Qigong (氣功) is the primary self-care practice within Chinese medicine. We practice slow, relaxed breathing to calm and center the mind. We stand, stretch, and twist to open the joints, improve circulation, and stabilize both our deep metabolic functions and our outward structure, improving balance and strengthening vitality throughout the whole system.
Although the term “qigong” has only been around for a hundred years or so, the practices it describes have been going on for thousands. They were primarily called daoyin (導引) until the twentieth century, which means “to guide and stretch.”
The emphasis has almost invariably been on slow, conscientious movement in concert with specific breath patterns. The intended outcomes can vary from system to system（and there are literally thousands of qigong styles）but in Chinese medical practice we of course focus on the health benefits. Training the body through regular qigong practice, we go through life better prepared to deal with adversity, both physically and psycho-emotionally. Illness becomes less frequent and less intense, and we conduct our lives in greater confidence and greater stability.
Historically, daoyin was a part of a larger group of health and longevity practices known by the term yangsheng (養生) or “cultivating life.” Yangsheng practice would include daily daoyin practice, but also management of lifestyle and diet, as well as acupuncture and moxibustion techniques, and herbal therapies. There have been enormous numbers of these techniques passed down in different traditions, but they have tended mostly to focus on living in harmony with the seasonal changes in our immediate environment, and the changes within ourselves over the course of our lives.
Nowadays most of these concepts get lumped together under the term qigong. There are qigong systems specific to developing the body and mind for the martial arts, or developing the mind and body for long term religious meditation, but more often than not, qigong focuses on a more general health promotion approach. This is how it has become a significant part of Chinese medical practice. It is often said that one cannot be a great Chinese medical physician without practicing qigong. They describe medicine as a hand. It's fingers are ZhenJiu (acupuncture & moxibustion), Tuina (bodywork), WaiYao (external herbal preparations), and NeiYao (internal herbs). The thumb, which brings the fingers together and allows them to grasp, is Qigong.
- Brad Hamlin -