Qi Gong is an ancient Chinese practice which help rejuvenate the body and extend life.

I’ve been in some classes where I learned some of the basic techniques and read some books on the subject–although I would only consider myself a beginner at this practice.

Thought that you readers would enjoy learning more about one of these ancient practices which supposedly helps practitioners live for hundreds of years through improving the flow of their vital forces and increasing their spiritual connections.

Qi Gong illustrates two of the 10 principles of personal longevity 1) Have a spiritual connection 2) Improving your vital forces.

To learn more about the 10 principles of personal longevity you should consider signing up for our FREE ECourse on the 10 Principles.



(This is a reprint of an article by Bob Flaws from 1990, but still useful information. Enjoy!)

Qi gong means to train or discipline one’s qi. According to Ken Cohen, a well known qi gong teacher in the West, this term did not come into use in China until 1934.[1] However, what we today call qi gong has been practiced in China since not less than 400 BC. In the 1970’s, a series of tombs were excavated in China at a site called Ma Wang Dui near Changsha. These contained a cache of books written on bamboo slats and silk rolls. A number of these books were on medical subjects. Amongst these books were pictures of various exercises believed to confer health benefits and contribute to longevity. At approximately the same time, the great Daoist philosopher, Zhuang Zi, wrote about such exercises and their healing properties.

During the Han dynasty (25-220 ad), a scholar named Wei Bo-yan wrote a book on what has now come to be known as qi gong. Titled Chan Tong Qi (Three in One), it discusses the relationship between Daoism, the Yi Jing (Classic of Changes), and qi gong. Wei was the first Chinese to write about qi gong from the perspective of the jing essence, qi, and shen spirit. Also during the Han dynasty, Hua Tuo, perhaps the most famous doctor in Chinese created his Five Animal Frolics. This was a series of qi gong exercises based on mimicking the movements and breath patterns of five different animals known either for their strength or longevity. These exercises are still taught and practiced to this day. Hua Tuo lived to be 97 at which time he was executed. He was still married when he died. His two students, Fan Ao and Wu Chin lived to be 100 plus and 90 years old respectively.

During the next 1,700 years, according to the Dao Shu (Daoist History), 3,600 different kinds of qi gong developed. According to Gan Zhen-yun, “The main features of Qigong development in this stage were: the widespread application of Qigong for health protection and medical care, and its integration with Chinese medicine which promoted the development of traditional medical science.”[2] In more modern times, Zhang Zi-yang wrote several books on qi gong and health preservation, including Understand the Truth, 400 Characters on Qi Gong, and Secrets for Keeping One’s Youth. In these books, Zhang further developed, enriched, and perfected the theories on the relationship of qi gong to the jing, qi, and shen first advanced by Wei Bo-yan 900 years before.

As mentioned above, there are many different styles of qi gong and literally thousands of different qi gong exercises. However, most qi gong exercises are based on the coordination of three elements: 1) a specific pattern of breathing, 2) a specific posture or movements coordinated with that breath pattern, and 3) a visualization accompanying both breath pattern and movements or posture. As we have seen above, one’s qi is manufactured in part from the purest essence of the air we breath. Through qi gong exercises we can manufacture qi more efficiently, store qi more effectively, and circulate our qi more smoothly. In addition, we can circulate our qi to particular places or organs in our body to bath those areas in healing, revitalizing energy.

In China there are Confucian styles of qi gong, Daoist styles of qi gong, and Buddhist styles of qi gong, each with their own unique theories and techniques. In addition, many qi gong exercises are associated with Chinese martial arts, such as Tai Ji Quan, Ba Gua Zhang, and Xing Yi Quan. Further, there are also types of medical qi gong specifically meant for the healing of disease or increasing one’s health. Qi gong has become extremely popular, even faddish, in China in the last dozen years or so, and there are many books available on this subject in both Chinese and English. There are even a number of video tapes available to help one learn qi gong.

Generally, it is best to study qi gong as part of a class under the guidance of a qualified instructor. Qi gong instruction is now available in all large cities and many medium sized cities in the United States. However, to get a taste of qi gong and to literally feel one’s qi, I give instructions on how to do a simple qi gong exercise below. But, before immediately jumping to that exercise, it is important to mention a couple of more introductory things about this ancient Oriental exercise art.

First, qi gong emphasizes deep, abdominal breathing. Such deep diaphragmatic breathing rids the lungs of stale air and bathes the organism in fresh air. In addition, this deep breathing has a massaging effect on the internal organs and promotes the flow of blood, lymph, and cerebrospinal fluids. Secondly, the breath associated with most qi gong exercises has four characteristics. It is long, thin, even, and slow. It is not hurried, choppy, coarse, or rough. This relaxed, rhythmic, deep breathing thus helps calm the mind and relieves stress.

And secondly, qi gong involves concentrating the mind and ridding it of distracting thoughts. In Chinese this is called shou yi. Shou means to concentrate, to attend to, or to look after. Yi means one. Thus shou yi means to concentrate on only one thing. During qi gong, such one-pointed concentration can be on a point within or part of the body, on the breath, or on a visualization or sensation. As Wang Zhi-xing, a qi gong teacher active in England and Europe says:

Shou yi teaches us to rest our mind internally on the oneness instead of restlessly jumping from one idea to the next. Shou yi helps us settle our mind and spirit internally and to focus our senses deeply within instead of looking outward all the time. Shou yi guides us to integrate ourselves with our circumstances and helps us to relax in different situations. Through shou yi, one’s mind becomes peaceful and empty; the body, mind, and spirit are harmonized and the shen is therefore pacified and nourished.[3]

Rising Eagle

The following is a very simple dong gong or moving qi gong exercise. It helps to circulate the qi, store the qi and jing essence in the lower dan tian, and rids the lungs of stale air. It is a good exercise to do upon waking in the morning. The Qing dynasty great emperor, Qian Long, suggested that for increasing one’s longevity, such morning physical disciplines were to be cultivated.

Begin by standing erect with feet planted shoulder width apart. The head and torso should be erect. The butt and hips should be allowed to release and slide forward, thus straightening out the curve of the low back. In addition, the knees should be slightly bent and the weight should be evenly distributed over the entire foot, leaning neither on the heels or the balls and toes. Relax the shoulders and let the arms hang to one’s side with the fingers gently extended. (Fig. 1) The breath should be through the nose with the mouth gently shut. Breathe in by expanding the lower abdomen and breathe out by contracting the lower abdomen. As one breathes, let the feeling of the mind, the feeling of consciousness sink to the lower dan tian. This is a spot 3-4 inches below the navel and a third of the way into the body. One should try to keep their mind fixed in this place or space and do the following exercise from the lower dan tian.

As one breathes in, let the wrists float up to the level of the chest. (Fig. 2) Feel as if there were a string attached to the wrists picking up the arm from that point. As the wrists reach the level of the chest, begin exhaling and let the hands move forward until the arms are almost straight out in front of one. (Fig. 3) Then breathe in and let the hands and arms float up over one’s head. (Fig. 4) Breathe out and sink slowly into the knees as the arms move out to the sides and down. (Fig. 5) Keeping the knees bent, the hands move down and across the legs, left hand passing over right. (Fig. 6) As the hands swing apart again, begin to breathe in but do not straighten the legs. One should remain with their knees bent and buttocks tucked underneath their hips. (Fig. 7) As the hands reach the level of the shoulders, one turns their palms over so that they are facing downward. Then exhaling, the hands push down as one rises from their bent position. (Fig. 8) Again the wrists are drawn up towards the level of the chest as one breathes in and the entire exercise is repeated.

When doing this exercise there are a number of things to keep in mind. First, the mind leads the breath, the breath leads the qi, and it is the qi that leads the motion. The qi goes where the mind and breath lead it. That’s why what we call moving qi gong today was simply part of what was called dao yin, or leading and guiding. As one moves, feel as though the air is as thick as water. Try to move very slowly with one motion blending into the next. Try to accomplish each movement with the minimal amount of physical strain or effort. Let the entire body remain relaxed yet erect as if suspended from a string tied to the crown of the head. Repeat this exercise 9 times.

As one completes the ninth repetition, let the arms come back to the resting position and just stand for a moment. One should feel relaxed but energized. The body should feel transparent but at the same time very full. Perhaps one feels a lot of tingling in their fingers and their hands feel slightly swollen and enlarged. These are all immediate, felt experiences of one’s qi. Visualize this qi filling one’s body like mist in a bottle. But visualize it as a mist made out of light. Then imagine this mist of light seeps into the heads of the bones, filling the bones with bright, incandescent lasers or filaments of light. Think that one has locked their qi into their bones, fusing it with their marrow and that their bones thus become diamond hard and filled with essence. Then swallow any saliva filling the mouth in three measured swallows and visualize this saliva travelling down to the lower dan tian. As the saliva reaches the lower dan tian, imagine that warmth and light is generated from that spot radiating out and enlivening the entire rest of the body.

This exercise helps to expel stale air from the lungs and gently circulates the qi through the entire body. It is best to do this exercise in a room with an open window. If one does this exercise outside, one can also practice facing the rising sun and, in that case, also visualize one absorbing the yang qi and warmth of the sun as they inhale. One can also do this exercise after doing dao yin self-massage instead.

Hu Bin, in A Brief Introduction to the Science of Breathing, describes the following eight common, normal reactions to qi gong practice. These are:

1. Profuse secretion of saliva

2. Improved sense of mental clarity

3. Improved and sound sleep

4. Warm sensations in various body parts

5. Better digestion and improved appetite

6. Light itching and involuntary muscular contractions

7. Active body metabolism as evidenced by increased normal bodily secretions and faster growth of hair, nails and beard

8. Mental and physical relaxation and a sense of harmony and ease[4]

All these signs and symptoms show that healthy organ function is increased, there is abundant qi and blood, and that yin and yang are in harmonious balance.

Qi gong can be very powerful and it is best to learn qi gong from a qualified instructor. It is important not to strain when doing qi gong, not to do too much qi gong, and not to do qi gong immediately after a meal. If one experiences headaches, pain in the chest or ribs, pain or stuffiness below the ribs, or abdominal distention, one is either doing too much qi gong or is not relaxing enough. These are symptoms of qi stagnation. In this case, one should stop doing qi gong and see either a qi gong instructor or Chinese doctor or both.

This article is adapted from Imperial Secrets of Health & Longevity by Bob Flaws, published by Blue Poppy Press

You might also want to checkout the longevity books on MKEttingtonbooks.com  which includes another Qi Gong book.