What is this thing called Qi Gong?

Daoyin Tu - some of the earliest known Qi Gong exercises

When people ask what I do, I usually tell them I teach Tai Chi. The truth is though that this is a shorthand catch-all term for what I do. I teach Tai Chi & Qi Gong for health. I also teach meditation as part of this. I’m not into fighting, and I don’t teach the martial aspects of Tai Chi. I’m interested in health and feeling good. Most classes I teach focus on Taijiwuxigong (pronounced Tai Chi Woo She Gong) – a form of Qi Gong developed by a Tai Chi Grandmaster, teaching Lama and medical Doctor from Shanghai called Shen Hongxun. He based his system on Tai Chi principles but made it easier to access the health benefits of Tai Chi more quickly. You can find out more about his work here: https://www.buqiinstitute.com/

A very brief summary…

People have been practising forms of Qi Gong (often referred to as Daoyin) for at least 2,500 years. The picture above shows part of a scroll called the Daoyin Tu, found in a tomb in China dated to 168BC. Taijiwuxigong is part of this tradition. Very briefly; this form of Qi Gong differs from others in that we focus on letting go of negative or sick Qi. Dr Shen called this Binqi. This ‘letting go’ is combined with the activation of the Dantian, and the body’s energy system, and a focus on opening up the spine and all the joints.

Binqi represents bio-chemical waste products that our bodies do not need. Most Binqi is cleared through normal metabolic processes, but sometimes the body is not totally efficient in doing this, and some elements get left behind. They often get stuck around the spine and joints. Binqi also includes the idea of stress, tension and negative emotion. Dr Shen developed the theory of the double vicious circle. This describes how the combination of poor body posture and stuck Binqi can cause pain and chronic disease.

This form of Qi Gong emphasises clearing Binqi, thus allowing Qi to move naturally around the body. By contrast other forms of Qi Gong (as I understand it) seek to conserve all Qi, and move all Qi around the body. Dr Shen used to talk about the problems this can cause for health. In particular I remember him describing how, during the Qi Gong craze of the 1980’s in China, he was called in by the Chinese Government, to help people who had mental health problems, as a result of practising certain forms of Qi Gong.

Qi Gong classes

So how can you expect to feel when you come to a class? What happens in a Taijiwuxigong class is explained here. If you want to find out more about Qi, and Dr Shen’s theory of the double vicious circle have a look at the following posts: https://www.buqiinstitute.com/binqi-and-expelling-binqi/

This post is about the changes you might notice in your body and mind when you practise Taijiwuxigong, and how you might feel.

How does Qi Gong practise change us?

When I started Qi Gong classes I was having a tough time. I had been working in a stressful job for an international organisation and I found it toxic. I just wanted out. Moving back home to Bristol, I started going to Taijiwuxigong classes run by my cousin Sarah B. Sarah is a great teacher, she explained the exercises really well, and I immediately began to feel better emotionally – happier and not so weighed down by my worries. I was not that comfortable with some of the talk about Qi though. This was new to me and I was a bit sceptical. But I felt so much better. So I decided not to worry about why it was working – suspend judgement, and just dive in and have a go.

Hitting the wall – opening the door…….

After a while I started to feel physical changes too – funny twinges and aches as my spine and body opened up. I kept on going, and they went away. I’ve noticed from teaching others, that this is the point when some people stop coming. They might feel some physical or emotional pain as the body starts to open up. It’s like hitting a wall. Letting go is hard, and when you do, seeing yourself can be hard and classes can be physically and emotionally hard work. I’ve read posts by Yoga teachers in the past that talk about the same thing.

I understand why some people stop coming at this point, but if you get through it, you can really begin to work on yourself and start to make real change. It’s a continual process though. Very gradually, you will start to feel new and different sensations in your body. They can include vibration, movement of energy, sensations of warm or cold, and more.

The way we experience and perceive these changes can be different for different people. Some people do not feel very much in a physical sense. I suspect this has something to do with Interoception. Sometimes after 20 years, I feel I have barely scratched the surface of what Tai Chi, Qi Gong and Meditation have to offer. Its a bit like the Socratic paradox – the more you learn, the more you realise you know very little. For me that is fascinating – an endless mystery – always revealing more. Its a journey, but it can be hard. As one of my teacher’s said recently, ‘people open the door, but they do not always go through’.

What Qi Gong means to me

Qi Gong, like Tai Chi, is lots of things. For me it has been first and foremost a journey of discovery – one that helps me to feel happier and healthier. These days, having studied for a while, I understand much better how it works – even well enough to share it with others! I’m completely comfortable with all the talk of Qi, Binqi, Dantian and energy channels. I can feel how energy moves around my body. I can feel tension in my body and mind, and I can also feel this leaving. My spine feels longer, I stand taller, and I feel calmer, lighter and brighter when I have been practising.

Life isn’t always easy, especially right now, but this practise helps me to re-set my computer(as Dr Shen used to say) and deal with the difficult things.

This entry was posted on 19th July 2021. Bookmark the permalink.