Over the years, Eastern forms of exercise like Yoga and Qigong have become exceedingly popular in America. Both strive to enhance physical well-being, calm the mind, and foster a closer connection to ourselves and the world around us. Yoga and Qigong offer incredible benefits for the mind, body, and spirit through stretching, breathing, movement, and meditation.

So what makes Qigong and Yoga different? Is one better than the other? Which one is right for you? In this post, we explore these questions and more.

How is Qigong different from Yoga?

One of the main differences between Qigong and Yoga is their place of origin. Qigong comes from China, while Yoga comes from India. While both are ancient practices that have been practiced for thousands of years, Qigong has roots in Taoism, while Yoga has roots in Hindu scriptures. Today, there are reportedly thousands of different kinds of Yoga and Qigong.

There are many ways that Qigong and Yoga overlap. They both use breath and movement to build strength and clear the mind. At their core, their principle idea is the same: they both revolve around the concept of a universal energy or life force that exists in all things. In Yoga, this is called prana, while in Qigong, this is called Qi. Both Yoga and Qigong work to harness this life energy through various practices.

We could say that Qigong and Yoga work toward the same goals but through different methods. Because there are so many different kinds of Qigong and Yoga, what we include below are generalizations meant to give a broad sense of the key characteristics that make up each practice.


In general, Yoga focuses on holding specific poses called asanas. These asanas enable deep stretching and intensive engagement with muscles. Qigong involves slow-paced, gentle movements that flow between one and the other. One reason for this difference is that many yogic postures were developed as a spiritual practice to build the muscles necessary for long meditations. By contrast, Qigong is a specific form of healing with milder movements accessible to a broader range of people.

Qigong also has ties to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and incorporates many of TCM’s healing patterns within its practices. For example, if someone is experiencing pain in their right shoulder, this may be a sign of the liver’s imbalance or stagnation of Liver Qi. Qigong draws from Eastern Medicine to heal the body through a deeper understanding of these internal connections and the associated practices.


Though many forms of breathing are exercised in Yoga and Qigong, they tend to emphasize different styles of breath work. Yoga tends to emphasize inhalation and exhalation through the nose. This breathing pattern calms the nervous system and is incredibly important for regulating the parasympathetic (also called “rest and digest”) system. The same type of breathing, often referred to as circular breathing, is also incorporated during Qigong Meditations. When it comes to physical movement-based Qigong Exercises, we also incorporate a breathing technique where we begin with an inhalation through the nose and exhalation through the mouth. This opens up your body from the esophagus all the way down through the gut and to the bottom of your legs. This breathing pattern helps get rid of unwanted tension and has the effect of releasing energy from our bodies. Both aid in overall relaxation. You can read more about Qigong breathing in our post.


While both Qigong and Yoga help develop physical strength, their methods for doing so differ. Qigong is closely connected to Martial Arts and is based on forms designed to enable physical exertion. This can be explained by the differences in breathing mentioned above. Imagine, for example, that you are about to throw a punch. While breathing in and out through your nose would relax your body, it would be difficult to throw a strong punch, or many punches in a row, without also exhaling through your mouth (except by a trained boxer). By contrast, making an open-mouthed “ha!” sound guides the release of energy that is created when you physically punch the air. For this reason, it is extremely difficult to do Karate, Kung Fu, or other Martial Arts practices while only breathing through the nose.

In Yoga, strength is primarily built by holding particular poses (Warrior II is a good example) that works muscles. While Qigong and Yoga both focus on strength, Qigong’s closeness to Martial Arts forms distinguishes its strength-building practices from Yoga.

Is Qigong better than Yoga?

People always ask us: what is the best style of Qigong? What is the best meditation? Is Qigong better than Yoga?

The best practice is the one that you are going to do. Whether it is Qigong or Yoga, you will gain the most benefits from whatever exercise you will practice. For some people, that may be Qigong, while for others, it may be Yoga. Some people find the deep stretches of Yoga challenging and prefer the gradual strength-building of Qigong. Others prefer Yoga’s emphasis on movement from floor to standing postures, while others enjoy the steady pace of Qigong.
What kind of practice you lead just depends on what you are looking for and what works for your body. Which ones work best for you will depend on several factors, including your flexibility, history of injury, health condition, and interest.

Can I do Qigong and Yoga together?

Qigong and Yoga can certainly be practiced together. Since they both work toward similar goals, they are complements to one another, and it is easy to incorporate elements from both into your routine. Since there are so many different types of Qigong and Yoga, you can also mix and match styles according to your preferences. We recommend trying both and exploring your options to find a practice and teacher that you like.

Should I practice Qigong before or after Yoga?

There is no rule to practicing Qigong before or after Yoga. According to our Qigong Master David J. Coon, Qigong, and Yoga can even be practiced simultaneously.

Many of the movements and breathing exercises of Qigong, Yoga, and Martial Arts overlap. When you study Qigong or undergo training to become a certified instructor, you will encounter many yogic practices woven into traditional Qigong or Martial Arts exercises. Different schools incorporate Yoga and Qigong in different ways. There is no right or wrong order to practicing them.

Who should not do Qigong?

There is no one that should not do Qigong. Everybody can and should practice Qigong, so long as they have an interest!

Qigong can be incorporated into your life in a variety of ways. It can serve as meditation or emotional healing. It can be a supplement to other exercises like swimming or running. Or maybe it is a way to improve your flexibility and mobility. An accessible exercise, Qigong can be adapted to whatever form suits your lifestyle.

Does Qigong count as exercise?

Qigong is an excellent form of exercise that engages your mind, body, and spirit in a holistic way. Depending on who you ask, you might hear people say that something only counts as exercise when you’re using 80% of your maximum heart rate or when you burn X amount of calories. That is certainly one point of view. Cardio and calorie-burning exercises have many benefits for health. At the same time, low-impact exercises like Qigong also aid in losing weight or toning muscle mass, along with many other benefits. Taking advantage of these varied practices together, or finding one that is the best exercise for you, will have a positive impact on your body.

David’s Video: Qigong Vs. Yoga


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