Qi Gong is the Chinese word for “life energy.” According to Chinese medicine,
qi is the animating power that flows through all living things. It is also the
life energy one senses in nature. The earth itself is moving, transforming,
breathing and alive with qi.
Gong means “work” or “benefits acquired through perseverance and practice.”
Thus, qi gong mean working with the life energy, learning how to control the
flow and distribution of qi to improve the health and harmony of mind and
Qi Gong is a holistic system of self-healing exercise and meditation, an
ancient, evolving practice that includes healing posture, movement,
self-massage, breathing techniques, and meditation. Through these various
methods, qi is accumulated and stored in the body, like filling a reservoir.
Impure or polluted qi—the essence of disease—can also be cleansed and refined
into pure, healing qi. The goal of some qi gong practices is to discharge and
eliminate the impure qi in a manner analogous to breathing. Breathing is a
process of absorbing a pure source of energy, oxygen and eliminating the impure,
carbon dioxide. Like proper breathing, qi gong practice can make this exchanged
Qi Gong is called a “practice or training” because, unlike medication it is
not “prescribed” for a limited period of time, but rather, practiced daily. This
is easy to do because qi gong is as enjoyable as any sport, yet does not require
a great expenditure of time or money. Students generally practice an average of
twenty to forty minutes each day. There is no need for special equipment or a
large workout space.
Every change in our state of health is reflected in numerous electrical and
biochemical changes that occur throughout the body. Although we cannot say that
any particular compound is qi, scientists in both China and the West have noted
that certain biochemicals behave like qi and may help explain how qi gong
The sensation of being full of qi, whether as a result of one’s own practice
or of receiving external qi from a healer, corresponds to an increase in the
body’s endorphins. If this is the only reason why qi gong feels good or reduces
pain, then administering the endorphin blocker naloxone should prevent qi from
having the usual effects. This has been experimentally tested in China. When
reacts were subjected to a painful electric stimulus, external qi treatment
reduced their pain significantly. Naloxone could only partially block this
effect. This means that endorphins are a correlate of qi, but that qi is more
Anyone can practice qi gong. There are techniques suitable for every age and
physical condition. Qi Gong includes standing, seated, and supine methods. With
only slight adjustments in technique, it is possible to practice most standing
exercises from a seated or lying position. This makes qi gong an ideal exercise
for cancer patients.
Active qi gong includes stretching, deep breathing, low impact conditioning,
and isometrics. It increases range of motion, builds strength, increases
stamina, and improves balance and coordination. Internally, qi gong movements
relax the fascia, the connective tissue that holds the internal organs in place,
allowing the organs to work more efficiently. But qi gong is more than exercise
or sports. Qi gong’s unique combination of movement, breath, and meditation
improves the functioning of virtually all of the systems of the body and has
both preventative and curative effects.
The form or routine that is currently being taught at St. Mary’s Cancer
Center is referred to as “Soaring Crane.” This form of qi gong focuses both on
the cultivation and the movements of qi throughout the body for complete health.
With equal attention devoted to both Yin and Yang is a good form for both men
and women. The complex nature of this form also supports the ability to focus
and learn many components of qi gong. Dr. Larry Sossey recommends “Soaring
Crane” in his book, Reinventing Medicine.