Qigongs are training methods by which the individual can enhance the vital energy of the body. Qigong traing activates the selfhealing forces of the body. Methods which activates the selfhealing in the human being ought to be the backbone of all true Medicine.
Unlike Western exercises, which focuses primarily on muscular development and cardiovascular fitness, Qigong exercise is concerned with strengthening all of the internal systems. There are specific exercises for nourishing each of the internal organs, the sensory organs (eyes, ears, etc.), the tendons and ligaments, and the reproductive organs. There is even a whole system of Qigong exercises for strengthening the bone matrix and marrow.
Regular Qigong exercise has been scientifically determined to enhance one's ability to emit high levels of electrical, magnetic and sub-sonic charge. This ability of Qigong practitioners is being used extensively in China for healing; there are now hundreds of Qigong hospitals and clinics throughout China where ailments ranging from arthritis to cancer are being successfully treated with Qigong therapy, either by itself or in conjunction with acupunture, herbs or Western medicine.
Qigong is practised for different reasons: to improved health and fitness, healing, to improve martial arts skill, and for spiritual development. The more physically active Qigong exercises strengthen and repair the subtle "wiring" of the energy body, and develop a strong and supple matrix for the movement and refinement of Qi. Certain Qigong standing postures also help to "ground" one's energy as the foundation for tapping into the limitless reserves of transpersonal Qi in Nature.
Qi means energy or breath, while gong means skill. Thus any Taoist exercise that works with breath training could be called a Qigong practice.
The most important training is allowing the breath to become very natural. The qualities of natural breathing are for the breath to become quiet, soft, smooth, even, long and deep. Each thought and emotion registers in the breath. For example, we hold our breath when concentrating on a math problem; we pant when sexually aroused; we sigh and breath laboriously when depressed.
Conversely, each change in the breath influences the mind. Returning the breath to its natural resting state activates the relaxation response, highly beneficial and healing to both body and mind. This deep relaxation allows the actual "inner breath" to emerge, creating virtuous Qi as the energetic steed for wisdom mind.
Of the earliest know Qigong forms, many were derived from the movements of animals. The Qigong Classics (Tao Yin Tu), discovered in the tomb of King Ma in 1973 and dating back to the second century BC, illustrated over 40 Qigong postures used for promoting health and healing specific illnesses; over half of these postures were animal movements.
Hua T'o, the renowned second century Taoist physician, wrote, "Flowing water does not become stagnant; active door hinges do not rust." Therefore, Hua T'o devised a series of Qigong exercises for his patients know as the Wu Jin Xi or "Five Animal Frolics," based upon the movements of the crane, bear, monkey, deer and tiger.