Chi Kung Exercises

Illustration of a blade of wheat sticking through a fence pole.
Many feats of nature remind us of the power of chi and chi kung exercises.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

In Taoism, chi refers to the living energy in all things. Kung is a term that refers to the achievements of long practice. Together, as chi kung, these words describe a relationship between someone who cultivates the chi and the discipline they use.

Every once in a long while, when walking along a fence bordering a field, you'll notice a single blade of hay protruding from both sides of a fence pole. Only a gust of wind traveling at the right speed and moving in the right direction could provide the precise amount of force to accomplish this feat.


Here nature reveals the power of chi in a quietly spectacular way. This power is the force that chi kung practitioners seek to cultivate.

The Horse Stance

As a combination of the concepts of chi and kung, chi kung exercises are used specifically to collect and store chi. One such exercise is The Horse Stance, which is known throughout traditional healing and martial arts circles, and it is recognized universally as an extremely beneficial exercise.

While there are many variations, the version described here is very basic. Although the posture itself is often found to be difficult and uncomfortable at first, these problems disappear with practice.

Usually, a series of special opening and closing movements are used in connection with The Horse, as it is sometimes called. These are designed to promote the movement of chi by opening and closing certain channels in the body, well-known to acupuncturists and other practitioners of traditional medicine. However, benefit can be derived simply by practicing The Horse by itself.

In a well-executed Horse Stance chi kung exercise, the shoulders and back muscles are completely relaxed throughout the exercise. The feet are placed firmly on the ground about shoulder-width apart.

In this form of the stance, the knees are bent slightly so that they are directly above the toes. The arms are raised slowly to waist level with the elbows kept close to the torso, which leans forward slightly.

The elbows can be raised or lowered until a comfortable position is found. The exact height of the elbows has an influence on the way chi is absorbed into, and emitted from, the body. The two palms face earthward or sometimes face each other. This is the basic Horse Stance posture.

What is actually happening in the mind of the practitioner is this: The chi is envisioned as moving upward from the ground through the feet, the legs, and past the waist. It flows up along the spinal column, past the shoulders, and into the arms.

Then the chi moves past the elbows and out from the fingers. If the muscles or ligaments are tense in the hips or along the back and shoulders, the chi will be prevented from flowing, and there is no point in continuing the exercise. Practitioners will often step out of the stance until the muscles are once again relaxed.

When the chi begins to flow properly, the body begins to rock slowly back and forth, like a supple tree bending in a slight breeze. This is a sign of relaxation. Tense muscles prevent the chi from flowing along the channels.

Over time, this stance can be held comfortably for half an hour or more. While standing in The Horse Stance will strengthen the legs, this chi kung exercise also has the important function of promoting the flow of chi through the body.

Brought to North America by immigrating Asian chi kung masters and well-traveled Westerners with an interest in the subject, these techniques have remained essentially unchanged during their long migration.

This Horse Stance is the same basic posture used throughout chi kung history. Even though many variations in the basic stance have developed, the ideas discussed above are still in use today.

Continue reading to learn more about the origins of chi kung and the differences between certain styles of chi kung.

To learn more about chi and its relation to Taoism, see:


The History of Chi Kung Exercises

Many different sets of chi kung exercises were developed by Taoists and others over a period of many hundreds of years. All of them, though, have a common purpose. They attempt to transform the natural energy of chi, found throughout the universe, into a suitable form for use inside the body.

This energy can be absorbed from the outside, compressed, stored, and employed in different ways within the body. Some exercises are designed to manipulate chi already inside the body in specialized ways -- to heal others, for example, or in the pursuit of enlightenment or in the martial arts. Other exercises move chi through the many acupuncture channels to clear energy blockages.


Promoting the free flow of chi to all internal tissues and organs fosters good health. As we will see, these exercises also have many other interesting effects.

Chi Kung Styles

There are many distinct styles of chi kung -- more than 2,000 in China alone. Some chi kung styles are Buddhist and others are Taoist. One chi kung style is comprised largely of standing postures such as The Horse Stance. Practitioners perform the chi kung exercises from a stationary position with very few, if any, movements of the feet.

These stationary chi kung exercises were originally designed to suit the needs of large numbers of monks confined to close quarters in crowded monasteries, temples, and private, nonreligious centers. Such institutions were usually extremely strict in their daily regimen, and the inhabitants often did not have enough exercise to retain good health.

Further, the monks' diet was not always sufficient. For this reason, chi kung exercises, sometimes called temple exercises, were developed. These proved doubly useful when monks found themselves imprisoned, not an infrequent occurrence during different periods in Chinese history.

One of the most interesting and highly developed chi kung styles is that of tai chi chuan. Unlike the standing forms, this practice consists of a series of connected movements.

Often thought of as a dance, tai chi chuan is actually a moving meditation in which all parts of the body, including the internal organs, are exercised and massaged. While beginners require a small room to practice in, those advanced in the discipline need only a few square feet. In addition to being a chi kung practice, tai chi chuan is also a highly effective martial art.

The Origins of Chi Kung

Many chi kung practitioners believe it was a wandering monk who brought the revered art to China. In 475 a.d., Bodhidharma, also known as Da Mo, brought not only Buddhist chi kung but also kung fu and an early form of Zen Buddhism, known as Chan, to China from southern India.

Buddhist origins of chi kung are generally traced to Da Mo, who in later life founded the famous Shaolin temple, located in East China on Mount Sung in Honan Province. Today it serves primarily as a tourist site for vacationers.

The origins of chi kung may also be found in Taoism, however. Other practitioners believe that a form of chi kung originated with Taoist monks many centuries before in China itself and that two distinct forms of chi kung exist today.

Naturally, since two different religions are involved, both schools have distinct ritual traditions, ceremonial observances, and practices for the mind, body, and spirit. Exactly how these practices differ would be the subject for a lengthy book.

Still another closely allied group flourished in Tibet and became the Vajrayana Buddhists. This sect also developed its own special set of chi kung exercises. Each of these schools has many similarities not only in chi kung practice but also on key points of doctrine and philosophy, which clearly indicates at least some common founding principles.

On the next page, learn the effects of the Chinese cultural revolution on the practice of chi kung.

To learn more about chi and its relation to Taoism, see:


Chi Kung and the Cultural Revolution

Illustration of a man and a crane.
Some chi kung exercises mimic the natural attributes of animals.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

During the Chinese cultural revolution, a pronounced effort was made by the government to purge chi kung and other associated arts of their religious associations. The intent was to "purify" the practices.

In the case of chi kung, what survived during this period were techniques that could be used exclusively to promote health. Governmental officials during the Chinese cultural revolution endorsed these chi kung exercises and even assisted in formalizing instruction and in promoting chi kung practice among the general population.


These sterilized versions of chi kung have little or nothing to say about several of their original purposes, including the notion of the return to Tao and the ideas of immortality and enlightenment.

Fortunately, these sacred ideas were preserved in secret during the difficult years of the Chinese cultural revolution by dedicated monks and others, often at the peril of losing their lives. Today, they are being reintroduced wherever chi kung is practiced, even, to some extent, in China itself.

The efforts by Chinese officials to purge religion from the face of the earth were especially virulent in Tibet, which China invaded in 1950. Thousands of monasteries, where chi kung, among other disciplines, was traditionally studied and practiced, were completely destroyed.

This destruction was a great tragedy for the Tibetan people since monasteries served not only as centers for religious instruction but as centers for education of all types. When these institutions were obliterated, the educated classes were uprooted and the entire history and culture of Tibetan society was in danger of being lost.

Fortunately, a great many monks set out to cross the Himalayan mountains, the highest mountains in the world, to escape into Nepal. They brought all that they could carry on their backs, especially their spiritual treasures, including ancients texts passed down through the generations. This harsh pilgrimage cost thousands of lives.

The Study of Animal Behavior: A Living Library of Movement

Constant practice and refinement of chi kung exercises began to yield a number of intriguing results, not the least of which was robust health for the monks confined to the monasteries.

From time to time, chi kung practitioners also experienced profound psychological transformations, which led to superior intellectual abilities and even unusual psychic abilities such as telepathy and the ability to see auras.

The monks realized that these breakthroughs were related to the chi kung practices themselves. They also realized that the powerful energies they were cultivating could be applied in self defense, a very useful application since in those days traveling monks were easy prey to bands of roving thieves.

By observing animals in their native habitat, the monks discovered exactly how the chi cultivated in their chi kung exercises might be applied in hand-to-hand combat.

Due to anatomical peculiarities, such as the long powerful wings of the crane or the extreme flexibility and constricting abilities of the snake, each animal has a unique set of movements that lend themselves well to self-defense and self-preservation in general.

The rapierlike beak of the woodpecker, for example, not only pecks deep holes in trees during its search for insects, but serves as a formidable weapon against competitors or enemies.

In the water, the snapping turtle is a powerful and graceful swimmer. But on land, it appears to be a a clumsy creature, often hiding deep within its shell. Don't let this subterfuge fool you, however. Its extremely long neck is ready to shoot out of its shell to capture prey at any moment. When it goes fishing, its razor-sharp jaws and vicelike grip make short work of anything that happens to be caught.

Many chi kung exercises are very likely derived from these same kinds of observations. As you might expect, exercises such as The Horse Stance and, in tai chi chuan, Stork Cools Wings, are named after animals and their movements.

Some creatures' movements are adopted from real life while others, such as the old favorites, the dragon and the phoenix, are mythical. In terms of self-defense, animal movements were adapted as far as human anatomy would permit. In this way, practitioners learned to imitate the lightening strike of a snake's head, the soft yet powerful blow of a crane's wing, and the raking gouge of the tiger's claw.

Some chi kung exercises are tailored specifically to spiritual development. Learn about this aspect of chi kung on the next page.

To learn more about chi and its relation to Taoism, see:


Spirituality and Chi Kung

One very practical way to classify chi kung exercises is to separate them into two groups -- those related to spiritual development and conducted specifically to achieve enlightenment and those related to physical concerns and used to condition the body and to help it resist disease.

Some exercises related to physical concerns are performed for the benefit of others and are directly related to traditional healing practices, while some are associated with personal, worldly concerns, such as winning a martial arts competition or developing great physical prowess. The most advanced styles of chi kung, such as tai chi chuan, pursue all of these goals at once.


Contemporary chi kung practice is, in a general sense, largely concerned with personal health. But there are many exercises related to spiritual development, some still held in confidence, that focus on the advancement of psychic abilities and even seek to achieve immortality and enlightenment.

Some masters often closely guard certain details of their practice, reserving them for their favorite and most trustworthy students. If followed carefully, these spiritual development practices are reputed to heighten consciousness to superhuman levels and dramatically increase the flow of chi in the acupuncture channels of the body.

One such chi kung exercise, which draws heavily on the forces of nature, is really a type of meditation called Rabbit Salutes the Goddess of Mercy.

Chinese legend has it that the Lady of Compassion, Quan Lin, lives on the moon. Her pet, a rabbit made of jade, stands on the earth saluting her. The jade rabbit, with its red eyes, is well known in the Orient. This meditation gathers energy from the moon. It is performed during the night of the full moon and for each of the three days before and after it.

While standing in some place that is very still, watch for the moon to rise above the trees. Cup your hands and raise them to ear level, placing your palms forward. Stand naturally with your knees slightly bent.

The meditation is simply to stand quietly, as if in greeting, and watch the moon as it moves through the heavens. Some people feel a breeze blowing through their palms. This is the chi essence of the moon.

Only perform the exercise in summer when it is warm. According to traditional Chinese medicine, cold weather can sometimes influence the body in a negative way, particularly when it is in a receptive state such as during the practice of chi kung.

This exercise affects your body fluids, which, like the ocean tides, respond to the gravitational pull of the moon. It promotes the flow of the chi in the feminine, or yin, acupuncture channels in the body.

Unlike Rabbit Salutes the Goddess of Mercy, many meditations are performed while seated. Some of these focus on the Du or Govern­ing Channel, which runs along the spine, and attempt to move chi up the spine and through the Baihui point, known as the crown chakra in yogic practice.

When the Baihui point is penetrated, a stream of chi flows heavenward through the body. In this way, heaven and earth are symbolically reunited through the free-flowing chi. Those who are successful in this meditation are able to absorb and emit chi simultaneously, a very important ability for those who use chi in healing practice.

Almost unanimously, people who claim to have experienced these awakenings say they have gained insight into the nature of life and existence. By all accounts, it is practically impossible for them to relate the totality of their insights. Many of these fortunate individuals rely on demonstrating, as best they can, their revelations through various art forms such as poetry, painting, and descriptive prose.

Other chi kung practitioners concerned with spiritual development work ­confidently towards immortality. Some practitioners in this group understand immortality as the development of an imperishable spirit known as shen.

One indication of the presence of shen is that the practitioner possesses a heightened sense of awareness, an elevated state of mind in which new forms of perception are possible. Still other practitioners seek to prolong their lives for unusual lengths of time.

The Secret of the Golden Flower

In 1794, Liu Hua-yang, a monk from the Double Lotus Flower Monastery in Anhui Province in China, consigned an oral teaching to writing. The teachings themselves, later entitled The Secret of the Golden Flower (T'ai I Chin Hua Tsung Chih), originated sometime in the eighth century.

The teachings explain in detail some of the theory behind closely guarded chi kung methods for prolonging life. Interestingly, these explanations draw upon both Taoist and Buddhist theory, indicating that a formal exchange of ideas took place between the two movements.

These techniques were developed to preserve and supplement the chi already existing in the body. Proper circulation of the chi is believed to restore sick or degenerating tissues and keep them healthy for an indeterminate length of time.

The text makes it clear that the way to longer life, and even to immortality, is through the creation of an eternal spirit body that resides within the physical form. Later, this spirit body separates from the physical body and is born into its own existence.

According to Taoist philosophy, such a spirit has to be created individually, earned through painstaking practice and experimentation. As you might imagine, the creation of an immortal spirit body could not possibly be a simple, straightforward process.

Even when following elaborate instructions such as those hinted at in The Secret of the Golden Flower, because of individual differences, a certain degree of trial and error has always been required to achieve the desired results.

Continue reading to learn how despite being around for thousands of years, the question of authenticity in chi kung exercises is still in question.

To learn more about chi and its relation to Taoism, see:


Authenticity and Chi Kung

Identifying authentic chi kung practices in modern times is an issue of great concern. These days, chi kung instructions are very precise, and students inevitably require an experienced teacher to teach them correctly. Otherwise, they will likely become lost and confused.

But chi kung practice was not always so elaborate. How could it be? Today, we have the benefit of centuries of experience, much of which has been recorded and incorporated into the chi kung forms themselves.


Today, after 2,000 years or so of continuous development, a great number of chi kung systems use a highly structured, even rigorous, training curriculum. Still, the basic ideas of the ancients remain at the heart of chi kung practice, though the curriculum now incorporates the discoveries of generations of practitioners.

This means that not only the original postures and applications but also their derivations and some that are entirely new must also be mastered. The only way to transmit this enormous collection of findings properly is through systematic training.

With each successive generation of students, variations in the exercises, known as forms, have been developed. Naturally, over the course of centuries, the original forms were obscured until very few, if any, can be said to be identical to the original, authentic chi kung exercises.

Claiming a Lineage

Fortunately, there are several ways to verify whether any particular practice is indeed genuinely related to the original instructions. All Asian teachings, whether they are religious, martial, or healing in nature, claim a lineage, or membership in a particular school.

Even today, lineage is a source of great pride for practitioners, and internecine rivalry is common. The importance of one's lineage is determined by the abilities and fame of its members, past and present.

To be able to claim a lineage is akin to holding a passport into exclusive societies, similar to the social advantages possessed by members of a privileged caste, that is totally inaccessible to average citizens. In fact, highly respected chi kung practitioners in Asia are often revered as gods with magical powers, and their names are prefixed with the title "Divinity."

Another way to verify an authentic chi kung practice is by its results. If the method is successful and if well-known practitioners verify that it can accomplish what it claims, such as better health, the development of unusual abilities, and so on, the practice will be accepted. If not, its chances for survival are greatly diminished.

A final way to verify authentic chi kung practice is to compare its central ideas with those of the formal doctrines. In Taoist thought, these texts include notable works from many disciplines such as the I Ching (philosophy), the Tao Te Ching (philosophy), The Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor (medicine), The Secret of the Golden Flower (mysticism), and the eight tai chi chuan classics themselves.

These texts and others like them contain the seminal ideas that are reflected in all authentic schools. While allowing for some departure and modification, the core principles taught by any particular instructor will generally adhere to the standards set in these texts.

After all, the classics have formed the basis for discussion and commentary throughout history. Because they have endured, they are the final standard by which all authentic chi kung practices are measured.

Learn about the importance of intention and a pure mind in chi kung exercises on the next page.

To learn more about chi and its relation to Taoism, see:


Intention and Chi Kung Exercises

Intention is important in chi kung. Not everyone who follows chi kung techniques will achieve what they intend. Some masters and many references in both Taoist and Buddhist texts issue clear warnings: Those who squander or abuse their energies in the pursuit of worldly pleasures and those who are simply evil will be unable to control the forces they unleash.

The reason is this: Only if the mind is pure will the chi be able to circulate upward to illuminate it, thereby inducing enlightenment and stimulating the creative forces associated with heaven. If the mind is impure -- that is, focused on unwholesome thoughts or ambitions -- the chi will be attracted to and migrate to equally coarse energies associated with the lower realms of existence.


In Taoist folklore, fox spirits are said to inhabit these lower realms. Foxes, as well as people, are believed to be able to cultivate the elixir of life, which leads to the creation of a spirit body. As a result, foxes are occasionally thought to move up the evolutionary totem pole and reincarnate in human form.

But if we, who are already human, abuse the energies created in our efforts to form a spirit body, then we may descend into the lower realms and find ourselves reincarnated as a fox spirit. There, for perhaps a thousand years or more, we will roam free and happy in mountains under the light of sun and moon and stars. But, at last, we will be reborn into this same world, a world of strife and suffering.

The Backward Flowing Method

Parents impart a limited amount of prenatal chi to their children at birth. This finite quantity suggests its importance to our health and well-being and that it is vital to conserve and supplement it.

The monks focused their attention on developing special chi kung techniques that would redirect chi along the energy channels we know as acupuncture meridians. These pathways often become clogged in adult life, so these chi kung exercises help to restore the chi to a natural and efficient flow through the body.

Essentially, the many chi kung techniques developed by the monks are designed "to reverse the flow of chi" so that the mind no longer needlessly directs it to perform the menial tasks of the exterior world. While we naturally require chi simply to exist, chi kung practice teaches us not only to supplement the supply in our bodies, but to be more efficient in its use.

Typically, we simply give up certain habits that we recognize as interfering with our progress. We also learn to meditate and to discipline ourselves so that our attention does not wander and our energies are not dissipated while we perform a task.

Transmutation of Sexual Energy

The phrase "reversing the flow" has another meaning, more complex than the ­general description offered above. It refers to a complex, multistage chi kung practice that, according to Taoist methods, involves the transmutation of sexual, or "seed," energy.

Metaphorically speaking, the "seed" energy represents the creative potential that is latent within our bodies. We can express this potential in either of two ways. We can follow our biological instincts and mate and have children. Or, we can sublimate these primal impulses, redirect them, and express them as artistic creations, in the martial arts, in healing techniques, or in the pursuit of enlightenment.

How it might be possible to chemically alter physical substances in the body has been the subject of much debate and study over the centuries. The results of these efforts are the chi kung techniques we use today.

Through the practice of chi kung, the powerful reproductive instinct can be controlled. At this point, it becomes possible to awaken special processes that lie latent in the body and ultimately to induce the flowering of consciousness.

The first of these is the attempt to transmute the seminal energy from a physical substance ­directed toward the reproductive activities to form chi that can be used within the body. This process of seed energy conversion is a fundamental aspect of Taoist alchemy.

The second process is the attempt to direct the chi up the spine through a number of acupoints to the brain.

The third process is the attempt to nourish and sustain the shen, or spirit, which is believed to reside in the area of the forehead located between the eyes. When the spirit is sufficiently developed (some say it typically takes three years), it can be used in the pursuit of the final goal of enlightenment.

Typically, breathing exercises coupled with meditation are used to bring about these effects. Once perfected, the method leads to the flowering or expansion of consciousness, hence the phrase "golden flower," that is often used. The idea of sublimating sexual energy was elaborated upon by Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, and used as a central concept in psychoanalytic theory.

On the next page, learn about two chi kung exercises that balance and strengthen the flow of chi in the body.

To learn more about chi and its relation to Taoism, see:


Balancing Chi

The Greater and Lesser Circulation are Taoist chi kung exercises that focus on balancing and strengthening the energies in the body. Practitioners noticed that when chi flows abundantly, smoothly, and correctly through all the channels in the body, a substance called shen, an imperishable spirit, develops naturally.

They also noticed that in our daily lives most of us tend to expend chi in futile, even self-destructive ways. The general movements with which we perform our daily activities, for example, are often exaggerated or executed without regard to maximum efficiency. This results in a needless loss of valuable chi and tends to retard the development of shen.


Further, many of us have little regard for our posture. As a consequence, the internal organs of the body become cramped and the acupuncture channels become blocked. We also senselessly dissipate chi by indulging ourselves excessively when eating, drinking, or engaging in any other common activity.

The techniques known as the Greater and Lesser Circulation, central to Taoist chi kung, are commonly used to restore chi to different parts of our body.

When the chi flows smoothly without interruption through the two most central channels, the Du or Governing Channel, which runs up the spinal column, and the Ren or Conception Channel, which follows a line along the center of the front of the body, the chi kung practitioner has accomplished a feat known as the Lesser Circulation.

When chi flows without interruption throughout all twelve major channels in the body, as well as the Du and the Ren, another major attainment, The Greater Circulation, has been accomplished. Movement of chi in these two orbits is considered in some schools to be a precursor to the further strengthening and control of the chi.

Accounts of these states of Greater and Lesser Circulation typically describe an experience of heightened awareness and elevated consciousness. Often referred to as awakenings because of the special psychological and even mystical insights that accompany them, these states have a profound impact on those who experience them.

The states of Greater and Lesser Circulation are invariably accompanied by a sense of the eternal and an absolute certainty that each of us is now and always has been an integral part of the endless interplay of cosmic forces. To know these things with an incontestable certainty is to know something about immortality.

Continue reading to learn about the healing applications of chi kung, widely used throughout China and the world.

To learn more about chi and its relation to Taoism, see:


Healing Applications of Chi

Illustration of chi kung healer's hands over a patient's body.
Chi kung healers use chi to analyze disease.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Certain versions of chi kung have been developed exclusively for use in healing applications. Typically, these chi kung healing methods focus specifically on strengthening the chi and on learning to emit it to heal others.

Chi kung healing techniques are taught and practiced openly throughout much of the modern world, including China where they are officially endorsed. In fact, chi kung healers can be found in private practice in any large city in North America or Europe. In Asia they are often associated with hospitals.


The New World Press, located in Beijing, reported as early as 1984 that Shanghai No. 8 People's Hospital has been using a form of chi kung to induce anesthesia in patients about to have surgery. In these situations, chi kung is sometimes used to supplement drugs and sometimes as an anesthetic by itself.

The report also noted that Chinese nuclear scientists were conducting experiments on chi in an attempt to find out how it works. They discovered that it was a type of "low frequency modulated infrared radiation" that can be emitted by certain individuals.

There are many other applications of chi kung healing as well. All chi kung practitioners learn to collect universal chi by absorbing it through chi gates and storing it in their bodies.

But the many chi kung practitioners who also learn to emit chi are reputedly able to transmit it without actually touching the other person. Known as wei chi, or out-flowing chi, this form of chi can be projected for a distance of 16 feet.

For healing purposes, though, the distance between chi kung healers and subjects is generally between one and three feet. Healers who are able to emit chi in this way are held in high regard in official circles, and many are invited to annual conferences where, among other things, they treat senior government officials.

Over time, certain chi kung healers claim to have developed a sixth sense that enables them to visually scan the internal organs and tissues of their clients for weakness and illnesses. They have learned to associate the different colors they see with different diseases. This ability helps the chi kung healer to identify illness and pathogenic conditions.

These auras are described as a light radiating outward from the diseased parts of the body. Typically, blue lights are associated with a deficiency of yang or hot chi and red lights are associated with a deficiency of yin or cold chi. Green is often associated with infection or poison and yellow or brown with bruises and sprains. Black indicates dead tissue and an absence of chi altogether.

In a typical chi kung healing session, the patient will lie fully clothed on a treatment table. The chi kung healer may ask the client a number of health-related questions or may simply begin to emanate wei chi.

According to the theory, the wei chi strengthens the patient's personal chi to the point at which it becomes visible to the healer. This kind of X-ray vision can be regarded as an example of a Deva power.

At this point, the chi kung healer makes an assessment as to which parts of the body are unhealthy, which organs are affected, which acupuncture channels are associated with the organs, which prominent acupuncture points lie on those channels, and which type of chi kung treatment should be used.

Other chi kung healers see nothing unusual at all. They rely instead on a highly refined sense that develops around the hands. These healers typically feel one of a number of sensations radiating upward from the body. The hands need not even touch the client but simply feel vibrations through the air. In this way, the chi kung practitioner can isolate problem areas in the body.

There are well over a dozen different qualities of chi that are recognized in medical chi kung. Chinese pulse-reading doctors, famous throughout the world for their diagnostic abilities, are able to sense these same qualities by feeling the many variations in the pulse of their clients.

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