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Chi Kung (Qi Gong)


Qigong is an increasingly popular aspect of Chinese medicine involving the coordination of different breathing patterns with various physical postures and motions of the body. Qigong is mostly taught for health maintenance purposes, but there are also some who teach it as a therapeutic intervention. Various forms of traditional qigong are also widely taught in conjunction with Chinese martial arts, and are especially prevalent in the advanced training of what are known as the nei chia (internal martial arts).

To see streaming video of Visionhealth Expert John Tindall demonstrating Chi Kung / Qi Gong routines that are specifically designed for sufferers of Asthma, Diabetes and Arthritis respectively click here.

There are currently more than thirty three hundred different styles and schools of qigong. Qigong relies on the traditional Chinese belief that the body has an energy field generated and maintained by the natural respiration of the body, known as Qi. Qi means breath or to breathe in Mandarin Chinese, and by extension the energy produced by breathing that keeps us alive; gong means work or technique. Qigong is then "breath work" or the art of managing the breath to achieve and maintain good health, and especially in the martial arts, to enhance the leverage and stamina of the body in coordination with the physical process of respiration.

Attitudes toward the basis of qigong vary markedly. Most Western medical practitioners, many practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, as well as the Chinese government view qigong as a set of breathing and movement exercises, with possible benefits to health through stress reduction and exercise. Others see qigong in more metaphysical terms, claiming that breathing and movement exercises can influence the fundamental forces of the universe. An extreme form of the latter view was advocated by some participants in the Boxer Rebellion of the late 19th century who believed that breathing and movement exercises would allow them to ward off bullets.

Today millions of people in China and around the world regularly practice qigong as a health maintenance exercise. Qigong and related disciplines are still associated with the martial arts and meditation routines trained by Taoist and Buddhist monks, professional martial artists and their students. Formerly much more closely guarded, in the modern era such practices have become widely available to the general public both in China and around the world.

Medical qigong treatment has been officially recognized as a standard medical technique in Chinese hospitals since 1989. It has been included in the curriculum of major universities in China. After years of debate, the Chinese government decided to officially manage qigong through government regulation in 1996 and has also listed qigong as part of their National Health Plan.

Dr. Yan Xin , a doctor of both Western and Chinese medicine as well as founder of the relatively popular Yan Xin Qigong school, suggests that in order for qigong to be accepted by the modern world it must pass the test of scientific study. Without such studies, Yan maintains that qigong will be dismissed as "superstition" (see "Criticism of Qigong" chapter below). In the mid-1980s he and others began systematic study of qigong in some research institutions in China and U.S. More than 20 papers have been published. Taijiquan (Tai Chi), a martial art embued with qigong, appears to be a potent intervention to prevent falls in elders and improve balance measurement. It has been touted as an excellent remedy to Arthritis, due to its gentle nature and the fact that the joints are often taken through a full range of motion.

Much of the criticism of qigong involves its claimed method of operation. Both traditional Chinese and Western medicine practitioners have little argument with the notion that qigong can improve and in many cases maintain health by encouraging movement, increasing range of motion, relaxation, and improving joint flexibility and resilience. However, the benefits of qigong become much more controversial when it is asserted that qigong derives its benefits from qi acting as an external non-physical force. Many biologists and physicists are skeptical of these claims and regard them as pseudoscientific.

Many proponents of qigong claim that they can directly detect and manipulate this energy. Others, including some traditional Chinese practitioners, believe that qi can be viewed as a metaphor for biological processes, and the effectiveness of qigong can also be explained in terms more familiar to Western medicine such as stress management.

There are some interesting studies showing altered immune function in asthmatics and more general studies that seem to show the beneficial impacts that Qi Gong has on the immune system in general. Qi Gong is practiced extensively in China, where hospitals, doctors and individual practitioners have a detailed knowledge of the health benefits. Qi Gong, like acupuncture and herbal medicine, have survived hundreds, if not thousands of years, thus many believe that the scepticism of Western science to medical applications of Qi Gong (and other similar systems) is mis-placed and perhaps due to the testing methodologies being used and their inherent inadequacies.

Chi Gung is discussed in detail in the VisionHealth DVD’s, “ASTHMA: An Integrated Approach”, “ARTHRITIS: An Integrated Approach” and “DIABETES: An Integrated Approach”.

To see streaming video of Visionhealth Expert John Tindall demonstrating Chi Kung / Qi Gong routines that are specifically designed for sufferers of Asthma, Diabetes and Arthritis respectively click here.

Our Vision Health experts on Chi Kung are The Barefoot Doctor, Dr George Lewith and John Tindall.
(Adapted from

External links
Center for Taoist Qigong for Health and Vitality


Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal

Fragrance Qigong (Xianggong)

National (USA) Qigong Association

Qigong Association of America

Scientific research from the Qigong Institute

The Skeptics Dictionary

Veritas Society - Qigong articles

Acupuncture, Qigong, and “Chinese Medicine” by Stephen Barrett, M.D. – an article on Quackwatch