Introduction to Medical Qigong

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Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a holistic system for promoting health through the use of several therapies such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, acupressure massage, and Medical Qigong. These therapies are often used in various combinations.

The central theory of TCM is to balance the Qi (the vital energy in the body) according to several theories such as Yin-Yang, Five Element, and Six Stages. These theories are used in TCM in general as well as in Medical Qigong in particular.

In the Yin-Yang Theory, all of life is composed of two opposing yet complementary forces: the yin (feminine, dark, weak) and the yang (masculine, light, strong). At birth, the human body normally contains equal amounts of both traits. When sickness develops, it can be attributed to a deficiency or excess of either of the two forces. Medical Qigong seeks to restore this balance through movement and breathing exercises.

The Five Element Theory states that all things in the universe, including humans, have a collection of traits that correspond to five natural Elements: Wood, Fire, Metal, Earth, and Water. Within each of these elements is found a certain physical and mental representation:

Wood: Liver, growth at birth, yang.

Fire: Heart, maximum growth, yang.

Metal: Lungs, declining functions, yin.

Earth: Spleen, stabilization, balanced between yin and yang.

Water: Kidneys, rest, yin.

Qigong exercises affect the actions of the five Elements in the body through Qi flow. Thus, a person who is diagnosed as being Water deficient may have exercises prescribed to improve that Element, thus aiding kidney function. An expert in Medical Qigong is often also a Chinese medicine practitioner, as the ability to diagnose the five Element signs is vital to both fields.

The Six Stages Theory uses the idea that disease attacks certain organs and organ systems according to severity and level of infection. For example, the "Great Yang Stage" sickness affects the exterior of the body, in addition to the small intestine and bladder, while the "Terminal Yin Stage" affects the pericardium and liver organs and strikes deep within the body. According to the proper diagnosis using this theory, exercises would again be prescribed to alleviate the disease.

A more detailed account of Traditional Chinese Medicine can be found in Chap-ter12.

So, how exactly does all of this affect you? The exercises that you will learn here are designed to give your body a "tune up" at many different levels. They have been refined and tested over thousands of years specifically with medical concerns in mind. So when you do the exercises in their proper form and sequence, you will be stimulating the meridians and channels in the body to enhance the flow of healthy energy (Qi) while at the same time eliminating the unhealthy energy (Sha Qi). Because of the positions assumed during the movements, you are alternately compressing and expanding the energy rivers, in addition to exercising the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. By learning proper posture and diaphragmatic breathing, you are aiding your body in maintaining optimal health and fitness. The twisting of the waist and hips, along with the spinal stimulation, helps to massage the internal organs and the tissue surrounding them. While all of this activity is taking place, you are maintaining a calm and relaxed mental state through your focus on the simple movements. Thus you are taking a break from your worries and sicknesses through the practice of Medical Qigong.

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