By Ronald Davis Bozeman Chiropractic and Acupuncture

There has been a surge of interest in the past few years in the ancient Chinese mind-body practice of Qigong. We’re always looking for ways to enhance our health. With a 2000-year history of research and development, Qigong offers viable methods for accessing our natural healing powers.

Qi (pronounced ‘chee’) means “energy,” and gong means “to cultivate with time and effort.” Qi is the vital energy that keeps you alive. It comes from what you eat, the air you breathe and the natural environment. Gong refers to dedicated work that leads to fruitful results. Because the quality of human life depends on the abundance, purity and circulation of Qi, it’s important that we learn how to cultivate it.

Qigong is a method for developing vital energy with persistent practice using body movements, mental visualization and breathing techniques. These three main components of Qigong will have varying degrees of emphasis throughout the spectrum of Qigong exercises.

Movements can range from simple hand gestures to vigorous kung fu; mental intention is used to guide the Qi through specific energy centers and pathways of the body; breathing techniques are used to enhance and circulate the Qi in synchrony with body movements and postures.

The degree of physical movement in a Qigong exercise is related to the goal. More movement will have a direct effect on body function, while less movement will allow greater focus on the inner flow of Qi.

“External” Qigong exercises – like the 8 Brocades, Animal Frolics and Daoist Yoga – have been used for hundreds of years to keep the body strong and flexible. This type of Qigong is excellent for addressing the physical decline that often comes with aging. Athletes also use it to develop better coordination and balance.

The movements of “Internal” Qigong – like the Sacred Sounds – use hand gestures and placement to direct the Qi to specific regions of the body. In this case, the movements are secondary to breathing and visualization. The goal is to tap into our deepest energy reservoirs of energy.

Breathing is the most important thing we do. An ancient meaning for the word “Qi” is “vital breath.” There are many methods of breathing associated with Qigong, but the mainstay is to focus on the four phases of respiration: inhale, short pause, exhale, long pause.

Healing Sounds Qigong is a method where the practitioner makes specific vocalizations that resonate with certain internal organs for a healing benefit. Qigong can be effective for many respiratory problems. The emphasis on proper breathing also helps with anxiety disorders and other stress related conditions with associated dysfunctional breathing.

Mental intention is the hallmark of Qigong. Even if a person is physically incapacitated, he or she can still gain the benefits of freely flowing energy by using the mind. The ultimate Internal Qigong practice is Daoist meditation in which imagery is used sequentially to move Qi through the body.

Using any of these methods promotes the replete and unobstructed circulation of Qi that will give us a genuine sense of peace and well-being. In this way, Qigong can be used to treat the imbalance and disease that is the root cause of most human maladies.

Ronald Davis, D.C., L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., will be teaching Classical Qigong: 8 Brocades and Sacred Sounds on July 13 at Santosha in Big Sky. For more information, visit santoshabigsky.com.

Davis has practiced Qigong since 1985. For more information about Qigong and a healthy lifestyle, visit thehealthmovement.com.