Qigong combines physical movement, breath and massage. It is based on the knowledge of meridians (qi pathways) and acupuncture points and facilitates qi flow. The practices are often simple, gentle, yet powerful and subtle. They harmonize and balance the organism. Sounds and mudra (hand gestures) may be used separately or in conjunction with qigong movements. Qigong is considered a branch of Chinese medicine. Scientific studies have proven qigong can help alleviate chronic diseases and disorders as well as improve immune system function. It is ofter used as complementary healing modality along side western medical treatments.
If you are interested in understanding more about the various forms of qi gong, please see Sat Hon's article, A Field Guide to Qigong.
What is Qi?
Having edited many texts on the subject, "Qi" is the best translation for "Qi". There is no translation into English. Qi is a subtle, very fine material that pervades the universe and influences all aspects of life—from the weather to the food one eats. However, the closest word might be breath and/or energy. It is very related with the yogic concept of prana.
What is gong?
Gong is often translated as cultivation or work, but definitions may also include practice, skill, mastery, merit, achievement, service, result, or accomplishment.
Qigong exercises help to order, strengthen and make the body more supple. Everyone's aim with the practice will be different. Some will need more strengthening and others more fluidity. Some will discover deeper aspects of themselves that extend beyond ordinary physicality yet others will use the exercises and practices to go about their lives with more ease and freedom. In my practice, I have often felt an opening in the body similar to having a great massage, but somehow the effects go deeper and last longer. Some exercises are gentle and can be done most anywhere, but one must be willing to make time to practice to receive the benefits.
Many clinical studies have been done on the effects of these exercises to cure disease, relieve depression, strengthen the immune system and guard against general degeneration as a result of old age. One could say qigong is a way to maintain life.
Below are a links with information regarding qigong studies:
National Institute of Health:
New York Times