The Concept of Qi
Qi (sometimes written Chi in Chinese or Ki in Japanese) is believed to be the energy that flows through the universe.
There are different types of Qi, heavenly Qi, earthly Qi and human Qi. In chinese medicine, the concept of Qi is the life force which permeates every living thing and only when this energy is flowing correctly will a person be healthy.
For those who wish a deeper understanding of Qi further study will be required for the way that Qi links to Jing and to Shen, these are known as the three treasures, and the way that Qi can be developed.
This energy flows through meridians, and these have been well documented in both the martial arts as well as a number of healing traditions. For health there must be enough Qi, it must not be blocked but must flow freely. If there is a blockage, this must be removed.
Most people will be familiar with acupuncture where very fine needles are used to alter the flow of energy. Other techniques such as acupressure, Qigong massage, tai chi or Qigong practice can also be used to balance the flow of energy.
There are 12 primary channels and 8 reservoirs known as Ba Mai. Located on these are the Dantian, areas that are a storage vessels for Qi. There are a number of different ways of developing or getting the Chi to flow correctly, and the basic outline of these is shown here. However for deeper understanding further reading is recommended as well as seeking out someone who is able to teach this, as it cannot be learnt from a book. (The traditions of Qi Gong are in fact an aural tradition with details being passed from teacher to student.
These energy exercises emphasize slow movements and can also incorporate breathing techniques. These exercises are used to increase the Qi or energy through slow movement of the body. The exercises place emphasis on correct posture, and the shifting of weight while changing the position of the body A simple example of this is exercises that shift the weight from one leg to the other while moving the arms to a new posture. This can be combined with the use of visualizations, where the legs are thought of as empty or full. As the weight moves, one leg feels like it is emptying, while the other is filling These Qigong exercises encourage correct posture, movement, balance and flexibility.
These exercises are generally focused on stillness and meditation, the body remains still while the internal energy is moving. Within the exercises there will be visualizations, and specific postures. Some of these exercises are called standing post meditations and these appear to be unique to chinese based traditions.
Reasons to practice Qigong are many, personal health and well being, helping or healing others, Martial skill or enlightenment.