With movements seen in qigong and t’ai chi exercises, Falun Gong is an exercise form that’s closely related to Falun Dafa, a recent spiritual movement that originated in the 1990s in China. According to the Falun Gong organization, Falun Dafa has a myriad of adherents globally.
In 1999, the Communist government of China has banned the practice and labeled the movement as subversive and “evil”. Followers of Falun Dafa have had to endure persecution and reports have surfaced, which the government repeatedly and vehemently denies, that officials have nabbed Falun Dafa practitioners and have harvested their organs and put thousands of its followers to death. Since then, assistance for practitioners in the West has made Falun Dafa wildly popular.
Westerners practice Falun Dafa on the National Mall in Washington and in school campuses and parks in some of the major cities in the US. However, they don’t realize that this Falun Dafa is actually derived from an unusual creed and that many t’ai chi and qigong masters have denigrated this exercise as mere fantasy.
While based on the millennia-old exercises of t’ai chi and qigong, Falun Dafa was actually only recently invented twenty years ago in 1992 by Li Hongshi. And while t’ai chi beefs up the body, it is claimed that Falun Dafa reinforces the spirit for redemption by channeling energy from various dimensions in the universe.
Falun Dafa is based on the premise that by performing simple stretching workouts, a person can foster a knowledgeable golden-colored individual known as the falun that dwells in the gut of a person within an alternate dimension and rotates constantly, imbibing energy from far flung areas of parallel universes making the body invulnerable to disease.
Residing in New York, the elusive Li Hongshi, claims that David Copperfield (yes, that high profile magician) has a whole lot of falun in him that gives him the ability to perform magic and penetrate walls. In Li’s book “Falun Gong” he states:
“David Copperfield, an American magician who has supernormal powers once walked through China’s Great Wall. He cover himself with a white cloth when he was about to go through the Wall, and then went ahead going through it. He did this because it would make people believe they were watching a magical show. The feat should be done this way since he believed there are lots of Chinese people with superhuman abilities. He covered himself before going through the wall because he was worried that there might be interference from these people.”
According to Li, a person with a spinning and well functioning falun can beat all types of disease, tolerate all kinds of infirmities, and live for hundreds of years.
What about the exercises?
There is a significant difference between Falun Dafa and tai chi and qigong. With Tai chi, all movements are precise and deliberate and are designed to optimize the circulation of vital energy which in Chinese is called chi. With qigong, movements are methodic and slow which essentially is the central basis of qigong. Practitioners of Falun Dafa are not too particular about precision. To promote chi, the stretching of falun is not intended to be strenuous; but instead encourages universal energy, with the falun spinning in a clockwise direction.
There is one meditative sitting pose and four standing postures in Falun Gong. The meditative pose is known as the “Path of Reinforcing Supernormal Power,” and is the same as qigong meditative exercises which have been deemed to reduce blood pressure. In The four standing postures the upper body is stretched and the same was as qigong postures that have been proven to increase circulation. The “Piercing the Two Cosmic Boundaries” falun Dafa exercise, for instance, can be a bit refreshing. In this exercise, the arms of a person move up and down slowly like pistons.
The exercise known as “Buddha Revealing the Thousand Hands” mainly evokes t’ai chi exercises that stretch both arms from one side to another. The ” Standing Falun posture” exercise builds up power in the shoulders and arms. The person’s arms remain stationary for a number of minutes in an arc shaped position over the head. And then there is the “Celestial Falun Circulation” exercise which entails running the person’s hands under and over the whole body some inches above the ground.
One factor segregating Falun Dafa from t’ai chi and qigong is Hsinghsing, which is a law of morality that should be practiced lest the exercises become null and void.
Falun Gong Scientific Validation
With regard to the health benefits of Falun Gong, no high-caliber have been published, other than articles extolling its popularity. The Cultural Diversity Journal in 2003 published a commentary warning about the choice of hard core adherents of Falun Dafa to not take medications, since medications prove disbelief in the healing ability of the falun.
Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the Southwestern University Medical Center in Dallas Texas in 2005, features a study in the JACAM (Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine) regarding six practitioners of Falun Dafa (which they erroneously labeled as “ancient qigong”). The practitioners exhibited slight increases in metabolic rates and immunity. There was zero follow-up research after this.
Anyone can see that going outdoors to do soothing workouts with kindred spirits would generate mental and physical health benefits. However, we no one should assume that the watered-down version of Falun Dafa exercises are helpful alternatives to the seasoned activities of tai chi, which have been recorded to provide various health benefits, which include symptomatic treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, stroke, mental health, general cardiovascular health, blood pressure, stamina, flexibility, and balance.
Amy-SuiQun Lui, L.Ac.
Asian Health Center
27059 Grand Army of the Republic Hwy
Cleveland, OH 44143
Tel: (440) 833-0983