesn’t work. This pose is one of the best for beginners because it trains both: mind and body.
First, take a broad posture and lower your hips to the knee level. Your back should remain straight. Make sure your ankles are at 90 degrees to your shin and your knees are at 90 degrees to your leg and shin.
Now turn your feet outwards, about 45 degrees. The hip remains stretched out in a straight upward position. Ideally, “pull” your back a little behind your shoulders.
Point your head forward and stretch out your hands directly in front of you. Bend your elbows behind your shoulder so that your hands are at the height of your lower chest. The two index fingers (the index fingers have a special meaning in Qigong because they are seen as the ideal “Qi conductor”) should point upwards.
Keep this position for about 10 to 30 seconds.
MaBu is practiced regularly in Tai Chi and many other martial arts.
Lifting the Sky
Place your hands slightly below your navel, with your palms facing the ground. Then lift them slightly up to your head. There you turn the palms away from each other and let them slide slightly downwards towards the navel again until they are back in their starting position
If you want to have a look at more exercises, we recommend our article on this topic.
Meditation is an integral part of Qigong. Qigong without meditation is practically impossible. That is, among other things, why Qigong is also called standing meditation. What is also possible, is a meditation with a focus on Qigong (Chi meditation).
If you are interested in such a special meditation, you can simply cut out the movements and concentrate completely on the inner purification of your emotions and thoughts as well as on your breathing.
Qigong meditation can be practiced standing, sitting or lying.
As with all other types of meditation, the focus of Qigong meditation is on calming the mind and perceiving the thoughts as an observer. Qigong meditation is different from a regular meditation in focusing not only on your own thoughts but also on the energy in your body.
In the last chapter of our guide, we have compiled and answered a list of the most frequently asked questions and misunderstandings.
What Is Silent Qigong?
Silent Qigong is a certain style of Qigong that aims at internal purification. This means that it focuses on the purification of emotions and thoughts and is usually not very physical. This type is very similar to meditation.
Do I Need Qigong Clothes?
No. Special clothing is not necessary. Just make sure you feel comfortable during the training sessions.
What Is a Qigong Stick?
Qigong sticks are available in different designs and variations. It is said that a Qigong stick activates energy, but the effect has not yet been confirmed. There are different types of Qigong poses that you can perform only with such a stick. However, let it be said that these poses are not necessarily better than the ones without it. They only have a different effect on your body.
At Mindmonia, we don’t use a Qigong stick. You’re welcome to try it out for yourself: exercise once with a stick and once without it. If you notice a difference, you are welcome to use it in the future.
Qi Gong, Qigong or Chi Gong?
Since Qigong is an art from ancient China, there are different spellings and different transcriptions. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t care if you write qi gong, Qigong or chi gong. It’s important that you understand the meaning behind it and that you can get the most out of it for yourself and your body.
What Are the 5 Elements of Qigong?
The 5 elements of Qigong are:
- Fire (Huo)
- Water (Shui)
- Wood / tree (Mu)
- Metal / Gold (Jin)
- Earth (Tu)
Each element stands in a metaphorical sense for a state of feeling. Water stands for peace, wood for (inner) growth and earth for adaptability. Since we at Mindmonia are rather critical when it comes to spiritual topics that aren’t backed with scientific studies, we won’t go into the connection between elements and emotions here.
Do I Need Qigong Balls?
Qigong balls, like the Qigong stick, are a tool that you can but don’t have to, use during your training. Qigong balls are designed to make sounds when you work out with them.
If Qigong balls help you relax through their sounds and vibrations in the palms of your hands, use them. We at Mindmonia believe, however, that beginners should practice without balls and sticks. Otherwise, there is a danger that you won’t be able to practice properly without them, because you won’t be able to relax.
Qigong is a mixture of meditation, breathing techniques, energy healing, and physical movements. Qigong has always played a major role in Chinese medicine and became increasingly popular worldwide.
Even without the spiritual aspects, Qigong, like meditation, has many scientifically proven benefits to the body, such as reducing blood pressure or stimulating the nerves.
There are countless different styles, exercises, and poses, all of which serve their individual purpose. Just try out which training sessions are best for you and your body.
As with so many things, Qigong works best when practiced regularly. Try to start with simple poses to not lose your motivation and don’t overdo it at the beginning to avoid hurting yourself. Ideally, you should integrate a couple of minutes of Qigong into your daily routine twice, once in the morning and once in the evening.
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