by Gordon Adam

What is Qigong?
Qigong is an ancient Chinese practice that combines mental concentration, breathing technique, and body posture or movements to activate and cultivate the flow of vital energy (Qi) through energy channels in the body. This results in improved health and well-being, increased energy levels, mental calm and relaxation, clarity of thought, and a sense of ‘being part of the universe’. Qi (or Chi) means air, breath, vital energy, or universal force. Gong means work, or self discipline.

Qigong has been practiced in China for over five thousand years and has proved to be effective in the prevention and cure of many diseases. Today, millions of people in China practice Qigong because of its great power of healing body and mind, and many people in the west have found relief from ill-health through the practice of Qigong.

Universal Energy
The concept of universal energy underpins Qigong practice. Universal energy is the unseen vital force which permeates, gives substance to, and connects, everything in existence.
Qigong is a systematic process of opening to, connecting with, and allowing the movement of Qi, or universal energy within the body, and also between the body and the universe. This leads to a sense of harmony and one-ness, within the body and with the universe, which is experienced as a feeling of peace and well-being.
Opening to universal energy leads naturally into healing, and connecting, or re-connecting with our true nature and re-finding our place ‘in the scheme of things’.

Sickness and Healing
Sickness can be viewed a surplus or deficiency of energy in the body, or as a blockage in the flow of energy in the body. We can heal ourselves by releasing energy blockages and by receiving healing energy from the universe, and returning any extra energy back to the universe, thereby creating a state of balance.
When I say inwardly: “I am in the universe, the universe is in my body, the universe and I are one,” I am inviting in the universal energy to balance the energy in my body. Once you open yourself up to the universe, the universal energy will support you. The universal energy will give you whatever kind of energy your body needs; whatever your body doesn’t need will go back to the universe. Thus healing happens on its own when allowed by the mind to do so.

Different Qigong Styles
There are hundreds of different styles and forms of Qigong which have been developed by different, mainly Chinese teachers, ancient and modern.

Hua Gong
Both Brad and Daverick are students of Zhixing Wang who teaches the Hua Gong style of Qigong that he has developed with his wife Zhendi Wu.
Hua Gong focuses on health and healing, artistic creativity, and the spiritual aspects of Qigong practice. Many people in Bristol practice this style of Qigong and have attended classes and workshops locally with Daverick Leggett, Dario Gerchi, and other Hua Gong teachers.
Zhixing Wang also leads retreats in Devon and London.

Spring Forest Qigong
Spring Forest Qigong (SFQ) was developed by Chunyi Lin in 1994, after years of studying different Qigong styles with Qigong masters throughout China. Part of his mission is to de-mystify Qigong and SFQ is designed to be very simple to learn and practice.
Like Hua Gong, SFQ has a strong emphasis on healing, and Chunyi Lin emphasises that we are all capable of healing ourselves and each other through Qigong practice.
His background in communist China and years of studying Qigong are recounted in his book Born A Healer (available on www.amazon.com) Master Lin travelled from China to the United States in 1995 where he now lives and teaches SFQ and runs healing retreats in Minnesota. Master Lin has created a series of home learning materials for students, including videos, guided audio meditations and reference manuals.

There are also several other styles of Qigong taught in Bristol by a variety of teachers, notably Buqi devised by Dr Shen Hongxun.

Some Personal Experiences of Qigong

“I now practice Qigong first thing in the morning outside most days. My experience of regular practice is that it leads to connection: it has helped me connect with my body, my energy, my heart, my emotions, with other people, with nature, and with the universe. I feel more clear, calm, energised, and able to adapt to and cope with life’s events as they arise without getting stressed. I have also experienced an increased sense of acceptance and gratitude for ‘how things are’. I feel more at home in myself, in my body, and in my life. I enjoy practicing Qigong outdoors, and find group practice to be particularly powerful and beneficial.” Gordon

“I like the simplicity and grace of the practice. I find Qigong to be grounding and calming but also a very gentle way to shift energy in my system, free things up and open out to connecting more with the world around me. I have particularly noticed my posture improving. Over the Spring and Summer the Friday group has been practicing in the open air in St Andrews Park, which has been a great opportunity to get a sense of being part of nature, standing firmly on the Earth, lifting up to the sky.” Steph

Some Background
My first experience of Qigong was in the late seventies and early eighties when I studied Tai Chi with Richard Farmer in Bristol and where we also did some Qigong practice. [One important historical difference between these two practices is that Tai Chi has its basis in martial arts – i.e. the postures and forms are based on attack and defence moves, whereas Qigong was developed purely for the cultivation of Qi and healing purposes.]

My Qi practices came to a fairly abrupt end when my first child, Sara, was born in 1983. It was another twenty years before I re-discovered Qigong at the first BuddhaDharmaSangha camp I attended in 2003, where it was a blissful delight to practice Qigong, led by Brad Richecouer for an hour every morning for a week in the beautiful surroundings of the Devon countryside (it didn’t rain much that year!). I have attended the BDS camp most years since then.

I also did some Qigong in Bristol with Daverick Leggett after re-connecting with it. In 2004 a friend who is a Tai Chi teacher introduced me to Spring Forest Qigong (SFQ), a Qigong form devised by Chunyi Lin. Something about SFQ resonated with me more deeply than the Hua Gong style taught by Brad and Daverick (although I enjoy all Qigong practice), and I have continued to practice SFQ regularly for the last 7 years and have derived great benefits from it.

Further Information
SFQ Class at Newport Clinic 
Spring Forest Qigong info & learning material – www.springforestqigong.com
Qigong Summer Camp & BuddhaDharmaSangha Camp – http://www.qigong-southwest.co.uk/summer_camps.htm 
Classes by Daverick Leggett and Brad Richecouer – www.qigong-southwest.co.uk 
Retreats by Zhixing Wang – see website above or www.dao-hua-qigong.com
Buqi – www.buqi.net or www.buqiworks.co.uk

[This is an amended version of an article that first appeared in the September 2009 issue of the Bristol Insight Meditation Group newsletter.]