Qigong is getting popular. That’s good. It’s not quite at the level of yoga or pilates, but at least most non-Asian people have heard of it, though they may not be sure exactly what it is. I’m both happy and worried about this. As a life long martial artist, I understand qigong in the old fashioned way; to me it’s a type of kung fu, a whole way of life, a self cultivation practice. But its emerging popularity in western culture puts it at risk. I’m starting to see qigong classes pop up in gyms, community recreation classes, and yoga studios. Don’t get me wrong. I think this is wonderful. Qigong is a treasure that should be available to everyone. The problem is that many people are starting to view it as a pill they can take to fix some problem. Qigong is not a magic pill, and if treated that way will only disappoint.
I recently spoke with a friend who is struggling with a mysterious chronic illness. She had heard about qigong and even taken a class at her local yoga studio. She asked me if I thought qigong could help her get better. I found myself dithering. Well yes, I wanted to say. But are you willing to change your life? Are you willing to delve deeply into the heart of qigong, and discover the ways in which it can nourish your spirit and regulate your life? Or are you hoping for an exotic magic bullet?
What I ended up saying, after stammering a bit, was rather strange. I said, “Well, it depends on whether you fall in love with it. If you’re really engaged with it, if you can allow it to change you, to lead you to new places, then yes it will help a lot. It might even heal you.”