Imagine what we could do, what we could achieve, if we were to remain fully conscious of this energy field throughout our daily lives. This is a reality for people who have mastered Qigong, which is a generic term for "energy work," according to Cohen. Though very few people actually obtain mastership, study of Qigong can help improve the life of anyone, and its ease makes it perfect for the young, old, sick and healthy.
Since 1976, Cohen has studied Qigong, as well as Native American healing practices. Over the past 20 years, he has taught the Chinese art of finding, gathering and circulating the life force (qi) to more than 40,000 students in North America. Furthermore, as the author of the book The Way of Qigong and the DVD Qigong: Traditional Chinese Exercises for Healing Body, Mind and Spirit, Cohen has made the ancient practice accessible in the comforts of your home.
More than 80 million Chinese people and tens of thousands of North Americans and Europeans practice this powerful "energy work," according to contemporary figures, and this number grows every day. In November 2005, Cohen introduced the basics of Qigong to an audience at the 2005 Complementary and Alternative Medicine Conference (CAMCON) in Tucson, Ariz.
Qigong has three focuses -- athletic ability, spirituality and healing. People who practice martial arts or play sports can benefit from the stamina, speed, strength, coordination, flexibility, balance and resistance to injury that Qigong offers. In fact, Cohen says that it can improve performance in any sport or martial art. Spiritual Qigong grew from a merger of Taoism, including the fundamental Tao text, the Tao Te Ching, and Buddhism. By practicing spiritual Qigong, you can achieve tranquility, self-awareness and harmony with nature. These applications are significant in their own right, but Cohen focused more on the third usage of Qigong -- healing -- during his lecture.
Qigong healing can be used internally (Yi Gong) or externally (Wai Qi Zhi Liao). In mainstream medical terms, Yi Gong is what we could call preventative medicine. In Cohen's words, "Qigong teaches us how to control our reactions to stress so that life events do not cause such symptoms as high blood pressure, frustration or anxiety." Cohen makes note of the fact that we are all exposed to stress, making Yi Gong helpful for anyone. Even Qigong Masters practice Yi Gong to prevent "healer burnout."
Healers practice Wai Qi Zhi Liao, or external Qigong, as a form of health assessment and non-contact treatment called External Qi Healing (EQH). This form is significant in that it does not solely rely on intuition for assessment; rather, a healer learns to "tap into a well of healing energy in nature and 'funnel' it through his or her body." Healers actually do exercises to increase their sensitivity to energy fields and improve the efficiency of their treatment. Some healers use EQH by itself, while others combine it with Therapeutic Touch, massage, osteopathy, acupuncture and even body-centered psychotherapy.
Both internal and external Qigong are extremely powerful and can help cure or lessen the symptoms of disease, especially heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Qigong is able to reduce the risk of heart disease by normalizing cholesterol levels, resting heart rate and blood pressure. It targets antigens so effectively that research demonstrates it to have a "significant anticancer effect," according to Cohen. Furthermore, its effects on type 2 diabetes are absolutely amazing, as 92 percent of type 2 diabetics are able to drop their blood sugar levels down to normal by doing Qigong.
Unfortunately, like all immense power, Qigong can be grossly misunderstood and misapplied. In Communist China, for example, spontaneity promoted by spontaneous movement Qigong was misinterpreted as impulsiveness, a taboo in that society. In fact, Qigong was illegal in China until as recently as 1999. Sometimes, Qigong's power can be too much to handle, and "Qigong psychosis" results, a term coined by Cohen himself, but then picked up by the psychiatric "Bible," the DSMIV.
During his lecture, Cohen made sure to point out that Qigong psychosis is a delusional state associated with -- but not caused by -- Qigong, so the ancient art is still safe. However, though it may help alleviate mild anxiety and depression, it may worsen the mental states of people going through severe emotional disturbances, so you should abstain from practicing Qigong if you are going through such a time. You should also not practice Qigong if you get dizzy often. Furthermore, if you are pregnant, you may perform mild exercises, but only under the supervision of a teacher.
There are 7,000 different major styles of Qigong, 3,000 of which are practiced today. Some Qigong meditations are remarkably quick and easy to learn. In fact, during the two-and-a-half hour lecture, Cohen had time to show his audience three of them: Bone marrow cleansing, standing meditation and walking meditation.
Natural Qigong posture (Wu Chi, or emptiness)
Before you can take part in any of the meditations, you must learn Qigong posture, which puts the body in a natural stance:
The founder of Zen Buddhism, Bodhidharma, is believed to have originally created this purification technique, which sends healing qi through the bones and has an amazing immune-boosting effect. It's remarkably easy to learn:
As well as being the foundation of Qigong practice, standing meditation can help you improve your posture, deep breathing and structural "integrity" and strength. In fact, its purpose is "to deepen our understanding of breathing and stability," Cohen told his audience before teaching the classic meditation in an easy-to-follow manner:
Slowly walk forward eight steps, being sure to:
For further information …
If you'd like a visual aid to help you learn and practice these styles, watch Cohen's DVD, Qigong: Traditional Chinese Exercises for Healing Body, Mind and Spirit. You can also find more information on Qigong in general and how it can change your life in Cohen's book, The Way of Qigong, or online at http://www.QiGongHealing.com.