Types of qigong

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Types of qigong

There have been many qigong approaches in China. Although each class adopts unique methods, they all agree on the basic importance of regulating the mind and deepening the respiration.
Qigong can be divided into:

  1. Standing 

  2. Moving

  3. External

  4. Internal

  5. Hard

  6. Soft

1. Standing (static) qigong

Standing qigong usually involves outwardly holding motionless postures for extended periods of time. Usually between 5-30 minutes. If you have varicose veins you should not stand for too long.


Standing qigong is the crudest kind of qigong; requiring only stamina, patience, relaxation, settled emotions and a calm mind. No 'technical' expertise is necessary or possible.

Is it necessary to stand for long periods of time?

Some qigong teachers expect students to hold static qigong postures for lengthy periods of time; even up to an hour.
This may be a
challenge but the side-effect might easily be varicose veins, massive amounts of muscular tension and a decrease in higher level mobility.


If you experience involuntary shaking, do not worry. Shaking is a sign of progress; it shows that your body is beginning to release muscular tension.
Physical trauma is stored in the body and can only be released when you feel relaxed and safe.

2. Moving qigong

Moving qigong involves movement of the limbs and body under the conscious direction of the mind. This type of qigong is significantly more complex than standing qigong.
It can be used to improve coordination. Simple, controlled movements are repeatedly slowly whilst maintaining good alignment and balance.

3. External qigong

Some qigong methods are 'external' in nature; involving large postures and over-stretching. They have an expansive, yoga-like appearance.
e.g. Lam Kam Chuen's book The Way of Energy features a selection of external qigong exercises.
e.g. Shaolin monks do external qigong.

4. Internal qigong

Internal qigong features dropped scapula, heavy elbows and only a less extreme stretch.
Some of the exercises are essentially the same as external qigong, however, the way/manner of performing them is altogether different. It uses 'sung'.

Building blocks

Internal qigong is the foundation of tai chi. It trains the body to perform simple whole-body movements which underpin everything else.
Standing qigong increases strength whereas moving qigong is concerned with coordination and balance.

Internal or external?

The nature of the approach can be distinguished by applying a slight push to the frame... The external method feels hard and brittle whereas the internal method is pliable.
Our school employs the 'internal' method; not the external approach.

5. Hard qigong

'Hard qigong' refers to qigong exercises that are martial in nature. They are specifically intended to augment the martial syllabus.
The main purpose of hard qigong is strength and the conditioning of the body through the incorporation of neigong qualities. Unlike gym work or body building, nothing is forced.

6. Soft qigong

'Soft qigong' is only for health. There is no consideration of structural power. Energising the body, meditation and spiritual development are the main concerns.

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Page created 3 March 1994
Last updated 9 January 2002