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How do Acupuncture and Qi Gong Work Together?

Acupuncture as we all well know is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), but it is only one of five branches of TCM. The other branches are Qi Gong, nutrition, herbs and massage.

Qi means energy (bioelectricity) and Gong means skill. Qi Gong is therefore skill at working with your body’s own electricity. This bioelectricity is found in pathways called meridians. It is these meridians that acupuncturists insert needles into.

Qi Gong makes more Qi (bioelectricity) available for the needles to interact with. So when combining Qi Gong with acupuncture you have a better response than when you just go for acupuncture alone.

Is Qi Gong Just "Another Form of Exercise"? Or is it Something More?

What's the Difference between Tai Chi and Qi Gong?

Historically Qi Gong is about 5000 years old and Tai Chi is about 800 years old. It is an ancient practice which comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine. “Qi” means life force energy, it is your aliveness. “Gong” means to work with, or to develop a skill at working with that life force energy. 

Qi Gong was broken down into 3 distinct styles: One was Medical Qi Gong, how to work with energy for health, wellness and vitality. The other was Spiritual Qi Gong, how to feel that connection to the divine. This often comprised meditation practises, the energy of consciousness, and working with the energy of mind and spirit. And the third was Martial arts style of Qi Gong – working with energy to develop a powerful body (usually used for fighting). 

Tai Chi falls into that third branch of martial arts style practice. We can see from this that Qi Gong is the mother of Tai Chi, it gave birth to Tai Chi practice. Tai Chi is a very specific practice for martial application. 

But both of these practices have unique and similar principles. For example both practices move from the center. Both practices are water-like, they are internal arts, they both cultivate energy. The intention of both practices is to develop and cultivate that energy for health and vitality and internal power. Tia Chi moves into a martial expression. For example, every movement in Tai Chi will have a martial application, such as a block or a strike. One movement in the Tai Chi form will then go into another movement. In Tai Chi you have to learn a whole sequence of movements – a 108 movement style or a 64 movement style.  There are 3 or 4 distinct styles in Tai Chi while there are 3000 styles of Qi Gong. Tai Chi would be considered one particular style of Qi Gong practice, the martial style. 

Tai Chi originated from the Chen family about 800 years ago. The history books tell us that Chen family practitioners were doing Chen style Tai Chi. They had a servant named Yang. Yang would spy and watch and takes notes and practice what he was witnessing in the Chen family. Master Chen was teaching his sons, but the servant Yang was practicing. He practised very strongly and developed a high skill at the Tai Chi martial arts practice. Then Master Yang took it to his family. So now we have Yang style and Chen style, some variety of movements, a lot of them are similar but there are some distinct styles.  Tai Chi became very popularised because in that Yang family lineage the martial arts practitioners became very good. They would challenge martial arts schools around the country until they became very famous for their martial skill. The Chinese Emperor and the Royal Guard learned a short style of Yang family tradition Tai Chi and it became popularised. 

Mainly we practice Tai Chi for the same reasons we practice Qi Gong. We practice for health, energy cultivation, stress management and for feeling that deep connection to our energy and power. 

It is suggested one practises Qi Gong first, because it’s simpler, it’s more accessible. In Qi Gong you learn how to move your energy. You learn the principles of moving with relaxation, moving with water-like softness. After you have mastered those principles you can learn how to move those same principles into a Tai Chi form. Because in a Tai Chi form you are going to have to to memorise different sequences of movements. Because one movement will go right into the next. Whereas in Qi Gong one movement flows in a rhythmic pattern and repeats itself as a moving meditation and it becomes easier to practice. So for example the movement called Parting the Horses Maine, will repeat itself over and over in a Qi Gong practice. But in Tai Chi you do that movement in a walking set where you will be moving the energy into a form which makes it harder to memorise. 

What's the Difference between Qi Gong and Yoga?

Qi Gong comes from China and Traditional Chinese Medicine while Yoga comes from India from Ayurvedic Medicine. Both of these systems are ancient. They both stem back at least 4000 years. Some of the earliest written recordings on exercises, movements and breathing practices come from both of these systems. Another similarity is that these two practises shared a lot of information. Geographically from China to Tibet to India, a lot of practices were shared. Both are based on energy and how energy moves and circulates through the body. 

Differences: yoga has an emphasis on stretching, (at least modern yoga). Stretching with breath. This is more of a recent phenomena, meaning that it does not go back to those 4000 years. Its more through British Gymnastics, Prana Yama, Breath Techniques and certain postures it all came together in more modern times that we see these yogic practices here in the West that are so popular. They are still working with energy, breath, movement, meditation and mindfulness. 

Qi Gong practices have ancient roots as well. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, for example, there are five branches, namely Qi Gong, Acupuncture, Herbs, Nutrition and Massage Therapy. There are a lot of similarities between Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine. E.g. Massage therapy, lifestyle and herbs. Acupuncture is a little different however in Ayurvedic medicine they have energy pathways with Marma points. These are different kinds of acupressure points that in one culture was really emphasized and in another culture it wasn’t. 

In China there are 3000 styles of Qi Gong, some of these styles look a lot like Yoga. Some of the postures are even similar. For example in Yoga,  Warrior Two, the posture is held while breathing into it. Bringing mindfulness  and set intention. In Qi Gong one moves while inhaling and exhaling creating a flow within the stretch. Yoga flows might be from stretch to stretch. But Wi Gong will have a lot more emphasis on flowing movement. 

Yoga focuses on the principle of resiliency. Stretching and strengthening. The idea of flow is really unique to Qi Gong. In Qi Gong you move your body with these slow motion kind of exercises, intentional breathing. Moving with relaxation.  It’s one of the only forms of exercise that moves with relaxation. Moving like a river flowing down a mountain, with effortless ease. You’ll see different movements in Qi Gong practice cultivating this idea of flow. It’s about doing less and accomplishing more. Today, we especially need things that allow us to relax and do less. Life is ruled by invisible forces: we don’t have to do anything to make our hearts beat, our breathing happens without any effort on your part. We can just relax into it. Our digestion does not require any effort from us. All these things happen in your body. Even in the world, the wind blows, the ocean waves moves through the water. Everything is nature happens with effortless ease. Flows in Qi Gong are designed to mirror the movements of nature. It’s very refreshing to relax into those flows. 

Can Yoga and Qi Gong be done at the same time? Yes! Do Yoga and then end with flows, because your body is nice and stretched and opened up. Then you end with some flows. The resiliency training of Yoga leads really well into the flows of Qi Gong. Or you can do a Yoga practice in the morning and Qi Gong practice at night. You can alternate days with your practices, they both have their benefits and are rooted in ancient traditions. 

Is Qi Gong a Good Workout?

Yes!!! Qi Gong is a different kind of workout; we focus on physical fitness as well as energetic fitness. It also engages the fitness of your mind, body and emotions – it is a fully integrated workout! We do movements that help to strengthen the body and improve flexibility. It also includes flowing movements and moving meditation as a way to feel integrated and whole within yourself. Our practice includes breath, energy and vitality. Qi means energy. Energy is something we are all seeking. Qi Gong helps us become aware of how much energy we have and how much stress we carry in our bodies. But most importantly how to transform stress into vitality. We cover all these topics in our classes. We focus on all the different parts of the anatomy: neck and shoulders, upper back, lower back, hips waist and joints (to name a few). Qi Gong has such a variety of movements that it is a great cross trainer for your energy. You will get a cross-training workout that will open up your whole body so that it is cleared out and transformed into an elevated energy state. Each class has a warm-up, a strengthening, a stretch and a flow. Qi Gong makes you so strong that after just a few months, when you do a regular exercise routine, you won’t believe how powerful you will feel. It makes doing regular exercise feel so easy! They don’t say “Qi Gong is the art of effortless power” for nothing! Qi Gong is very enjoyable and really makes you feel good in your own skin!

How does Qi Gong Prevent Heart Disease and Heart Problems from Developing?

When I was at med school and we studied the physiology of the heart and the cardiovascular system, much time was spent discussing the importance of maintaining elasticity in the blood vessels that the heart pumps into. We want these vessels nice and soft so that when we exercise and the heart needs to beat faster and harder it has a lovely soft and open network of blood vessels to beat into. But… and here is the big but…. when I was in med school we never discussed the container or the environment that the blood vessels are surrounded by. Our blood vessels are surrounded by the soft tissue of the body, the muscles. 

When we get stressed or are in a situation of the unknown we tend to contract out bodies, creating great tension in these muscles. The reason we contract is because we want to give ourselves some semblance of control, in a world that otherwise feels out of our control. The heart then has to respond by pumping harder to move blood through these tighter spaces.

In the short term we land up exhausted by the end of the day from holding this excess tension in the muscles. This is a great misuse of our energy. Because if we spend all our energy on holding our muscles in contraction then it is not available for the healthy functioning of other systems. We can see this in our bodies. This can manifest in many different ways, for example an allergy: because the full amount of energy is not available to a particular system, the body will make one system not function at 100%.

In the long term this puts major strain on the heart and the whole cardiovascular system which leads to illness in the cardiovascular system in the future. With Qi Gong we can prevent heart disease, strokes, aneurysms and heart attacks.

Because Qi Gong relaxes the whole body, it takes pressure off the heart. This form of deep inner relaxation is the key to a healthy long life. But Qi Gong does more than just relax the body, it teaches the body how to relax from deep within, bringing a sense of calm and peacefulness. One of my clients always says, its like giving yourself a massage, but the best massage you can imagine and then some! This internal relaxation that Qi Gong creates is the key to a healthy long life!

How Does Qi Gong help with Weight loss and Digestion Issues?

In our Western world when it comes to weight loss, it has been drilled into us that the only problem is the weight itself. We focus solely on what we eat and how much exercise we do.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine excess weight is considered a symptom of a larger health issue and not the actual problem itself. The real solution to this weight gain lies inside the body. It is caused by an imbalance in the Qi  between organs such as the spleen and the liver. This results in a problem with the individuals Qi, or energy. 

One major cause of weight gain as recognised by TCM is mucus! Mucus can occur anywhere in the body and can have numerous causes. Sometimes mucus can be caused by diet, consuming too much dairy can result in excess mucus production. When this is the case TCM recognises that there is a problem in the energy, the Qi, of the spleen or lung. In TCM the spleen produces mucus while the lung stores it. This is part of the normal day-to-day functioning of these organs. Weight gain can occur if either or both of these organs are not functioning correctly. By correcting the functioning of these organs, a person will easily be able to lose weight and keep it off.

Stress can also disrupt the functioning of the liver. This imbalance in the liver can cause the spleen and the energy of the entire digestive system to malfunction, also resulting in weight gain. 

Another cause of weight gain according to TCM principles is having too much water in the body. Water retention. Three organ systems are at play here, the lung, the spleen and the kidneys. The lung maintains the balance of water in the upper part of the body (arms etc). The spleen maintains the middle part of the body (torso etc). While the kidneys maintain water in the lower part of the body (the legs etc). When all three of these systems function correctly, the body eliminates water efficiently. If these systems are not functioning correctly,  water retention will occur. 

Qi Gong works to balance the energies within all these organ systems, making weight loss a simple easy process that remains permanent.

What are the signs of Weak Qi?

To recap, each cell in the body makes its own electricity, bio-electricity, that is used to power up the cells and perform all the tasks that each cell and organ has to perform for ultimate health. The word for bio-electricity when translated into Chinese is Qi. It is the battery that drives the body and all its functions.

Having weak or deficient Qi means that the Qi of the organ is too low or weak to perform its job.

Signs of deficient Qi are: headaches that occur after a meal on the front of the forehead, a distended or bloated stomach, burping or passing gas after eating, loose stool after eating, food allergies, difficulty keeping food down after swallowing, difficulty swallowing, difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, nightmares, difficulty falling pregnant, sweating at night (your body’s Qi is unable to control the opening and closing of your skin pores), heartburn, frequent urination during the day or at night, itchy or red eyes, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, difficulty in decision making (the gall bladder rules the body’s ability to make decisions. If its Qi is deficient you will have a hard time making decisions), difficulty in eating protein or dairy, frequent mood swings, holding onto grudges, thinking constantly about the past, hay fever, bad breath, tinnitus, ringing in the ears, nails that easily break, eyes that frequently tear, waking up with matter in your eyes, headaches on both sides of the head indicate a gall bladder Qi issues, headaches at the front of the head are caused by a stomach Qi deficiency, headaches at the top of the head indicate a liver and kidney Qi deficiency. Adult acne indicates an imbalance in the Qi of your liver and kidney, bruising easily, cellulite, migraines, cold or sweaty hands, poor memory, a sour taste in the mouth, swollen or bleeding gums to name a few!

I am happy to tell you that Qi Gong can help with all of these!

What Conditions can Qi Gong treat?

Modern physicists have proven that all matter is composed of energy. The matter they are talking about is everything from atoms and molecules to the stars and planets (this includes the human body too). 

The Taoists also speak of all matter being composed of energy. This energy is regulated by what is called the five elemental energies. These energies are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. These energies affect nature as we witness on a daily basis.  These energies also affect each other, think of water putting out a fire or wind fanning a flame. But they also affect us in terms of our bodies and emotions. In the body, they affect the 5 major organs: the lungs, the kidneys, the liver, the heart and the spleen.

In Qi Gong, we work with these energies to balance the five elemental energies that make up the body.  In so doing we restore and maintain the natural equilibrium in these energies that govern the internal organs and regulate their related functions and tissues.

These 5 organs are paired with other organs in sets of yin and yang. For example, the heart which is yin, is paired with the small intestine which is yang. The kidneys (yin) are paired with the bladder (yang). The lungs (yin) are paired with the large intestine (yang). The liver (yin) is paired with the gall bladder (yang). And lastly, the stomach (yin) is paired with the spleen (yang).

We work the energy of these meridians with specific Qi Gong exercises. For example we can make a weak heart strong by exercises that stimulate the energy of the heart. On the other hand, if the heart is overactive we can cool it down by boosting the water element. 

Let’s look at each organ individually to understand further.

The lungs are ruled by the metal element in TCM. It is often said that the breath is the quickest source of energy, Qi. If we stop breathing, we die! The lungs bring Qi into the body. The lungs are affected by grief. If a person has unbalanced lung qi they will be more affected by grief and unable to move on. The luns 

How do our Bodies Communicate with us?

Have you noticed that there are specific times of the day when physical issues arise or get worse? This is your body communicating with you! Let me explain! 

There is a daily cycle of how Qi (bio-electricity) moves through the organs. In Traditional Chinese Medicine each organ has a two-hour time period when it leads the body. During this specific time, the organ is like the head of the army, overseeing the flow and activities of the whole body. If that organ is not functioning well, it will cause problems for all the rest of the organs resulting in blockages of energy flow. 

TCM practitioners use this information to diagnose potential problems with an organ. E.g. The lung is in charge from 3-5 am. If you find yourself awake (with or without a physical complaint) between these hours it could be a sign that the Qi (bio-electricity) of your lung is not functioning correctly. Your body is using this time of day to communicate this problem to you! The same is true during waking hours, e.g. if you experience a symptom at 5 pm, it could indicate a problem with your kidney Qi.

Daily Cycle of When Qi Peaks:

Lung: 3am – 5am

Large Intestine: 5am – 7am

Spleen: 7am – 9am

Stomach: 9am – 11am

Heart: 11am – 1pm

Small Intestine: 1pm – 3pm

Bladder: 3pm – 5pm

Kidney: 5pm – 7pm

Pericardium: 7pm – 9pm

Triple Warmer: 9pm – 11pm

Gall Bladder: 11pm – 1am

Liver: 1am – 3am

The body also communicates with us via taste. Food cravings are actually the way your body communicates with you that a particular organ is out of balance. Each of the main organs is associated with a different taste that it uses to balance its energy. The taste associated with the liver is sour. If one has a sour taste in their mouth, it is a sign that their liver is out of balance. If a person craves the taste of sour, it is the liver trying to rebalance itself through food. The taste associated with the heart is bitter. The taste that goes directly to the spleen is sweet. The taste associated with the lungs is pungent. The taste associated with the kidneys is salty. If a person likes eating a lot of fish it means their kidneys are wanting to balance their energy. 

Can Qi Gong Help with Sleep Problems?

There’s an old Qi Gong saying: Don’t go to sleep if you’re too tired! Why? Because you just wake up tired! If you’ve ever gone to sleep bombed out of your mind, to sleep for 10 hours only to wake up exhausted, then you know what I’m talking about!

When you sleep you need Yin energy to properly rejuvenate from the Yang energy of your day. If you have too much Yang energy or too little Yin energy you just wake up tired and grumpy! If you are depleted of yin energy, it’s hard to fall asleep, the mind becomes overly active, and people tend to wake up after only a few hours of sleep. If you have too much Yang energy you feel wired but tired. Qi Gong helps you build up Yin energy in your body so that when you want to sleep you can sleep and wake up fresh and ready for the day ahead!

Do you know what happens when you wake up fully refreshed after very deep sleep? You think better, you make better decisions, your productivity increases. You’re more available to those around you both physically and emotionally! You achieve more!

Can Qi Gong Help Old Injuries?

Yes! Qi means energy or bio-electricity and Gong means skill. In Qi Gong we become skilled at working with our body’s own electricity. This electricity runs in pathways called meridians that travel up and down the body. Sometimes this electricity is unable to flow smoothly through an area. This electricity powers up all processes in the body, your thinking, ability to concentrate, immunity, digestion, the strength of your muscles etc.  Sometimes this electricity is unable to flow smoothly through an area. This electricity gives your body the ability heal itself. 

If you have an injury to an area where this electricity is not flowing smoothly, the injury will be unable to fully heal and recover. In Qi Gong, we do special movements synchronised with breathing techniques that correct the electricity in the meridians. When the electricity is balanced in the meridians, one is able to recover quickly and easily from injuries and the injuries do not recur.

Can Qi Gong Help Skin Problems?

Yes! In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the energy of the lungs affects the skin. When your body is trying to get rid of something that is in excess, from inside the body, it moves it out through the skin. Acne breakouts, eczema, rashes, etc., are your body’s way of trying to balance and heal itself.

In Qi Gong, we do special movements synchronised with breathing techniques that balance the energy of the organs, especially the lungs. By doing so, we help spread and move these excesses of stagnant energy through the body supporting the ability to heal without causing any disturbance to the skin. Those who do Qi Gong tend to have a healthy and happy complexion.