Qigong (or chi kung) (literally “Life Energy Cultivation”) is a practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation. With roots in Chinese medicine, martial arts, and philosophy, qigong is traditionally viewed as a practice to cultivate and balance qi (chi), the “intrinsic life energy”.
Typically a qigong practice involves rhythmic breathing coordinated with slow stylized repetition of fluid movement, a calm mindful state, and visualization of guiding qi through the body. Qigong is now practiced throughout China. It is considered by some to be exercise, and by others to be a type of alternative medicine or meditative practice. From a philosophical perspective qigong is believed to help develop human potential, allow access to higher realms of awareness, and awaken one’s “true nature”.
Qigong can be related to chakras, as qigong relies on a similar model of the human body as an energy system, except that it involves the circulation of qi (chi) energy. The Qi energy, equivalent to the Hindu Prana, flows through the energy channels called meridians, equivalent to the nadis, but two other energies are also important, Jing, the sexual energy, and Shen, or spirit energy.
In the principle circuit of qi, called the Microcosmic orbit, energy rises up a main meridian along the spine, but also comes back down the front torso. Throughout its cycle it enters various dantians (elixir fields) which act as furnaces, where the types of energy in the body (jing, qi and shen) are progressively refined. These dantians play a very similar role to that of chakras.
The number of dantians varies depending on the system; the navel dantian is the most well-known (it is called the Hara in Japan), but there is usually a dantian located at the heart and between the eyebrows. The lower dantian at or below the navel transforms sexual essence, or jing, into qi energy. The middle dantian in the middle of the chest transforms qi energy into shen, or spirit, and the higher dantian at the level of the forehead (or at the top of the head), transforms Shen into wuji, infinite space of void.