- Intentional movement: careful, flowing balanced style
- Rhythmic breathing: slow, deep, coordinated with fluid movement
- Awareness: calm, focused meditative state
- Visualization: of qi flow, philosophical tenets, aesthetics
- Softness: soft gaze, expressionless face
- Solid Stance: firm footing, erect spine
- Relaxation: relaxed muscles, slightly bent joints
- Balance and Counterbalance: motion over the center of gravity
- Equanimity: more fluid, more relaxed
- Tranquility: empty mind, high awareness
- Stillness: smaller and smaller movements, eventually to complete stillness
The most advanced practice is generally considered to be with little or no motion.
Claims and medical research
Qigong has been purported to enhance health and well-being with many benefits, including improving cardiovascular function, healing specific acute diseases, and increasing longevity. Many of these claims are supported only by anecdotal evidence, traditional lore, and teachings in master/student lineages. Research examining health benefits of qigong is increasing, but there is little financial incentive to support research and still only a limited number of studies meet accepted medical and scientific standards of randomized controlled trials (RCT). In a 2010 comprehensive review of qigong and tai chi, a literature search of peer-reviewed journals in medical databases for the period of 1993-2007 found a total of seventy-seven RCT studies that examined the benefits of qigong and Tai chi practice. The review reported that qigong practice played a positive role in each of nine categories:
- Cardiopulmonary effects: decreased blood pressure and heart rate, increased heart rate variability, and improved biomarkers;
- Physical function: improved performance indicators (e.g., chair rise, 50-ft walk, gait speed, muscle contraction strength, flexibility);
- Falls and related risk factors: decreased falls and increased balance;
- Quality of life: improved perceived physical health, psychological state, social relationships, etc.
- Self efficacy: improved confidence and ability to manage health problems, pain, stress, and novel situations;
- Patient reported outcomes: decreased reporting of pain, improvement of diverse symptoms including discomfort and sleeplessness;
- Psychological symptoms: decreased anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and fear; improved mood and biomarkers such as stress hormones (e.g., lower cortisol);
- Immune function and inflammation: improved immune blood markers (e.g., leukocytes, eosinophils, and antibodies) and decrease inflammation markers (e.g., cytokines, C-reactive protein, and interleukin-6).
While almost all of these studies showed positive benefits of qigong practice, many of the same studies showed similar effects with ordinary physical exercise. The authors called for further studies with standardized controls and treatment dosing (frequency, duration, and intensity of treatment). They concluded that qigong and tai chi have similar beneficial effects and have advantages of low cost, low risk, and high accessibility. Wikipedia