According to a Falun Gong website,
Falun Dafa is a practice that has brought better health and inner peace to millions around the world. We call it a cultivation practice: "cultivation" refers to the improvement of one's heart and mind through the careful study of universal principles based on truthfulness, benevolence, and forbearance; "practice" means doing exercises and meditation to energize the body.1
Followers of Falun Gong believe that the falun can be awakened (or "installed") through a set of exercises called Xiu Lian ("Cultivating and Practicing"). This dispels karma that causes illness, and thus can cure and prevent disease.
Falun Gong has its origins in Qi Gong (Chinese: "Energy Working"), the use of meditation techniques and physical exercise to achieve good health and peace of mind, which has a long history in Chinese culture and religion.
Unlike other Qi Gong groups, Falun Gong insists that its founder is the only authoritative source for determining the correct exercises and that a spiritual discipline, the "cultivation of the Xinxing" ("Mind-Nature"), is essential to the success of the exercises.
The practice of Falun Gong consists of five exercises, four standing and one sitting, which involve meditation and slow movements. Falun Gong practitioners also "study the universal principles of truthfulness, benevolence, and tolerance."1
Critics of the movement regard its reliance on Xiu Lian as an alternative to official medicine as hazardous to the members' health. The Chinese government claims that 1,400 Falun Gong devotees have died as a result of this alleged rejection of modern medicine.2