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The Healing Arts of Qigong and Tai Chi: Well-Being Through Intentional Movements

Sep 29, 2023 09:30AM ● By Nadia Linda Hole, M.D.
The Healing Arts of Qigong and Tai Chi


Qigong is more than a modern wellness practice. It’s a 5,000-year-old Chinese healing art steeped in tradition. At its core, qigong revolves around the concept of qi (pronounced “chee”), considered to be the life-force energy that permeates the universe. Like love, qi can act as a potent healing agent, restoring inner peace, balance and harmony. Gong refers to the dedication and effort invested in mastering this skill, a journey marked by patience and repetition. Qigong is a moving, meditative practice aimed at harmonizing internal energies, and it is related to tai chi, which originated as a martial art.

Benefits and Scientific Validation

The practice of qigong involves breath work, movement, mindfulness and stretching. It is performed with intention, yet emptiness (“wuji”), enabling practitioners to cultivate a stronger, deeper mind-body-spirit connection that allows for heightened stillness, clarity, vitality, awareness and sense of self. It has been clinically documented to alleviate stress, enhance energy levels, improve physical fitness and promote cardiopulmonary and immune function.

A 2020 study published in Frontiers in Medicine reported that qigong improved balance and coordination in older adults. In presenting their scientific approach and rationale, the researchers noted, “Qigong is an integral part of both ancient and modern Chinese medical practice and is now a popular mind-body wellness technique in the United States, as well. An estimated 2.9 million U.S. adults practiced either tai chi, qigong or both in 2012.”

In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers found that tai chi could enhance brain size and improve neuropsychological measures in elderly individuals, potentially delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s. A systematic review of 11 studies involving 1,061 seniors with mild cognitive impairment suggested that tai chi training could be effective in improving cognitive function, including memory, learning, mental speed and attention. And, a 10-week study by Brown University researchers reported that cancer patients that practiced qigong displayed clinically significant improvements in fatigue.

Accelerating the Healing Process

“Knowing yourself is the real practice,” says David Stokes Hone, a naturopathic doctor, medical qigong master and founder of the Elements of Life Institute. “As practitioners, all we’re doing is reminding people of the divine connection that’s inside of them. Qigong helps clear blockages and move the stuck qi out. Just doing the practices, we allow our bodies to heal through the movement that helps us have the faith to heal. The blocks and addictions melt into the light formed by the exercises.”

According to Hone, the profound transformations achieved through qigong can range from the dramatic, such as restoring sensation in a paraplegic’s legs, to the more subtle, like the emergence of a smile. He recalls the story of a young woman entrenched in addiction who managed to turn her life around after embracing the practice.

Kevin Chen, Ph.D., a qigong master and associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, introduced qigong to his father with chronic back pain as a way to alleviate his suffering and avoid a recommended surgery.

Principles of Qigong

For beginners, Tai Chi Master Violet Li emphasizes relaxation and mindfulness. “True relaxation is more a state of mind,” she explains. “When we pay attention to our body, the qi will follow.”

Troy Bennett, a doctor of acupuncture and qigong master from Newfoundland, Canada, shares eight principles that he learned from Qigong Grandmaster Effie Chow.

  1. Meditate. Whenever a problem arises, meditate and wait for the answer to come. If you come to the conclusion that you can't fix the problem, then it's not in your hands, so don't worry about it.
  2. Be like the willow tree. Learn to be flexible in the body, mind and spirit.
  3. Breathe. The quality of your breath will determine the quality of your life. Breathe like a newborn baby.
  4. Connect. Everyone and everything in the universe is connected through qi. Remember the smallest thing you do in life will have an effect on the universe. Always hold the intention of love.
  5. Train for success. Remember to always help people become the best that they can become.
  6. Leave a blessing. Whenever you meet someone, always give a blessing. Your kindness can have the most powerful effect on someone's life and transform them in ways you can only dream of.
  7. Experience eight hugs and three belly-aching laughs daily. Don’t take life so seriously. Learn to laugh and enjoy life.
  8. Live. When Dr. Chow was asked, “What happens when you die?” she laughed and said, “I cannot answer that question. There is no such thing as death. There is only life.”

Nadia Linda Hole is a medical doctor, qigong master and pioneer in bridging Oriental, Western and energy medicine with Hawaiian-style qigong. She served as a consulting editor for the book Chinese Medical Qigong and contributing author in medical textbooks on complementary medicine.