Qigong Exercises - Medicine of the Future
Extracts from the book "How Chinese Medicine Changed My Life" written by John Dolic
Qigong exercises, in retrospect, are the most astonishing remedial self-therapy I have ever known. Repeatedly I have seen remarkable results from Qigong, no matter how unfavourable the prognosis. Many serious illnesses have been reversed, without the aid of medication or any other form of medical intervention, from this practice alone.
Qigong, in brief, is a series of remedial exercises involving concentration, which can move the body's energy and bring it back into balance. I have absolutely no doubts about its value. My confidence is such that I believe Qi Gong will be the healing modality of the future throughout the world. This once secret, ancient technique, known mainly to monks, is now out in China. And literally, millions of Chinese people are choosing Qigong exercises over other forms of treatment.
The interest in Qigong is so great that many medical institutions, in China, are currently undertaking numerous clinical studies, using modern research methods, to trial the effectiveness of this therapy. Skilled masters of Qigong are also involved in the research, teaching patients the appropriate form for their particular problem. Similar studies are being carried out in Japan and in America, and other developed countries, but on a much smaller scale, without the benefit of such large groups or the availability of so many experienced masters.
There are now many 'before' and 'after' Qigong studies. Conditions that were diagnosed as incurable, or unresponsive to treatment, by both Chinese and western medical analysis, have been seen to reverse through this practice. Many of these cases showed an overall reduction in or the complete disappearance of once pathological signs. For example: blood pressure became normal, urine became free of sugar, circulation had definitely improved and tumours were shown to be reduced in size, if not completely gone. The jury, you could say, is in.
In some people the recovery was less defined but, as the beneficial effects of the practice seems to accumulate over time, no one can ascertain exactly the limits of Qigong. It is a process. The results are quicker in some people, slower in others.
I know, personally, at least 20 people who took up the practice after being given a grim prognosis. For them, Qigong exercises, were a last resort. They had been treated, to no avail, by both western medicine and Chinese herbs and acupuncture.
A few were told their life expectancy was only months. But they are still alive and well today, 10 years later, thanks to Qigong.
But when the therapy first came to my notice I thought it sounded too good to be true. I couldn't believe that something as simple as an exercise would cure a chronic disease, let alone a terminal one.
When I first arrived in Beijing I was fascinated by the strange exercises the Chinese were doing in the parks. Every morning from 5 am on, no matter what the weather, the Chinese were out in their hundreds, cramming the parks and doing their thing. Some just stood still and waved their arms about, others would stand, with their knees bent and hands held before them, for 30 minutes or more. I laughed. What was the point of these postures?
A few were doing a distinctly peculiar walk. I thought some of them at least must be batty. Nevertheless, their total lack of self consciousness impressed me. They didn't seem to give a damn who watched their strange capers. When I asked my Chinese friends about these strange performances I was given a verbal introduction to Qigong exercises.
Qi or Chi means 'life energy'. But the word Gong has many meanings such as doing a practice or getting good results from doing something positive. Together the two words, Qi Gong, literally mean receiving, or gaining good results, by practicing the Qi, or moving energy.
Qigong exercises have a very long history. Its origins go back as far as 5000 BC. For centuries, until China recently opened its doors following the Cultural Revolution, the therapy was known only to a few and has too long and too complex a history to be dealt with in this book. Suffice to say there are, today, many schools and many forms of Qigong, dynamic and static, and it is a therapy which is rapidly gaining notice in 20th century China.
There is also an enormous amount of literature about Qigong in China. It gets space in 40 to 50 reputable Chinese medical journals, popular magazines run stories on it, newspapers carry reports about it and there are many magazines and books devoted entirely to the subject. The more I heard about Qigong, the more I wanted to know about this curious practice. And, as my Mandarin improved, I began researching it through these books and magazines. There were no lack of accounts about the effectiveness of Qigong against illness. I was fascinated.
The stories gave personal accounts of recovery from various intractable diseases such as heart disease, kidney disease and advanced cancers, to name only a few. These narrators wrote how they began to feel energy moving strongly in their body and what changes came about: how their long-standing serious symptoms gradually disappeared and feelings of well-being returned. I was intrigued by these tales. But for a time Qigong remained just an absorbing curiosity for me. I was young and very western in my concepts and attitudes.
When I started doing Qigong, at the Language Institute, I wasn't aware that it was part of traditional Chinese medicine. Nor did the word Chi have much meaning for me. I just liked the exercises. It was all new and different. The teacher would demonstrate certain movements with his arms and talk about chi energy. He told us if we correctly performed this movement, with full concentration, the palms of our hands would become warm and beaded with sweat while the body remained dry. This was a sign that we were successfully moving the chi energy.
I would practice and practice, day after day, my body would become very warm but my palms wouldn't sweat. Then one day it happened, just like he said, my palms became beaded with perspiration, though my body remained dry. Each different form has its own particular sign when it is properly practiced. With some forms, the mouth fills with saliva, or the nose smells a non-external fragrance or a body part may move involuntarily.
Whereas Tai Chi Chuan is a martial art with definite health benefits, most styles of Qigong are primarily remedial. In Tai Chi Chuan the emphasis, in the initial stages, is more on dexterity of movement followed by the combination of concentration and breath. This martial art is hard to learn and takes a lot of discipline to master. The movements alone can take years to perfect. In contrast many Qigong exercises are simple to learn and deal directly with energy. As the Chinese say, 'Qigong walks the chi energy'.
In most styles of Qigong, concentration is of prime importance, physical movements are secondary. After only a few days of regular practice it is possible to feel the sensation of energy moving within the body. At first this may feel like 'ants walking', or feelings of local heat, or waves of sensation flowing internally through the body.
While there are many forms of dynamic Qigong there are also static forms which can be practiced in a relaxed position such as sitting in a chair or lying down. This means even the frail or bed-ridden person can successfully practice the art. The mind alone can get the energy moving and back into balance, the body doesn't even have to move.
But, in no way, is Qigong a miracle therapy. If a person chooses to continue a way of life that is stressful and full of bad habits; poor diet, habitual worrying or negative thinking, excessive drinking and smoking and keeping late hours, then the benefits of Qigong will not be experienced. Qigong is a remarkable weapon against disease but a sensible, not rigid, life style is necessary to win its rewards.
The whole idea of chi energy seemed fanciful to my mind at first - until I began to experience it. Now I am accustomed to feeling the sensation of energy moving strongly in different parts of my body as I practice. As the teachers told us, 'truth is in the practice'. When I first began Qigong it was out of curiosity basically, but today my practice is based on awareness of its power.
When I learned Standing Stump or Zhan Zhuang, standing still with my legs bent, the very same exercise I had laughed at, I felt energy moving in my body for the first time after a couple of week's practice. But it was an exercise of endurance. At first I could barely maintain the posture for 10 minutes. It was very tiring and my concentration was continually distracted by the noises and movements going on around me. But, gradually, the stance became easier, I could stand for much longer and I became immune to outside distractions. That was when I first felt my energy flowing.
With time, I grew to know more about Qigong and Chinese medicine than many Chinese. Here I'll mention an interesting case. A native graduate of traditional Chinese medicine, who later became my wife, at the time was skeptical of Qigong exercises as a cancer treatment. As a medical student I was to have many lively discussions with her about it. Much later, I challenged her to prove that Qigong had no affect on cancer. She took up the challenge.
For three months she practiced Qigong with a group, who were being taught a special kind of walk (Xin Qigong or Guo Lin Qigong), a form favoured for its beneficial effects in the treatment of cancer and many chronic diseases. During those months she also questioned the participants about their diagnosis, prognosis and on-going progress.
As time past she was surprised by the results. She saw people, who at first could barely stand upright, begin to show signs of definite improvement within two or three months. The improvement, in some of these cases, was also confirmed by medical analysis. Consequently the "skeptic", all doubts removed, decided to do the advanced course and became one of the senior coaches of this style of Qigong.
I was to learn and practice at least 20 different styles of Qigong while I was in China. But today I believe, for the treatment of disease or health maintenance, it is best to practice only the form appropriate to your constitutional needs. There is no advantage in learning a variety of forms. Back then I didn't stay long enough with one form to get its effects, and that delayed my understanding and appreciation of this powerful therapy.
Through my medical studies, afterwards in graduate practice and from personal experience, I came to fully comprehend the usefulness of Qigong and how thoroughly it works. In the meantime, I had a lot of growing up and learning to do. Like Qigong the process of transformation does not happen overnight.