You may have seen images from China of people gathered in parks performing slow and graceful movements. They are doing Chi Kung (Qi Gong). It is a form of Chinese movement exercise that has existed for thousands of years under many different names and styles. It forms the basis for the better known martial art, T’ai Chi. Much of the theory behind Chi Kung is common to Chinese medicine and some hospitals in China, including those who practice Western medicine, still have a Chi Kung department where they ‘prescribe’ Chi Kung exercises for specific health problems. It also has roots in Daoism, Buddhism and earlier Chinese philosophies such as the theory of the Five Elements.
Chi Kung is usually translated in English as ‘energy work’. It comprises of individual exercises to loosen the joints and release muscular tension, static postures, walking forms, breathing techniques and meditations. The movements are gentle and flowing and are performed in a relaxed yet focused way. The forms are rarely complex and this simplicity quickly allows you to reach a point where you do not need to ‘think’ about the mechanics of the exercise or what should happen next. Instead you can focus on the intention of the movements, co-ordinate movement with breath, enjoy the sensations of ‘chi’ within the body and to experience the practices on a deeper, more internal level.