This is a book about qigong – a time-tested practice that blends skilful movement, mindful absorption and deep, slow breathing. While firmly rooted in the Chinese tradition, I hope that it will also serve as a manual for exploring the wider world of mindful movement.
My aim is to make this transformative practice better known. I have attempted to explain where it comes from, the philosophies behind it and the growing body of scientific research that illuminates it. I have drawn from my fifty-year experience of working in the field of Chinese medicine, my decades of qigong practice and my study of yangsheng — the 2,500 year old Nourishment of Life tradition. For those interested in learning more, my book Live Well Live Long: Teachings from the Chinese Nourishment of Life Tradition can be read as a companion to this one. Because trying to learn qigong from illustrations and written instructions is challenging, I have included links throughout this book to dozens of demonstration videos. I hope this will encourage readers to go ahead and try it out. Regular and committed practice will slowly reveal a treasure that keeps on giving – year after year and decade after decade, a treasure which can truly change our lives.
The cultivation and integration of body, breath and mind has been practised in China since the beginning of recorded history nearly two and a half thousand years ago. For some it was a way of improving health and lengthening lifespan. Martial artists practised to improve their fighting skills. Daoists sought transformation and a merging with the Dao, Buddhists with Sunyata (‘emptiness’) and Confucians with the Way of Heaven. Teachers of the art of yangsheng encouraged their fellow literati to rouse themselves from lazy and indulgent lifestyles, while for traditional medicine doctors it was a way of preventing disease and supporting treatment.
Some of its practitioners favoured quietness, stillness and deep presence. They practised breath control, visualisation, mantra recitation, sexual cultivation and internal alchemy. Others were drawn to the more physical rewards of a strong, aligned and balanced body, and especially to ‘internal’ martial arts such as taijiquan (tai chi) — the training of soft but powerful movement. Yet all of these practitioners, in one way or another, were working within the same tradition.
Given this variety of intentions it is no surprise that a host of different names was used throughout its history. Ever since the 1950s, however, the name qigong (or sometimes the ‘internal arts’) has largely supplanted most of them and serves as an umbrella term for many of these varied approaches.
Qigong needs no special equipment or special clothes, is free, and can be practised anywhere – from a mountain top to a bedroom. Its aim is better health, longer life, connection to something greater than ourselves and effective and compassionate action. It can enhance every aspect of our lives.
Those of us committed to its practice know what a rich gift it is. It is my hope that this book will go some way to explaining why slow, mindful movement is so good for us. I also hope to instill in others the same love of qigong that has inspired me for over three decades.
— FROM THE PREFACE
196 pages, 8.5″ x 11.65″