Qigong and Neigong:
A few thousand years ago, esoteric Chinese Taoists developed physical exercises, breathing methods, and meditation methods that worked the inside of the body to increase one’s health and spiritual well being. This “internal” work was called “Neigong”. Neigong emphasized coordinating body movements with breathing techniques, which was called “Qigong” (i.e., ‘Breathing / Energy Skills’), in specific ways to develop internal strength by ‘harmonizing inner and outer energy’. Internal strength was designed to amplify the effect of physical actions while reducing the effort involved in doing them. Emphasis was placed on the elasticity of the body, the mobility of the joints, the support of the skeletal structure, the twisting and stretching of the organs and connective tissue, and the proper alignment of the body’s parts in order to move as a unified whole. Indian “Yoga” is a better known art that was also developed and practiced to benefit one’s body and inner spirit in a similar fashion.
Qigong originated through the Chinese philosophy of Taoism with its first recorded history in the I Ching (Book of Changes). Qigong has subsequently been influenced by Buddhist, Confucian and medical beliefs. Currently, it is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), along with acupuncture and herbal remedies. Its basic premise is to treat the origin of disease in the whole person – body, mind/emotions, spirit – by looking at the imbalance of the entire human system.
It does this through a system of energy pathways, also used in acupuncture, known as meridians. Qigong exercises are designed to clear blocked energy in different body organs. It is acupuncture without needles, exercises you can do yourself that induce self-healing.
Some of the basic principles of Neigong are: the traditional Chinese belief that the body has something that might be described as an “energy field” generated and maintained by the natural respiration of the body, known as “qi”; the belief that this ‘qi’ (i.e., the life energy inside a person) flows and moves though the body and is assisted by the internal organs; the release of external and internal tension; the letting go of muscular strength to perform specific techniques and postures; a heightened self awareness of internal body structure and posture; the development of ‘root’ by lowering the body’s center of gravity, whereby the origin of movement is lowered within the body, which is believed to cause a sinking of ‘qi’ or internal energy; combining the normally separated areas of the body into one integrated, unified, and powerful whole; the coordination of specific breathing methods with bodily movements, and the development of an internal peace or calm emotional state.
Neigong practices cause the whole body to move in a continuously stretching, expanding and contracting, opening and closing motion. Eventually the body is fluid enough to move very quickly as needed with an absence of central nervous system reaction lag time; great power can be issued with little movement. This twisting of the body causes the organs to twist as well, which activates the organs to have a detoxification reaction, whereby the liver, intestines, and other organs release toxins that were stored deep in the body so that they can be flushed out. The ultimate aim of this neigong practice was to make the practitioner one with nature, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.