“I’ve been practicing qigong for 6 months, but I can’t say that I’ve made any progress,” she said. “I feel calm, relaxed, and centered after practicing, but not much else.”
This comment came from one of my newer students. I’ll call her Meredith. She first learned from me online, and then attended one of my live workshops.
Meredith’s experience is quite common, and I’m betting that many of you reading this can relate to what she said.
What should you and Meredith do?
I created the following checklist to help you to troubleshoot the problem (if there is one):
- Are you measuring progress?
- Are you following the 3 Golden Rules?
- Are you following the 10/30/60 Rule?
- Are you getting the proper dosage?
- Are your expectations reasonable?
- Are you being a Negative Nancy?
- Are you practicing the right kind of qigong?
- Do you have an awesome teacher?
- Does your teacher know your name?
Although I designed this checklist specifically for students practicing Flowing Zen Qigong, I suspect that practitioners of other styles will still learn something as well. (Let me know in the comments below.)
As an aside, if you don’t yet practice qigong and you want to try, then CLICK HERE to get lifetime access to a free online program.
Now let’s go through each of these ideas in greater detail:
1. Are you measuring progress?
Do you keep a progress chart, tracking your ups and downs as you practice qigong?
Or do you keep a qi journal, a written diary of your qigong journey?
One way or another — are you quantifying things? For example, are you assigning a number to your pain levels and writing that number down daily or at least weekly?
Many students just wing it. They don’t measure things, they don’t write anything down, and they don’t quantify.
And yet somehow, despite a complete and utter lack of data — these students magically know that they’re not making progress.
Look, maybe it’s true that you’ve plateaued with your qigong healing.
But maybe it’s not true. Maybe you’re doing fine.
The simple fact is that if you’re not measuring, then there’s no way for you (or me) to know the difference.
In other words, you need to measure your progress before you can reasonably determine that there’s a lack of progress.
In many cases, there’s plenty of progress, but you just didn’t see it because you weren’t writing things down.
We’ll cover this more in #5 and #6.
2. Are you following the 3 Golden Rules?
Are you letting go of your worries?
What about your thoughts? Are you letting go of those too?
And most importantly, are you enjoying yourself when you practice qigong?
If you answered “no” to any of these, then there’s your problem. You’re not following the 3 Golden Rules of Qigong Practice, which are:
- Let go of your worries.
- Let go of your thoughts.
- Enjoy the qigong (or tai chi) session.
Let me be clear that this doesn’t mean that you are 100% worry free or 100% thought free.
It simply means that you are in the habit of letting go of thoughts and worries when you notice them.
3. Are you following the 10/30/60 Rule?
Are you obsessing about the form of your various qigong exercises, trying to get them perfect?
If so, then you’re breaking the 10/30/60 Rule (not to mention the 3 Golden Rules).
The 10/30/60 Rule states that:
- The physical aspect is responsible for 10% of your results.
- The breathing/energy aspect is responsible for 30% of your results.
- The meditation aspect is responsible for 60% of your results.
Contrary to popular belief, the physical aspect of the exercise is the LEAST important thing in qigong, and not by a little.
If this is news to you, if you’re confused about alignment, if you think the perfect form is critical for getting results — then you’ll benefit from reading this article here:
4. Are you getting the proper dosage?
Imagine that you go to the doctor and she gives you some medicine for your problem.
“Take 2 pills with food every morning and every evening.”
For 6 months, you take 1 pill every other morning, usually with coffee instead of food.
Then you go back to your doctor and say something like: “Doc, the pills you gave me aren’t working!”
I often feel like that poor doctor.
Let’s get something straight: If you aren’t taking your prescribed medicine, then you can’t complain about it not working!
So what’s the proper dosage of qigong?
It depends on the style and the goals.
With Flowing Zen Qigong, the proper dosage for rapid and deep healing is 600 or more sessions of the 5-Phase Routine per year.
The 5-Phase Routine takes about 15 minutes. So this means that you need to practice for 15 minutes twice per day, but that you also have 65 days of wiggle room where you can practice once per day.
The proper dosage for maintaining health is 365 or more sessions of the 5-Phase Routine per year.
So this means that you need to practice for about 15 minutes every day, and if you miss a day, then you need to catch up and practice twice the next day.
In other words, if you want to stay healthy, then you only need to practice once per day, but if you want to GET healthy, you’ll need to shoot for twice per day.
These dosages are doable, especially compared to other styles of qigong that require 60 or more minutes per day. Doable, but not easy. Many students still struggle.
Over the years, I’ve found that there’s a simple way for students to solve this problem: Start with 2 minutes a day.
Obviously, practicing for 2 minutes a day is a low dosage, and it’s not enough for the more amazing results that students often get from qigong.
But it’s solid start that eventually leads to a solid habit. And once you have a solid habit, even if it’s just 2 minutes — then you can turn it into a bigger habit (like 15 minutes).
5. Are your expectations reasonable?
“How long have you had this problem?” I asked. I was speaking with a new student. I’ll call him Carl.
“About 15 years now,” he said.
“And what else have you tried?”
“Everything,” he said. “I’ve been to the Mayo Clinic, I’ve tried Reiki, I’ve been to the chiropractor…”
“And did any of that help?”
“Not really,” he said. His frustration was all over his face. “I didn’t see any changes whatsoever.”
“It says here that your daily pain levels were at an 8 out of 10 before your first qigong class,” I said, looking at his registration forms.
This was back in the days of my brick-and-mortar studio when all of my students had written registration forms. For this question, the scale was 0-10, with 0 being zero pain whatsoever, and 10 being the worst pain imaginable.
“It’s been about 3 months since you started,” I noted from the date on his form. “How’s your pain now?”
“Maybe a 5.”
Let me back up. The reason I was having this conversation with Carl in the first place was because he was discouraged. He was so discouraged, in fact, that he wanted to cancel his membership to the studio.
“What I’m hearing is that your pain levels — which remained unchanged for 15 years despite various treatments — have gone from an 8 to a 5 in just 3 months of qigong.”
“That’s why I want to drop out,” he said. “It’s just not working.”
You might think that Carl was being sarcastic, that he had suddenly realized how silly he was being and thus decided to crack a joke. But you’d be wrong. He was completely earnest.
In other words, Carl saw a 37% improvement in his 15-year-old untreatable chronic pain levels after just 3 months of qigong — and he was disappointed.
I see this all the time. Students who have been suffering from a specific problem for years and have already tried everything — seen every Eastern and Western doctor, spent thousands of dollars, taken every supplement — come to qigong expecting it to magically fix everything in 3 months or less.
Obviously, Carl’s expectations were unreasonable. The problem was not with qigong, but with his attitude.
I should mention that Carl stayed on as a member and continued to practice qigong. After about 9 months of practice, his pain levels dropped down to a 2 (from his original 8).
6. Are you being a Negative Nancy?
If you go see an acupuncture physician, a chiropractor, or an MD, they will create a chart for you.
In the old days, those charts were physical. Now, they’re usually on an iPad. But it’s still a chart.
Over the months and years, your doctor will measure your progress by asking you questions, running diagnostics, etc.
Why do they do this?
If you’re a physician, or if you’re married to one, then you know the REAL answer:
Doctors keep a chart on you because you are a Negative Nancy.
Humans are hardwired to notice the negative, not the positive. That’s just biology.
For example, let’s go back to Meredith’s original comment. She was worried that she wasn’t making progress with her qigong, and yet she also mentioned that she felt calm, relaxed, and centered after practicing.
Isn’t it a good thing to feel calm, relaxed, and centered?
Isn’t that similar to what Valium — one of the best-selling drugs in the history of drugs — does, but without the nasty side effects?
This is how the human brain works. We notice the negative and ignore the positive. We complain about the rainy days but hardly stop to notice the sunny days.
(As an aside, this is why I’m a big fan of practicing gratitude — because it forces us to pay attention to all the wonderful and positive things in our life.)
I’m not saying that Meredith didn’t raise legitimate concerns. She did, and I empathize. I know that she is still experiencing some of her old aches and pains.
But I also know that to overcome those aches and pains, she needs to get in the habit of noticing the positive, not just the negative.
7. Are you practicing the right kind of qigong?
Students are always asking what qigong exercise they should practice for ______ problem.
But what they should really be asking is why TYPE of qigong.
The exercise that you practice matters far less than the type of qigong that you practice.
There are 5 main types of qigong:
- Medical (or Health) Qigong
- Vitality (or Longevity) Qigong
- Intellectual (or Scholar’s) Qigong
- Martial Qigong
- Spiritual Qigong
If you’re practicing martial qigong and expecting medical qigong results — well then there’s your problem!
Or vice versa, if you’re practicing medical qigong and wondering why you can’t break a brick with your hand — it’s the type of qigong, silly.
You can read more about the types of qigong here: The 5 Categories of Qi Cultivation
8. Do you have an awesome teacher?
When it comes to learning the violin or tennis, everyone knows that you need a good teacher.
But when it comes to qigong, people in the West get weird.
For some reason, many people think that they can learn qigong without a teacher.
They are wrong. Period.
If you don’t have a teacher, and preferably an awesome one — then there’s your problem.
Yes, a book can be a teacher, and so can a DVD. But also remember that books and DVDs are one-way.
That’s why a teacher is so important — so you can ask questions, get clarification, and get some feedback.
A teacher does far more than impart information. In fact, information is the least of what we do.
Qigong is an amazing art, and like any art, it needs to be properly taught.
There’s nothing wrong with varying your qigong education, and exploring what’s out there.
But to get good results, having an awesome teacher you trust needs to be a priority.
Which leads me to ask this question…
9. Does your teacher know your name?
“Who is your Sifu?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t know if I would call him my Sifu, but I own Master Oogway’s DVDs, I’ve attended 2 of his live workshops, and I also read his book.”
“Does Master Oogway know your name?” I asked.
“Oh I’m quite sure that he has no idea who I am,” she giggled.
I offered a mild smile but didn’t laugh. To me, it wasn’t a laughing matter.
This woman, we’ll call her Dorothy, was using qigong as a primary healing tool in her battle against Multiple Sclerosis.
“Why is it that I know your name and Master Oogway doesn’t?” I asked.
Don’t make this mistake. Don’t shrug this off.
If your teacher doesn’t know you, then she can only help you so far.
Some (but not all) of the big names in the qigong world are good teachers, but many of them also have way too many students.
There’s no way they can have a relationship with so many people.
It’s up to YOU to go find a teacher with whom you can build a relationship.
I mean a teacher who knows your name, who knows your history, knows your goals, and cares about your progress.
Let’s come back to Meredith, the student from the beginning of this article.
Although her real name isn’t Meredith, she is a real student of mine. In fact, I’ll probably get an email from her once she reads this.
I suspect that there are several points in this article that Meredith will benefit from.
But one thing she doesn’t need to worry about is #9. I know her name, and it ain’t Meredith.
What about you? Does your Sifu know your name?
I want you to get the results that you deserve. I want you to fall madly in love with qigong. I want you to be a raving fan who tells all her friends about this awesome thing called qigong.
If it’s not working for you, that’s okay. It happens. But instead of giving up, use this article to troubleshoot the problem.
Before you know it, you’ll be getting the amazing benefits that the rest of us are getting from this beautiful art! Mindfully yours, Sifu Anthony I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world how to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. As the director of Flowing Zen and a board member for the National Qigong Association, I'm fully committed to helping people with these arts. In addition to my blog, I also teach online courses and offer in-person retreats and workshops.