Qigong is an ancient Chinese health practice that incorporates breathing techniques, postures and a mind-body connection. Qigong exercises can be classified as internal, focusing on health through meditation and concentration, or external, as with breaking bricks or boards. Pronounced "chee gung," qi translates to mean vital energy that flows through everything in the universe; quong means to cultivate a skill. In other words, qigong is the skill of cultivating energy.
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To stimulate the flow of energy, called qi or chi, opening moves regulate your breathing while allowing you to clear your mind and focus. "Awakening the chi" is preformed by lifting your arms as if raising a cloud to chest level, then pushing it down. "Raising the arms" requires you to lift your arms straight up to chest level, pause with your palms facing out, then lower your arms back down.
Upper and Lower Back Exercises
For the upper back, "holding the sun in one hand" involves a series of movements that transfer your weight from the right to left foot while moving your hands through positions of the clock face. "Rowing on a calm lake" starts with your hands palm out at chest-level; you then lower your hands to waist level. Open arms wide at shoulder level then bring arms in, keeping palms facing out. Lower back exercises include "scooping the sea and looking at horizon," in which you simulate lifting the sea into the air by bending over and scooping it up. "Gazing backward at the moon" is a long, flowing series of movements in which you peak behind at the moon halfway through.
For "roc spreads its wings," bring your arms up into a posture of surrender, then slowly lower them while bending your legs into a slight squat and bringing your hands together in front. Rise back up with arms up and out to the sides, head slightly back, facing the sky. "Flying like eagle" involves flapping your arms like eagle wings slowly through their full range of motion while incorporating qigong breathing techniques. "Autumn breeze" is a common tai chi movement in which you stretch your back by moving your arms fluidly from side to side. "Cloud hands" is similar; you turn at your waist, following your arm movements through a circular motion.
Even basic qigong movements are best done with the guidance of an instructor in order to master breathing techniques and reap all of the benefits of this ancient exercise. Advanced moves like "closing the energy gates" and "psychic healing" focus on energy transferring skills and require you to already have mastered diaphragmatic breathing techniques as well as a well-developed yi consciousness, or mind power. Whatever level you are ready to practice, qigong provides relaxation, balance, coordination and flexibility benefits.