Qigong ( pronounced chi – gung) which basically translates to “ Energy Work” is one of the oldest exercise systems that originated from China almost 2000 years ago.
It is also classified as “Meditation in Motion” and is one of the most accessible exercises that can be practiced by almost anyone, irrespective of age or gender.
Qigong owes its popularity to the fact that it’s adaptable to wheelchair-bound patients to Olympic athletes and from the age of 12 to 112.
It is known to provide a variety of benefits to the practitioner which include martial, spiritual and philosophical benefits besides a host of other health benefits.
Eastern practitioners have always been aware of its numerous benefits, but even the Western world has now woken up and started imbibing this beneficial practice into their routine.
Harvard Medical School and American Journal of Health Promotion have now confirmed the significant benefits of practicing Tai Chi and Qigong.
Before we dive into some of the best Qigong forms that you can do at your home, we will try to understand more about Qigong.
What is Qi?
Various exercise routines all over the world focus on building strength or muscle power, but Qi (pronounced Chi) is an altogether different concept.
As per Eastern philosophy and Traditional Chinese Medicine ( TCM ) on which Qigong is based, Qi is the all-pervasive energy or vital force that is present in every living being.
Qi is often referred in other cultures with different names such as Prana in Yogic Culture, Ki in Japanese and Pneuma in Greeks.
The ancient Taoist belief that Qi is the all-pervasive energy that is present everywhere in the universe is now supported by scientific theories that confirm the existence of something called as “Dark energy” or “Dark matter”.
But regular practitioners of Qigong often construe it as energy that keeps us active, enhances our sexual performance and builds our resistance to falling ill.
Qi can be construed as vigor, enthusiasm, vitality or the energy that keeps us going.
What does Qigong do for you?
Qigong is an amalgamation of breathing, aerobic and meditative exercises.
Qigong allows us to use breathing and movements to cultivate Qi (energy) in our body.
This cultivated Qi is used for energy healing in our body.
We can think of Qi as a principal in our bank account that is maximum at the time of our birth and eventually drops to zero at the time of our death.
The only way to cultivate Qi in our body is through meditation and mindfulness.
Qigong allows us to regulate and maintain Qi in our body so that we can live a life full of vigor, enthusiasm, and vitality.
The flow of Qi in a body is a sublime and balanced process that has evolved over millions of years of evolution. There is no Tai Chi practitioner no matter how accomplished who can claim to know where the Qi should flow through our body.
Qigong just helps us to remove obstructions and limitations thereby allowing the Qi to flow unguided for our optimal health and vitality.
Benefits of Qigong
Qigong is a complete exercise routine for a lifetime and its benefits touch almost every aspect of our life.
There are numerous physical as well as mental benefits that have been accredited to this traditional mind-body exercise routine which integrates slow body movements with breathing and meditation.
Now there is enough medical evidence to support the fact that practicing Qigong leads to a host of benefits.
We will be discussing the top 6 benefits of doing Qigong that has been medically proven.
Practicing Qigong not only builds health but also leads to an enhanced understanding of the human body.
- Qigong improves immunity and Quality of Life
One of the best benefits of practicing Qigong is its direct effect on our immunity and Quality of life.
As per a study published in PubMed, 43 participants were chosen randomly and made to practice Qigong for a month.
After a month, their blood samples were taken and tests demonstrated that several key immune parameters have shown a significant increase in number.
Several other studies my medical journals have demonstrated a direct correlation between practicing of Taichi and immunity.
The Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University in China started using various interventions to cure patients that are suffering from Cancer.
Qigong and Tai Chi turned out to be the most successful interventions to treat Cancer.
- Qigong helps people to manage and embrace stress
Unlike many other exercise routines, Qigong helps us to understand that even stress can be beneficial in our life and can be channeled to enhance our productivity.
As per Taoist philosophy, it is foolish to counter force with force and a negative emotion with a similar negative reaction.
Qigong impacts us not only on a physical level but also on a mental and deeper spiritual level.
It helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, that in turns lowers the acidity in our body and helps us to regulate 5 key dimensions of our life, that includes Mind, Body, Breath, Qi, and Spirit.
A study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine in 2014 confirmed that practicing Tai Chi and Qigong, not only help to prevent and but also rehabilitate in a number of medical and psychological conditions.
Qigong is one of the exercise routines to manage stress naturally.
- Qigong lowers blood pressure and keeps your heart healthy
Qigong is based on the principle that the health of our mind-body-spirit is directly dependent on our relationship with surroundings, environment, and nature.
The coordination of slow and gentle movements with breath has a great positive effect on our cardiovascular health.
The mindful practice of Qigong coupled with right body movements helps us to transcend and in some cases reverse our physical limitations and illnesses.
Several medical studies have shown that Tai chi and Qigong can improve our heart health by increasing our stamina and improving blood circulation in our body.
- Qigong reduces back pain and risk of falling in elders
One of my students suffered an injury on his back when he was in his 20s. Thrice this condition unfolded into a slipped disc.
He came to me with hope as well as skepticism whether this would work for him.
I’m glad to share this with you that his condition improved a lot in just 6 months of practicing Tai chi and Qigong.
He has shared his experience of how Tai Chi helped him to get rid of back pain.
Similarly, my other students have shared their experience of how Qigong has helped them deal with conditions like Arthritis, Spondylosis and even Parkinson’s Disease.
A study published in the Journal of Gerontology confirms that Qigong can effectively decrease the risk and fear of falling in patients over the age of 70.
It also reduces the risk of bone fractures in post-menopausal women.
- Qigong improves our quality of sleep
A medical study was conducted to determine the effect of Qigong on our sleeping pattern.
It was found that Qigong not only helps us to sleep better, but it also promotes and improves quality of sleep in patients with moderate sleeping difficulty.
There are more than 500 such medical studies and research papers that have been published on PubMed confirming the far-reaching positive benefits of doing Tai Chi and Qigong regularly.
The Harvard Women’s Health Watch says that “This gentle form of exercise can prevent or ease many ills of aging and could be the perfect activity for the rest of your life.”
Let’s have a look at some of the qigong exercises.
Best Qigong Exercises for Beginners
The word Qigong literally means, “Energy work” and generally includes slow and gentle movements that are coordinated with the breath.
The ultimate philosophy behind Qigong is to use these coordinated breaths and physical movements to cultivate Jing (sexual energy) in our body and convert it to Qi and thence to Shen ( Awakened Spirit).
Jing, Qi, and Shen are called the 3 treasures of Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM).
One of the most popular and effective Qigong sets is the Eight Pieces of Brocade.
It includes 8 movements that activate the major energy pathways in our body allowing our body to heal itself and live a life full of vigor.
These Qigong exercises can be performed as many times as you wish in a day.
- Lift the sky
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and keeping the knees slightly bent and back straight.
Inhale as we raise our palms up with fingertips pointing towards each other.
Keep shoulders as relaxed as possible and open your chest.
At the top position, slow down and relax and slowly start to bring your hands down to meet by your stomach.
Raise your hands and repeat the movements.
- The Archer
Keep a wide stance and with hands by each other around your chest, take a stance as if you are holding an archery bow and aiming towards a target.
Now pull the arc of the bowstring as if aiming and fingers curled around imaginary bowstring.
Now inhale and with the hands fully apart, exhale and bring them back together.
Repeat the entire set of movements with more concentration.
- Twist with Arms
Start by feet at shoulder-length apart.
Inhale and turn your body to look in the right direction as you stretch your other hand up.
Now stretch your right hand in downwards direction as if pushing down.
After the complete stretch, exhale and return your hands to sides and then repeat the set of movements.
- Twist without Arms
Start with both your feet together.
Inhale as you turn your body and look to the right as we stretch your other hand up as if pushing in the direction of the sky.
Now stretch your right hand down as if pushing down.
After the complete stretch, exhale and return your hands to sides and then repeat the complete set of movements.
- Torso Circles
Start with a wide stance and your back straight.
Now bend down, with your chin pointing in the direction of the ground.
Now start circling your torso (first clockwise 4 times) and then (anticlockwise 4 times) without losing your balance and as slowly as possible.
Now reach back and push your hips in the forward direction.
- Toe Touch
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Raise your hands high in the direction of the sky and inhale arching back and then exhale to bend and touch your toes.
Feel the gentle stretch in your back and hamstrings.
Repeat these set of movements.
- Dynamic Tensing and Releasing
This movement resembles a classic karate punch.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend one hand while pulling back the other.
Extend your fist in the forward direction and tense the entire body—from top to bottom and imagine the tension in your body.
Maintain this position and then release all the tension in our body.
This exercise teaches us the art of letting go almost instantaneously.
- Shakedown the Qi
This is the most simple qigong exercise in this series.
Keep your knees soft and both your feet touching together.
Now keep your back straight and shift your weight to tip toes while inhaling breath and move your heels up.
Then with a sudden drop, let your heels touch the ground and feel the impact of fall as you exhale.
This is the only exercise in the series that is repeated 7 times instead of 8.
Qigong – The Journey Within
Lao Tzu is the great sage who has laid the foundation of Taoist Philosophy and way of life.
He says, that his way is a simple and straightforward path, yet people often get lost looking for shortcuts.
What he means to say is there are few simple guidelines to lead a blissful and balanced life, yet most people choose to ignore and not follow them.
Keeping in mind the challenges of modern day life, this ancient exercise routine is more relevant than ever.
Most people completely give up on any form of exercise after experiencing an injury or illness and on the other hand the elderly limit, their exercise routine to just routine walks in the park.
Practicing Qigong helps you to break free from your physical and mental limitations, allowing you to lead a rewarding life.
Developing a relationship with Tai chi and Qigong is like developing a relationship with your deeper self and exploring true meaning that is beyond the mundane.