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How can Qigong nourish you?

A key component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Qigong is a system of health practices intended to prevent disease as well as restore wellness[1] in those who are ill. Qigong is characterised by gentle, flowing physical movements, breathing exercises, and techniques for developing discipline within the mind.

The word ‘Qi’ denotes ‘vital energy’, while ‘gong’ is usually translated as ‘skill attained through effort’[2]. As with other modalities related to TCM, the aim of Qigong is to promote a healthy and unimpeded flow of Qi[3] through the body. It is also intended to ensure a dynamic equilibrium of yin and yang, believed to be elemental forces symbolising feminine and masculine energy, or light and dark.

Many people wonder, what is Qigong as distinct from tai chi? In the simplest terms, tai chi is technically a subcategory of Qigong,[4] and although both are commonly practised as paths to support wellness, tai chi is also a martial art which encompasses defensive and combative techniques.

The many styles and practices associated with Qigong can be broadly grouped into three categories:[5] martial or athletic Qigong, which is intended to support physical fitness and conditioning; medical or clinical Qigong, focusing specifically on healing and health; and meditative or spiritual Qigong, which is often practised in stationary postures[6] and is concerned with mastering one’s thoughts and using the power of intention to cultivate Qi.

Medical Qigong for health can be further subdivided into ‘internal Qigong’, or self-healing, and ‘external Qigong’,[7] sometimes described as ‘Qi emission’. When practising internal Qigong, a person nurtures their own health through routines of motion, breathing and meditation. External Qigong involves a master practitioner manipulating or affecting the Qi of a patient, typically by transferring healing Qi from themselves to the person they are treating.[8]

Benefits of Qigong

The results of one meta-analysis suggest Qigong and tai chi may improve immune function and quality of life, while reducing levels of stress hormone,[9] in people suffering from cancer, but more rigorous trials are recommended. There is evidence to suggest Qigong may offer benefits for quality of life[10] in breast-cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, especially those suffering from depression. It has also been reported that Qigong may improve cognitive function and reduce inflammation[11] in cancer patients.

The results of a randomised controlled study indicate one particular style of Qigong may offer “significant improvements”[12] in pain levels, physical and mental functioning, as well as sleep quality of people suffering from fibromyalgia. One review indicated that external Qigong (the ‘energy healing’ version) may have beneficial effects on chronic pain conditions,[13] but further research is recommended.

There is evidence to suggest a single session of Qigong may reduce anxiety and have a balancing effect[14] on the autonomic nervous system of elderly people. It is reported that one style of Qigong may reduce deterioration of bone density[15] in middle-aged women. The results of a meta-analysis suggest Qigong may be an effective treatment for high blood pressure,[16] but more robustly designed studies are recommended for verification.

There are also published case studies of individuals who have experienced a significant reduction in cancer symptoms[17] after external Qigong, and overcome multiple health problems after intensive Qigong programs.[18]

Qigong may assist in relieving symptoms related to:

Anxiety Asthma Balance, stability and coordination Blood pressure Breast cancer Bronchitis Cancer Circulation and cardiovascular conditions Depression Diabetes Digestive and gastrointestinal issues Energy and vitality Fibromyalgia Flexibility, endurance and strength Heart conditions and heart attack Hypertension Immunity issues Inflammation and swelling Insomnia and sleep disorders Kidney and renal issues Memory and cognitive function Mobility and movement Muscular dystrophy Pain relief Posture and spine issues Respiratory and breathing issues Stress and tension Show all

What to expect from a Qigong session

Since there are many different styles of Qigong, and it is practised for a range of reasons, the details of what to expect may vary.

If you are participating in a guided Qigong session to promote self-healing, it is recommended that you wear loose, comfortable clothing.[19] The session will usually start with gentle warm-up stretches, then your instructor will lead you through specific routines of flowing motions.[20] Your instructor will also guide you to focus on your breathing, calm your mind[21] and become more aware of your internal energy.

Medical Qigong may often be prescribed as part of a holistic TCM treatment program.[22] Your practitioner will begin by asking you about your general health, as well as any particular physical or emotional symptoms[23] you might be experiencing. You will be invited to lie down on a padded massage table, and you will not need to remove any clothes. 

Your Qigong practitioner will move their hands near your body to direct, balance and regulate your internal flow of Qi.[24] Many people describe this as a very relaxing and soothing process, and some feel sensations of warmth or coolness while the practitioner is working. Some patients experience muscle twitches or feel deeply emotional; such responses are believed to indicate stagnant Qi being released. Once the session has concluded, your practitioner will usually prescribe meditation and mild Qigong exercises[25] to support continued healing.

As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing Qigong. Although some people turn to Qigong as a path towards restoring health when Western approaches have failed to provide relief, it should never be used as a replacement for conventional medicine. If you have an injury or other health issue, or any concerns at all, also speak to your Qigong practitioner, who will be happy to address these and personalise the session to your individual requirements. 


  1. Qigong | wtqa.org.au
  2. What is Qigong? | National Qigong Association
  3. What is Qigong? | healthqigong.com.au
  4. The Difference between Tai Chi & Qigong | energyarts.com
  5. What is Qigong | simonblowqigong.com
  6. Categories of Qigong | taichisociety.net
  7. Types of Qigong | International Medical Qigong College
  8. Medical Qigong | University of Minnesota
  9. Health benefits of qigong or tai chi for cancer patients | Complementary Therapies in Medicine
  10. Qigong improves quality of life in women undergoing radiotherapy for breast cancer | Cancer
  11. Effect of medical Qigong on cognitive function, quality of life, and a biomarker of inflammation in cancer patients | Supportive Care in Cancer 
  12. Arthritis Research & Therapy volume | A randomized controlled trial of qigong for fibromyalgia
  13. External Qigong for Pain Conditions | The Journal of Pain
  14. Acute Physiological and Psychological Effects of Qigong Exercise in Older Practitioners | Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 
  15. The Effects of Baduanjin Qigong in the Prevention of Bone Loss for Middle-Aged Women | The American Journal of Chinese Medicine
  16. Qigong for Hypertension | PMC
  17. Effects of Qi therapy (external Qigong) on symptoms of advanced cancer | European Journal of Cancer Care
  18. A Case Study of Simultaneous Recovery from Multiple Physical Symptoms with Medical Qigong Therapy | The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
  19. Qi gong | cancercouncil.com.au 
  20. Qigong Bendigo | welbyholistic.com
  21. Qi Gong | wuweihealth.com.au
  22. A Mind-Body Practice: Qigong | drweil.com
  23. (PDF) Safety of Qigong: Protocol for an overview of systematic reviews | Research Gate
  24. What is a Medical Qigong Session Like? | International Medical Qigong College
  25. Qigong Healing Therapy | livewellclinic.com.au

Frequently asked questions

Qi Gong is an ancient Chinese practice that combines gentle movements, breath control, and meditation to cultivate the body's vital life force or "Qi." Unlike vigorous exercises, Qi Gong focuses on promoting energy flow and balance in the body.

Qi Gong is believed to enhance physical health by improving flexibility, balance, and coordination. Regular practice is thought to boost the immune system, promote relaxation, and reduce the risk of chronic conditions.

Yes, Qi Gong is generally considered suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. The gentle nature of the movements makes it accessible to individuals with varying physical abilities.

Breath control is a fundamental aspect of Qi Gong. Coordinating breath with movements helps regulate the flow of Qi, enhances concentration, and induces a state of relaxation and mindfulness.

Yes, Qi Gong is often practiced for stress reduction and mental well-being. The combination of gentle movements, controlled breathing, and meditation promotes a calm and focused mind, reducing stress and anxiety.

Yes, there are numerous styles and forms of Qi Gong, each with its unique set of movements and philosophy. Some styles focus on health and vitality, while others emphasize martial arts applications. Popular forms include Tai Chi Qi Gong and Medical Qi Gong.
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