Our Chinese medicine practitioner and yoga teacher Kileen Swenson explains the similarities and differences between yoga and qi gong to the Yoga Union community.
Yoga is part of Ayurveda, as qi gong is an aspect of Chinese medicine.
Historically, yoga and qi gong have different movements and postures and focus, but they both similarly use the breath to move energy and invoke a meditative state. Yoga and qi gong can also be used together to bring a more heightened awareness.
Qi gong incorporates what we tend to learn as we advance in our yoga practice, using breath and our qi to move and unblock stuck energy and ultimately begin to heal the body through learning how to move and receive energy. Yoga asana has a more structural and muscular focus historically.
Both yoga and qi gong practices bring us closer to feeling our bodies and help us to peel back layers of tension, trauma and feeling stuck. They help us to quiet our minds and listen to our hearts. Both yoga and qi gong also focus on optimal alignment for more effective energy flow within and around the body.
Yoga and qi gong lineages acknowledge that, aside from our denser physical parts, we have an energetic grid line that also defines us just as much as our flesh, blood, organs and bones do. These are called “meridians” or “nadis”. Within these lines are highly charged poolings of qi/prana/energy called “acu points” or “marma” points. Ayurveda and Chinese medicine view these systems slightly differently, but, when compared, they are more similar than different.
One essential thing that classic Chinese philosophy teaches us that the true mind and the heart are not separated. There is one heart-mind, also called the Shen. When our Shen is clear, we are clear and connected.
Combining these 5,000 (plus) year old practices together clarifies our perception by fine-tuning our senses and sensitivities. Through yoga and qi gong, we discover how our unique energy feels and how the world around us feels in an extremely palpable and rich way. We learn to trust what feels good to us and what doesn’t.
Unhealthy patterns or relationships start to shift the more we sensitize our being through these mind, body, spirit practices. If I am doing my yoga and qi gong regularly, I can tell if I have been on my cell phone too long because I start to get a headache. Or, when I’m angry, I feel my liver pulsate and tense up. In Chinese philosophy, the liver meridian and organ energy can get stuck from anger.
Yoga gets us in our bodies, makes us strong and vibrant, moves our blood and breath and aligns our bodies to be able to receive and build energy. Qi gong helps us to receive, move and procure energetic connection.
Yoga and qi gong nourish the heart-mind Shen, and help us feel our way to health, happiness and well-being. Everything, in my opinion, is just theory until we actually feel and experience it for ourselves. Eventually, by doing yoga and qi gong, theory shifts into knowing. Our practice is the road to demystifying what the mystics have taught us over thousands of years.
– By Kileen Swenson
Learn more at www.kileenswenson.com