With focused attention and graceful flowing movements, qigong is often described as poetry in motion. However, there is much more to this old Chinese discipline than being an art form.
The four pillars of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) encompass acupuncture, herbal medicine, bodywork, and exercise. They are based on the TCM theory that the unblocked flow of qi (energy) interrelated with the natural world leads to balance and harmony, which leads to good health. Qigong (pronounced chee-gong), on the exercise branch of TCM, is considered to be the mother of TCM.
There are many styles of Qigong with Taiji being the most practiced. However, they all embrace the basic principles of energy where through graceful movement, concentration, and focus on the breath, one’s subtle energy will flow freely leading to better physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Qigong is sometimes referred to as dynamic meditation, Chinese yoga, or acupuncture with no needles. In general, practicing qigong improves circulation, lubricates the joints, and helps improve balance. However, each routine in a qigong practice has other benefits intrinsic to the goal of the routine.
You can get a sense of the qigong principles with the interconnection between the physical body, the subtle body, and the environment through the 5 Element Qigong practice. Here’s an overview of 5 Element Qigong and how it’s connected to the elements. At the end of the explanation is a link to qigong teacher, Mimi Kuo-Deemer, demonstrating and explaining 5 Elements Qigong.
5 Elements Qigong
Through specific body movements, breath awareness, and mindfulness the practitioner connects with the five elements and what they represent. 5 Element Qigong brings balance to the body’s five main organs through their associated elements.
The five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water are cornerstones of TCM. The characteristics of the elements are connected with the five principal organs of the body. The qi (pronounced chee) or energy that is in all things including the elements and humans fluctuates daily and seasonally. Humans, because they are a part of nature, are connected to the elements through qi.
Wood associates with the liver and gallbladder. The energy of wood is profuse during the spring when plants begin to sprout and grow. It’s the energy of youth and rebirth. Wood is connected to the heart meridian. Anger and arrogance are emotional symptoms of blocked liver energy. Physically, there are issues with digestion. Wood qigong encourages kindness and promotes proper digestion.
Fire element relates to the heart, small intestines, and the body’s thermostat. It is the summer element. When unbalanced, a person is anxious and restless. Insomnia, heart problems, and mouth sores are signs of blocked heart energy. A fire qigong practice clears a blocked heart to restore compassion and center a person. It also helps to regulate body temperature.
Earth is associated with the stomach and spleen. It’s associated with the late summer. When the earth element is blocked, a person is obsessive and in a constant state of worry. Conditions related to food present themselves, such as food sensitivities and eating disorders. Earth qigong routine unblocks energy to allow for sincerity and sympathy.
Metal is the element for lungs and large intestines. It relates to the autumn when nature slows down and lets go. Deep sadness and grief are characteristics of blocked metal energy. A metal qigong routine heals sorrow.
Water connects with the bladder and kidneys. Blocked energy from this meridian leads to issues with urination, fertility, and phobias. It is the winter element. Balanced, a person has stamina, perseverance, and knows the essence of who he or she is.
People of all ages and backgrounds practice Qigong. Last year the Wall Street Journal did a piece on then 72-year-old George Siedel, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business who practices qigong daily. He says it improves his golf and tennis games. He learned while in Beijing and seeing people do qigong in the park.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and qigong are rooted in profound philosophical principles, practices, observations, and evolving systems. This article only touches on the basics of qigong. The qigong discipline has been practiced down through the centuries in China and beyond Chinese borders. This speaks to the benefits people experience from practicing qigong.
Chung, Raymond, PhD DPA FRSA FRSPH. The Basic Content of the Five Elements Theory. Retrieved from http://www.tcmbasics.com/basics_5elements.htm.
Fundamental of Practicing Qigong. Retrieved from https://www.qigonginstitute.org/category/4/getting-started.
Kuo-Deemer, Mimi. Teacup Qigong video. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUP0kwioXT0.
Kuo-Deemer, Mimi. 5 Element Qigong video. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6Y8QSVyYhM.
Murphy, Jen. A Business Professor’s Fitness Secret: Qigong (April 22, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-business-professors-fitness-secret-qigong-1492858805.
Rahnke, Roger, Dr. Introductory articles on Qigong and Taiji. Retrieved from http://feeltheqi.com/articles/intro_articles.htm.
The Five Elements. Retrieved from http://www.acupuncture-online.com/tradition3.htm.