There are many forms and styles of Qigong, but they all fit into one of three main categories:
- Medical Qigong to heal self and others
- Martial Qigong for physical prowess
- Spiritual Qigong for enlightenment
Generally, all Qigong practitioners incorporate exercises and techniques from all three categories–the only difference is their focus.
This is the most popular of the three categories. It is the oldest of the four branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the energetic foundation from which acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Chinese massage originated. Thus Qigong shares the foundational theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine and uses similar diagnostic and treatment methods.
There are two types of medical Qigong:
- Self-Healing Qigong, during which individuals practice Qigong exercises to enhance their health, prevent disease, and address illness.
- External Qigong or Qi Emission, during which Qigong practitioners emit Qi with the intention to heal others. (See more about this below.) In addition to emitting Qi for healing, a good Qigong practitioner usually prescribes specific exercises designed to help regulate Qi. The patients incorporate these Qigong exercises into their daily practice as well as receive occasional sessions from the Qigong healer/practitioner.
This type of Qigong focuses on physical prowess. Martial Qigong practitioners can break bricks, bend steel wires, place sharp objects in vulnerable parts of the body without damaging the skin, or sustain physical impact from baseball bats. Martial Qigong practitioners can demonstrate physical feats considered impossible by modern science.
This type of qigong uses mantras, mudras (hand positions), sitting meditations, and prayers to pursue enlightenment. These techniques are heavily influenced by Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Spiritual Qigong teaches discipline and leads to self-awareness, tranquility, and harmony with nature and self.
Spiritual practitioners train their Qi to a much deeper level, working with many internal functions of the body. They practice to obtain control of their body, mind, and spirit, with the goal of escaping from the cycle of reincarnation.