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Yoga And Meditation

Movement That Heals: The History of Healing Movement

In your exploration of alternative therapies, you may have discovered how food, exercise, avoidance of toxins, and a positive outlook are helpful to your health. However, something that is equally—if not more important—is healing movement. Moving your body can bring positive energy to your body, mind, and spirit.

So, what kind of movement is this referring to? Well, actually any kind of movement is good for your body. Humans were never made to sit at desks all day staring at a screen, so the body’s natural systems are supported by movement. Muscles need work, and the lymphatic system requires motion in order to pump wastes. Even your digestive and excretory systems function better with movement.

The Human Energy System and Healing Movement


Your energetic system is also supported by movement. The energy system in the human body is lesser-known in the Western Hemisphere because modern medicine doesn’t study it. This is beginning to change, but most of the knowledge of the body’s energy system comes from ancient times.

Historically, many cultures believed in and understood the body’s energy systems. Healing methods such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the east Indian Ayurvedic tradition, and the Hindu chakra system have recognized that the human body is essentially energy.

For thousands of years, indigenous cultures have seen the human body as an energy system with the innate ability to heal itself.

For ancient cultures, there was no division between body, mind, and spirit—all worked together harmoniously. In fact, Plato wrote in 380 BCE that physicians erred when they separated the soul from the body in providing healing. 1

While the terminology varies from culture to culture, the concept of working with the body’s energy field is similar. In China, this energy is called chi. In Japan, it is Ki, and in India, the energy forces are referred to as prana. All terms describe the life force energy or spark of life.

Just as the circulatory system brings blood and the lymphatic system carries off waste, the energy system brings life force energy to all areas of the body. And just as when the circulatory system is blocked disease results, similar problems occur when the energy system is disrupted.

If there is a blockage or sluggish energy flow in your body, movement is one way to help remedy that imbalance. Regular movement can prevent problems with your energy system. In fact, there are styles of movement that not only keep your energy flow working but can bring in more energy. Two of these energy practices are Qigong and Tai Chi.

History of Healing Movement

Movement healing practices originated in China’s agrarian society. 2 These farmers made their living by growing. They understood that a good seed can’t flourish without proper care. The plant requires moisture and light in the right quantities to germinate and begin developing a strong root system .


As the plant grows, it requires the right kinds of food in the right amounts. The sap in the plant must be able to flow from roots to leaves. A healthy plant is strong yet supple. It can move in a strong wind, and bend but not break. A sickly plant is withered, rigid, and unable to withstand challenges that a healthy plant can endure. It was logical that they would apply the same truths to their bodies.

These farmers also studied the animals in nature. The fleet-footed survived, and the ones that were less healthy or strong became food for other species. The shamans of the villages would dress as the animals, wearing their skins and mimicking their motions to drive out sickness and demons. Sometimes, these dances would involve all of the people moving in unison.

These practices continued, eventually growing into Qigong and the martial arts.

Development of Qigong

Qigong is a name from more modern times. In China, qi is the word for life force energy. In Chinese medicine, the qi is what flows through the body, bringing health and vitality. The word gong means “work” or “benefits acquired through practice.”

Historically, there were many names for this ancient movement practice, including Xingai (promoting the circulation of qi), Fuqi (taking of qi), Daoyin (guiding the energy flow), Tuna (exhaling and inhaling), Yangshen (nourishing the spirit), and Jingzuo (sitting still). 3 All names support a similar Taoist concept that the body should be “supple like a child, flexible as a young tree” to stay in harmony with the flow of life.

How Qigong Differs from Other Exercise  width=

Qigong is different from other exercises in that it honors how events in your life or changes in your environment can affect you on all levels. Choosing an exercise that you love—something that makes you feel stronger—is important.

When you choose to add more exercise, what might you choose to do? Hop on a treadmill and run is a common choice. But what animal does that practice remind you of? To some, it might bring to mind a hamster on a wheel, spinning around and around because it’s not free to explore its world.

Qigong movement practices are more related to movements seen in nature. Additionally, Qigong movements always include elements of a calm and open mindset; soft, even abdominal breathing; tension release; correct posture; and the connection and interaction of all the body’s systems.

These elements of the Qigong movements have an underlying purpose too. The movements stretch, flex, and activate the body’s energy meridians—those pathways of energy flow. The movements are designed and arranged in ways to help you give your body an overall tune-up, working on specific areas that you know may cause problems or even giving your body a boost based on the season of the year.

Final Thoughts

Movement to heal, movement to energize, movement for health—all can be descriptions of Qigong. With that in mind, maybe this healing practice might be worth incorporating into your routine—who knows, it could be an important step for your physical and mental health.

Photo credits: MonicaWisniewska/, BrankoDevic/, May_Chanikran/,

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