Qigong masters and researchers worldwide are joining forces to develop a standardized form of “health qigong,” to make the practice more accessible to beginners and to encourage the growth of qigong. Currently, multiple styles exist, and confusion among beginners regarding which style to choose may pose a barrier to participation. Approximately 50 years ago, tai chi chuan masters created a simplified version of tai chi that was highly successful in multiplying the number of tai chi practitioners. Health qigong leaders are looking to emulate the tai chi model of success.

“This health qigong was invented, for the first time in the long history of qigong, through a . . . process of choosing some typical styles and inviting several dozens of schools teaching those styles to learn and compare with others,” says Takashi Tsumura, director of the Japan Health Qigong Association and a representative of the Health Qigong Center of the Chinese State Agency of Sports, who spoke at the Eighth American Qigong Association Conference and the Eighth World Congress on Qigong, held in San Francisco in November 2005.

Health qigong exercises blend the four following styles: Eight Brocades, the Six-Word Formula, Yijinjing and the Dance of Five Animals. Eight Brocades is a system of muscle stretching; the Six-Word Formula, also referred to as Six Healing Sounds, combines movements with visualizations, deep breathing and the making of sounds believed to vibrate the organs; Yijinjing strengthens the structure of the body by stimulating muscles, tendons and fascia; and the Dance of Five Animals focuses on restoring psychological balance through imitation of animal movements.

To learn more about health qigong or to find a qigong instructor, consult the National Qigong Association (www.nqa.org) or the Women’s Qigong Alliance (www.thewqa.org). The latter provides particular support for women practitioners and teachers and promotes women’s leadership in the health qigong field.