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Qigong (qi gong, chi kung, chi gung, chi gong) is a series of exercises used to optimize energy within the body, mind, and spirit, intended to improve and maintain health and well-being.

Rooted in Chinese medicine, philosophy, and martial arts, qigong is a practice designed to achieve and maintain a balance of the qi, translated as "life energy." Qigong uses breathing exercises, gentle movement, and meditation to cleanse, strengthen, and balance the qi. Qigong is itself an amalgamation of two words: qi (subtle breath) and gong (skill cultivated through steady practice). Together, they describe the practice that utilizes the power of breathing, movement, and intention to create health and balance.

The four components of qigong are breathing techniques, body postures, guided imagery, and meditation.

Today, there are several styles of qigong, some focusing on health, while others emphasize spirituality or martial arts training. While some modern styles of qigong no longer draw upon Chinese philosophy, there are two main approaches within the traditional practices: Wai dan and Nei dan. The Wai Dan method is largely a physical practice that focuses on body postures, while the Nei Dan approach is more inward, with greater reliance on meditation and visualization while in a seated position.

Qigong styles can be classified according to their chief goal: medical (healing), martial (physical fitness and skill), or spiritual (enlightenment).

People practice qigong for exercise, recreation, relaxation, self-healing, preventative medicine, meditation, self-cultivation, and training for martial arts. As a medical practice, qigong is usually used as a complementary approach. In most cases, qigong is used by integrative medicine practitioners to complement conventional medical approaches. The practice is generally to be considered safe, and, because it is a low-impact activity, and can be done lying down, sitting, or standing up, qigong is accessible to people recovering from injuries, seniors, and people with disabilities.

In most forms of qigong, breathing exercises are slow, long, and deep. Breath patterns might switch from abdominal breathing to breathing combined with speech sounds. Body movements are generally gentle and smooth, promoting relaxation. Mind regulation includes focused meditation and visualization.

Dynamic qigong techniques focus primarily on body movements of the whole body, or of the arms and legs, while meditative qigong techniques may be practiced in any posture that can be maintained over a long period of time and involves breathing and mind exercises, typically with minimal body movement.

The ancient martial art known as tai chi is often used for health purposes today. When performed for health, it is a form of qigong. It involves integrated physical postures, focused attention, and controlled breathing. Lesser known forms of qigong include Baduanjin, Liuziljue, Hu Yue Xian, and Yijin Jing.

Qigong practitioners often use the practice as a complementary treatment for fibromyalgia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Parkinson's disease, high blood pressure, and chronic heart failure, as well as for the reduction of chronic pain. It has also been used in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee.

Qigong has been found to be helpful in reducing anxiety associated with addiction recovery.

While opinions differ as to the efficacy of qigong in the treatment of medical or mental health disorders, the practice does appear to be a safe form of activity, with most studies showing no negative side effects in people practicing qigong, including those with chronic diseases and older adults.

In the United States, and, I believe in other Western nations, there are no mandatory training, licensing, or certification requirements for qigong instructors, as the practice is not regulated by the federal government or individual states. While various organizations offer training and certification programs, there is no national certification standard.



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