Qi Gong: Exercise for strength & meditation
In observance of Chinese New Year, I thought I’d share one of the most powerful Chinese pro-health practices I know.
It can help prevent and heal almost any unwanted health condition.
It requires no doctor visit, no prescription and no medication.
It has no side effects—except a profound sense of well-being.
It can add years of good health to your life.
And it’s free.
What is Qi Gong?
Qi Gong (pronounced ‘chee gung’) is a Chinese stress reduction and strength building practice that dates back thousands of years.
It’s based on a holistic philosophy that’s increasingly accepted by Western medicine: the importance of a positive mental outlook and emotional balance in achieving and maintaining good health. Many physicians, including me, see this approach as an invaluable addition to our healers’ toolkits.
Like meditation, many of Qi Gong’s health benefits have been verified by clinical studies. These have been formally underway since 1992, when the National Institutes of Health launched a program to study traditional Chinese medicine, including Qi Gong.
Medical schools, including Harvard, Georgetown, the University of Virginia, and more, now teach Qi Gong along with acupuncture and other traditional practices.
And if it’s further reassurance, I practice Qi Gong—every day.
How Does Qi Gong Work?
Qi Gong combines carefully planned sequences of gentle physical movement with healthful breathing and meditation techniques.
Almost anyone can practice Qi Gong…regardless of physical limitations.
When I say “gentle” physical movement, the best analogy I can give is this: think of ballet, but in slow motion—and with no standing on your toes, no leaping or spinning around.
When you practice Qi Gong, you are a beautiful, graceful ballet dancer, raising, lowering, and slowly sweeping your arms while turning and bending. This is all done slowly, while you breathe slowly and meditate, clearing your mind of all but the physical sensations you’re concentrating on and doing.
There are hundreds of differently “choreographed” Qi Gong routines, each with a different health objective—all wonderfully effective.
What Are the Health Benefits of Qi Gong?
Some Qi Gong routines are meant to increase your vitality. Some are meant to cleanse, detoxify and heal your body. Some are meant to help you de-stress. All of them include pauses in poses that gently stretch various muscles, for flexibility, or put just a bit of stress on them, to increase your strength.
Many clinical studies have proven the healing effects of Qi Gong for relieving chronic pain, reducing tension, increasing immune system and cell repair functions, improving cardiopulmonary function, and even improving vision.
One study found that subjects who performed two 30-minute Qi Gong routines per week for 8 consecutive weeks had significantly lower blood pressure.
Another study of patients with hypertension who did 10 weeks of Qi Gong found significant decreases in blood pressure and a significant reduction of stress hormones.
Overall, there is abundant evidence that Qi Gong can:
- Reduce hypertension
- Improve balance, reducing falls among older people at risk
- Build stamina and improve flexibility
- Build muscular strength—holding certain positions in a Qi Gong routine for a few seconds is a very gentle form of weight training
- Increase vitality
- Enhance the immune system
- Improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic, and digestive functions
- Help speed recovery from illness
One more benefit: If you do Qi Gong in a group, which is common, there’s the added, very healthful social benefit of interacting with other people who share your interest.
And remember—you get all of this for free, or for the small cost of a group membership or instruction.
How Can You Begin Practicing Qi Gong?
Just as Western medicine requires expert practitioner-teachers, so does Qi Gong. I can assure you that there is likely a Qi Gong teacher within easy reach of where you live. If mobility is a problem for you, it’s also possible that there is a teacher who will make house calls.
You may even be able to stream Qi Gong videos (for free!) online.
But, as I mentioned before, if possible, I recommend that you practice in a group. You’ll be amazed at the combined “life energy” that comes from doing it together. You will feel it…and it is very, very good for your health.
As always, there will be a learning curve. So if you don’t “get it” the first time you try, don’t be put off. Qi Gong is helping millions of people realize the good feelings of better health.
Ask your doctor or other health care professional where to find a Qi Gong teacher and group. Or look up Qi Gong on the Internet or in the phone book. You can also find these organizations online: the Teachers’ Registry of the Qigong Institute, the National Qigong Association, World Tai Chi and Qigong Day, and the Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi.
And you can always find DVDs and online videos if there isn’t a convenient class in the area.
Kung hei fat choy! That’s Chinese for Happy New Year!
How about a resolution to learn Qi Gong? It just might add a whole bunch of happy new years to your life.