The popularity of Indian Yoga in the west never ceases to amaze me. It seems like everyone and their mother go to a Yoga class such as Yoga Burns at some point of time. But what also amazes me is that hardly anyone has heard of Yoga’s Chinese relative Qi Gong. Like Yoga, Qi Gong is largely based on the combination of breath control with stretching exercises. It is a set of physical exercises combined with concentration training which is considered to be a primarily holistic and spiritual discipline. And like Yoga the art of Qi Gong (or Chi Kung), meaning energy cultivation, is reputed to be able to dramatically extend the lifespan of advanced practitioners, as well as increasing a person’s levels of health, vitality and psychological wellbeing. In its early stages, one of the main purposes of Qi Gong is to strengthen the connection between mind and body. jewels healing garden will helps to find that connection.
Once again in common with Yoga Qi Gong exercise routines can be tailored to specific purposes and in China, this process is often used to heal specific ailments. Qi Gong can be used to cultivate the internal energy called Qi, or Chi, or at a higher level, it can be used to cultivate ‘shen’, which is literally translated as mind but refers to mind in the Buddhist sense of pure mind which is actually closer to our concept of spirit than to everyday consciousness. The main manner in which Qi Gong differs from Yoga is that it contains much more movement, with an emphasis, and focus on the harmony of movement rather than the still poses which predominate in Yoga. The cultivation and direction of internal qi/chi energy through Qi Gong exercises is often used in Chinese martial arts to add power to strikes and throws, to enable the practitioner to withstand powerful attacks without injury, and other more esoteric purposes. In fact, the history of this Chinese Yoga is inextricably linked to the history of Kung Fu, Chinese martial art.
In China there is one institution that surpasses all others in its fame, longevity, and almost mythical status; that institution is, of course, the Shaolin temple. The famous Shaolin Monastery was founded by the Indian Buddhist monk, Batuo, in 495 CE. Not long after this a famous Indian holy man, a prince who had renounced his luxurious life to become a Buddhist monk, who had come to be known as the Bodhidharma, arrived at the monastery as part of a journey through China. The monks who he found there were singular in their practice, spending long hours in seated meditation in their quest for enlightenment. In fact, they were spending so long in this kind of meditation that their bodies were growing frail and weak. Bodhidharma knew that the mind and body are truly one and that the weak physical condition of the Shaolin monks was actually hindering their enlightenment practices. For this reason, he stayed at the monastery and taught the monks two sets of exercises. The first set – the Eighteen Lohan Hands – were primarily ‘external’ exercises for strengthening the body and the second set, which has come to be known by the title of the text they were recorded in – The Classic of Sinew Metamorphosis – were ‘internal’ exercises, used to develop chi and aid in meditation. This second set, if not the first, was almost certainly drawn from the same source that eventually developed into what we now know as Yoga.
The Shaolin monastery soon surpassed all others in the wisdom of its monks and the quality of its teachings and because of this gained favor with China’s powerful Emperor’s who would go there on an annual pilgrimage and who called the Shaolin temple the foremost monastery under the heaven. Due to this royal patronage and favor the Shaolin temple soon became very wealthy, and as such was a popular target for thieves and bandits. After centuries of almost constant attack, the Eighteen Lohan Hands which Bodhidharma had taught was extended and developed to form a powerful martial art – Shaolin Kung Fu – which the monks used to defend themselves. Alongside this, the classic of sinew metamorphosis was also extended by the Shaolin monks and conjoined with the wealth of esoteric knowledge contained in traditional Chinese medicine to form Qi Gong. But the connection between kung fu and Qi Gong was never broken, with each one informing and feeding of the other. And although you may not have heard of Qi Gong before the two venerable traditions of kung fu and Qi Gong have a child together which you may have seen – Tai Chi. This is a martial art based entirely on the ‘internal’ energy and power of chi rather than the ‘external’ muscular strength of conventional martial arts. If you are trying to imagine what Qi Gong practice looks like then think of it a little bit like a cross between Tai Chi and Yoga!