Qigong (pronounced “chee-gong”) is deeply rooted in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It’s been used to promote and restore health for thousands of years, though it wasn’t formally called “qigong” until the 1950s. That said, the Red Thread International Institute refers to qigong as “the world’s oldest healthcare system.”

“Qigong is a mind-body practice that utilizes postures, coordinated breaths, and intention setting. It’s one of these universal practices that can be applied in so many different ways,” says Michael Sweeney, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, a doctor of medical qigong, the deputy chair of the National Qigong Association (NQA), and the director of academics at the Red Thread International Qigong Institute in Carbondale, Colorado.

According to the NQA, the term “qigong” is made up of two words or concepts. There’s “qi,” which means “vital energy,” and “gong,” which translates to “skill cultivated through steady practice.” TCM’s core theories and their practitioners believe that qi flows through the bodies of all living beings. If this energy becomes stagnant or blocked, health problems may appear.

Through simple postures, deep breathing patterns, and intention setting, qigong is believed, according to TCM, to promote a better flow of qi, per the Cleveland Clinic. With improved qi flow may come better health overall.

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