Encounters with Spontaneous Qi (10): How to Practice Spontaneous Qigong

how to practice spontaneous qigong zifagong

how to practice spontaneous qigong zifagong

Simple instructions on how to enter a spontaneous qigong (zifagong) state from the qigong teacher Don Tow…

I have written extensively of my experience with spontaneous qigong. Visit my Qigong Page in the menu to see other articles on this topic.

This article will give some basic instructions on how to enter the spontaneous qigong state (zifagong) yourself through a regular qigong practice.

In this article, I will also discuss my own experience of it as well as some potential contraindications.

How to enter a Spontaneous Qi state

Don Tow’s Website, a Tai Chi teacher, gives his impressions of spontaneous qigong in his website article: Spontaneous Qigong or Zifagong’.

In this article, he describes the way a Qigong beginner can set off the spontaneous qi effect. I have linked to his article (above) as I think he describes it far better than I can. And I don’t think there is any need to reinvent the wheel. I recommend you visit his original article.

Here is a summary of Don Tow’s main points:

1. Find a private place with lots of space

Don Tow advises to find a large open quiet place like a grassy field to practice. This is because with spontaneous qigong activation, there can be lots of bodily movements and it helps to have somewhere safe to practice

My notes: If you have limited space, you can still practice, but you will have to be more careful. When I first discovered Spontaneous Qigong whilst at university, I only had a single room to practice, with a lot of the space taken up with furniture. However, I was still able to practice in that room and I think that my Qi accommodated itself to the limited space. At that time, I never seemed to practice any extravagant movements. Years later, when I had a bigger space, my movements took up more space.

2. Position and posture

Don Tow recommends to stand in the standard qigong pose with feet shoulders-width apart, the knees slightly bent, upper body straight and arms hanging by the side. Relax the body and try to empty the mind. The eyes can be closed softly.

My notes: This is actually the same pose I use to enter the state. I sometimes find that if I lower the stance more, I have more chance of setting it off. It is also helpful to keep the spine straight or upright. Once you have become accustomed to spontaneous Qi sensation, you may not need to use this pose. Basically any relaxed position can set it off if you allow it – for example, sitting in a meditation pose. But in the beginning, use a standard qigong standing position to start it.

Arms by the side

I think that having the arms held by the side of the body is a better pose to set off the zifagong, as it requires less energy to hold the arms and you can relax more into the pose. The picture of me above is the pose I like to use to set off the spontaneous qigong (zifagong) movements. You may note, that I am fairly relaxed in the positioning of my arms and body. – not attempting to hold my limbs correctly or precisely, as would be taught in tai chi. Thats the problem when you don’t follow a formal teacher or class for a long time. You get sloppy with your form.

Here are two possible variations to experiment with:

Screenshot 2018-12-02 at 22.20.36


Screenshot 2018-12-02 at 22.20.05

Reference: Pictures taken from the qigong book – ‘The Way of Energy‘ by Master Lam Kam Chuen.

3. Be Patient

Don Tow then recommends to be patient and remain in this standing position. You may have to stand from between 15 to 45 minutes or even longer, keeping the body relaxed and mind empty.  After a while, you may start to feel the body moving slightly. The body may lean or sway slightly. Keep standing and stay relaxed. Eventually the spontaneous Qi state may start.

How I enter a Spontaneous Qigong state

In my case, I am able to enter the spontaneous Qi “Qigong state” by standing in the ‘holding the balloon’ pose for a few minutes and then going a little lower into the pose. Soon, I feel a gentle swaying feeling. If I let myself go with the swaying and fro-ing, the spontaneous qi movements gradually intensify and then I can enter an ‘active’ spontaneous qi state.

However, I imagine it will be different for everyone. Personally, it took me many months of regular Qigong practice, including doing the Qigong set – the 8 Pieces of Brocade, before this state happened to me. Sometimes I would stand for up to an hour a day. So I am not so sure anyone can set it off in just a single 45 minutes practice. But everyone is different and perhaps back then, I didn’t know what was possible or what to look for. It may have been that I did have the gentle swaying movements when I practiced but would override them with my mind.

4. Types of beginner movements to expect

Finally Don Tow describes the types of movement to expect in a Spontaneous Qigong state. These are:

  • Taking a step forward or backwards
  • Bending forwards or backwards
  • Walking in a circle
  • Running in place
  • Twisting your body into different positions
  • Shaking or waving the arms in a tai chi-type movement
  • Sitting or lying down on the floor

Some of my observations

Below are some of my own considerations for practicing spontaneous qigong:

Length of Spontaneous Qigong Session

Sessions can really take as long as you want. At first, it is a little bewildering. The first time I experienced it, I was worried that I would not be able to stop the spontaneous qi movements. At the same time, I was too fascinated by the movements to try to stop them in case it was a one-off occurrence. So I let the movements flow for about 45 minutes. Finally, I felt I’d had enough and decided that I had to try to stop them. This was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I needed only to bring my mind back to my dantian and tell myself the movements were coming to an end. Then it finished.

In my 30 day trial of spontaneous qigong, I experimented a lot more with spontaneous qigong. I found that I could stop and start the movements at will very easily. With spontaneous qigong, you do have control. So you can arbitrarily decide how long you want to practice for. I would recommend 20 minutes a day. Howver, the get the effects, you may want to let it run its course entirely, which can be 1, possibly 2 hours.

Risks of regular qigong and spontaneous qigong practice

I would say there are some risks with qigong and spontaneous qigong. However, I think some of these risks are related to being driven by ego and not practicing ‘moderation’.

Build up your practice gradually

For example, if you are a person who’s only exercise in the last 5 years is to lift a handful of potato chips to your mouth and click the channel-changer. And then, in a moment of impassioned self-improvement you decide to join the gym and go all gung-ho on lifting weights. The body says stop, but the ego says ‘why don’t you do the dead lift and pack it full of weights. You will very likely hurt yourself and maybe put your body out of action for weeks.

If instead you adopt a moderate approach and ignore the ego, over a period of months, you can gradually build up your strength and prepare your body to life great weights without injury.

This is how it is with the qigong. You must practice moderately. Gradually you open up your channel pathways and build your qi. This is a safer way to practice and over the long-term will be far more beneficial.

Don’t be in a rush

If you are too anxious to set off a spontaneous Qigong state, you risk doing too much practice. Yes – I think you can practice too much in the beginning. If you are not careful, you could strain joints or tendons or tire yourself out too much.

To practice safely, let go of any expectations and drop the ego. Practice moderately, building it up slowly and gradually. Think of qigong as a long-term practice not a short-term gain. This is hard for young men who are naturally ego-driven and want quick results, but it is necessary.

Mental Health risk

There is also a mental health risk if you already have mental health problems or are susceptible to them. This is not something to take for granted. Some people really should avoid qigong practice, particularly those suffering from schizophrenia or manic-depression or are taking any powerful sedatives for these problems. Even people that are highly excitable, probably shouldn’t practice spontaneous qigong. Simply put, they do not need the extra stimulation and uncertainty that spontaneous qigong provides.

Some candid advice

And in fact, I will go as far as to say, that there are some people who really should just quit qigong and learn sports or dancing, or something more ‘physical instead. Stay in the physical realm, not the spiritual. For example, people specifically seeking psychic powers as a form of escape from life. Or as a compensation. Qigong is the gift of life, not an escape from it.

For some it is better to be obsessed with physical things – e.g. sports, physical exercise, work, money, travel, volunteering or women, rather than spiritual things  In an earlier post, I reviewed a book written by a young Chinese man who practiced qigong obsessively and was strongly motivated by ego. In his case, he ended up opening himself up to deviations because of his zealousness.

This is because with qigong, you are playing a bit with fire.

Spontaneous Qigong is generally safe

Other than these risks, qigong and spontaneous qigong can be carried our safely.

One of the biggest factors is aiming to practice in a safe open space as there are lots of spontaneous movements. Also be aware that at any moment in a spontaneous qigong state you have the power to over-ride the movements and bring the spontaneous movement to a close if you need to.

The spontaneous qigong exercises do have a natural end. After 1 hour, it should come to a natural end. For some people it may be longer or for others, shorter. In some cases, the spontaneous qi will lead you into a lying or sitting meditative position at the end. Then you can remain in meditation until you feel ready to end the practice completely.

In other cases, if you don’t have time or you are tired of practice, then you can bring the practice to an end manually. This is relatively easy.

Simply bring your mind and energy back to your dantian or just consciously tell yourself it is finished. Or find your own way to end the movements. But even in cases when you feel the spontaneous qi has more work to do, be confident that it will come to an end naturally anyway. The body has its own wisdom and is working with you, not against you.

My own experiences with adverse Qigong effects

In my case, as a young man I over-practiced standard qigong. I was too gung ho.

At acupuncture school I was introduced to qigong. We had to do it for 5 minutes at the beginning of some of our classes. Most people didn’t care for it. In one session, the teachers who were leading the practice decided to make us do the standing qigong pose – ‘holding the balloon’ for about 20 minutes. As the minutes wore on, several of the class mates grew impatient and tired. One by one, people started leaving the class until only a handful of class-members remained. I was one of the few who remained. The exercise was tiring for me. I had never carried it out more than 5 minutes previously and my legs were trembling and shaking. But I was determined to stick it out.

I was curious about qigong. So I read up on it and heard that it had potential healing practice if you practiced regularly.

This piqued my interest, because I had a strong desire at the time to heal an illness called colitis, which I had been affected by quite severely in the previous years. I wondered if qigong could fix my body.

Then, I read qigong book after qigong book and practiced all the exercises I came across. I practiced twice daily sometimes 2 to 3 hours. I went to 2 or 3 classes a week with different teachers.

Whilst my sensitivity and knowledge of qigong may have improved quickly, I also suffered adverse effects to this. The excessive practice caused me sleep disturbances and other body weaknesses which drained my Kidney-energy. At one point I started getting weak knees and felt like an old man. I was basically overdoing it. I had to learn to slow-down my practice and practice less frequently. I also visited my acupuncturist for treatment and felt embarrassed at explaining the weakness I was suffering from.

I had to modify my practice to only practicing the ‘holding the balloon exercise’, which I felt was safer and also more beneficial for me. I even stopped the 8 pieces of brocade because I felt it was making me weaker by creating too much energy flow, when I needed  to be building it up and storing it instead.

Grasping a cure, ego and qigong

Actually all this excess practice made me too ‘grasping’ and created too much tension in me. I was practicing excessively because I was trying quickly to cure myself. But, it was having the opposite effect to being healthy. And I certainly didn’t heal my disease. It stayed the same. I was acting from the ego.

This taught me something about my own nature. I have a tendency to throw myself  into something 100%. It can be almost obsessive and I don’t listen when I have signs that I need to stop something.


As with any medicine in life, there is a right amount and a toxic amount. For example, take 1 aspirin and your headache won’t go away. Take two and your headache will. But take 5, doesn’t mean your headache will go away quicker. In fact, it will harm your bodily organs and make you really sick.

I think the same can apply to practices like qigong. Do the right amount. Not too little, not too much, and be regular and consistent. Practice a little every day.

Moderation and relaxation is a safe way to practice

Once I slowed down my practice, I then started to benefit from my practice.

My sleep disturbances and other body weaknesses improved. I also started to enjoy my practice. There was less expectation and less mental tension as I was not chasing results.. I found it helpful to practice from 30 minutes to an hour a day. Sometimes even just 2 or 3 times a week was enough.

Years later, I now practice occasionally  My health condition, – whilst not completely healed, is better now than it was when I was in my 20’s and I don’t need to take any medication for it. I went ten years without seeing a consultant. A few months ago, I had a check up. The colonoscopy showed that my bowel was in a stable condition. In fact, there were no signs of polyps in my bowel, which is curious because in past scans, I usually have one or two. At the time, I was practicing spontaneous qigong daily. Perhaps there was a connection?

I find it easier to enter Zifagong now

Curiously, I also find it much easier to enter the spontaneous Qi state now, then when I was practicing qigong, ‘gung-ho’ every day. I can pretty much set off the spontaneous Qi movements within a few minutes of practice and I also enjoy it a lot more. I think this is because I have a moderate and relaxed approach to my practice of qigong now.

I don’t practice as consistently as I would like, so this is something I am working on.

If you want to practice spontaneous qigong?

If you want to practice zifagong, I feel it is better to find a teacher who is familiar with spontaneous qigong.

If you already have a teacher, it is worth discussing with them if they have experience of it. Not all teachers do, as this is a side of qigong which for various reasons, teachers do not explore/approach/see as necessary.

For their own reasons, they may advise against practicing spontaneous qigong and I recommend you follow their advice as they know you better than me. For example, one of my old Tai Chi teacher’s, Dorothea, did not practice spontaneous qigong. However, when I asked her about it she was familiar with it. She told me to go with it, if it felt right. Two of my Japanese qigong teachers, do not seem to practice, or be aware of zifagong.

If you are interested in zifagong, it would be better to find a teacher that is already familiar with spontaneous qigong, as at the beginning, it feels very weird and kind of scary to just let the body go. In this way, it can help to have someone guide you.

However, finding a teacher who is experienced in zifagong is probably not easy to find. So you may not have this choice. In that case, you may have to explore this by yourself.

I received a message from Janne in Finland, an acupuncturist, who in his own way had also discovered zifagong by himself. I wrote about his experiences here – Activating Spontaneous Qi / Shi Delon, Jason Dean videos – Message from Janne (1)

I also discovered zifagong by myself at first. So it is possible to practice alone and learn about it.

But above all else, if you do experiment with zifagong, trust the wisdom of the body. If something feels uncomfortable, stop practicing and don’t let the ego lead you.

Also, take a diary and record your experiences. The movements that come up with have the specific purpose of clearing your Energy Channels. You can learn about your own blocks by observing these kind of movements.

Next Post

Spontaneous Qigong Book Review: Zifa Gong by Alexander Brighton


genki health Japanese qigong woman on beach

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