Qigong, pronounced "chee gong" is an ancient Chinese method of meditation, breathing exercises, gentle movements, and stretching exercises. These exercises can be used to increase a person's health and vitality.
The origins of qigong practices are not really known in time frame etc. However, in the last 10-15 years Qigong (氣功) has become increasingly popular in the west and China itself. If one goes to a public park in China early in the morning you will often see groups of people covering nearly every square inch of the park practicing something. Many are practicing Taiji, many are practicing dancing, aerobics, racket sports, hacky-sack, and if you look close enough you might find some people practicing qigong in little groups.
In general most practitioners consider it the dao (道）of preserving life. There are many myths and legends surrounding the practice of qigong with probably just as many being true as false. From my own experiences I have felt and seen many amazing things and feel that qigong practices are full of possibility.
These types of practices have been taking place for very long in China. The word qigong (氣功) is a relatively new name, as far as popular use goes, really taking hold in the time period of 1949 to 1956 and is a generic word that covers many related types of exercises and practices. The name qigong relates to the two characters qi 氣 relating to breath and being a short hand for the body’s zheng qi (正氣) and the word gong 功 meaning work. So the word’s definition is the working on the breath or zheng qi.
The word qigong replaced the older term of dao yin (導引）which meant guiding and leading. This definition referred to the idea of guiding the breath into the body and leading it around the channel and collaterals. These practices were referred to with this name as far back as the Warring States Period when Zhuang Zi made a case for practicing these exercises when he wrote “One who practices daoyin to preserve one’s health seeks to be like Peng Zi who excelled in longevity.” Peng Zi is mainly know for his longevity and was said to live nearly 800 years.
Currently much research is being done to understand just how these exercises benefit people's health.
In addition to teaching people exercises to do at home we also use "Medical qigong" as a part of our patient treatments. This can be very useful in offering more effective treatments for our patients or another treatment strategy for patients who are sensitive to needles.
To learn more about the practice of Qi Gong please read Jack's article about mind and body harmony in practice.
Or feel free to enjoy this little video about qigong from the National Qigong Association.