What is Qigong

Welcome everybody! Searching for info on Qigong? Curious about how it might help you? Read on please….

Many types of Qigong are taught by qualified & experienced TCUGB Instructors. If you already know what you’re looking for, then go to our TCUGB Instructors page. You can search there by individual Instructor name or by instructors in a region or by the style of Qigong (e.g. Shibashi, baduanjin).

This page includes the following sections:

 

QUICK HISTORY LESSON

Qigong practices are said to have originated 1,000’s of years ago in China.

History buffs can delve deeper here:

Qigong History Part 1: Pre-Imperial China to 221BC

Qigong History Part 2: Imperial China to Modern day

The above reviews focus on the development of Qigong in mainland China. But, from the mid-20th century onward, many Qigong/Tai Chi practitioners had left the Chinese mainland. They brought their knowledge and skills to Hong Kong, Taiwan, S.E. Asia and the West. Consequently, Qigong/Tai Chi developed globally including in the UK. The TCUGB was formed by UK based instructors in 1991 to help more people to benefit from the practice of Qigong/Tai Chi.

Qigong is pronounced as “Chee gong.” Chi-gong and Chi-kung are also spellings that you might see.

WHAT IS QIGONG?

Qigong is a mind-body-spirit well-being practice. Qigong can take many forms; but developing the health of the practitioner is a common goal. Qi can be translated as air or respiration or, more usually, vital energy of the body. Gong refers to benefits achieved through persistent practice.  So Qigong is about working with the vital energy to improve health.

There are said to be 1,000’s of Qigong practices. There are practices that can be done lying down or sitting or standing or walking.

Some practices are “dynamic” (active) and involve moving around. These include sets such as Shibashi, 8 Brocades, 5 Elements, 5 Animal Frolics, Dao Yin and others. Tai Chi form practice is also  considered as a complex dynamic Qigong.

Some practices are “passive” (tranquil) with little or no body movement. These include standing practices such as Zhan Zhuang, certain Iron Shirt/Nei Gong postures as well as more meditative “quiet sitting” seated practices. Postures from the Tai Chi form can be trained in isolation and held as a passive Qigong.

In Some Qigong practices, such as the Six Healing Sounds, we make sounds as we breathe out through the mouth. There are sounds for “healing” different organs. The out breaths are soft and not forced. They tend to be longer than the in-breaths. Longer out breaths have been promoted as activating the vagus nerve and thus moving the body from “fight or flight” to “rest” mode.

Some Qigong sets are a mix of seated and standing exercise. Some sets are done lying down and range from more meditative healing practices to more active Dao Yin (sometimes referred to as Chinese Yoga, although it is much more than yoga).

Many Qigong sets also include an element of self-massage and or rubbing/patting.

Most Qigong practices can be adapted – if standing isn’t an option, then a seated or lying down version may be possible. Some are actually done that way by all! TCUGB instructors have experience of working with a wide range of people. Whatever you do, always work within your own comfort zone and abilities.

In Qigong we always try to be simultaneously aware of our body, breath and mind. The emphasis may be different, depending on the particular Qigong practice and the goals. But in Qigong jargon we always have “the three regulations” of body, breath and mind.

The Three Regulations

Body. Typically the first step as, for example, posture is easy to see and feel. And we may be able to feel the effect on our breathing and mind of slouching or holding tension. Similarly we can use the breathing and mind to adjust the body. Movements should be smooth with no unnecessary tension. Posture balanced and centred? Body comfortable and relaxed? Qi flow, and thus health, can be influenced.

Breath. There are many breathing methods in Qigong. “Breathwork” has become an industry in its own right. But Qigong has been working with the breath for 1,000’s of years to optimise health. We typically use abdominal breathing. Don’t strain. Keep the breath calm and smooth.

Mind. Let thoughts and emotions go. Easier said than done for all of us. Don’t force things. Various methods are used to regulate the mind. Methods may include focusing the attention and visualization. Mindfulness has also become an industry in its own right, but again Qigong practitioners have been working with this for 1,000’s of years.

Of course, other health & fitness activities also work on the body and breath for example. But in Qigong we eventually work on all aspects at the same time. We aim to integrate the three regulations (adjustments) into one.

Is Qigong Safe & Effective?

Numerous studies have found Qigong to be a safe form of activity and, to varying extents, effective for a number of health conditions. Studies showing no negative side effects included people with chronic health conditions and older adults.

Two studies on adult neck pain did find that a small number of people (less than 10%) did experience some muscle pain and headache after their Qigong session. These were the same side effects experienced after doing other activities. As always we advise to work well within your own ability and proceed gently to minimise the risk of any unwanted effects.

COVID 19

At the time of writing (May 2022) the amount of research on Qigong for Covid recovery is very limited. And, due to the priority to save lives, the research isn’t typically a gold standard well-designed randomised controlled trial.

That said there have been several small studies on the impact of Qigong practice on Covid. These trials did suggest that Qigong improved physical activity, perceptions of ease of breathing, quality of life and some measures of inflammation.

Some TCUGB instructors have used Qigong as part of their own recovery from Covid. However, Qigong should not be used as a replacement for medical treatment. Please follow NHS guidelines on Covid diagnosis and treatment.

HEALTH CONDITIONS

The NHS

The NHS has noted evidence of benefits of Tai Chi (when practiced as a complex moving Qigong) on its website e.g.  There’s also evidence that taking part in regular tai chi sessions can reduce the risk of falls. Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that places particular emphasis on movement, balance, and co-ordination.  Unlike other martial arts, tai chi does not involve rapid physical movements, making it an ideal activity for older people. NHS – Tai Chi for movement, balance, fall prevention

Other regional NHS websites note that Tai Chi is being used in Pain Management. A 2004 study is also cited that suggests numerous benefits from Tai Chi practice. These include: increased flexibility; improved cardiovascular fitness; increased muscle strength; stress reduction, relaxation; enhanced emotional wellbeing; positive mental state; increased energy levels; improved immune function; & improved quality of life.  torbayandsouthdevon.nhs.uk/tai-chi

Research into tai chi & qigong for a variety of medical conditions, and patient rehabilitation, is being collated at: https://www.networks.nhs.uk/nhs-networks/tai-chi-chi-kung-for-rehabilitation

Third Sector Health Organisations & Charities

The UK also has many health organisations focused on specific conditions. For example: the British Heart Foundation; Asthma UK/British Lung Foundation partnership; Versus Arthritis; & Parkinson’s UK. These national organisations have articles on the benefits of Tai Chi/Qigong on their websites. Links are given below:

How Tai Chi helps with arthritis

How Tai Chi helped with asthma

How Tai Chi helped with a heart condition

How Tai Chi and Qigong help with Parkinson’s

There are many specialist UK Health organisations. They cover a wide range of medical conditions. They can offer information and support to help us get the most out of life.  Visit our links page for a larger list.

Clinical Studies & Reviews

There are hundreds of scientific studies on the possible benefits of Qigong/Tai Chi for many health conditions. These studies involved 1,000’s of participants. Several researchers have analysed many of the studies and reported on their findings. We look at three of these.

A Review of Clinical Trials of Tai Chi and Qigong in Older Adults – Carol Rogers et al

Carol led a review of 36 research reports with a total of 3,799 participants. Focused on older adults Carol identified five categories of “study outcomes” i.e. 1) falls and balance, 2) physical function, 3) cardiovascular disease; 4) psychological; and 5) additional disease-specific responses.

The results were encouraging and indicated that TC&QG may help older adults improve physical function and reduce blood pressure; fall risk; as well as depression and anxiety.

Carol noted that there was no discussion of how spiritual exploration with meditative forms of physical activity, an important component of these movement activities, may contribute to successful ageing.  Read the full review

A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi – Roger Jahnke et al

Roger led a review of 77 studies, again with 1,000’s of participants. Nine outcome category groupings were defined i.e. 1) Bone Density; 2) Cardiopulmonary Effects; 3) Physical Function; 4) Falls, balance and related risk factors; 5) Quality of life; 6) Self-efficacy; 7) Patient reported outcomes; 8) Psychological symptoms; & 9) Immune- and inflammation-related responses.

The review concluded that “A compelling body of research emerges when Tai Chi studies and the growing body of Qigong studies are combined. The evidence suggests that a wide range of health benefits accrue in response to these meditative movement forms, some consistently so, and some with limitations in the findings thus far.” Read the full review

Qigong: What You Need To Know –  Inna Belfer et al

Inna led a review of Qigong research in 2022 for the USA’s Department of Health & Human Services NCCIH (National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health). Again 1,000’s of participants. Positive findings for Qigong and a range of health conditions including: COPD, High Blood Pressure, Chronic Heart Failure, Fibromyalgia, Pain Reduction, & Parkinson’s.  Read the full review

Getting Started

There’s a quote from the Dao De Jing* that ‘the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step’. Qigong is interesting; it can also be fun and can provide you with life-long benefits… but a first step is needed. We all had to start somewhere. *The Book of the Way and of Virtue

To get your qigong journey off to an easy start and help you find local classes, go to our TCUGB Instructors’ page . If an instructor’s profile/offering interests, you then give them a call or drop them an e-mail/message to get a better understanding of what they do. Or just try a class. Some of our instructors may also offer online training using zoom or the like. Good luck with finding a school and teacher that is right for you!

However you find your way to qigong, please be assured that TCUGB instructors will welcome and support you on your journey.

TCUGB Recognized Instructors & Safe Systems

The TCUGB is structured as a Community Interest Company with clearly defined goals and community purpose. A key aim of the TCUGB is to set and improve Qigong teaching standards in the UK.

Currently, Qigong teaching is not “regulated” in the UK – anyone can claim to be a Qigong instructor – whether they’ve been certified to teach or not.  However, TCUGB Qigong instructors have been evaluated so you don’t need to worry about this when choosing to work with a TCUGB registered instructor. You can read more about TCUGB  instructor grades here .

The TCUGB also has a safeguarding policy – it recognizes only safe and acceptable use of Qigong and other Chinese Internal Health practices for well-being.  TCUGB instructors must also abide by our Standards and Ethics policy.

The measures we have put in place help protect the public. We want to ensure that anyone learning Qigong has a high-quality experience. With that in mind, we advise anyone considering learning Qigong to check that the instructor is TCUGB registered.

Things to Consider in Choosing a TCUGB Registered Qigong Instructor

First, be clear on what you want.

      • Classes for your own benefit
      • Classes that lead to a qualification, possibly to teaching

Second, where do you wish to learn

      • Online
      • Locally
      • Or might you be prepared to be ‘geographically and financially inconvenienced’

Third, what type of person are you?

        • Are you happy with just a basic understanding, following along in a class will be fine
        • Will you probably want to know a bit more
        • Are you willing to train independently
        • Are you interested in exploring the meditation and deeper energetic work
        • Do you really want to study with the best teacher in this country/in the world

YouTube

We can see many wonders on the internet without leaving our door. YouTube alone has many “Qigong” videos that can be followed at home. Obviously, it’s not the same as going to a class – the performer/instructor can’t see if you are safely exercising. And you can’t speak with the instructor, to ask questions or get advice on the qigong.

But YouTube can give a flavour of different Qigong sets and instructors. There’s a Qigong out there for everyone, maybe you will find the Qigong for you here!

The TCUGB will soon have its own YouTube channel. We will playlist examples of popular Qigong sets there. You can subscribe to our newsletter to be kept up to date on this and our other activities.

Something to Read?

We have compiled a list of books on Qigong that you might find helpful. The books are listed in alphabetical order and you can see them by clicking here. They cover a broad range of Qigong practices including meditative, passive, and dynamic. And from floor-based to standing. Some are more theory-focused. Others are more practice-orientated; often there is a mix of theory and practice.

Qigong Related Articles on the TCUGB Website

Links to several Qigong related articles that first appeared in our Journal (Tai Chi Chuan & Oriental Arts) are given below.

the Buqi System

Qigong for Health

Basic movement patterns body cohesion

Qigong- a Personal Understanding

Chi Kung Healing

You’re a Cult- part 2

The TCUGB publishes Tai Chi Chuan & Oriental Arts several times a year. TCUGB members receive the Journal as part of their membership package. You can learn more about TCUGB membership (and support our aim of bringing the benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong to more people) here: Join Us! Non-members can buy copies of the Journal and view some editions and further content at taichimag.org

 

DISCLAIMER

If you’ve read this far well done! We’re glad you are interested in Qigong. Please keep in mind that TCUGB instructors are not typically GP’s, medics, surgeons, or other medical practitioners.  So, for medical advice, or before starting any Qigong related training, the TCUGB recommends that members of the public consult with their GP or health provider.  While Qigong has been found to be a very safe practice with the possibility of health benefits, the TCUGB makes no suggestions, claims, or recommendations regarding Qigong related training.

Page last updated June 2022