Let me introduce you to a movement method that is not only gentle on your joints and muscles, but also supports better breathing, circulation and metabolism while calming your mind and soothing your spirit. Sound too good to be true? This 1000-year-old “moving meditation” is practiced by millions of people around the world today.
It’s the ancient art of Qigong.
Pronounced “chee-gung” and sometimes written as Chi Gong, Qigong is rooted in East Asian culture and medicine. This holistic health practice is composed of simple postures, nasal breathing, focused awareness and deep relaxation techniques.
Qigong is easier to learn than Tai Chi, yet provides many of the same sought-after benefits.
More than 20 years ago, I learned from Grandmaster Huang Chien-Liang that at the beginning Qigong is simple. His first instruction was just to “breathe in and breathe out” as we moved through the postures. Slowly he added details, “Breathe in and out through the nose.”
Nasal breathing filters and warms air as it enters the body, in addition to helping to increase circulation and decrease stress. Next, Grandmaster explained that Qi enters the body through the inhaled breath. While exhaling, Qi moves throughout the body, increasing health and vitality.
Now, as a Qigong and Tai Chi instructor with decades of practice and teaching, I observe a wide range of benefits in myself and my students. They say they feel “energized,” “relaxed,” “centered,” “balanced,” and “stronger” with regular practice.
While you can find videos of popular Qigong forms such as the Ba Duan Jin, learning is enhanced and nuances of the practice revealed when you are guided by a qualified teacher, whether in-person or online.
Although Qigong is gentle enough for most people of all ages, body types and health conditions, as with any exercise program, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider before you begin.
In 2017, Harvard Medical School published “An Introduction to Tai Chi,” which surveyed more than 500 scientific studies of Qigong and Tai Chi.
This research was conducted on healthy people whose goals were to stay balanced, mobile and strong as they aged as well as people with conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis.
94.1% of studies found positive effects such as:
These benefits were observed when people practiced Qigong or Tai Chi one to two hours per week for 8-12 weeks.
As Head Tai Chi Instructor at a martial arts school in northern California, I was asked to teach a weekly Qigong class for cancer survivors. The school director pointed me to clinical studies showing that participation in Qigong and Tai Chi had a positive influence on quality of life and psychological health for cancer survivors in Randomized Control Trials.
Prior research showed that regular physical activity was associated with a reduced risk of developing cancer. And, also, a reduction in the risk of recurrence of breast, prostate and colorectal cancer and improvement of long term survival.
Yet, during and after completion of treatment, survivors often experience debilitating fatigue that is a barrier to participation in physical activity, even though studies show that engaging in light intensity physical activity reduces fatigue.
It’s a conundrum, and yet many health professionals such as Susan Yaguda, RN, MSN, recommend holistic health practices for cancer survivors. “Tai Chi and Qi Gong are ancient forms of exercise that fit the bill for helping patients with cancer get moving and improve their overall sense of wellbeing.”
Our Friday afternoon Qigong sessions at the school were attended by survivors of all ages dealing with many types of cancer. Some were still in treatment and others had achieved remission. They practiced standing or seated and sometimes alternated between the two.
Although we didn’t study our participants in a clinical way, the anecdotal evidence became clear. Here are two testimonials from survivors:
“I believe that because of the deep breathing and body strengthening aspects of the practice, I recovered faster each time I received a treatment. I felt I slept better than I would have because I was getting exercise.”
“During recovery from surgery I would lay in my hospital bed and breathe while imagining doing the form. This helped me relax and exercise my breath in a body forever changed.”
Many found relief from ‘chemo brain,’ the neuropsychological difficulties following cancer treatment, such as lack of concentration and short-term memory loss. Survivors told us they were energized by moving together with a group of people who understood and appreciated the complex nature of their healing journeys.
Qigong is the holistic practice of cultivating Qi, the “universal life force energy.” Qigong is a physical exercise and so much more. Modern Qi master Dr. Roger Jahnke explains that this energy is “free and everyone has direct access to it through simple methods that are easy to learn and practice. Qi can be cultivated purposefully to resolve any challenge or enhance any function.”
As you strengthen your body by practicing Qigong, you will learn to connect with a deep sense of wellbeing in each breath and every movement.
As shown through modern research, the ancient art of Qigong has been proved as an effective support for health and longevity. Just look at that long list of benefits above!
With practice, anyone can enjoy what Dr. Jahnke describes in his book, The Healing Promise of Qi: Creating Extraordinary Wellness Through Qigong and Tai Chi.
“Exploring Qi and Qigong is like opening a marvelous Chinese puzzle box – boxes within boxes, secrets within secrets. Think of yourself as just having reached a gateway where, only a moment ago, no gate was visible. According to Chinese tradition, if you open this gate and enter the realm of Qigong – with sincerity – a multitude of practical benefits will be yours.”
Enjoy this short Introduction to the Ba Duan Jin from one of Catherine’s practice sessions. You can also check out her Online Studio for more helpful information.
In what ways have you embraced movement as part of your healing process after illness, injury or major life changes? Have you been searching for a daily mindfulness practice for reducing stress and increasing vitality?
Tags Fitness Over 60