What is Qi? For me there is not yet a good answer. From the eastern perspective, Qi is the energy in the body that powers everything and keeps you alive. It can also be described as the energy of all living things, or the energy of the universe. Western science has quite a problem with this, since Qi has not been measured or isolated yet. There have been reports or claims that Qi has been measured, but for some reason, other investigators don’t seem to get the same results. Does this mean that Qi doesn’t exist? No, too many people have felt its presence and effects. What I teach is a combination of what I have learned from the east with western scientific reason added.
Then what is Qi? I will start off by explaining what it isn’t. There have been claims that it is simply bioelectricity. Unfortunately, the voltage and amperage generated in the body is not nearly enough to account for Qi’s actions and effects. Others say that Qi is magnetism or animal magnetism, but again, there is nothing in the body to generate the kind of power required. Other claims are even further from having any scientific basis.
The Chinese character for "Qi " is made up of two characters, "qi" (meaning air or breath) and "me" (meaning rice or food). Basically this means that your energy is produced in the body by combining air and food. Qigong = Qi and "gong" which means work, thus "energy work".
There is one good source for the power of Qi, the mind. Higher levels of the internal martial arts speak of the Mind leading the Qi. The power of the mind can be staggering. In studies of people with multiple personality disorder, some have been seen to manifest scars with one personality, and clear healthy skin seconds later with another personality. Medical science has found that people are able to literally heal themselves. Recent studies with basketball players have shown that visualizing the ball in the basket can improve shooting ability. Everyone has heard the story of a woman lifting a car off her child.
How does Qigong relate to this? Qigong is training the body and the mind to coordinate in a unique way, and in doing so, do things that without this training would be impossible.
Qigong starts off with calming the mind and relaxing the body. This is done with intentional controlled breathing, becoming aware of and relaxing all parts of the body, in turn, and one or more visualizations to aid in the relaxation. This is also called centering or becoming centered. This is a very useful state. It can lower blood pressure, release stress and tension, and allow one to focus more clearly on problems. You can actually measure the brain wave changes as one gets “song”. Song , pronounced between song and sung, roughly means relaxed, but not limp (literally: long loose hair). You will have more alpha waves, showing that you are relaxed. This state will also allow you to move faster and hit harder, if you are a martial artist. Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo spoke about a skilled practitioner having a “mind like water”. This was the state he was referring to.
Who can practice Qigong? Just about anyone who can walk steadily for 20 minutes without pain or loosing one’s breath. There are medical Qigong’s for treating various illnesses that can be done by those who are quite infirm, and there are even Qigong clinics in China for the terminally ill. There are Qigong that can be taught that are specifically for certain organs or groups of organs, but these will be for general tonification, rather than any specific treatment, in the YuLi system, unless prescribed by an OMD or AP. There are some contra-indications for Qigong: If you have or will be getting an organ transplant, if you have an active case of diarrhea, if you are taking an immuno-suppresive drug, if you have an untreated broken bone, or if you are having a psychotic episode or event.
To practice Qigong, students should wear loose, comfortable clothing, without anything binding or limiting movement. Bare feet, socks or outdoor tabi (a kind of Japanese sock with a firm sole) are good, depending on the flooring. Flat-soled sneakers are OK too. Cell phones, beepers and the like are not allowed, and tight or heavy jewelry is also not allowed. Since there will be a lot of deep breathing, wearing of perfume, cologne or heavily scented deodorants is also not a good idea. You should be well hydrated, and not intoxicated.Chinese medicine treats the whole body, along with any specific treatments needed for a patient’s particular complaint. The Qigong that are taught in YuLi Qigong will be for the whole body too, whether you look to the medical or the martial side of the practice. It also includes the mystical side of the practice.
How does western science enter the picture? There is a lot of new information about how the body works. Recent discoveries include the finding that the digestive system actually has a nervous system almost as complex as the spine. This gives new meaning to the old expression “gut feeling”. Qigong actually exercises and trains the abdominal area; some of the techniques are actually called “massaging the organs”. In addition, new information about how tendons and ligaments play a part in strength and speed has been discovered, and there are specific and general Qigong for this too. Where there is viable scientific information for an effect of Qi, this is explained. There are some things that are done, just because of tradition, but these are because I have not been able to find justification for changing it.