Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy: A Comprehensive Clinical Text

Submitted by LvKohn on Thu, 02/12/2009 - 20:32
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CHINESE MEDICAL QIGONG THERAPY: A COMPREHENSIVE CLINICAL TEXT. By Jerry Alan Johnson. Pacific Grove: International Institute of Medical Qigong, 2000. Pp. 1085; glossary; bibliography; index; advertisements. Cloth, $135.00, ISBN 1-885246-08-0.

This massive compendium on Qigong therapy is a veritable encyclopedia on the subject. The author, a practitioner of Chinese medicine, martial arts, and Qigong for over thirty years, runs his own institute, serves many Qigong-related organizations, and is himself an institution in American Qigong therapy. He began his studies at an acupuncture school in California in the 1970s and also trained at the Beijing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the 1990s. His martial arts expertise includes Shaolin Boxing, Bagua zhang, Taiji quan and many others. He teaches these practices and also competes in tournaments. His book, well recognized and greatly revered, is in many ways the professional standard. Unlike many TCM works, it also includes numerous sections on the mind and emotional states as well as on religious aspects of the practice, such as soul and spirit, the stars, magical diagrams, and the Yijing. An early attempt to have it translated into Chinese was accordingly foiled quietly and has not resurfaced to date.

The 1085 pages of the book, which include a glossary and index, divide into twelve sections—fifty-six chapters in the first eleven and three appendixes in the last one. The sections begin with “Theoretical Foundations” (chs. 1-9). This presents a basic overview of qi, yin-yang, Five Phases, twelve meridians, but also discusses comparative Western theories and practices, such as radiowaves, electric currents, EEG, MRI, gamma rays, ultraviolet light, magnetism and so on. Section two is on “Outer Forces: Heaven, Earth, and Man” (chs. 10-13) and presents a discussion of different forms of qi (prenatal and postnatal) plus the triple forces of Heaven (sun, moon, stars), Earth (earth, water, wind), and Man (jing, qi, shen). 

The third section is on “Daoyin Training” (chs. 14-17). After a brief introductory chapter, it contains a chapter each on movement practice, breathing exercises, and meditations. Although in all titles the author uses the term daoyin, he speaks of qigong in all the discussions. The difference is not made clear. The meditation part, moreover, leaves the Qigong world behind and also includes the ten oxherding pictures of Zen Buddhism, indicating the eclectic approach and tendency toward personal mixtures also found elsewhere in the volume.

Section four (chs. 18-19) is on “Qi Deviations in Qigong Training.” The basic concept here is that qi moves in patterns that are natural to the seasons and can deviate in various ways. All changes in the body that are not part of the natural cycle are then precursors to disease. After a general discussion of these issues, the author emphasizes that while it is good to build up qi, too much qi can be dangerous and unleashed currents may be more harmful than good. He focuses especially on the dangers to the mind, what he calls “soul and spirit deviations” or, in Western terms, neuroses and psychoses. He sees these deviations as turbid qi rising to the head but also in the form of ghosts, spirits, and other yin-yang beings that influence people’s lives. In all cases, treatments include not only physical Qigong but also meditative methods.

The fifth section (chs. 20-25) in on the “Differential Diagnosis of Energy Principles.” It outlines the etiology of disease according to the human life cycle, reformulating the old outline from the Neijing, then discusses the classical eight causes of disease and eight energetic principles. The section also presents theories regarding the Five Phases and their interaction in the causing of disease as well as a description of a Chinese medical examination and diagnosis.

Following this “Establishing the Medical Qigong Clinic” (sect. 6, chs. 26-28) contains a lot of practical advice on how to go about being a Qigong doctor in America. How to set up the clinic and treatment room, how to prepare, what intake forms to use, how to begin and end patient interaction, length of Qigong treatment, home assignments—issues like these dominate the presentation. The section also speaks of the necessity of self-care for practitioners, warning against losing too much qi in the patient and obtaining a patient’s diseases through qi-interaction. Meditations are recommended for personal stability.

“Treatment Principles” (sect. 7, chs. 29-32) is next. This presents the different methods of purging, tonifying, and regulating qi through Qigong therapy. It also discusses the basic energetic patterns and deviations in terms of the magic diagram Luoshu and of the Yijing. Numerology and geographical directions are integrated into the treatment, helping the patient’s stabilization not only within himself but also in relation to the greater universe.

Section eight (chs. 33-37) is on “Qi-Emitting Methods.” To emit qi, the practitioner is to visualize the qi-flow moving from his or her body through the palm and into the outside atmosphere. This externalized qi can then be used to guide the qi in the patient by merely passing one’s hands over the affected limbs. It can also be used by pointing to certain acupuncture points and thus turn into “invisible needles.” Or it can be used hands-on in a form of qi-massage, which stimulates specific points or guides qi along specific channels. Both physical and mental disorders can be affected in this manner.

“Qigong Exercises” are the topic of the next section (sect. 9, chs. 38-42). They include self-massages of the orbs, tapping and rubbing of meridians, breathing with the healing sounds, breathing into the abdomen and guiding the breath to the afflicted area, as well as internally guiding the qi to heal and strengthen where necessary. More intense than this are the “Internal Disease Treatments” which are the subject of the following part (sect. 10, chs. 43-48). Here the author discusses qi-emission and healing methods according to the five main orbs, in each case presenting a general description of the orb as well as the etiology, symptoms, and treatment of its diseases. Methods applied include the stimulation of acupuncture points, the purging of qi channels through guiding of qi, the emission of qi from vibrating palms to specific points, and the so-called extended fan-palm, which is used to add orthopathic qi to the meridians. The section also discusses modifications and home exercises to be given to patients.

The last section that contains discussion chapters is section eleven (chs. 49-56). It deals with “Specialized Therapy,” including pediatrics, geriatrics, gynecology, neurology, psychotherapy, oncology, and surgery. Each specialty is given one chapter, in each case describing the specific demands of the field and the best way of treatment with qi, allowing patients to stabilize their conditions and create a new level of alignment with nature to enhance their primordial qi. The chapters provide a good general survey but do not go into great depth, so that, for example, the chapter on gynecology makes no mention whatsoever of menopause.

The twelfth section contains three appendixes. One presents essays by different doctors and practitioners on the medical applications of Qigong, including its anti-aging qualities and ways of balancing qi. The second outlines major Western studies and scientific investigations on Qigong healing and presents findings that explain in western terms why certain Qigong methods work as they do. The third does the same for the psychological mechanisms activated in Qigong practice.

The book concludes with a glossary of technical terms, a bibliography, an index, and advertisements for healing videos published by the same agency. It is a valuable resource on Qigong therapy in theory and practice and contains information on numerous issues and problems. The scope is admirable, the execution with its many illustrations highly recommendable. The volume is a treasure trove and serves well as a reference work for students and practitioners.

Livia Kohn

Boston University

September 21, 2004