Qigong: Cultivating body, breath & mind

In stock

This is a book about qigong – a time-tested practice that blends skilful movement, mindful absorption and deep, slow breathing. While firmly rooted in the Chinese tradition, Peter Deaman hopes that it will also serve as a manual for exploring the wider world of mindful movement.

Peter's aim is to make this transformative practice better known. He has attempted to explain where it comes from, the philosophies behind it and the growing body of scientific research that illuminates it. Peter has drawn from his fifty-year experience of working in the field of Chinese medicine, his decades of qigong practice and his study of yangsheng –
the 2500 year old Nourishment of Life tradition. 

This book comes with links to 12 hours of instructional videos

“Drawing on his 50 years of training in Chinese medicine, Peter Deadman has crafted a rich, comprehensive, and timely book on qigong. Written and laid out beautifully, it comprehensively and insightfully weaves together its core principles, its roots in traditional Chinese medicine and culture, the scientific evidence of its many therapeutic benefits, and a practical set of training skills including links to multiple online training programs. This book is an invaluable resource both for those wish to begin to learn about qigong, as well as those who are already deeply committed to these practices.”

Peter Wayne, PhD., Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Author of Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi


“With this book and accompanying videos, people will learn authentic qigong and will develop the capacity to judge whether any instruction they receive elsewhere is solid, legitimate and grounded in East Asia’s rich and profound health culture.

Peter Deadman has written THE qigong book, a work that is as encyclopedic as it is practical, as wise as it is humorous, and as rooted in science as it is steeped in ancient common sense.”

Kaz Wegmuller, Author, Acupuncture for Curious People


“Peter Deadman has written a thorough and approachable book in which he makes connections between qigong and modern research on exercise, health and physiology in a way that enhances and elevates our understanding. The accompanying videos give the reader an opportunity to immediately experience and practise a variety of qigong exercises, thereby bridging the gap between theory and practice.”

Tom Bisio , Founder Internal Arts International


'How do you write a good book on qigong? Having read many on the subject, I have concluded that writing on this subtle, experiential art that originated from another culture can be devilishly hard. This is perhaps not surprising given that its central tenet - qi - remains so richly controversial. Existing texts on the subject tend to slip into recognisable types. For instance, the uber-traditional treatments of the subject - often written by Chinese authors - that give instructions in the original, esoteric code (‘Guard the qi in the cinnabar field’ etc). This approach can be challenging for Westerners without any background in traditional Chinese culture or language. The enigmatic tone of such instruction can, however, serve a useful function - forcing the student to think deeply (in the spirit of Confucius’ single corner of a handkerchief or Bruce Lee’s ‘finger pointing to the moon’). Then there are the glossy, photo-heavy ‘how-to’ texts, often to be found in cut-price bookshops, in which an attractive model dolled up in silk pyjamas is photographed in various positions that betray they do not have a clue what they are doing. I wonder if readers of these books have ever found their way to anything useful. Another type, often written by over-enthusiastic Western adepts, presents high-level qigong practices together with disclaimers that on no account should these be learnt from a book; I suspect that the material in these books has often been lifted directly from a source text or passed on verbatim from a teacher without the requisite practice to gain mastery of the practices.

This text is different. The author, despite his huge experience in the East Asian healing arts, is up-front about his limitations as a non-Chinese reader, and straight about the fact that - by definition - the book constitutes a snapshot of ‘how I understand and practise at the moment’. Along with this humility goes a playful sense of humour which, without being flippant, takes gleeful aim at the preposterous aspect of these arts (How many qigong practitioners does it take to change a light bulb? One hundred - one to change the light bulb and 99 to stand around muttering that’s not how we do it in our school’). Refreshingly, the information is imparted not from a lofty, other-worldly ivory tower, but as practitioner to fellow practitioner. That said, the text resounds with the author’s command of his subject matter and his delightful clarity of prose (for example, ’Our sky, our heaven, is yang - the expanding, spacious, bright ruler of our daily and seasonal changes’).

Humility and humour aside, one thing that marks this book out as a keeper is its effortless synthesis of intellectual rigour with transmission of authentic traditional practice. In a spirit similar to the author’s Live Well, Live Long, traditional wisdom is juxtaposed with modern scientific knowledge in a way in which each can illuminate the other. A solid section on fascia and qigong, for instance, explains how the fluid, elastic movements of qigong can counteract the inflammatory fascial congealing caused by a sedentary lifestyle (and which, terrifyingly, can become the environment in which cancer thrives). A section on mental attitude during standing qigong sees the author recommend consciously befriending our microbiota, evidenced by recent research that Tibetan monks who meditate have healthier microbes than their neighbours who eat exactly the same diet. There are many such discoveries for the curious reader, such as Todd Hargrove’s ‘brainbody maps’, the importance of proprioception, Confucian ritual dances or Feldenkrais’ parasitic tension of unnecessary muscles.

The book is divided into chapters on Fundamental theories, Cultivating the body, Cultivating the breath, Cultivating the mind and emotions, Yinyang in qigong, History of selfcultivation practices, and About practice and other reflections. Appendix-like later chapters include diagrams of the main acupuncture points, pointers towards relevant research and further reading. For those focused on practice, the traditional directions for postural alignment are presented in full, along with elucidation of essential foundational concepts such as song/ release, the six harmonies and the kua. The author drills down into these instructions far beyond the terse source texts of the ‘taiji classics’; the resulting explanations will enrich the practice of even the most seasoned qigong player. Courtesy of this book I am currently working at bringing lateral widening of the sacrum into my standing practice. Some nuggets will resound long after reading, such as, ‘The shoulder blades, like the sacrum, are downward pointing triangles and it can be helpful to feel all three releasing downwards at once.’ The author’s half century of exposure to meditation means that this solid grounding in the physical aspects of practice is amply supported by skilful treatment of its mental aspects.

The extensive discussions on qi will be extremely useful to acupuncturists. The fundamental theory section represents a solid primer on the subject and is both rigorous yet inclusive of aspects that elude capture by concrete language. Given the author’s pedigree, the intersection of acupuncture and qigong is never far from the surface - whether pondering the origins of acupuncture in the Great Flood, or pointing out that the sensations of warmth, tingling and throbbing felt during qigong represent the same ‘arrival of qi’ that is the desired outcome of acupuncture needling; physical directions for practice are also informed by a rich understanding of the jingluo (‘Six acupuncture channels pass through the toes, so we want to keep them alive and strong’).

The USP of this book is arguably its multi-media aspect. A formidable 12 hours of videos are included that, while not entirely taking the place of a teacher, constitute far more than a casual toe-dip into qigong practice. In fact, a student who immersed themselves in this content could make substantial progress in their practice. The videos focus on fundamental loosening, standing and breathing practices, specific zang organ ‘gongs’ as well as more refined physiological pointers like releasing the shoulders, softening the tongue and turning the waist. The videos work synergistically with the text to provide a clear guide for practice.

The book is liberally sprinkled with quotes in which martial artists, philosophers, scientists and artists of every description have been assembled to contribute to the elucidation of qigong practice. Whether short and pithy or more extensive, the quotes are organised down a side-bar of the spacious text, thus gathering into one place a corpus of extremely useful material. The voices are eclectic, and see Wang Xiangzhai (the founder of I Chuan) next to Leonardo da Vinci, rubbing shoulders with biomechanist Katy Bowman, joined by Mr Miyagi from The Karate Kid … you get the picture. I appreciated the inclusion of selected - previously unpublished - personal comments from qigong practitioners, for example this cracker from Claudia Citkovitz: ‘Qigong is bodywork I can do on myself, every day, for free. I watch in awe as my body teaches itself exactly the geometry it needs today, to swim strong and straight in currents of gravity and time.’

I appreciate the real-world pragmatism of this book. It is for qigong practitioners who live in the world - people with jobs, people who get tired, who may be sceptical of flaky Orientalist claptrap and people who have other interests beyond qigong. It does not silo qigong off from all other forms of exercise as if it was the only game in town, but rather helps the reader to understand how this system of cultivation might be used to improve health and wellbeing alongside other activities. As part of this, the author takes us on a deep dive into movement itself, showing how mindful physical practice of the qigong-type represents a vital counterbalance to the epidemic of sedentary distraction on the one hand and the high stress extremes of the fitness industry on the other.

I have trained with some high level teachers of taiji and qigong and have no hesitation in endorsing this book (and Peter’s qigong teaching more generally) - it is up there with the best of them. It will be of great use to those interested in taking up qigong, as well as those with an existing practice. I know many patients who dutifully attend their local qigong or taiji class but come away with questions beyond the basic choreography - questions to which their teacher does not always have answers. For these people, this book will be a boon. For those of us engaged with the East Asian healing arts, its inclusion in our libraries will need no further recommendation.

The author finishes the book with a fairy tale, ‘The Black Pearl and the White Pearl’. This playful signoff encapsulates the concerns at the heart of this book - the life-nourishing power of qigong in the life of real human beings. And with that said, it is time to close this laptop, stretch out, loosen my joints, relax down, breathe, soften, lengthen and gong some qi.'

Daniel Maxwell, from JCM issue 134. 

About Chinese spellings 
How to use this book 
The videos 
Definition of terms 

Chapter One: Fundamental theories
Heaven, human, earth 
The dantian 
Free flow 
The five phases 
Stopping before completion and the middle way 
Less is more 
The beauty of contradiction 
Wuwei – non-action 

Chapter Two: Cultivating the body

Standing qigong - zhan zhuang 
Standing like a tree 
Seated and lying qigong 
Song - release 
Mindful movement 
Brain-body mapsProprioception 
Alignment and coordination 
Smooth and natural angles 
From internal to external 
Rhythm, timing, synchronicity 
Keep moving 
Natural movement 
The risks of under-exercising 
The risks of over-exercising 
Responding to injury 
The vertical body 
Dance, ritual, qigong and music 
The fascia 
Making space 
The ten connections 
The six harmonies 
The zangfu – the five principal organs of Chinese medicine
The central vessel 
Blood circulation 
Inflammation - cooling the fire 
Keeping the upper back wide

The neck 
Raising our arms above our head 
The tongue 
The waist and lower back 
The kua 

The sacrum 
The tailbone - coccyx 
Pelvic floor contraction 
The hands 
The feet 
Exercise in pregnancy 
The ageing body


Chapter Three: Cultivating the breath
Breathing – the qigong perspective 
The science of breathing – the diaphragm 
The science of breathing – carbon dioxide 
The science of breathing – nasal breathing 
The science of breathing – the autonomic 
nervous system
Slow breathing – problems and cautions


Chapter Four: Cultivating the mind and emotions
Mindfulness and meditation 
Cherishing ourselves 
The seven harmful emotions 
Posture and emotions 
Laughter medicine 
Our effect on others 
The ageing mind 
Positive emotions 
Cultivating happiness 
Cultivating generosity 
Cultivating gratitude 


Chapter Five: Yinyang in qigong
Yinyang in qigong - internal and external 
Yinyang in qigong – stillness and movement 

Yinyang in qigong - softness and strength 
Yinyang in qigong – slow and fast 
Yinyang in qigong – front and back 
Yinyang in qigong – closing and coiling, opening and uncoiling 
Yinyang in qigong – descending and rising 
Yinyang in qigong – receiving and acting 
Attuning life to the ebb and flow of yin and yang 
Heaven and earth – reflections

Chapter Six: History of self-cultivation practices
The origins of qigong 
The Nei Ye (Inward Training) - 4th century BCE 
The dodecagonal jade block - 4th century BCE 
The Daodejing - 4th century BCE 
The Zhuangzi - 3rd/4th century BCE 
The Annals of Lu Buwei - 239 BCE 
Treasures from 2nd century BCE tombs 
The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic - 2nd century BCE to 1st century CE
Hua Tuo - 3rd century 
Ge Hong - 4th century 
The Daoyin Classic - 4th century 
Daoyin as state medicine - 6th/7th centuries 
Sun Simiao - 7th century 
Liu Guizhen and the invention of modern qigong - 20th century
Guo Lin’s anti-cancer qigong - 20th century 
Qigong fever - 20th century 
The rise and fall of Falungong - 20th century


Chapter Seven : Qigong styles and forms
Baduanjin (eight pieces of brocade) 
Wuqinxi (five animal frolics) 
Tai chi shibashi qigong 
Yijin (sinew transforming) 
Taijiquan (Tai Chi) 
Circle walking and bagua 
The six healing sounds 
Iron shirt qigong 
Spontaneous qigong 


Chapter Eight: About practice and other reflections
Regular practice 
How long to practise for 
When to practise 
Where to practise 
What to wear 
Connecting to nature 
Qigong and health 
The four legs of the chair of health 
Prevention – the highest form of medicine 
Absorbing beauty 148
Feeling tired 148
Everything we do can be qigong 149
Qigong and yoga 
How do we feel? 
Basic dietary principles 
Drinking tea for pleasure and health 
Critical thinking, teachers and gurus 
The (dangerous) lure of magical thinking 

Chapter Nine: Acupuncture points 

Chapter Ten: Qigong and tai chi research 

Chapter Eleven: The black and the white pearl 

Further reading 



Videos index 

About the author 

More Information
Author Peter Deadman
Publisher Qigong Works Press
Number of Pages 196
Book Format Softback

Jing-qi-shen – the three treasures
Together jing, qi and shen are known as the three treasures. They play an important role in the worlds of internal alchemy and Chinese medicine, while in qigong they can be understood at their simplest as the body (jing),
the breath (qi) and the mind (shen). All three are cultivated equally and all three nourish each other, with the ultimate aim of transforming and refining the shen. Beginning with the body, we work with posture, alignment, release and spaciousness, developing a higher level of awareness and enjoyment of our physical being. Rooted and stable, we lay the foundation for the development of qi and shen.

Next we cultivate slow, deep dantian breathing. This adds to the vitality that body work gives us while at the same time calming and stabilising the shen. Without this smoothing effect, the aroused energy risks becoming
coarse and even harmful to ourselves and others. The ultimate aim is refinement of shen. The calmer our centre and the greater the awareness that we experience through practice, the better able we are to cultivate both daily and transcendental wisdom. Daily wisdom is that which we build from lifelong learning, honest self-awareness and openness to change. Transcendental wisdom is glimpsed when our individual ego with its tiresome weight of desires and opinions falls away – perhaps only for brief moments - and we merge into everything that is, the Dao.

Standing qigong - zhan zhuang
The practice of zhan zhuang (standing like a post or standing like a tree) is common to all qigong and many martial arts schools. For some it is the heart of practice – combining the skills of alignment, release, body-mindbreath
integration and mindful presence. In martial training it builds strength, power and warrior spirit. It may be hard to understand how the simple act of standing without moving can be so profound and so rewarding. However, we are used to the idea of sitting meditation, and since standing qigong is both a meditative and a physical practice it should not really be surprising. The first part of standing practice is organising the body structure.

The feet

The feet are generally placed shoulder-width apart. Since this is a rather vague term we can take a plumb line from shoulder’s nest (the hollow where the shoulder meets the body - page 24) down through the nipple line and the centre of the hips, knees and ankles. The insides of the feet are parallel. This allows equal widening across the
pubic bones and groins at the front and the sacrum at the back. However, “What the entire body treasures is jing, qi
and shen. Shen is engendered from qi; qi is engendered from jing; jing transforms into qi; qì transforms into shen. That is why jing is the root of the body, qi is the host of shen, form is the mansion of the shen.” Lin Peiqin, Qing dynasty “When your body is not aligned, The inner power will not come. When you are not tranquil within, Your mind will not be well ordered. Align your body, assist the inner power, Then it will gradually come on its own.” Nei ye (Inward Training), 4th century BCE31 5 Video: standing qigong “Be still like a mountain, move like a great river”.
Classics of Taijiquan: Exposition of Insights into the Thirteen Postures 32 23 our anatomy varies and for some - whose feet naturally turn out or in - it will be too much of a strain. We should encourage but never force posture.

The next step is to release the knees and become aware of how that lowers our centre of gravity. This allows us to maximise the contact between feet and floor and observe if our weight favours one foot over the other. We
can also check the outside and inside edges of the feet. If we have weak or fallen arches, then the insides of the feet will tend to collapse and more body weight will pass through the medial (inside) surface of the knee, risking long term pain and discomfort. Making sure we can always feel the outside edge of the foot on the floor will counteract this tendency. Similarly, but less common, if we suffer from bow legs we can make sure we feel the inside edges of the feet.

Six acupuncture channels pass through the toes, so we want to keep them alive and strong. One way to do this is to imitate the way a kitten gently claws at its mother’s belly, alternately drawing our toes inwards as though clawing the ground and then spreading them long and wide and connected to the floor. The body weight is generally centralised between the front and back of the foot with one proviso. There is only a single acupuncture point on the
sole of the foot – the origin point of the Kidney channel. Its most common name is Yongquan (Gushing Spring) but it is also known as Dichong (Earth Surge). These names convey the image of rising water or earth energy. In
acupuncture it is used to ‘return the unrooted back to its source’ – in other words to lower excessive yang rising to the head. It was this point that Liu Guizhen (the originator of modern qigong) was told to stand and focus on
for 102 days while repeating a specific healing phrase (page 122). We should therefore stand in a way that maximises awareness and openness of Yongquan and its surrounding area and avoid taking the weight too far back into the heels.

Write Your Own Review
You're reviewing:Qigong: Cultivating body, breath & mind
Your Rating

* Orders shipped outside of Europe are eligible for VAT relief and will not be charged VAT.