When practicing your daily Qigong there are a number of things that will improve the quality and health benefits you may be trying to achieve. These things are adjustments that make an enormous difference to your practice. Whether you are practicing formal Chinese Health Qigong, Daoyin or even ShiBaShi all the following adjustments or refinements will be beneficial.

If you can, it really helps to learn the routine you are doing and perform it without following others in your group or off a screen. This will free you up to make the adjustments below without splitting your focus to what comes next in the routine. I personally find it useful to memorize the names of each movement in the routine, then you know what is coming next. If you aren’t confident doing a routine on your own, then your first ‘mission’ is to learn and have confidence in what comes next.

I suggest you pick one of these adjustments or refinements below at a time, and ‘master’ it before moving on to the next. Ultimately we want to be applying all these things to achieve maximum benefit. You may find that you are already doing some of these things depending on the instruction you have already received.

Try to practice somewhere that is well ventilated and where you won’t be disturbed


If you have done a warmup prior to your Qigong practice it is worth spending a minute or two relaxing the body and mind. This can be done by becoming aware of your body and noticing where you may be holding any tension. Once noted, consciously relax these areas progressively. More ‘formally’ you can start with scalp and neck and focus on relaxing these, followed by letting the shoulders drop and relax. Make sure your glutes are not tensed, and knees off lock, and so on. So this is actively spending some time relaxing your body in preparation for the Qigong. It also gives you a good reference point for comparing your body before and after your practice.

This process will encourage better Qi flow through the body and creates more body awareness in preparation for your Qigong practice


It helps to set an intention for your practice, this sets your brain up for what you are about to do. Your intention may be simply stated quietly in your head. It may be something like; ‘I am doing this practice for my health and longevity’ or ‘This practice is to build and strengthen my Qi’. It needs to be something that is meaningful to you, and try to really feel that this is why you are doing it. This is a common practice that is used when doing meditation. When I was doing Buddhist meditation years ago, this is what we did to increase our motivation for the practice. Since Qigong is often said to be a moving meditation, why not give this a try?

Your should have a mindset that is calm and focused. You should attempt to stay present. What does that mean? It means not drifting off in your head to a conversation you had with your spouse or a fight with an neighbor yesterday. If this happens gently bring your mind back to what you are doing. A good way is to reconnect with your breath or the physical sensation of your body.

Setting your intention also contributes to staying present, and also relates to focus discussed below.


Focus is about where you place your attention and/or awareness. The relaxation stage helps bring your into connection and awareness of your body. Taking your focus or awareness into your body means noting the sensations your feel on the interior. This is called interoception; becoming aware of your internal sensations and processes. This may be tightness, pain, numbness, heaviness, throbbing, contraction, or even disconnection, as an example.

If a particular area of your body is very painful, note this and try to sense what is happening elsewhere in the body. It can be very easy for pain to distract us from overall awareness of our body. If this is the case it is then better to focus on the movements you are doing and work with body awareness at a later stage. Focusing on the the pain in your body generally creates greater sensitization to that pain.

Try not to make your focus so intense that it starts to generate tension. Your focus should be consistent but relaxed. Avoid just going through the motions without awareness. This just makes your Qigong a mindless exercise. If this happens, gently refocus on your body and or breathing

We are keeping it simple at this stage. As you progress with different Qigong practices, you may find that you are required to focus on the Dantians, Laogong on the Palm of the hand or Yongquan on the sole of the foot, and many other energy gates and acupoints.


Volumes could be written on the subject of correct alignment in Qigong to maximize Qi flow and overall health benefits. One of the aims of Qigong is to encourage smooth even flow of Qi through the body. This can be greatly improved by maintaining good posture or alignment when practicing.

Correct alignment allows the body to be more relaxed and reduces unnecessary tension. Some of the main principles are;

  1. Feet are kept parallel and approximately at shoulder width, weight equally distributed.
  2. Spine straight and erect, but relaxed
  3. Tuck the chin in very slightly to lengthen and open up the neck
  4. The shoulders should be ‘dropped’ and relaxed. Don’t stand in military position with the chest pushed out.
  5. The hip joints should feel open and relaxed, the pelvic floor relaxed ( note the pelvic floor, or more specifically, the perineum, may be contracted at specific times, depending on the Qigong, but generally is kept relaxed)
  6. The abdomen should be relaxed, letting the belly expand comfortably. Avoid tight clothing around the waist as this can restrict breathing.
  7. The knees should be off lock and relaxed. When sinking down and bending the knees, the center line of your knees should be inline with the center line of your feet. You should also be able to just see your toes with knees bent.
  8. Try to consciously relax your joints such that they feel open and movement isn’t restricted. Don’t lock your joints out.

There are a lot of things to take in regarding alignment, but remember as you master each one it will become second nature. Many of these things will be taught as you go along when learning your routine. It helps every so often to review a list like this to ensure your alignment is good and avoid bad habits.


This is another subject that volumes could be written on. Some of the more advanced forms of Qigong have very specific breathing techniques, which won’t be discussed here, such as reverse abdominal breathing.

We will focus on the basics; your breathing should be deep abdominal breathing. It shouldn’t be forced. It is worth practicing relaxed deep abdominal breathing as a stand alone practice. In class we often spend 5-8 minutes doing this. It can be done seated or standing. This will give you a reference point for your breathing during your Qigong practice.

Most people today tend to chest breathe. Chronic stress makes our breathing more rapid, meaning we take in less air with each breath and tend to breath in the upper lung. For many people this has become the habituated norm.

If you place one hand on your chest and one on your belly and take a normal breath, see which hand moves the most. If it is the hand on the chest you are chest breathing. If it’s the lower hand, then you are abdominal breathing. When you breathe in your belly should expand outward as the lower lobes of your lungs are filled with air. This accounts for approximately 2/3 of your lungs capacity. The last third then fills the upper lobes of the lung.

If you are chest breathing you will need to retrain your breathing mechanism by practicing deep relaxed abdominal breathing. You can sit or stand, place your hands on your belly and as you breathe in encourage your belly to expand. This allows your diaphragm to drop lower thus filling the lungs more. As you breathe out, let everything relax such that your belly contracts back. If you are a chest breather this will take some time, and in this instance your focus will be on your breathing pattern. I encourage you to spend at least 5-10 minutes doing this practice as part of your Qigong session.

The aim when doing your Qigong is to breathe deep abdominally, deep doesn’t mean forced. Your breathing should be relaxed.

As a raw beginner it is always better to let the breathing be as it is. Once the routine is known and your aren’t so focused and absorbed in trying to learn the routine, you then have more ‘bandwidth’ to address correct breathing.

As a final note, Qi flow associated with breathing can be further enhanced by placing the tip of your tongue on the upper palette just behind the teeth to connect the Conception and Governing vessels as you breathe in, and dropping the tongue to the neural position on the out breath. You might like to first start this particular practice when doing your 5-10 minute breathing exercise. This is something for more intermediate and advanced practitioners.

Breathing in Qigong is coordinated with movement. This will be discussed in more detail below.

Correct Form

Correct form encompasses some of the points mentioned in alignment. Qigong purists will say to get the maximum health benefits your form has to be correct to maximize Qi flow, or stretch ligaments and tendons, etc,. And this is probably true. However as a beginner I think knowing the routine and movements are the first step, next is good alignment and then combining breathing with the movements.

Once this is mastered, time can be spent getting the fine movements, such as, your arms, waist, legs and hands etc., In the exact positions during movement as the routine was designed.

It is also important to consider any injuries you may have, and these may be a limiting factor when first starting out. If you have osteoarthritis of the knees, attempting to do a cross legged squat to the floor as is required in one of the Daoyin forms, will be very detrimental to the health of your knees. So, correct form must always be done within your physical limitations. These limitations can be varied and many, especially for the older demographic. This is not to say over time with practice and your body starting to heal that you can then achieve ‘correct form’ where you once couldn’t.

In athletic sports your physical structure and body mechanics will make you more suitable for particular endeavors. Using the athletic analogy, if you are lanky and lean you will be a better long distance runner than someone who is very muscular and stocky. I mention this because by the same reasoning some forms of Qigong will suit particularly body types. Meaning one person with a particular body type may find one Qigong form easier than another with a very different body type. But this is ‘splitting hairs’

So achieving correct form should be a goal, but always tempered by your current physical limitations and injuries.


Is it better to do the movements really slowly or at a faster speed? What governs Qigong speed or pace? When doing Tai Chi many people like to slow it right down so it becomes like a slow moving meditation. However in Qigong technically the movements are controlled by your breathing. That is, the rate of the movements is controlled by the rate of your in and out breaths. Usually upward and outward movements are coordinated with the in breath and downward and inward movement with the out breath.

How does this translate in the routine? As an example, let’s say you doing waving hands; as you extend the hands and arms away from your sides and upward to shoulder height, you breathe in. The in breath commences as the hands begin to move and finishes as the hands and arms reach shoulder height and width. That is, the speed of the hands and arms matches that of the breath. Similarly as the hands and arms are lowered, the out breath is timed to commence on initiation of the movement and finish when the hands finish at the lowered position.

So, if we are breathing a little more rapidly then if the movement above is coordinated with the breath, the movement will also be a little quicker. On this point, and referring to the Relax section above, it is worth consciously relaxing your body as this will calm your nervous system down and thus slow your breathing rate. Also doing some deep abdominal breathing practice at the front end of your Qigong will assist in slowing your breathing rate.

Generally I find that as I progress through my routine my body becomes more relaxed and my breathing rate slows and thus my movements.

Breathing is controlled by the autonomic nervous system and is an automatic process when we aren’t focused on it. However, it is one of the few autonomic functions that we can consciously control. That said, some people like to set a ‘speed’ of movement and adjust the breath accordingly, meaning breath follows movement. Personally I think you eventually end up at the same point at the end of your routine. Body and breath are in sync.

Traditionally movement follows breath in Qigong. As a beginner it can often be difficult to coordinate the movement and breathing because attention and awareness are diverted to learning. Also, in a class situation the instructor is often setting a pace/speed that may not match your breathing rate. In this instance let your breath do what it wants too. If you find you are breathing out when the arms go up, or you need to take an in breath half way down on the downward movement then do so. You want to avoid creating tension by holding or restricting your breathing. As you become more familiar with the routine you will be able to match breathing with movement, setting your speed when doing your own practice.


Ask your instructor for feedback on your practice. After the conclusion of your class, approach and ask your instructor if they can the give any feedback on your form. Or ask for help if some aspect of the routine is challenging you. During a class it is often not possible for instructors to cover every individual correction that is required, and its not really appropriate to single out an individual student for correction during class.


Maximizing the benefits of your Qigong involves a lot of elements as explained above. There are also a plethora of more advanced adjustments and techniques but these require the sensation of Qi in the body which can take many years to acquire, if ever.

As a new beginner all these adjustments may seem overwhelming. Just remember setting an intention for health and longevity in your practice is setting your brain up to eventually heal and improve health even if you haven’t mastered all of the above. As my teacher often says, ‘ It’s a journey, and an art form’, and a journey is taken one step at a time. You can’t learn everything at once.

The best strategy is to have a knowledge of all these things and to progressively incorporate them as you go along. Pick an adjustment and work with that for as long as it takes to become second nature.

Alignment however is something that I think requires constant readjustment or checking no matter how experienced you are. We all know if you happen to be tired, form and alignment can slip a little. Every time I practice Qigong I do a quick mental check of alignment and readjust if necessary.

I hope the above information is helpful in getting you further alone your in Qigong journey and maximizing the benefits that are achievable.

Yours in Qigong

Sifu Peter

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