Qigong (Qi Gong, Chi gong, or Chi Kung, ) is a system of Taoist exercise and meditation developed at least 4000 years ago in China. The word "qigong" perhaps can be best translated as "energy mastery." It is a method of balancing mind, body, emotions, and spirit through a series of external and internal movements with mental concentration. These movements, along with certain stances and biomechanical body alignment, are coordinated with the breathing and the mind.

There are many forms of qigong and associated practices such as jing dong, dong gong, zuo gong, wushu gong, nei kung, etc. T'ai Chi, often translated as "supreme ultimate" or "supreme ultimate energy," can be regarded as a particularly evolved form of moving qigong. For our purposes here, we will consider any of these various forms of Taoist energy exercises and meditations as a form of qigong.

One can consider qigong to be a kind of Taoist form of moving yoga, though qigong postures tend to be less strenuous than many yoga asanas. With some adaptation, qigong can be performed by virtually anyone, regardless of physical condition, as long as the practitioner is able to concentrate mentally.

Types of Qi Gong
Sometimes qigong is divided into subcategories depending on its application. So there are medical qigongs, martial qigongs, health qigongs, and spiritual qigongs. Qigong can also be classified by the direction and intention of the energy generated.

External Qi Gong
External qigong generates life force internally and broadcasts this energy externally. So, martial qigong could be considered a form of external qigong, as could medical qigong. In medical qigong, the qigong master generates the chi and directs it toward a patient who needs healing. This is akin to a sort of "laying on of hands" in the western traditions of spiritual healing.

Internal Qi Gong
Internal qigong generates energy and circulates it within the practitioner. One application of this form is internal self-healing, where one circulates energy to remove physical blockages or imbalances. This form, along with medical qigong, is somewhat related to the disciplines of Oriental Medicine such as acupuncture and herbology, which seek to balance a patient's life force. Another application of internal qigong is for spiritual development. Here, spiritual power is generated and circulated internally through energy channels and the chakras for the purpose of clearing karmic effect, attaining self-knowledge, expanding or dissolving ego boundaries, and direct spiritual experience.

Intention in practice
In terms of karmic intention, martial qigong could be considered to be the lowest form of qigong, as its intention is to control or harm others. Medical and health related qigong would have a higher intention, as they work to relieve suffering and generate health. Spiritual qigong has the highest intention, as it concerns itself with self-realization, expanded or mystical awareness, and enlightenment, which this planet needs so desperately at this time.

Qigong can be characterized as a gentle form of non-impact aerobic exercise and stretching suitable for warming up for more strenuous exercise. An example of this would be Tiger Woods, who reputedly has practiced qigong. Qigong can be used as a stand-alone form of gentle physical maintenance as well. It is also a highly effective form of stress management when used to calm the emotions and center oneself. Qigong as a spiritual discipline is a moving meditation particularly well adapted for restless western minds and active, stressed, and time-challenged lifestyles. For more information, go to: www.inner-tranquility.com (c)2006 Keith E. Hall. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rev. Hall has taught Tai Chi, Qigong, Tantra, & body / mind modalities for 30 years & is a senior student of Prof. Yung-ko Chou, with permission to teach. He has studied at East West Schools across the world & with Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, S. Saraswati & others. He practices Bioenergetics, Bagua, Tumo, Vipassana, Zen, Spiritual Bodywork, various Yogas, & other East West disciplines. He has published articles on Tantra & Taoist arts in numerous journals & is the Founder of Jade Garden Tantra and Inner-Tranquility.com.