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Qigong (pronounced "chee-gung") is a Chinese term which translates as "energy skill," or skill in the manipulation of qi. Qigong principles underlie various visualization techniques used to improve concentration, breathing, and power. Qigong is widely practiced throughout China, mainly as a form of exercise, but by some as a type of alternative medicine or meditative practice. Tai chi is a related discipline.

Studies of the effects of regular exercise using tai chi and qigong have reported consistent health benefits.[1]

The practise of qidong

The term "Qi" can mean both breath and energy, because in ancient times, people believed that we inhaled qi, or energy, and connotes the "Life Force" which animates all living beings. Gong is the Chinese word for "skill" or "work".At the most basic level, it is claimed that qi can be affected by physical exercise emphasizing its movement. This is the form of exercise and Qigong practiced by many Chinese in their parks and recreation centers; tai chi is closely related.

Many forms of Qigong involve performing specific patterns of breathing which involve various combinations and durations of inhalations, exhalations and breath retention. Some forms require moving various body parts in conjunction with the breathing patterns. It is also common to perform Muscle and Tendon Changing Exercises along with the breathing exercises. In medical Qigong, a Qigong practitioner uses his/her Qi to help manipulate their patient's Qi by using various means from physical touch to mental manipulation. According to Traditional Chinese medicine, all illnesses are caused by an imbalance in a person's internal energy.

Inhalation, Exhalation' and Breath Retention supposedly enable the practitioner to gather, store and circulate their Qi more efficiently.However, the level of one's Qigong is proportional to the amount of conscious intent one is using. Awareness cannot remain without the ability to remain focused, and this requires Yi or Will Power. Finally, our Yi is empowered by our Shen or Spirit. This concept of Spirit does not refer to the Western concept of a soul, but rather to the concept of having an 'Indomitable Heart'.


The Modern Qigong Movement emerged in the early 1950s in post-revolutionary China[2]; the term "Qigong" was coined to avoid any association with "feudal superstitious” religious practices, and by the late 1970s some Chinese scientists even claimed to have shown the objective existence of Qi. After the death of Mao Zedong, millions of mostly urban and elderly Chinese citizens took up Qigong, in a prolific variety of forms [3] In the early 1980s, Qi was being touted in China as an explanation for paranormal abilities such as extrasensory perception and psychokinesis. Some within the government were moved to warn of the dangers of this pseudoscientific fad,[4], but other public figures promoted qigong as a new 'science of the mind'. In response, the Chinese government chose to regulate qigong, and established the China Qigong Scientific Research Association. By the mid 1980s, there were more than 2000 qigong organizations and between 60 and 200 million practitioners in China, and this growth was accompanied by the re-emergence of religious elements by organizations such as Falun Gong. In 1999, this provoked a systematic crackdown on qigong organizations by the State.[5]

Controversies about qigong

According to its promoters, "Qigong is the most profound health practice ever invented by mankind for the prevention of illness, reducing stress, mangaging chronic conditions, increasing longevity, and promoting healthy, active aging." [6] However, there is no evidence for any benefits beyond those expected of regular exercise and relaxation techniques.


  1. Jahnke R et al. (2010), "A comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi", Am JHealth Promotion 24: e1-e25, DOI:10.4278/ajhp.081013-LIT-248
  2. David Palmer (2007) Qigong Fever: Body, Science and Utopia in China New York: Cambridge University Press
  3. Nancy Chen (2003) Breathing spaces: qigong, psychiatry, and healing in ChinaColumbia University Press
  4. Lin, Zixin (2000). Qigong: Chinese medicine or pseudoscience Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1-57392-232-6
  5. Dangerous Meditation: China’s Campaign Against Falungong Human Rights Watch
  6. The Quigong Institute