The mysticism of the East has intrigued westerners for hundreds of years. However how much is really mystic and how much is scientific? Qigong and its benefits seem esoteric and awe-inspiring to many of us, with a strong spiritual meaning. Spirit does not necessarily have to be religious and most of the Qigong practised in the West is for health and fitness, it is an exercise with no religious connotations, therefore it does not conflict with a persons beliefs. In many Qigong forms it refers more to a person’s vitality, the health, energy and outlook on life. In China Qigong is part of a way of life, part of the culture of its people, which has been handed down through generations. It is also very practical. The power of the Qi, which flows through all living things is, for want of a better word, harnessed. By practising Qigong we improve the flow of the Qi and improve our health and well-being.

So how many different types of Qigong are there? .

To my knowledge there are four major schools of Qigong - Scholars, Medical, Martial and Religious.

These schools can then be divided further into:

(a) Scholars - pre-Han and post-Han Dynasty

(b) Medical

(c) Martial - external and internal

(d) Religious - Taoist, Buddhist, Tibetan

1. Scholars' Qigong - for maintaining health and preventing disease. (Mind, body, breath) The most famous exponents of this Qigong are LaoTsu, Confucius and Mencius.

This type of Qigong considers that illness is caused by mental and emotional excesses - when a person's mind not calm, balanced and peaceful, organs will malfunction.

Therefore the aim is for: a. peaceful and relaxed mind

b. stop the inner chatter

c. regulate the breath

d. cultivate chi

e. emphasis on mental and spritual cultivation

f. follow natural destiny and maintain health

*. After the Han Dynasty scholars believed you could change your destiny and become stronger thereby increasing life-span. However the Taoist branch of scholarship became more religious.

2. Medical Qigong - Healing

Dates back to 3rd millenium, a time of folklore and the legendary Yellow Emperor.

The branches of Medical Qigong are Acupuncture, Acupressure and Herbal Medicines.

This School of Qigong believed that a calm and peaceful mind was not enough. They believed that:

(a) Movement was necessary to increase chi circulation

(b) An imbalance of chi will show up before physical symptoms

(c) If imbalance is corrected - organs will not be damaged.

With the use of their medical knowledge exercise sequences developed to improve the flow of chi.

The use of healing sounds and movement are used to help and even cure a range of medical problems such as asthma, and even some forms of cancer, as sounds and movement relate to organs and seasons. Therefore the Medical School of Qigong differed from the Scholastic School by considering movement as against static meditation and maintaining health and curing sickness by incorporating herbalism, acupuncture, massage and moxibustion as other forms of healing.

3. Martial Qigong - Da Mo - Liang Period 502-557AD.

The main focus of this school was obviously one of defence as well as health and was introduced into the Shaolin Temple by a Buddhist monk, the Buddhidarma. The aim:

(a) increased power and efficiency of muscles – our muscles are usually used to only 40% of capacity

(b) improved health of monks - energised muscles through control of chi through Yi (mind)

(c) learned cavity strikes - to disturb enemies chi flow to seriously incapacitate them or cause death (Dim Mak)

There are two types of energy and focus in Martial Qigong. These are:

Wai Dan (external elixir) - concentrate mind to energise chi to limbs – this can cause energy dispersal as practitioner gets older, hence the change to nei dan and the art of Tai Chi Chuan.

Nei Dan (internal elixir) - the qi is generated in the body other than limbs and lead to limbs by Yi (mind) to increase power. - Sometimes in the martial capacity it is necessary to use wai dan in conjunction with nei dan.

4. Religious Qigong

Meditative - aim - enlightenment - Buddhahood. However this form was not considered healthy. The aim of this type of Qigong was to avoid reincarnation.

Over the last 50 years Wu-Chi Qigong has been practiced.

(a) Calm and relaxed mind

(b) Neutral state

(c) Emptiness of thought

(d) Centred, clear, body relaxed - still mind.

As more is known about this rather obscure art, scientists are conducting experiments to find out more about it. A couple of theories are that

(a) It travels with the circulation or

(b) it is related to the central nervous system (CNS).

I would welcome any input readers can give relating to studies being carried out, personal experience and knowledge about Qigong including Perfume Qigong which I have heard about but have no information.


Rosemary Palmer,
Moving Meditation School of Tai Chi and Qigong, S.A.


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