There is one often told story about that credits one man named Bodhidharma, with developing one of the earliest forms of QiGong. It is believed that Bodhidharma, a yoga adept, came from India into China around the year 525 A.D. He came to the Shaolin Temple and discovered that the Monks there were enlightened but suffered from frail and weak bodies. It was said that he retreated into a cave for a long period of time and when eventually emerged, he taught the monks a system of exercises named the Yi Jin Jing, the muscle and tendon strengthening exercises.
The Chinese referred to Bodhidharma as DaMo and was also called ‘the blue-eyed stranger. Damo is also credited for bringing Buddhism to China. Later he developed the internal martial art of Taiji (tai chi). I have learned a form of the Yi Jin Jing and practice it regularly. I also practice other forms of Qigong and Yoga daily. One teacher of mine says: “The only difference between Yoga and Qigong is a mountain range.” (the Himalayas) Both Yoga and QiGong are ways of playing with energy and cultivating the prana or qi to improve health, well being, and peace of mind. I have another theory, that has to do with how these two self-healing arts developed. Yoga uses more static postures while Qigong is more movement oriented. Could that be because India lies in a hotter climate than China which is further north and cooler which stimulates movement? Maybe, maybe not.
Why is it that Yoga is so much more well known than Qigong? I believe that there are several reasons. Yoga originated in India and that country was colonized by the English speaking British. They taught English there for many years, and books were written in that language. The art eventually was brought back too Europe and eventually the United States. At the meantime, China was keeping Qigong and much of their culture secret and isolated from Westerners.
Also, Yoga and meditation spread world-wide when English speaking Swami Satchidenanda, and my teacher Vishnudevenanda came to the Americas in the 1960s. When George Harrison and John Lennon the Beatles traveled to India they studied both yoga and meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Others followed, experienced the benefits. and spread the word. There was a boost from the developing New Age movement, and a general openness to new (and ancient) ideas and perspectives.
In the 1970s, when I opened my Yoga and Tai Chi studio in New York, I asked my Taiji teacher if he would teach me Qigong to improve, and possibly heal, a chronic physical problem. He declined saying, “We do not teach non-Chinese at this time.” It was in 1995 that I finally found a teacher while I was attending massage school in Florida. I have been on my learning and discovery journey ever since. I have found some incredible masters and teachers and try to share their knowledge with my students.
Some feel that you must be dedicated and disciplined to begin to learn Qigong, or Yoga. But, the practices keep me happy and sane in this interesting world. And I practice for the most important reason to me – It makes me feel great!
How do you find a good teacher or master to learn the Chinese arts? There are several articles on Google that may give you some tips or hints. A certification by a governmental organization that charges dues and advertises for people may not be necessary. And not all teachers are ‘created equal’. I recommend that you take, or observe a class of someone you are interested in studying with. Perhaps they have a video on YouTube, but that is not in itself an endorsement by anyone. You will wish to check their background, who they studied with. Meet or speak with the teacher and see if you resonate or are drawn to them. Are they themselves healthy, open, and sharing of their knowledge. The teacher should be ‘shiny’ and healthy looking. The Qi of a teacher or master will be obvious on how they appear to you. This will be quite obvious. If your intuition sends any mixed signals, keep looking. There is an old saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” The Laws of attraction actually work. A hint for you future students. I know of no masters that call themselves, master, or sifu, or any other title. They are all humble, happy, open and fun human beings.
* I am not a master. I have been studying and teaching for years and my students seem to enjoy it and achieve the results that they seek. My goal is to accurately pass on all that I have learned. And I hope to prepare those of my students that wish to go deeper to learn from someone who has been studying longer and knows more than I. A master, or teacher is not someone that you need to swear allegiance, donate money or promise devotion. One of my masters says that the only difference between student and master is the amount of time spent studying and practicing. (it is like they have a master’s degree or PhD. from a learning institution) I will never sell or endorse anything on this website for profit. And I will only post or recommend classes or workshops presented by people that I know personally or with whom I have studied, Teaching is not a profit making vehicle for me. I simply enjoy sharing knowledge that may be helpful to others.
Good Qi to you all – Allen