“What Is Medical Qigong?”


China is, always has been and always will be a highly complicated society – a civilisation state, as opposed to a nation state. Everything that the inhabitants of that country do hinges heavily on the region in which that art or activity was developed.

What Is Medical Qigong? Qigong means different things to different segments of Chinese society. To the followers of Confucius, Qigong was invented to promote longevity and improve moral character. To the followers of Buddha, Qigong assists with meditation. In Chinese martial arts, Qigong makes you a better fighter. However, what we are genuinely interested in is the function of Qigong in traditional Chinese medicine – which is to prevent and cure illness.  

The latter is what we will interrogate at length in this blog post. We imagine that this blog post about Medical Qigong will be of particular interest to the elderly.  

At its core, Medical Qigong promotes the view that one can cultivate and balance his/her life energy. It is an all-encompassing practice that takes into account body posture, movement, breathing and meditation.

Medical Qigong and the United States Government

To the Western mind, Medical Qigong, this still sounds a little vague because a lot of it still is at this juncture.  

Western medicine is still wrapping its head around what can and cannot be achieved by Medical Qigong.

Among those still learning about Medical Qigong is the United States government, through studies being conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH).

Of particular interest to this body is the possible impact Medical Qigong can have when trying to combat Parkinson’s disease, knee osteoarthritis, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.

As is the case with most medical efforts in the United States – or anywhere else in the Western World for that matter – a series of clinical trials are being conducted with the view to finding long term solutions.

What the NIH does appear to know at this juncture is that Medical Qigong does mitigate the effects of some diseases. The key word often bandied about under these circumstances is pain and how to address it. Nothing terrifies the human being more than pain – unless you are James Bond ofcourse.

There is – and probably always has been – compelling evidence to suggest that Medical Qigong and Tai Chi practices help reduce pain in those suffering with knee osteoarthritis. There is also compelling evidence to suggest that the quality of life can be significantly improved for those suffering from heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.

There are few things in life more terrifying than Parkinson’s. The notion that you no longer have control over balance and stability is psychologically crippling. Medical Qigong and Tai Chi practices appear to provide some meaningful and compelling answers to this predicament too.

Admittedly, the jury is still out on just how meaningful Medical Qigong is for those struggling with neck pain. The NIH contends that the results are somewhat mixed here.

Medical Qigong and Falling in Older People

What we do know for certain – and this honestly goes without saying – is that Medical Qigong and Tai Chi practices are safe. All you really need is a decent instructor to help ensure that your efforts are not being counter productive or wasteful.

For closed minded reasons, Eastern techniques are not always welcomed by the Western and scientific communities. However, Medical Qigong has been a genuine hit in this field. A 2012 medical review determined that without question, Medical Qigong reduced falling in older people.

The scientists also say it reduces the risk of falling. But why does the risk of falling matter as much as falling itself? Well, the fear of falling can be psychologically crippling in itself and severely detrimental to one’s health.

Traditionally Western communities have been heavily reliant on things like resistance training and stretching for people grappling with Parkinson’s. A 2012 determination is that Medical Qigong is more useful in tackling balance and stability issues that come with the territory when you have Parkinson’s.

That is something to think about.

Medical Qigong and Knee Osteoarthritis

Historically, medical professionals have advocated for stretching and an education to help improve bodily function for those suffering with knee and joint problems. The results reached after a series of clinical studies have revealed that pain reduction is significant when practising Medical Qigong.

Medical Qigong and Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is often associated with fatigue, sleep, memory and severe mood swings. It is also devastatingly painful. Historically, wellness education and stretching have been the preferred techniques.

The jury has always been out on just how effective those techniques are though. At the core of those techniques was the desire to help people with Fibromyalgia symptoms sleep better. That is ultimately the one thing that is most affected when you are grappling with Fibromyalgia. The failure to secure decent sleep then affects every other aspect of your life.

There are studies which strongly suggest that Medical Qigong – implemented properly – is better at mitigating the symptoms of Fibromyalgia.

A considerable amount of that has to do with the mind.

As with anything that claims to heal, regulation can be a major impediment. What are you allowed and not allowed to do in the United States? In the American context, no regulation is required at all for Medical Qigong or Tai Chi.

There is also no national standard for Medical Qigong and that is something that needs to be carefully considered. You probably aren’t going to die if a fake instructor pulls the wool over your eyes but you can lose a considerable amount of money.

You have to be very methodical about where and how you are getting treated. You also don’t want to be wasting your time, when your condition is deteriorating. So, be very vigilant on that score.

Medical Qigong and Its Journey Through Time

According to some experts, the origins of Qigong are traced to as far back as the Tang dynasty, which governed between 618-907. However, back then the concept was very different. According to “Experiences in Healing with Qi Gong” – published by Liu Guizhen in 1957 – Medical Qigong only really became a meaningful concept in the 20th century.

That is Liu Guizhen’s claim anyway. However, it does go without saying that this is a contested view.

Historian Li Zhiyong, citing the discovery of a Neolithic vessel in Northwest China during the last century, claims there is compelling evidence to suggest that the exercises associated with Qigong date back as far as 7000 years. Is there ever any real way of knowing then?

Li thinks that the priest-shamans of 7000 years ago were the first to master this art. There are several other theories and findings that contradict this. However, the common theme throughout all of the arguments is that the Chinese are the custodians of the art form and that they have been its custodians since as far back as man can remember.

The techniques are distinctly Eastern and they help define China’s cultural identity – that of a civilisation state more advanced that anybody could have imagined.

Medical Qigong in the Modern Age

John Voigt is a practicing Qigong Master and has explored the more recent phenomenon that is Medical Qigong at great length. To be a Master, you have done your own extensive studies. That goes without saying.

He builds his argument on the thread created by Liu Guizhen midway through the last century. According to him – and this is relatively common knowledge now – Medical Qigong is essentially the integration of body, breath and mind.

Almost every element of scientific and medical research that has been conducted in this field during the past 50 years has the works of Liu Guizhen as a foundation on which to build.

It is also rather extraordinary because some of the initial advances that were made in this field were during a period in history where China was being ravaged by war. Has the timing for such medical development ever been more appropriate?

Liu Guizhen himself had significant problems with illness – Nervous disorders, tuberculosis, and severe gastric ulcers to be precise. It is therefore no surprise that a man searching for medical answers would eventually become a pioneer in a field that has now been exported to the rest of the world.

Interestingly, Voigt reports that the regimen followed by Liu Guizhen during this period of recovery was intense and focused. There is talk about there being no conversation, no sexual activity and no visitation during the 100 days that Liu Guizhen was at it.

Voigt also reports that there was no bathing, no hair cutting, no cutting of finger or toe nails either. A rather extraordinary business really. Now, given that Liu Guizhen was receiving this instruction and treatment from another, more senior source does suggest that the medical phenomenon is not as modern as we pretend.

However, it is safe to acknowledge that Medical Qigong became the global and known phenomenon that it is because of Liu Guizhen’s role.

It also goes without saying that Liu Guizhen regained his health after those 100 days – like something out of a Hollywood movie really.

The Secrets Behind the Miracle of Liu Guizhen

At first glance Medical Qigong is not a complicated practice, by any stretch of the imagination. Well, that is because it really isn’t. However, because we live in an increasingly fast world, the opportunities to practice this form of healing in the manner in which the old Masters did it is near impossible.

Where does somebody find the time to make that level of commitment, unless a man is on his deathbed? The man who treated Liu Guizhen was his Uncle Liu Duzhou.

According to sources Uncle Liu told him that “By silently repeating a phrase while focusing mental awareness below the navel, brain activity was slowed and the inner organs were strengthened. Doing this improved mental and physical well-being which consequently

prolonged life.”

Liu Guizhen then took that and other information back to the Chinese Communist Party, which was grappling with a national health crisis at the time. And with that, the phenomenon was born.

Many of those techniques have been since been developed and enhanced.

The Fight Against Cancer Continues

The United States National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health has been grappling with this matter at length and not with a considerable amount of success – it must be said.

Qigong definitely isn’t a cure. We know that much. In a journal published online by the United States National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, in 2012, some interesting findings were made.

Chief among them was that Medical Qigong can and should often be used by cancer patients to manage some of their pain-related symptoms. The jury has always been out on just how effective the treatment is.

They reported that in total, there were 23 studies conducted to help create some clarity on this subject. They then add that 15 of those studies were examined and interrogated at greater length – to help determine some of the more significant biomedical outcomes of the treatments.

From those studies, the consistent threat appears to be that patients treated with the Medical Qigong method recorded significant improvement in immune function. The success rate was far greater than that which has been achieved by patients treated with the more conventional methods – a major win for Eastern medicine.

The Trauma of Parkinson’s Disease

The United States National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health also published a comprehensive study on this field recently. Studies were conducted on ten subjects who had moderate conditions.

Among the big issues with Parkinson’s is the difficulty experienced when trying to sleep. The Medical Qigong methods were all used to assist with their treatment. The more modern sessions ranged from 15 to 20 minutes – under the supervision of an instructor.

The medical experts point out that six healing sounds were used during this specific treatment. They include the Hsu Sound, Her Sound, Hoo Sound, Sss Sound, Chway Sound and the See Sound.

According to the United States National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, the following description was provided for the Hsu Sound:

– When inhaling, lift up both arms/hands the body to chest level, with the palms facing up and elbow joints fully extended, and then move the hands towards the chest. Exhale as the arms/hands move down. During the slow exhalation, chant “shh.” Repeat the sound and movement six times.

The following description was provided for the Her Sound:

When inhaling, lift up both arms/hands near the body to the chest level with the palms facing up. Begin to exhale. During exhalation, chant “her” and continue to slowly move arms/hands up up to the eyebrow level. Inhale while moving arms/hands down. Convert to exhalation when the hands pass the chest level and continue to move arms/hands down. Repeat the sound and movement six times.

The following description was provided for the Hoo Sound:

When inhaling, lift up both arms/hands near the body to chest level with palms facing up. Then, begin to exhale and chant “who” while slowly moving your left hand up and right hand down in a diagonal direction until the end of exhalation. Inhale and move left hand down and right hand up to the chest level again. Convert to exhalation and chant “who” while slowly moving the left hand up and the right hand down in a diagonal direction until the end of exhalation. Repeat the sound and movement three times.

The following description was provided for the Sss Sound:

When inhaling, lift up both arms/hands to the chest level with palms facing up. Begin to exhale. During exhalation, chant “sss” while slowly pushing the hands forward and then down to both sides until the end of exhalation. Repeat the sound and movement six times.

The following description was provided for the Chway Sound:

When inhaling, lift up both arms/hands through the back of trunk to the front of the chest as if holding a large ball. Begin to exhale. During exhalation, chant “chway” while slowly moving both hands down over an imaginary ball until touching the thighs. Bend both knees down slightly while you circle your hands down over the ball. Repeat the sound and movement six times.

The following description was provided for the See Sound:

When inhaling, lift up both arms/hands near the body to the chest level with palms facing up. Begin to exhale. During exhalation, chant “see” and continue to slowly lift up hands above the head until the end of exhalation. Begin to inhale while slowly moving down arms/hands along the same path. Begin to exhale again when the hands pass the chest and continue to move arms/hands down until the end of exhalation. Repeat the sound and movement six times.

Medical Qigong and Parkinson’s Analysis

What the good doctors learned after conducting their studies was that eight of the subjects had managed to complete the full regimen. The two elements that were examined and scrutinized in particular were quality of sleep and inflammation.

In all of those cases there was little doubt that the sleep improved significantly and the inflammation was significantly reduced.

That is it for now. Live Long and Prosper!


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