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      article: Qigong Deviation  |  author: Various Sources  |  date: 2020-06-22 21:54:58




    Qigong Deviation

    Compiled from various sources by John Voigt


    Receiving qi from a qigong master. Some would call this a spiritual experience, others qigong deviation. Image: Netease News.

    Qigong Deviation refers to negative somatic or mental reactions in the course of practicing Qigong. Manifestations include thinking, emotional and behavioral disorders, and obsession. Other complaints include localized pains, headache, insomnia, and uncontrolled spontaneous movements. The classic Chinese term for such aberrant behavior is zou huo ru mo: "Out of control fire-energy - enter the demonic realm."

    Qigong literally means "working with life energy." Usually this refers to physical movements (usually gentle) or meditations and/or visualizations that use and cultivate qi for well-being. But it may more broadly refer to internal martial arts, acupuncture, kundalini yoga, spiritual meditation, etc. In other words, any procedure that internally or externally affects the vital life energy (qi) of the practitioner. Within any of these practices there is the possibility of a unusual sensations taking place, especially for beginners.

    For beginners such reactions as numbness, itchiness, excessive body heat, headaches, dizziness, increased unexpected sexual urges, feeling intoxicated, exhaustion, or physical pain moving from one place in the body to another are usually harmless and are indications that the flow of qi is working to bring about wellbeing.

    Belching, passing gas, yawning, sneezing, sweating or trembling are signs that improper qi is leaving the body.

    However certain reactions can be serious, and even dangerous. This is what "Deviation" usually refers to, especially when occurring after improper qigong instruction or practice. Such deviations may appear as physical disorders such as, uncontrollable head-shaking, shoulder shrugging, hand or leg quivering, stumbling, staggering, uncontrolled crying or laughing, even stiff and twisted extremities. [Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson, p. 512]. Somatic symptoms may include: body pain, dark stagnant complexion, rapid pulse, dark red tongue, reddish eyes, reddish urine, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. [Ngan Vuong, p. 142]. Or psychological disorders such as: delirium, paranoia, hallucinations, loss of mental facilities, incoherent speech, severe emotional distress or behavior harmful to oneself or others…starved themselves to death…died by committing dangerous acts like jumping off the roof of a tall building…or committed suicide. [David A. Palmer, p.158-9].

    Types of Deviation:

    Five basic symptoms were described by Bi Yongsheng in two books; the first is Chinese Qigong, Zhang Enqin, editor; pp. 406-410. The second is Chinese Qigong: Outgoing-qi Therapy; pp. 438-9. What follows was adapted from these texts.

    1. Reversed Flow and Disorder of Qi and Blood. Which leads to dizziness, fright and fear, constricted feelings in the chest, shortness of breath, breathing, and uncontrollable body movements. Usually the patient knows the position and direction of disorderly flow of qi.

    2. Stagnancy of Qi and Blood Stasis. Sensation of local pain, heaviness, soreness, and distention due to the disorder of qi and the disturbance of one or more of the body's soft (yin) internal organs: viz.: Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lung, Kidney.

    Case Study

    Subject: Chinese, 22-year-old unmarried male. To alleviate lumbago, he read about qigong and began practicing the exercise "Five Animal Frolics." Ten days later he felt an adverse flow of qi in the head and abdomen. Excruciating pain and anxiety struck when doing a qigong movement, and he attempted to commit suicide. He was sent to the Shanghai Institute of Qigong. Guided by a Qigong master there, he temporarily recovered; but the next day he became delirious, claiming evil spirits were talking to him. Prayers to Buddha did not help; he further lost self-control. Between the attacks he seemed to be normal, but it was impossible for him to go back to work because of insomnia and the threat of reoccurring qi deviations.


    He returned home. Prevented by his family from during any more qigong, he attempted suicide by smashing his head into a automobile. He was sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. There were no abnormal findings in his physical and laboratory check-up; there was no history of psychosis in his family. He was given electroshock treatment (ECT). Two days later, his father took him home. Now he regularly visits a qigong master and is in good health. Source: www.hrw.org.

    3. Leakage and loss of Genuine Qi. An uncontrollable leakage of qi from the sexual organs, anus, or some acupuncture point leading to emaciation, weakness of the limbs, grey complexion, nervousness, mental disturbances, sweating, seminal emission, failing memory, insomnia, and reluctance to speak or move.

    4. Disorderly Flow of Evil or Pathogenic Qi. With practitioners suffering illness there may be a struggle between Healthy Qi (vital qi) and Pathogenic (illness causing) qi. Because there is a reinforced flow of Healthy Qi the Pathogenic Qi may be forced into certain areas in the body causing pain, distension, cold and hot sensations, and soreness.

    5. Mental Derangement (also called Infatuation or Bewitchedness). Generally this refers to the occurrence of illusions during or following training practice which lead to mental derangement. Patients reveal unsociable and eccentric dispositions, sluggishness, apathy and trance. Some lose confidence in life and commit suicide. Or have symptoms similar to psychosis such as visual or auditory hallucinations which might show itself as an obsession on riches, aristocracy, love, a spiritual master, fighting, a women's charms, or sexuality. [editor's note: this type of syndrome is often called "Ultra-Deviation" in China, and "Qigong Psychosis" in the west.]

    Causes of Deviation:

    Most cases of Qigong-induce mental disorders or ultra deviation (Zou huo ru mo) occurred among those who practiced Qigong under merit-less Qigong instructors or without any supervision at all. [Kevin Chen, 2000].

    Qigong, when practised inappropriately, may induce abnormal psychosomatic responses and even mental disorders. However, the ties between Qigong and mental disorders are manifold, and a causal relationship is difficult to establish. Many so-called 'Qigong-induced psychoses' may be more appropriately labeled 'Qigong-precipitated psychoses', where the practice of Qigong acts as a stressor in vulnerable individuals. [Beng-Yeong Ng. Qigong-Induced Mental Disorders: A Review].


    The best way to prevent qigong disease is to find the right teacher, and properly do the exercises.

    Unless very advanced and under the direction of a master teacher never let qi run freely without mental or physical control of it. Such improvisational free-form (i.e., "Spontaneous") Qigong with its eccentric and bizarre looking movements may trigger deviations.

    After doing Qigong the energy should be brought to the dantian and stored there. Break up any Qi blockages through gentle and easy movements, massage, or exercises.

    Learn the basics before practicing advanced movements and visualizations. Learn abdominal breathing. Learn to sense and then to mentally direct the qi within the body. Learn and practice the Microcosmic Orbit to store qi in the lower abdomen (dantian). en.wikipedia.org

    Qi stagnation in the upper dantien [hypothalamus or brain area] is potentially dangerous. Sending quantities of qi to the "The Third Eye" or pineal gland and leaving it there can cause brain damage. Qi Deviation is occasionally linked to "Kundalini Psychosis."

    Do not force, or rush for results. The "gong" in qigong means cultivation over time. You should feel good during and after Qigong. If you experience an uncomfortable pain or disturbing psychological events stop the practice and change your routine, or your teacher, or both.

    If one is doing qigong to gain paranormal powers (in itself a questionable pursuit) he or she requires the close scrutiny of a fully experienced and ethical master teacher. If one is seeking to do evil to others, personal disaster will befall them.

    If one suffers or is prone to mental illness, he or she should not learn and practice alone. Such a person requires the close scrutiny of a fully experienced Qigong or TCM master--and most likely with the additional oversight of a psychiatrist or psychologist.

    Do not practice too long. For a beginner it is suggested 20-30 minutes of external movements, and 15-20 minutes of inner meditation-visualizations a day. But again the rule is to work personally with an experienced teacher who may require more practice time. And try not to mix different qigongs at the same time.

    And always: "Proceed gradually step by step. Do not overload your qi circuits by trying to do too much too soon. Do not neglect the joys of life. Relax and not to be obsessed with qi all the time." [Dr. Tan Kheng Khoo. "Qigong."]


    At the onset of deviation stop doing qigong. Before commencing any further qigong, it must be monitored, assessed, and modified by an experienced master teacher-healer. If the attack is obviously a mild one it may be enough for the afflicted person to do something else, anything else: take a walk, go to a non-upsetting movie, watch something simple and easy going on television. The goal is to keep your mind and body away from qigong.

    If symptoms are serious, or if they don't quickly go away, seek professional help: it is best best from a qigong master experienced in such things; however, it may be necessary to see professional western mental health practitioners: drugs, hospitalization, and psychotherapy may be required, especially with the extreme reactions of "Ultra-Deviation," or "Qigong Psychosis."

    The professional healer as well as the advanced student could benefit from the following books: J. A. Johnson. The Secret Teachings of Chinese Energetic Medicine, vol. 2. 2014; Zhang Enqin, editor. Chinese Qigong. 1990; Bi Yongsheng. Chinese Qigong: Outgoing-Qi Therapy, 1997. Bob Flaws. Chinese Medical Psychiatry: A Textbook & Clinical Manual, 2001; Lin Housheng. 300 Questions on Qigong Exercises. See Sources below for further bibliographic information.

    Can Deviation Be Mentally and Spiritually Healthy?

    Many mental disturbances or deviations are not a sign of madness, but rather a normal reaction during the Qigong healing stage when potential diseases appear and old diseases reemerge due to the strengthened Qi striking against the blocked locations…. In the higher level of Qigong practice, about 1/3 of students or practitioners may report strange and illusive images or hearing. Although this phenomenon has not been well understood by scientists, it occurs repeatedly among those involved practitioners, and usually accompanies rapid progress in Qigong [Kevin Chen, 2000].

    Historically within safe cloistered situations, many seekers on advanced spiritual paths have experienced a "Decent into Hell" or a "Dark Night of the Soul." Today their behavior would likely be called a sign of mental illness. But what some call "qigong psychosis" really be such a spiritual divine madness? It is hoped that others will objectively explore this subject in the future. [editor, Qi Encyclopedia.] (For more about spiritual madness see: www.spiritualcompetency.com).


    American Psychiatric Association (APA). "Qi-Gong Psychotic Reaction" [in] Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, Text Revision. [DSM-IV-TR]. Washington, DC, APA, 2000.

    Kevin Chen. "Chinese Qigong and the Qigong-Induced Mental Disorders," in BMJ (British Medical Journal); 29, November, 2000.

    Chinese Medical Qigong, edited by Tianjun Liu, Xiao Mei Qiang. Singing Dragon, 2013.

    Bob Flaws. Chinese Medical Psychiatry. Blue Poppy Enterprises, 2001.

    Dr. Jerry Alan Johnson. The Secret Teachings of Chinese Energetic Medicine, vol. 2. The International Institute of Medical Qigong, 2014.

    Lin Housheng. 300 Questions on Qigong Exercises. Guangdong Science and Technology Press, 1994.

    David A. Palmer. Qigong Fever. Columbia University, 2007.

    EnglishWades GilesPinyinChinese
    Qigong Ch'i KungQigong气功
    Deviation P‘ien ch‘aPiancha偏差
    Ultra Deviation ("Catching fire entering demon.") Tsou huo ju mo Zǒu huǒ rù mó走火入魔

    Chinese Script For Key Terms

    气功所致精神障碍的诊断标准 (CCMD-3) - "Diagnostic Criteria for Mental Disorders due to Qigong (CCMD-3)". The Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders (CCMD-3); [text in Chinese] 2001. www.xinli110.com [Text in English may be found at www.kungfumagazine.com

    Beng-Yeong Ng. "Qigong-Induced Mental Disorders: A Review." Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 1999.

    Dr. Tan Kheng Khoo. "Qigong" in Kundalini and Qigong Psychosis. www.kktanhp.com

    Bi Yongsheng. Chinese Qigong: Outgoing-qi Therapy. Shandong Science and Technology, 1997.

    Zhang Enqin, editor. Chinese Qigong. Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1990.

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