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Qigong or chi kung is an aspect of traditional Chinese medicine involving the coordination of different breathing patterns with various physical postures and motions of the body. Qigong is mostly taught for health maintenance purposes, but there are also some who teach it as a therapeutic intervention. Various forms of traditional qigong are also widely taught in conjunction with Chinese martial arts, and are especially prevalent in the advanced training of what are known as the Neijia, or internal martial arts where the object is the full mobilization and proper coordination and direction of the energies of the body as they are applied to facilitate all physical actions.
There are currently more than 3,300 different styles and schools of qigong. Qigong relies on the traditional Chinese belief that the body has something that might be described as an "energy field" generated and maintained by the natural respiration of the body, known as qi. Qi means breath or gas in Chinese, and, by extension, the energy produced by breathing that keeps us alive; gong means work applied to a discipline or the resultant level of technique. Qigong is then "breath work" or the art of managing one's breathing in order to achieve and maintain good health, and (especially in the martial arts) to enhance the energy mobilization and stamina of the body in coordination with the physical process of respiration.
Attitudes toward the scientific basis (or lack of it) for qigong vary markedly. Most Western medical practitioners and many practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, as well as the Chinese government, view qigong as a set of breathing and movement exercises, with possible benefits to health through stress reduction and exercise. Others see qigong in more metaphysical terms, claiming that breathing and movement exercises can help one tap the fundamental energies of the universe.
Additional recommended knowledge
Today millions of people in China and around the world regularly practice qigong as a health maintenance exercise. Qigong and related disciplines are still associated with the martial arts and meditation routines practiced by Taoist and Buddhist monks, professional martial artists, and their students. Once more closely guarded, in the modern era such practices have become widely available to the general public both in China and around the world.
Medical qigong treatment has been officially recognized as a standard medical technique in Chinese hospitals since 1989. It has been included in the curriculum of major universities in China. After years of debate, the Chinese government decided to officially manage qigong through government regulation in 1996 and has also listed qigong as part of their National Health Plan.
Qigong can help practitioners to learn Diaphragmatic breathing, an important component of the relaxation response, which is important in combating stress. In contrast, Taoist qigong employs the inverse breath of inhaling to the back of the thoracic cavity rather than so-called Diaphragmatic breathing. Improper use of Diaphragmatic breathing can lead to reproductive pathologies for women. (Nan Huai-Chin, 南懷瑾（1918年——）, Meditation and the cultivation of immortality, Gu lu press, Tawain 1991 p.59)
Yan Xin (嚴新), a doctor of both Western and Chinese medicine as well as founder of the relatively popular Yan Xin Qigong school, suggests that in order for qigong to be accepted by the modern world it must pass the test of scientific study. Without such studies, Yan maintains, qigong will be dismissed as "superstition" (see "Criticism of Qigong" chapter below). In the mid-1980s he and others began systematic study of qigong in some research institutions in China and the United States. More than 20 papers      have been published.
Taijiquan, a martial art based on the principles of internal qigong, appears to be a potent intervention to prevent falls in the elderly, maintain joint mobility, and improve balance.
In 2003 the Chinese Government respectively their mass-organization "Chinese Health QiGong Association" presented the newly developed four Health Qigong Exercises.
Qigong and its intimate relation to the Chinese martial arts are often associated with spirituality. Therefore, for many centuries the popular imagination has placed it in the province of the religious practitioners. This link is much stronger than with other techniques in traditional Chinese medicine. Qigong was historically practiced extensively in Taoist and Buddhist monasteries as an adjunct to martial arts training, and the claimed benefits of martial qigong practice are widely known in East Asian martial traditions and popular culture. In addition, the traditional teaching methods of most qigong schools (at least in Asia) descend from the strict teacher-disciple relationship conventions inherited in Chinese culture from Confucianism.
In some styles of qigong, it is taught that humanity and nature are inseparable, and any belief otherwise is held to be an artificial discrimination based on a limited, two-dimensional view of human life. According to this philosophy, access to higher energy states and the subsequent health benefits said to be provided by these higher states is possible through the principle of cultivating virtue (de or te 德, see Tao Te Ching, chapters 16, 19, 28, 32, 37, and 57). Cultivating virtue could be described as a process by which one comes to realize that one was never separated from the primal, undifferentiated state of being free of artificial discrimination that is the true nature of the universe. Progress toward this goal can be made with the aid of deep relaxation (meditation), and deep relaxation is facilitated by the practice of qigong.
Criticisms of qigong
Much of the criticism of qigong involves its claimed method of operation. Both traditional Chinese and Western medicine practitioners have little argument with the notion that qigong can improve and in many cases maintain health by encouraging movement, increasing range of motion, and improving joint flexibility and resilience. However, the benefits of qigong become much more controversial when it is asserted that qigong derives its benefits from qi acting as a kind of "biological plasma" that cannot be detected by scientific instruments. Many biologists and physicists are skeptical of these claims and regard them as pseudoscientific.
Association of qigong with practices involving spirit possession have added to establishment criticism. Some experts in China have warned against practices involving the claimed evocation of demons, and practices involving the worship of gods during qigong practice.
Many proponents of qigong claim that they can directly detect and manipulate qi. Others, including some traditional Chinese practitioners, believe that qi can be viewed as a metaphor for certain biological processes, and the effectiveness of qigong can also be explained in terms of concepts more familiar to Western medicine such as stress management.
Controversies within qigong
In the 1980s and 1990s, the increasing popularity of qigong and related practices led to the establishment of many groups and methods in China and elsewhere that have been viewed in a critical light by more traditional qigong practitioners as well as by skeptical outside observers. In their view, a large number of people started studying qigong under inadequate supervision, indeed, perhaps the majority of people today who study qigong work from books or video tapes and DVDs without supervision by a teacher. This laxness can lead to several problems, according to those who view themselves as representative of orthodox schools. Most traditional training takes many years of practice under the supervision of someone who has also learned over years, someone who can guide and prevent the student from taking an unbalanced approach to qigong practice. The othodox practitioners warn that improperly supervised practice can cause unbalanced circulation of inner energies that can eventually lead to unbalanced effects on the various systems of the body, both mental and physical.
Stories of unguided practitioners or inexpertly guided students developing chronic mental and physical health problems as a result of such training are not uncommon. The term "Qi Gong-Induced Psychosis" was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, of the American Psychiatric Association in the late 1990s, and is described as a culturally bound disorder with painful psychosomatic symptoms. Dr. Arthur Kleinman and Dr. Sing Lee from Harvard Medical School, researchers on various psychiatric topics in China, suggest that in international psychiatry this illness would be recognized as “…a specific type of brief reactive psychosis or as the precipitation of an underlying mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or posttraumatic stress disorder.”
Lee and Kleinman both claim to have had experience with patients suffering from the condition. "Many kinds of qigong share certain similarities, such as the attainment of a trance state, patterned bodily posture or movement…, the practice of which could induce mental illnesses in some of its practitioners."
Qigong and the People's Republic of China
While some historians have suggested that in the early days of rule by the People's Republic of China there was a drive to promote the Traditional Chinese Medicine aspects of Qigong to a quasi-religious status (and therefore deviate from standard communist government policy on religion), the PRC has most recently attempted to reposition the definition of qigong to a traditional Chinese sport involving "deep breathing exercises" rather than anything to do with Qi as energy. Xinhua News Agency articles have also attempted to explain the healing "Qi emissions" of Qigong masters as a type of hypnotherapy or placebo effect. This attitude to qigong may be related to Falun Gong and Zhong Gong, which practice their own form of qigong which they claim to be for spiritual development. In the process of cracking down on the practice, The PRC government created a set of rules for qigong groups practicing in the country.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Qigong". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|