Qigong is the New Yoga

Pro blogger Darren Rowse asked me to make a prediction on what the new year will bring to the martial arts community.  I expect that qigong will continue growing in popularity, and that within ten years it will be as ubiquitous as yoga is today.

What is Qigong?


In case you don’t already know, qigong (pronounced cheegung) is the applied science of manipulating bioenergy, and has been practiced by martial artists, doctors and shamans for over 8,000 years.  Basically, qigong is to breathing what yoga is to stretching.

As qigong becomes more popular in mainstream society, big business will step in to reap the profits.  The last decade brought us yoga straps, yoga mat cleaning spray, yoga for dogs and even nude yoga; get ready for the QiStick™, dantian energizing lotion and yuanshen helmet.

Even more troubling is the inevitable decline in teaching standards.  The qigong field already suffers from a few naive instructors who perpetuate falsehoods, such as the claim that qigong skills cannot be measured.  Such claims are unlikely to be corrected by forthcoming corporate chain instructors, whose credentials consist of a short 40-hour training course.

Considering the diverse set of motivations for qigong study—health and healing, self-defense, spiritual growth and more—it may seem impossible to define a common set of criteria for identifying high quality instruction.  (A similar problem exists for martial arts such as Tai Chi.)

But there is a common quality that links legitimate qi gong study, martial arts practice, and other personal development disciplines.  This quality can be expressed in a single word.  Do you know what it is?


  1. Oh, this sounds so interesting, I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of it before so you have taught me something new today. Now I have to poke around your blog and learn more about it, indeed!

    We also participated in this project, stop on by if you get a chance!

  2. Uh, considering that yoga and qigong do basically similar things, I am curious about how this will play out.

  3. I have practised Qigong for a couple of years now first simply as a warm up in Tai Chi class and now as an integral part of my Shiatsu development. I am fortunate that all of the teachers I have encountered have been plugged in to the real nature of Qigong even if it is to varying levels.

    I have not done much Yoga but in Shiatsu we learn a series called the Makko-Ho that are stretches focussing along the qi meridians. Now that gives me an idea for a new set of posts……

  4. Hi,

    I really agree with a great deal of what you wrote in this article.

    To address your question about a single word that links:

    legit qigong,
    martial arts and
    other self development

    I would say that one of three things fit:

    practice or

    Regarding establishing a set of criteria for defining high quality instruction, one parameter is quite simple.

    Here it is:

    If you practice diligently and attend qigong class several times a week and do not notice clear channel qi meridian changes in 90 days, find a new teacher.

    If you are studying with an accomplished practitioner, your channel qi meridians will start to change and begin opening by then. If you aren’t getting results within 90 days, you probably won’t with that teacher.

    I studied T’ai Chi for 2 years and never got the meridians to open correctly. And I practiced two full sets – morning and night for 3 years almost every day – maybe I missed two days in three years.

    Subsequently, I studied a qigong system integrated into an internal gungfu system and the meridians were wide open within 3 months – all except the heart chakra – that took more time. My lower dantian got very strong and my kidney energy was very powerful with good root strength and a good opening of the legs and arms – tingling feet and such…

    But compared to the T’ai Chi instruction, there was no comparison.

    After the original qigong training, I worked with another master for about 4 years and consistently, the typical time frame for the channels to begin activating in students and really start changing was right around 3 months.

    So if you aren’t getting results, I would suggest finding a new teacher.

    Regarding your other point of an inevitable decline in teaching standards, this is already here. It has been declining for a long time.

    I interfaced with long time qigong students during in-class
    “pair” training and could personally feel the energy differential during the practice. Some of the people were from China with many years of training “from prominent masters”. Yet, with less than two years of personal experience and training, my channel qi was much stronger.

    Please understand when I say this, I am not tooting my horn, I am tooting my teacher’s horn. Others students in our class had the same experience.

    The way I can tell if a teacher is good or not is to attend the class and feel the energy. Unfortunately, there are many who claim to have authority regarding channel qi internal power that are really not qualified.

    Somehow these types of people always seem to excel in the politics of organizations who create ratings and evaluations.
    The people really doing the work well often do not care and dislike politics.

    The baddest guys I know are very private about their skills.

    Measurement of qigong energy is a very achievable process. For example, I know a qigong master who is also a research scientist. He has been testing and documenting enzymes in students before, during and after practice for some time.

    But problems arise when agendas get involved. True evaluation and standards require objectivity. As an example, take the NIH. Although this is not about qigong specifically, there is a parallel here. The NIH did a 16 year study that conclusively “proves” that there is no benefit to acupuncture as a modality. I know this because I subscribed to their newsletter for several years.

    As far as that goes, the NIH, in my opinion, is simply not qualified to evaluate internal energetic modalities.

    The only way to establish accurate standards and evaluations is to have accomplished masters and advanced qigong students do the evaluating.

    A standard can be established if the masters will work together and quit squabbling over turf. If I never get evaluated by a qigong governing body, I’ll be able to survive without certification. People who work with me soon learn my integrity and capability.

    Nothing else really matters to me. But it would be nice to get certified via a legitimate set of standards.

    Who am I to make these evaluations? Just a guy who loves qigong and wants to see high standards adhered to for the long term benefit of the art.

    Just for the record…

    I had about 350 hours of training in my first 8 months of qigong study (not including the TaiChi) and then about 6-8 hours of class per week for 175 weeks from another teacher. This was class time. At my practice peak, I practiced up to three hours a day at home – in addition to class time.

    I have been practicing for 14 years on my own since the class time.

    I love qigong.

  5. Basically, qigong is to breathing what yoga is to stretching.

    This kind of ignores what Yoga is.
    The term can be roughly translated to mean “to unify”
    There are many forms of Yoga, including martial.
    I practice Japa Yoga, this is mantra yoga.

    I like Zen Yoga too, among other forms.
    Qigong can be described as a type of Yoga, though not all Yoga is Qigong. The origin of qigong may relate to yoga as well.

  6. Josh, Yoga is not stretching, and Qigong is not breathing; that is precisely my point.

  7. Interesting point.

    My study indicates aside from self serving nationalist rhetoric Qigong seems to be a type of yoga that was introduced to China from the India.

    Of course the sinogists won’t agree, but their capacity for study is limited to borders and so ends up being very subjective.

  8. The word qigong comes from the Chinese literature and means the use the mental power for guiding your breathing and physical movements that keep you fit. The Qigong technique mainly includes physical exercises with controlled breathing to make the Qi energy flow in your body for balancing and improving its physical functions. Chi kung qigong gives you a Chi power which promotes your energy and help you attain inner peace and fulfillment. This art is very simple and one of the best practical self-healing technique existing in the world today.

    I agree that qigong is the new yoga.

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