Qi Gong literally means “exercises for strengthening qi”
It is a generic term that is used to describe a considerable variety of schools of thought and approaches to the practice of developing the Qi. Like much of traditional Chinese culture, it’s origins are shrouded in mystery. There are traditions of practice and cultivation which emphasise quiet sitting and / or standing exercise postures. There are also traditional practices which develop the movements of Qi and use them to animate the entire body.
In the School of T’ai chi Chuan that I am apprenticed to as a teacher we teach a unique “5 Element Qi Gong” as part of our “Roots and Branches” work. This practice is both energetic and healing as it condenses Tai Chi into standing postures, walks and shifting movements. By integrating principle, breath and focus in the “tan tien” with awareness of the Chinese Five Elements, this work generates, circulates and unblocks “chi” (vital energy) allowing it to nourish us at the very deepest level. Valuable work for students of all experience levels, and open to both complete beginners and non Tai chi practitioners.
Roots & Branches is both the simplest and deepest work in our tradition. Accessible to the athlete as well as the bedridden, to those who wish to study deeply, and those with no time at all. It can restore health and strength, emotional equilibrium, mental clarity and spiritual awareness.
Patrick Watson was initiated into this work when Cheng Man-Ching gave him postures and movements for his health. In the mid1970s Patrick decided the School of Tai Chi Chuan should preserve this work and asked Pat Gorman to interview everyone Cheng Man-Ching had worked with in this way: their illness, Chinese diagnosis, assigned work and results. A Five Elements acupuncturist and one of the School of Tai Chi Chuan’s legacy holders, Patty Gorman has worked with fellow legacy holder Gerrie Sporken to transform this information into the Roots & Branches Qigong program.
In Qi Gong the three levels of Jing, Qi and Shen are all present. The flowering of Shen – spiritual work, meditation – needs a strong foundation, a grounding in body awareness and emotional balance. Work on a Qi and Jing Level – physical and energetic practice, is incomplete without the spark of Shen.
In ongoing natural process, Jing is refined into Qi and Qi is refined into Shen. The process can be called the “nourishing line”. Jing nourishes Qi and Qi nourishes Shen. Refinement and nourishment are supported by an appropriate lifestyle and the practice of Qi Gong. At the same time Qi Gong takes advantage of a different connecting principle of the three treasures – the commanding line. In this Shen commands Qi and Qi commands Jing. Shen is the leader and guiding light for Qi and Jing, and it is through the quality of mental concentration, focus and visualisation that Qi is activated and commanded.
In other words if you take care of your Jing, your essential store of energy, and if you cultivate a good flow of Qi, you have created the potential for the flowering of spirit. Once spirit has flowered, it can use its beauty in a return journey, leading Qi, which then reinforces Jing.