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What is Neigong?

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  • Written By: S. Gadd
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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Neigong — also known as nei kung, neigung, or nae gong — originated in China and refers to a set of breathing, meditative, and spiritual exercises that are aimed at promoting stillness, relaxation, and conscious movement. This practice is directed at linking breath to movement, developing awareness of the body’s motion, and the total release of all tension in the body. Although there are similarities between the movements of neigong and qigong, the major difference is that qigong focuses on energy work, or the cultivation of qi, whereas neigong is considered an internal practice that focuses on the elasticity of the body.

A common form of neigong is "silk reeling," which refers to a series of spiraling movements that intend to mimic the process of a spider spinning a web. These exercises utilize a blend of weight shifting in the legs with a twisting motion of the body that originates from the torso and extends outward to the arms. The originating point of these motions in the lower torso is also referred to as the dantian, an energetic point located in the lower abdomen between the ribcage and the diaphragm. Dantian can be loosely translated as "elixir field," and is said to represent a reservoir of inner strength that provides both mental and physical balance and stability.

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Although neigong is based on relaxation and subtle motion, acquiring fluidity with these movements can become a powerful martial skill, and certain neigong breathing and focus techniques are often taught in baguzahang and xingyiquan martial arts schools. A major martial advantage of this practice is the decrease in lag time, or the time that elapses between the conscious will to move and the actual movement of the body. Advanced practitioners are believed to have a greatly decreased lag time, which increases their ability to deliver or avoid blows, allows them to change their fighting techniques faster than their opponent, and gives them the ability to issue great power from small movements.

Neigong is sometimes compared to the Indian yoga system because both systems are believed to act on both the body and the inner spirit, and produce similar benefits. Physically, neigong increases the mobility of the joints and promotes proper alignment, and the twisting motions common to the exercises are said to detoxify the organs. Mentally, the concentration and self-awareness required in this practice are thought to result in deep awareness of body functions, and long time practitioners claim awareness of blood circulation, peristalsis, and subtle muscle movements, and improvements in peace and internal harmony.

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