Qi Gong Therapies

In TCM, Qi Gong may be practiced routinely by the physician while performing acupuncture, or after needle stimulation, without specifying this to the patient, or it may be used as a primary gi gong therapy, either instructing the patient in useful therapeutic techniques and qi gong exercises, or in physician techniques of an energetic nature which are usually combined with a light massage. Qi Gong is a purely practical and scientifically proven therapeutic practice, that works to establish a better mind-body regulation and harmony. The combined focus of coordination of body movement, breathing and mental visualization define the qi gong experience in simple terms.

Qi Gong literally means working with Qi. Qi is an abstract concept that means various things in context, and like the word energy, has no specific meaning as a thing in and of itself. In one context it means energetic function in the body, in another it may refer to breathing and respiration of gases. Qi may also refer to specific functions of bodily systems such as the workings of the liver metabolism or the endocrine system, or it may refer to circulation or vitality, depending on the context of use. Qi is tangible in the sense that one may perceive sensations related to the increase and flow of various types of qi. Just like energy may be felt from the heat of a flame, qi may be felt when focus is applied and energetic work is achieved in therapy. The needle stimulation in acupuncture should create what is called in TCM de qi, or the “obtaining of qi”, which is felt by both the patient and the acupuncturist.

Working with Qi, or Qi Gong, may involve patient learning of techniques such as Tai Chi (Ji), or it may involve various practices by the physician. The term Tai Chi was coined as the name of the qi gong practice developed by qi gong masters, or buddhist priests, in the Sung Dynasty of 960-1279 AD, for the aid of a reknowned boxing champion. In about 1736, this developed martial disclipline was called Tai Chi to denote it as the “supreme ultimate” of root martial arts training. There are many forms and exercises in Qi Gong practice, though, and the patient may learn simple qi gong exercises to benefit their specific health problem and cure, or more elaborate qi gong forms.

The TCM physician usually has studied some Qi Gong from various masters and incorporated this into their life and practice. In the medical practice, this is usually part of the daily practice of patient care in acupuncture, much of which depends on the development of subtle techniques and skills, some of which are mechanical and some of which are energetic, and requires some techniques of focus and transmission. This is sort of like the ability of a fine musician. It takes more than simple mechanics to produce great sound from a violin. The virtuoso musician works with a developed sense of energetic focus to produce a superior sound. In like manner, the TCM physician develops Qi Gong to enhance the success of acupuncture and energetic healing.

An example of a Qi Gong medical practice proving to be beneficial in treatment is demonstrated with a 2002 study of humming to improve chronic sinusitis, a hallmark of allergic sinus pathology. A classic Qi Gong therapy taught to patients involves vocalization of tones focused on various parts of the body. Humming, or tonal vocalization, was found to increase nitric oxide production 15-fold, and enhance sinus ventilation, in a study at Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. To see the study summary, click here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12119224. Further study, published in The European Respiratory Journal in 2003, confirmed this finding. This is just one example of how modern research is proving the benefits of a variety of medical Qi Gong practices. By 2011, innumberable scientific studies of medical Qi Gong have proven objectively, even in randomized human clinical trials, that Qi Gong practice and patient exercises do have tangible treatment benefits.

The patient may be given simple targeted qi gong exercises in my therapy. If not, they may ask to be shown such exercises. They may also receive qi gong therapy as part of the overall treatment, often when they are lying on the treatment table with the acupuncture stimulation. If desired, the patient may receive a focused qi gong massage therapy, similar to the Japanese Reiki, where a mind-body focus and patient participation is most important to therapeutic outcomes. The patient should ask for this type of therapy, specifically, and understand the goals of the therapy. Some knowledge of qi gong beforehand is important when utilizing this type of focused qi gong therapy. As one continues to grow in gi gong talent and awareness, the benefits of qi gong are increased exponentially. Once again, it is the patient who is doing the essential work, and the physician is facilitating. Understanding Daoism and the connection to the macrocosm as important to your health and well-being is also important in qi gong therapy and exercise. Mindfulness is an essential tool. In recent years, many scientific studies have confirmed the dramatic benefits of mindfulness, showing improved mental function, growth in cortical areas of the brain associated with memory and attention, and prevention of cortical thinning in aging. To see a review of this scientific study by the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), click here: http://marc.ucla.edu/workfiles/pdfs/MARC-mindfulness-research-summary.pdf. While this type of healthy exercise is of course strange and unfamiliar to most patients, more and more patients are realizing the long-term tangible benefits.

The practice of Qi Gong mindfulness also aids social relationships and secures an improved sense of identity and emotional security. Qi Gong helps one to harmonize their past, present and future; their identity, their being in the present, and their goals; their groundedness, their outward vision, and their sense of the infinite, or heaven (macrocosmos). It also helps to harmonize respiration with bodily function and mental control, and well as achieve a better neuromuscular coordination, with focus on three elements, movement, breathing, and visualization. In Daoism, this all relates to the cosmological pattern of the three centers of Dan Tian in the body, which are located approximately at the hypothalamus, the thymus (behind the sternum), and the deep anterior spinal plexus, or adrenal loci, below the navel. The term Dan Tian literally means “cinnabar fields”, or “elixir fields”, and refers to the centers of mind-body control that are most important, with ancient reference to the historical use of alchemical elixirs to achieve longevity. In China, the word Dan, originally referring to natural mercury, then alchemical practices, came to have a broader meaning, though, implying any therapeutic practice that was transformative. The term Dan Tian thus cannot be literally interpreted, and is assumed to mean, in context, the 3 sites of transformative systems in the body. In other contexts, the term Dan Tian refers to three acupuncture points, Ren 4, 5, and 7, below the navel, usually called the gate of origin, the stone gate, and the intersection of Yin. The name Dan Tian is obviously derived from the early Daoist practices now referred to as alchemy, where cinnabar, the most common ore of mercury, called mercury sulfide, or vermillion, is still a useful Chinese mineral herb called Zhu sha, and was once central to the making of many of the alchemical elixirs to achieve macrobiotic transformation, health, longevity, and increased psychic abilities. The practices of Wai Dan include healthy regimens, including Tai Chi. Qi Gong practice has many components and variations as well, some simple and others complex.

How this actually helps to cure disease and relieve pain or discomfort is often unclear to the patient. Many Qi Gong practitioners tend to believe that the practice builds a special energetic force, and achieves a supernatural goal, but in reality, qi gong was widely practiced in ancient China as a practical means of increasing health and holistic function with a mind-body practice. The benefits will be self-explanatory to any patient that seriously takes up or utilizes the therapy or practices qi gong. One need not learn elaborate qi gong forms of movement and focus, and there is no evidence that one particular form is that much more beneficial than another, as many teachers purport. Patients may utilize one of hundreds, if not thousands, of common simple qi gong exercises to help improve their health and well being, and achieve a specific cure. Utilizing the TCM physician to instruct and prescribe these exercises is important to performance. Merely going through the mechanics of the qi gong forms is not the point of the practice, but rather the cultivation of true mind-body coordination and awareness. There is a great similarity between Qi Gong and Yoga.

Information Resources and Additional Information

  1. A 2015 study of the measurable physiological benefits of traditional Chinese Qi Gong therapy, at the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, showed that a short course of Qi Gong therapy for survivors of nasopharyngeal cancer, which has only a 38 percent 5-year survival rate for stage 4 cancers, and only a 72 percent 5-year survival rate for even stage 1 cancers, showed that this simple Qi Gong therapy could improve autonomic nervous system function and the psychological and cardiac health of these cancer survivors: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26157266
  2. A 2014 meta-review of all published human clinical trials of Qi Gong and Tai Chi therapy for cancer patients, by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Third Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, in Guangzhou, China, found that only 13 high quality randomized controlled human clinical trials have been published, but that positive effects on fatigue, immune function, and adrenal health, as well as quality of life, were established: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24559833
  3. A 2015 meta--review of randomized controlled human clinical trials of Qi Gong therapy, and the classic Qi Gong form called Tai Chi for treatment of depressive mood disorders, by The University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia, found 30 quality studies with 3228 participants that found robust evidence of the benefits of Qi Gong. although no benefit for the practice of Tai Chi, exercise, usual care or the use of patient counseling: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26275645
  4. A 2015 study at Masaryk University, St. Anne's Hospital, in the Czech Republic, and the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A. found that a variety of therapies in a holistic protcol, including Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and Yoga can improve the functonal balance and stability for Parkinson's patients, a very difficult disease to treat, for which there are few effective treatment modalities: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26236107
  5. The history of Qi gong practices, a term not really codified formally until the 20th century, includes the ancient practices of Dao yin, and the famous promotion of the Five Animal Frolics (forms), Wu Qin Xi, by the physician Huo Tuo. A brief history of this practice is provided on this website: http://www.egreenway.com/qigong/animalfrolics.htm