The experience of practising Qigong is unique – there is no other form of health or fitness regime that I have tried that brings benefits so quickly and with no side effects.

As a beginner students are taught five basic sets of exercises which promote suppleness in the body, and stimulate the flow of Qi through the meridians of the arms and legs. However, these movements do not involve physical force – the mind must always lead the body. Students also learn a standing meditation which allows the mind to move into a more tranquil and relaxed state. Even at this early stage one can begin to feel the body moving from a tense resistant state into a looser one. With daily practice the mind becomes more focussed and quiet. After an initial three months training period, some students will begin to experience Ji Fa Gong or spontaneous movement during Qigong training. The movements are unique to each practitioner – they can imitate animals, be graceful and quiet or loud and explosive. This is a ‘self healing’ phase of Qigong.

As an advanced student, I have been through all these stages and have progressed to learn new sets of exercises and new Ji Fa Gong. The main benefit that I have had is that I can cope with stress in a better way. I am by no means stress free, but I can tell very easily when I am stressed and can relax my self. One of the main things I have also noticed is that my posture is better and my and my body is not so stiff. These sorts of benefits came to me quite quickly, and over my two years of training so far I have also seen various more subtle, rather than physical benefits. Qigong definitely changes your outlook on life whether you have problems beforehand or not. I find myself understanding and relating to other people much more easily, even if they are not always pleasant people. My intuitive ability has also increased. In general my health is better. Although I have no serious health problems I can still feel benefits. For example I now hardly ever get cold or flu, and if I do feel ill it is over in a few days.

By practising Qigong the meridians become freer and healing of the internal organs can take place. A healthier physical body makes for a quieter mind. In Chinese medicine theory, emotions can also affect the Qi flow in the internal organs – imbalances here are the hardest to correct. Ji Fa Gong is a very good way of healing this problem.

Breathing and posture

Breathing is one way in which Qi is taken into the body. The lungs regulate intake of Qi and it is distributed to the body. Posture is related to breathing, as a poor posture can tighten the chest and cause breathing to become fast and shallow instead of relaxed and deep. In Qigong practice, great importance is placed on correct posture from the very beginning. At first this can be difficult and painful because our bodies are not used to it. Eventually the body becomes more relaxed and breathing becomes fuller and deeper by itself. Qi intake and circulation is very much improved.

As already mentioned the body meridians relate to internal organs and the sets of exercises that are learnt promote Qi and stretch the limbs in a specific way. The movements that occur spontaneously in Ji Fa Gong also relate to the energy trying to break through blockages in the meridians and organs. Once a practitioner reaches a fairly advanced state and the meridians are much freer and the energy really begins to heal the internal organs. Ji Fa Gong can look very different at this stage – the movements are different and the energy feels different. At this point I myself can feel the energy moving in a different way and healing on a deeper level.

Lifestyle

A busy mind can be called negative pollution in the body because quite often in normal life, like stress, we do not realise that we suffer from it. The most valuable thing for me about Qigong is that it is an excellent method of achieving a quieter mind. A busy mind is not efficient – it overworks unnecessarily and cannot become detached from problems. It is also hard to relax, and sleep does not refresh the body as it should. It is interesting to note that most Qigong practitioners actually need less sleep. When the mind becomes quieter through Qigong, one can feel a change in ‘mind power’ in everyday life. You can make better decisions think clearly and become more creative.

The key to Qigong is mind training – body and mind act as one. Through all the variations of movement and static exercise learnt the mind leads the body and there is no physical force. However there is no ‘intellectual’ method of practising Qigong – you practise without ‘thinking’ or ‘trying’.

A lot of people are very preoccupied with preconceived ideas about health and fitness to such an extent that they forget what the body is for. There are countless ‘regimes’ on how to be fit but none of them are concerned with being healthy. Being healthy should be natural and if we are functioning properly our bodies should be able to balance themselves. Qigong seems to be a way of putting us back in touch with our bodies. From my personal experience all of the senses are enhanced, especially

Taste and smell – food that is not right for me at a particular time does not appeal. The metabolism also seems to be regulated by itself.