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Qigong is one of Traditional Chinese Medicine's (TCM) principal methods of treatment. Though there are many schools, concurrent theories are these:
Recent scientific research has begun to produce physiological evidence backing Qigong theory. For example, it has been shown that :
"Qigong is a discipline anyone can learn. Many people practice Qigong simply because it makes them feel good, perform better, experience higher levels of energy and stamina, and reach their level of optimal health. Qigong can improve sports performance, prevent jet lag, and supercharge the immune system. Qigong practice has been shown to super-oxygenate the cells of the body. It can reduce stress, improve bowel function, and relieve the symptoms of insomnia and other sleep disorders. In the area of pain control, Qigong practice can relieve acute and chronic pain, reduce the pain of childbirth, and speed recovery from sports or other injuries. In addition, Qigong can increase the effectiveness of Western medications, may reduce the side effects, and even allow the use of smaller doses.
Many scientific studies have documented that Qigong has value in the treatment of more serious problems. It can reduce healing time after surgery by 50%, normalize the blood pressure, and heal tuberculosis. It can heal gastric and duodenal ulcers chronic atrophic gastritis (stomach inflammation), and liver disease. It can relieve nearsightedness (myopia) and improve mental performance. It also has been effective in the treatment of substance abuse, obesity, respiratory conditions, asthma, and allergies.
Benefits have also been seen in a long list of serious neuromuscular conditions, such as post-stroke syndrome, paralysis from brain and spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, aphasia (loss of the power of expression of speech), Parkinson's disease, and cerebral palsy.
In more than thirty research studies, Qigong has been found to reverse the effect of aging. Qigong has improved or reversed the results of many medical tests that usually become abnormal with age. In addition, it has cured many of the diseases that are common to senior citizens.
Qigong has been shown to reduce deaths related to high blood pressure, reduce the frequency of strokes, reduce the incidence of retinopathy (deterioration of the back of the eye), improve the efficiency of the pumping action of the heart, and decrease blood viscosity ("thin" the blood). It has also improved EKG (heart) and EEG (brain) readings, normalized the level of sex hormones, and improved blood sugar levels in diabetics."
Quoted from the book "Miracle Healing from China...Qigong" by McGee and Chow
Basic concepts of the Chow Integrated Healing System for initial practice are:
From chapter five of "Miracle Healing from China... Qigong"
This man had difficulty walking and could not raise his leg. After 2 minutes of Qigong while on stage in front of 150 people, he was able to raise it and walked better.
Dr. Chow uses a versatile concept called the Chow Integrated Healing system, a blend of modern Western practices, ancient Eastern healing arts and Chow's own health principles linking the body, mind and spirit. While Western medicine has made great advances treating critical illnesses and infections, many feel that Eastern medicine is having more success with chronic, degenerative diseases, addictive behaviors and stress-related conditions. The Chow System helps people achieve optimal health; Dr. Chow believes that the minds and positive attitudes of her clients are the keys to good health. "Giving individuals the power to determine and manage their own health and destinies is the secret of true healing," she explains. "Their minds and bodies are the ultimate powerful instruments for self healing".
The Chow System integrates acupuncture and acupressure, physical and mental exercises (stretching, deep breathing and meditation, dance and aerobics, Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong), herbal medicine, massage and body work, visualization, positive thinking, touch therapy, counseling and other techniques. Dr. Chow, a former modeling instructor, Chinese chef and competitive dancer and recreational athlete, has also blended principles of posture, nutrition and movement into her healing system.
Recipient of the "Visionary of the Year 1997" Award, Dr. Effie Poy Yew Chow has for over thirty years been working to integrate Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with Western Medicine. Toward this goal, she founded the East West Academy of Healing Arts (EWAHA) in 1973 in San Francisco. In 1988 an arm of that organization, The Qigong Institute, was established within EWAHA to promote research and clinical work in medical Qigong. Clients come from all parts of the world to consult with Dr. Chow. She travels internationally to see clients, give seminars and train practitioners. She has personally made presentations to over 250,000 people of all cultures, and to more than 350 corporations, including Fortune 500 companies, hospitals, health clinics and universities.
Dr. Chow has a Ph.D. in higher education, and a master's degree in behavioral sciences and communication. She is a registered public health and psychiatric nurse and Qigong Grandmaster with 35 years' experience. She is a National Diplomate (NCCA) and a California-licensed acupuncturist since 1977. Dr. Chow received her training in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Qigong in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada and the United States. Her Qigong experience includes Frolic of Five Animals, White Crane, Taoist Qigong, Eight Silk Brocades, Taiji (Tai Chi), Wai Tan Kung, Shaolin, Microcosmic Orbit and other styles.
She is the only Qigong Grandmaster and acupuncturist in North America who has been active in the development of national health policies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in the field of cultural diversity, alternative and ethno-medicine. In the early development of acupuncture licensing law in California, Dr. Chow was a consultant to Senator Moscone and other legislators. For over 25 years she has been consultant with the DHHS in various areas, such as the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the Minority Task Force. She has served as an appointed member of the National Advisory Council to The Secretary of DHHS on Health Professions' Education for Medicine, Osteopathy, Dentistry, Veterinary, Optometry, Pharmacy and Podiatry (MODVOPP).
Dr. Chow was recognized for her expertise in the field of alternative medicine, Qigong and TCM through an appointment to the first Ad Hoc Advisory Panel of the Congress-mandated Office of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health (research Division of DHHS) in Bethesda, Maryland. Other recent appointments include: the Editorial Advisory Board of Rodale Press for special publications on alternative medicine; Editorial Consultant to Time/life Books; Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine; and the scientific Advisory Board of the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Center for Alternative/Complementary Medicine at Columbia University in New York; advisor to the Institute of Healing Arts and Sciences at the University of California San Francisco and a teacher to the medical students; Advisory Board of Bastyr University of Naturopathic Medicine, Seattle, WA. She received honored recognition by the Ethnic/Racial Minority Fellowship Program of the American Nurses Association.
She has made over 100 television appearances including Vision TV, CBC News, the Knowledge Network, Dini and Canada Am. Dr. Chow has been interviewed frequently on radio, and has been the subject of many news media publications in both North America and Europe. She participated in a four-part television series on alternative medicine which was shown in both England and Canada. She has received a number of awards and other recognition for her significant contributions in the field of Chinese medicine, acupuncture, Qigong, and health care. Included are:
"Visionary of the Year" Award, from the Second World Congress on Qigong, 1997.
Dr. Chow is founder and president of the American Qigong Association and the World Qigong Federation. Qigong Grandmaster Effie Chow was the chairperson for the Second World Congress on Qigong. Charles T. McGee, MD and Effie Poy Yew Chow, PhD have co-authored a book "Miracle Healing From China…QIGONG" (MediPress, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, 1994).
Chow Qigong System videotapes: vol.1 "Qigong Basics and Exercises"; vol.2 "Qi Pressure", and an audio meditation tape are available.
Dr. Chow is available to present programs and consult with individual clients in your area.
"She (Dr. Chow) and Qigong can bring movement to legs that haven't walked in years, but is not a physician; can make pain disappear, but is not a magician; can help one overcome life's pressure and disappointments, but is not a psychiatrist."
Visit Dr. Chow's website at: www.eastwestqi.com
We live in a field of qi, "vital breath" or "life energy." Yet, like a fish in water or a bird in flight, we are unaware of the medium that supports us. Qigong means "working with the qi." It is the ancient Chinese art and science of becoming aware of this life energy and learning how to control its flow through a precise choreography of posture, movement, respiratory technique, and meditation. Like biofeedback, qigong teaches psychophysiological self-regulation; the student becomes aware of bodily functions conventionally considered involuntary-- blood pressure, respiratory rate, even the flow of blood and nutrients to internal organs-- and learns to restore a healthier balance. However, unlike biofeedback, no technical devices are needed. Qigong is one of the most cost-effective self-healing methods in the world. The only investment needed is time, a half-hour to an hour each day; the dividends of better health, increased vitality, and peaceful alertness accrue daily and are cumulative.
Qigong is like a great river fed by four major tributaries: shamanism, spirituality, medicine, and martial arts:
An ancient text, The Spring and Autumn Annals, states that in mythic times a great flood covered much of China. Stagnant waters produced widespread disease. The legendary shaman-emperor Yu cleared the land and diverted the waters into rivers by dancing a bear dance and invoking the mystical power of the Big Dipper Constellation. As the waters subsided, people reasoned that movement and exercise can similarly cause the internal rivers to flow more smoothly, clearing the meridians of obstructions to health. Qigong-like exercises are found on ancient rock art panels throughout China. Chinese shamans used these exercises and meditations to commune with nature and natural forces and to increase their powers of healing and divination.
2. Spirituality (Taoism and Buddhism):
A. Taoism. Qigong philosophy and techniques are mentioned in the classic of Taoist philosophy, the Dao De Jing, written in the fourth century B.C. "By concentrating the qi and making your body supple, can you become like a child?" Qigong was the ideal way for Taoists to realize their goal of wuji, an empty, alert, boundless state of consciousness, and xing ming shuang xiu, "spirit and body cultivated in balance." Taoists and qigong practitioners were both looking for a harmony of yin and yang: inside and outside, earthly and spiritual, stillness and activity. The majority of works on qigong are still found among the approximately 1,100 texts in the Taoist Canon.
B. Buddhism. The Buddhist emphasis on tranquillity, awareness, and diligent practice are part of qigong. Several styles of qigong were developed by Buddhists who needed an exercise and healing system to complement their lengthy seated meditations.
Chinese medicine includes acupuncture, herbalism, massage, diet, and qigong. Qigong is the preventive and self-healing aspect of Chinese medicine and was used in the past, as today, to teach patients how to improve their own health. The major early text on qigong is the Dao-yin Tu "Dao-yin Illustrations" (168 B.C.). Dao-yin is an ancient word for qigong. This work contains illustrations of forty-four qigong postures prescribed by ancient Chinese doctors to cure specific ailments. The patriarch of Chinese medicine, Hua Tuo (second century A.D.) was one of the great early qigong masters. His "Five Animal Frolics" imitate the movements of the Crane, Bear, Monkey, Deer, and Tiger and are still practiced today. Hua Tuo said that just as a door hinge will not rust if it is used, so the body will attain health by gently moving and exercising all of the limbs.
4. Martial Arts:
Qigong practice can improve performance in the martial arts or any other sport. Chinese martial artists designed or helped to improve many qigong techniques as they looked for ways to increase speed, stamina, and power, improve balance, flexibility, and coordination, and condition the body against injury. Qigong was a major influence on the development of western gymnastics, thanks to Jesuit P. M. Cibot's 1779 illustrated French translation of Taoist qigong texts: Notice du Cong-fou [Kung-fu] des Bonzes Tao-see [Taoist priests]. Cibot's descriptions inspired Per Henrik Ling (1776-1839) to create the first school of modern gymnastics in Sweden.
You can see why it is hard to find a simple definition for such a comprehensive system of mental and physical development. Qigong is a spiritual practice with roots in shamanism and Taoism. It is a powerful method of self-healing and a warm-up for any sport. It includes both exercise and meditation.
Qigong is practiced by more than 80 million Chinese people and probably by tens of thousands in the United States and Europe. Qigong has been rigorously tested in controlled scientific experiments and clinical trials and is often used as an adjunct to conventional allopathic medical treatment. Hypertensive patients who take medication and practice qigong fare better than controls who only take the medication. Similarly, there is solid evidence that qigong can improve immune function and mental health, and prevent disabilities that come with age. Qigong acts like Vitamin C, increasing the activity of an enzyme that helps to deactivate free radicals, highly reactive chemicals that promote tissue degeneration and loss of memory. In 1995 the Journal of the American Medical Association published evidence that Taiji Quan, a form of qigong, is effective at preventing loss of balance and falling injuries among the elderly. Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine confirm that Taiji Quan works like aerobics at reducing high blood pressure.
There are thousands of styles of qigong. Some are designed for general health and well-being and may be practiced every day for a lifetime. Others are therapeutic and targeted to cure specific problems. Qigong techniques are suitable for men and women, young and old, athletes and sedentary, and for the disabled. All styles are based on similar principles: relaxed, rooted posture; straight, supple spine; diaphragmatic respiration-- the abdomen expanding on inhalation, retracting on exhalation; fluid movements without excess effort; and tranquil awareness.
Quality is more important than quantity. Students are advised to learn one or two qigong styles that are enjoyable and effective. Finding a qigong lao-shi, qigong teacher, is not an easy task. Although qigong is popular, the training is not standardized-- I do not believe that it can or should be-- and both quality and qualifications can vary immensely from teacher to teacher. There are unfortunately too many con-artists, charlatans, and magicians among our ranks, trying to impress the public with stunts of allegedly supernatural qi-power such as pushing objects without touching them. Students should apply the same standards of professional excellence to qigong teachers that they would apply to teachers of any other subject. A qigong lao-shi should be humble and compassionate and open to questioning and dialogue. He or she has not arrived at a final goal, but is rather on a never-ending quest for expanded potential and deeper understanding.
Benefits of Self-Healing Qigong
Experimental evidence suggests the following healing effects of qigong exercises and meditations.
Cardiovascular: lower resting heart rate; normalized EKG, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels
Respiratory: slower respiratory rate, improves gaseous exchange, significant benefits for asthma & bronchitis
Immune System: better targeting of antigens, significant anti-cancer effect
Circulation: improves microcirculation, prevents vascular spasms, very helpful for angina, migraine, and Reynaud's Syndrome (cold hands & feet)
Brain: improves cerebral blood flow, less incidence of stroke; reduction in frequency and intensity of seizure disorders; slow, high amplitude brainwaves suggest relaxed and integrated state of consciousness
Musculoskeletal: improves posture, balance, strength, stamina, flexibility
Chronic Pain: significant pain reduction from all causes, including injury, surgery, arthritis, fibromyalgia
Mental Health: decreases: stress response, Type A, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, depression. Improves memory and interpersonal sensitivity
Longevity: improves: blood pressure, vital capacity, cholesterol and hormone levels, kidney function, mental acuity, vision and hearing, skin elasticity, bone density, immune function, digestion, balance, flexibility, strength, libido. Destroys free radicals (major cause of tissue degeneration) by stimulating activity of superoxide dismutase
Ken Cohen's Personal Thoughts About Qigong & World Peace
Qigong was originally called yang sheng, "nurturing life." Acts of violence are the opposite of qigong. A qigong practitioner should ask him or herself about the wider implications of qigong. "How can I live in a way that more fully nurtures life?" Let's put our minds and hearts together to make the world a better place for our children.
All of the qigong masters advise focusing on yi, not on qi. Yi means intent, mindfulness, and awareness. If a person does qigong mechanically, repeating movements without awareness, the movements have little benefit. They might exercise the muscles, but they won't cultivate qi. Yi leads qi. Yi is also essential for inner peace and interpersonal peace. A person who is aware looks within before pointing a finger (or a gun) at anyone else. When you point a finger at someone, look where the other fingers are pointing!
Qigong practice helps people make better decisions. It enhances creativity and intuition. It also reduces greed and selfishness and helps people appreciate what they share with the rest of humanity.
Pollution and aggression start in the mind. The outer world is a reflection of the inner world. As author and shaman Sandra Ingerman shows in her book Medicine for the Earth, when a person feels empowered and at one with both nature and the Divine, his or her mind can actually affect physical reality. People can use their spiritual awareness, love, and power to change the acid or base levels in a cup of water. However, when this "remote healing influence" was tested under laboratory conditions, it only worked when a group of healers tried to influence the water. A single "influencer" was ineffective. We need each other to heal and to survive.
We cannot avoid stress, but we can use qigong to lessen the harmful effects of stress. Did qigong practitioners cry when they saw the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01? I hope so. I certainly did. However, when practitioners are faced with tragedy, they do not have heart attacks, develop anxiety disorders, or become vindictive.
Try to correct injustice through education, counseling, negotiation, and, when necessary, shaming a person in front of family and peers to re-establish accountability. Punishment must always be the last resort. Yet we should not hesitate to use force when necessary in self-defense. Qigong does not advocate "no force," but, rather, intelligent and ethical use of force and the least effort necessary to accomplish a goal.
Ancient Taoist hermits withdrew from society and "quit the world's dust." This is no longer a possibility. Even a recluse in a cave has to deal with noise pollution from overhead jets and water contaminated by agriculture, overpopulation, and industry. Do not use qigong as an excuse to avoid involvement with life, including peaceful political action. Vote!
Qigong integrates techniques from all of China's great spiritual traditions. Daoism is the root of qigong and the source of the oldest literature and techniques. Confucianism emphasized using qigong to cultivate character and virtue. Buddhism added a strong meditative component and emphasized the importance of compassion. The Muslim Hui minority created some of the so-called "Shaolin" martial arts such as Cha Quan and Tan Tui. Other Muslim masters furthered the evolution of internal martial arts (especially Xing Yi Quan) and their associated qigong. Qigong is an example of the importance of all spiritual traditions. We can all learn from each other.
A Spiritual Renaissance: Reflections On A Qigong Life
It is hard to believe that I ever began Qigong-- it is so much a part of my life. Nor can I conceive of a time when the practice will end or-- God forbid-- when the learning will stop. I was first exposed to Chinese culture through a "mistake." In 1968, a friend recommended a book called Sound and Symbol by a German musicologist. As I rode home on the subway that afternoon, I realized that in my haste I had mistakenly purchased another book of the same title but by a different author. Instead of a book about music, I found myself reading one of the rarest and finest introductions to the Chinese language, Sound and Symbol by Bernhard Karlgren. Before the subway ride was ended, I was hooked. I realized that by studying a truly foreign language I could learn how language and concept influence one's perception of reality. Perhaps I could, in the process, free myself of the preconceptions hidden in my own language, English, and learn to perceive the world silently and thus, more truly. Within a few months, I began to study the Chinese language and, not long thereafter, Qigong.
As I reflect on this story, I realize that it explains not only how I began Qigong but why I have continued. Foreign language study can clear the mind of culture-bound assumptions. Similarly, Qigong liberates the student from preconceptions held in the body: the immature and inappropriate strategies for living embodied in posture and breathing. To stand straight is to give up the burden of insecurity. To breathe slowly is to take life as it comes, without allowing memory or expectation to interfere. As the body becomes quiet, the mind becomes quiet. The qi flows not only within the body, but between oneself and Nature. In breathing, the external world becomes you. Yet you do not own it, you let it go and return breath to its source-- what Chinese people call the Tao.
I had another beginning, a renaissance of Qi, several years later. I was teaching my first seminar at a growth center in Amherst, Massachusetts. One evening, during a break, I decided to take a walk outside; snow was falling and hanging heavy on the pine trees. Wouldn't it be wonderful to practice Qigong in this setting? As I began practicing, something very odd happened. Normally, I experienced Qigong movements as arising from deep within, seemingly generated by the breath and by the slow shifting of the weight. But this time I disappeared; I felt that I was not doing Qigong. Rather, the falling snow, the trees, the air, the ground itself were unfolding through the various postures. I became a sphere of energy whose center was everywhere. This was a kind of spiritual rebirth in Qigong; I learned that mind and body could become truly empty, that inside and outside could become a unified field of awareness. I cannot claim the experience as my own, because the experience was without "I". But I do know that Qigong has never been the same. Thus, another key to my motivation and, I hope, to your motivation: practice qigong to learn that you are part of Nature. When you breathe, it is the wisdom of nature that breathes you!
Finally, I have continued practicing because of the dramatic effect Qigong has had on my own health. I was a weak and sickly child and a victim of the poor medical practices of the time. Antibiotics were prescribed for every cold and scratchy throat, leading to a downward spiral of poorer and poorer health. Qigong cured my chronic bronchitis, weak immune system, poor sleep, and low energy. I look for ways to bring these same benefits to my students.
I applaud the scientists who are looking for the mechanism of Qigong-- how it works-- and who are designing experiments to validate Qigong's efficacy as a form of complementary medicine. Science has already demonstrated Qigong's powerful healing effects on cancer, heart disease, and chronic pain. However, people who practice Qigong with an open mind do not need proof to know that it works. They experience it. Science has yet to prove that the sun exists. Yet this does not prevent us from enjoying its light and warmth. Yes, trust science. But trust yourself even more.