Qigong as a word means qi work, or working with our qi. However, the work isn't the type of work as far as energy in verse energy out. In the context of "gong", the word "work" implies that we are "working to attain merit". Therefore you could think of qigong as meaning working with qi for merit, and it is for this reason that in ancient China qigong was not considered of as a physical exercise but instead became known as what is called an Internal Exercise.
Internal exercise is classed as is where the practitioner uses a combination of connected whole-body movement and mental (meditation) exercises to cultivate a much larger reserve of qi. Cultivating our qi like this aids and strengthens the connectivity between the natural functions of human physiology. This increased functionality gives us a much stronger and unimpeded flow of qi throughout the body, which in turn regulates the internal functioning of the Zung Fu organs and the body's meridian system.
Over time this transformation is said to help distil our energy into higher forms of spiritual energy or increased consciousness call Shen, where it then accumulates into merit. Once merit has been accumulated, it then condenses back into the raw basis of our energy system for us to access and use to extend or fulfil our life's destiny. This is the Jing, Qi, Shen cycle at work in evolution.
The very basis of qigong is to cultivate mind, body and spirit through the artful mastery of exercising the 3 treasures and through the application of our Yi. The three Treasures consist of the Jing (essence), the Qi (energy) and our Shen (Spirit). The Yi translates to meaning 'the application of our intent'. The Yi is the spirit of the Earth Element and the organ structures of the Spleen and stomach.
We can use our Yi to power the movement of qi in our bodies. One excellent example of using your Yi is focusing attention into your forearm, or merely by placing awareness into any area of the body, and consciously relaxing the muscles in that area. Chances are, if you find this difficult, it really means that you need to spend more time with your body and learning to self regulate.
This exercise, in itself, is an excellent way to bring health into areas where your conscious awareness is lacking. Such can be the power of your attention, whereby simply placing your mind onto parts of your body, it can regulate and help return homeostatic functioning to the tissues and functions of that area and those which govern those areas.
But Yi not only projects through your own body but Yi is also how we cast our intentions out into the world. In fact, there is an old Chinese saying that all Acupuncturists get taught which is where the Yi flows the qi goes.
We can see the intention also being activated in the old Neuro-linguistic Programming exercise from Tony Robbins. In these exercises, you vividly imagine sucking on an extremely sour lemon. As a result, you will experience your mouth begin to water in response to your mind and body's conscious activation. This reaction is a direct sign of the qi moving in responding to our imagined intent. It is through utilizing our intention to elicit a physical response coupled with the principles of internal whole-body movement that is why qigong is classed as an "internal exercise".
Therefore, an internal exercise is when you are using the intention to stimulate a physical reaction. Thus, in the internal martial art of Taijiquan, we are using the imagined scenario of physical combat in our slow forms to conjure the intention of real-world fighting. This imaginary scenario results in the production/liberation of large amounts of energy, structural integrity and physical power to build our mind/body connection for combat and healing.
The theory of jing (essence), qi (energy), shen (spirit) is the core basis of qigong and all its aspects and is tightly interwoven with our ability to master the transformational power the Yi. It is through the concentration and application of our Yi that activates and liberates the qi giving us somewhat of conscious access and control of the nurturing and transformational functions of the jing, qi and shen.
It is the balance, cultivation and consolidation of these 3 treasures, which in turn, regulates the mind, body and spirit's interconnected functioning and nourishment of the human organism.
The Main (Classical) Functions of Qigong:
- Strengthening the physical/energetic body
- Healing physical injuries
- Disease prevention - builds immunity and constitution
- Disease treatment (self and others)
- Improving Intelligence
- Prolonging life - improves/builds upon your constitution
- Maintains longevity and youthful mind/body
- Manifesting latent internal power increases mindfulness and consciousness.
*I would suggest there are other functions of qigong that are not listed in this classical list. As well as many mechanisms which these functions suggest but do not directly address.
If you would like to know more about how qigong can help you or begin adding qigong to your own wellness training or classes, retreats or workshops you might be interested in my March Qigong Training event here: https://www.qifit.com.au/copy-of-qigong-teacher-training-lev Nicholas