World Wide Wellness: Channel Healing Energy with Qigong
by Catherine Morris | April 9, 2021, updated about 1 year ago
This multi-faceted form of healing is well-known in China, but not as embraced by the West where it remains on the fringes of alternative health. In recent years however, the practice has grown and is steadily gaining a loyal following thanks to its gentle approach to holistic self-healing.
What is Qigong?
To understand Qigong (pronounced 'chee-gung'), it's helpful to know where the name comes from—it breaks down to 'Qi' meaning breath or life force, and 'gong' meaning skill or practice.
For ancient Chinese healers, Qigong was a way of learning your body's innate rhythm and flow, and harnessing that healing energy to balance mind and body, prevent disease, and ultimately live longer, more fulfilling lives.
The three main pillars of the practice are:
- Breathing techniques
“It is a collection of practices that can be tracked back to little drawings found in tombs thousands of years ago, so it's been around a long time,” explains Qigong practitioner Miranda Maher.
“It involves our breath, our mind and our body. We bring those together in very gentle movements, visualizations and breathing to make ourselves healthier, and to digest emotions in a natural way.”
There are three different styles of Qigong –
- Medical – for healing, either self-healing or healing done by a practitioner
- Martial – physical training
- Spiritual – involving meditation and mindfulness
Practitioners can focus on one style or pillar of Qigong, incorporate all three, or use a mixture. Much like the life force it taps into, the practice is fluid and based on your needs and preferences.
Maher, who practices medical Qigong, says—
“All Qigong is focused on improving health [but] medical Qigong, for me, is when I practice on another person and shepherd them through the practice to better health.”
How Does Qigong Heal?
Medical Qigong works with a person's energy, addressing any blocks and correcting imbalances. Maher explains—
“It's energy work. The practitioner will gently physically manipulate the person. Often their hands aren't even touching them, or they are just laying on hands, similar to reiki.”
Maher also practices reiki and says the major difference between that and Qigong is the level of engagement. In reiki, practitioners are acting as a conduit for healing energy and trusting it will be received by their patient wherever it’s needed. By comparison, Qigong is more active.
Maher says— “You are directing energy, but you're going a little further. We make decisions similar to an acupuncturist, working with meridians and organs. Where there's imbalance we siphon off energy or direct it into a place that's deficient, and we are clearing stagnation. There are a lot more choices the practitioner can make than in reiki.”
Maher came to Qigong by way of a bad back. Dealing with chronic back pain for years, she sought treatment from Western doctors but didn't find lasting relief until, on the recommendation of friends, she tried Tao healing, a form of Qigong.
“Within six weeks my pain was gone because it wasn't, in fact, physical damage or an injury, it was in my energy body and my emotional body.”
In Traditional Chinese Medicine like acupuncture and Qigong, practitioners work with the 'Qi' or the energy body. This operates in tandem with the mental/emotional body, and the spirit body for holistic healing. According to the TCM philosophy, many illnesses start in the mental/emotional body and then manifest in physical symptoms.
While clients come to Maher for all sorts of reasons, her most common patients are those who “feel disconnected from their body or have an antagonistic relationship with their body.”
Hormonal imbalances, autoimmune conditions, chronic pain… anyone who's ever struggled with a longstanding illness knows how disruptive, frustrating and exhausting it can be. It's natural at those times to feel at war with yourself and to push the pain away. Maher says addressing the emotional body can ease symptoms by bringing body and mind together and adds—“To heal we need to close that gap.”
What to Expect from a Qigong Session
Before embarking on treatment, Maher likes to chat with new clients to explain exactly what's involved. If both sides are happy with the fit, she then moves forward with a consultation to determine their medical history and get a handle on how they are feeling. This is followed by a session that can last up to 90 minutes the first time, but is usually around 60 to 75 minutes.
During the practice, Maher works in stages known as protocols. The main protocol clears stagnant energy and revitalises the energetic body. Then there are smaller protocols, customized to treat a person's individual needs.
It's a relaxing process that often puts people into a dreamy state, according to Maher who says clients generally feel it right away.
“They feel much less stress, and they're rested. If their pain has been with them for many years it might be softer. It's not like releasing something and the pain is gone, it's a gentle practice that ideally should be repeated.”
Healing doesn't just happen on the table. The practitioner will usually give the client a customized practice they can do at home every day, depending on their physical capabilities and schedule.
Qigong is generally very well-tolerated and suitable for everyone, although Mayer warns that anyone with “extreme mental states” may find them heightened during the practice.
Qigong in Quarantine and Beyond
Since the pandemic, Maher has moved online, offering Qigong classes virtually, and says it has worked surprisingly well.
“I've been shocked at how effective our meditation and energy work is online. I'd been told energy is not place-specific or time-specific and I accepted that, but now it's been shown to me in a more substantial way. I've had clients say they are not sure how they would've navigated the isolation and anxiety without it. It's been so helpful.”
She is optimistic that the recent interest in wellness will lead more people to Qigong, saying—“We are reaching a tipping point with Western medicine that people are realizing it doesn't fix a lot of stuff. True doctors are very precious, but I think the ideal is when Western medicine and Chinese medicine somehow combine. Then we're going to be in great shape!”
Catherine Morris is an award-winning journalist with a bad case of wanderlust and a passion for all things health and wellness. Originally from Northern Ireland, she worked as a news and feature writer for media outlets in the UK, South Africa, France and the Caribbean before settling in Canada. Catherine now lives in Alberta with her husband and rescue mutt and spends her time happily exploring the great outdoors with both.