“When the spirit cannot feel the body”: Overcoming Cartesian mind-body dualism with qigong practice

By Fabian Winiger

The following discussion points out parallels between the “information circuits” described in the work of Yuasa Yasuo (1925-2005) and experiences reported during ethnographic fieldwork with practitioners of the zhineng qigong style of qigong as they progressed through four successive stages of body-mind unity, culminating in their overcoming the Cartesian separation between body and mind and recovery from illness. I illustrate this progression with the clinical case of Luca, a 32-year old male born in Italy, who explained his recovery from an incapacitating injury to his lower back in terms of the “re-unification” of his body, qi, and mind through zhineng qigong. As I argue, not only do qigong and comparable body-awareness practices entail techniques of movement, breathing, and visualization, they should also be understood as forging a new relationship between body-mind and self-other which may be experienced as profoundly therapeutic.


  • qigong
  • body-mind unity
  • healing
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