How Is Chi Kung Different from Physical Exercise?

Conventional exercise involves stressing the cardiovascular system or working the muscles, but in Chi Kung we relax the body, breath, and mind. When we are relaxed at all levels—physically, emotionally, mentally—we can bring our nervous system back to rest and digest mode, which facilitates deep healing. The more deeply we relax, the more effective our Chi Kung practice becomes.

Shirtless man with bulging muscles strains to lift a tire

Good old-fashioned grit and determination. Photo by Nicole De Khors from Burst.

Chi Kung also ranges into territory beyond the confines of conventional exercise. In Chi Kung we develop and apply skills in managing chi (vital energy). Getting the chi to flow is the most basic skill in Chi Kung. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, a smooth flow of chi will clear away the blockages that underlie physical and mental health problems. So when we practice Chi Kung to improve our health and happiness, it makes sense that we emphasize developing chi flow rather than, say, building muscle.

person holding a stance

Me relaxing (smiling!) in the horse-riding stance. Stance training is a type of Chi Kung.

If you’ve never experienced chi flow, if you’ve never felt your vital energy moving through you, then all I can say is, you’re missing out. Not only does the sensation of chi flow feel good, it helps make Chi Kung a holistic art, one that brings together body, energy, and mind.

The benefits of Chi Kung are also holistic. As a form of mindfulness, Chi Kung improves mental focus and eases the effects of stress. As an energy art, it helps to clear pain and inflammation, improve sleep, balance your metabolism, and establish an emotional equilibrium, among many other benefits.

How do you know if you’re practicing Chi Kung effectively as an energy art? If you don’t feel any obvious sensations of chi, that’s okay; those sensations will vary in intensity and may be quite subtle. But if you feel refreshed and energized after a session—like you’ve had a massage and a cup of coffee—then that’s a sign that you’re working with energy. More broadly, take stock of the progress you’ve made since you first started training. If you can identify a reduction in tension, pain, and inflammation in your body over time, then you’re on the right track.

In my Generating Energy Flow course, I teach students basic skills in managing their energy, from entering into a meditative state of mind to letting the energy flow freely in order to clear health issues. With our cost-effective method, you can get the benefits of an energy art in just 10 to 15 minutes of practice per day.