Exercise is crucial when it comes to maintaining good health and preventing chronic disease. Unfortunately, starting a structured exercise program can sometimes be intimidating, especially for those who are new to exercise or have low endurance levels. For these individuals, Qigong may be the perfect choice when it comes to incorporating physical activity. Be sure to focus on physical postures, breathing, and intentions for optimal results when it comes to starting Qigong.
According to the National Qigong Association, Qigong is a health care practice that combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and focused intentions. Similarly, Health Qigong Federation UK notes that Qigong is the practice of generating and moving vital energy through the body to better control body and mind and to improve physical capabilities. In English, Qigong can be translated as "cultivating energy" and is sometimes also referred to as chi kung or chi gong, notes Health Qigong Federation UK.
The practice of Qigong is believed to be quite ancient. In fact, Shen-Nong notes that it may have originated as many as 5,000 years ago. The book Yi Jing, or The Book of Changes, written in 1122 BC, first introduced the concept of Qi, or vital energy. Yi Jing also encouraged study of the relationship between heaven, earth, and man, which laid the foundation for the early study of Qigong. Interest in Qi lead to the development of traditional Chinese medicine, and Qigong quickly became rooted in this field of study.
Qigong became more mainstream during the Han dynasty and was cultivated into a deeper level. Later, between 500 and 1911 AD, Qigong became identified as a form of martial arts and served to increase communication channels between China, Japan, India, and other Asian countries.
Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1911, Qigong has become more mainstream. In addition to being used in the fields of health prevention and disease management, Qigong is also studied in terms of its physiologic, medical, and biochemical health benefits.
Qigong is ideal for exercisers of any age or fitness level, as it can be done standing, sitting in a chair, or even lying in a bed or on the floor. According to the Qigong Institute, there are thousands of different forms and movements included in the practice of Qigong, some of which require movement (active Qigong), and some of which do not (meditative Qigong).
In active Qigong, participants use fluid movements that are generally choreographed with care, with attention paid to breath and awareness. Active Qigong poses may be repeated several times, with the intention of strengthening and stretching the body, increasing the movement of body fluids, and enhancing balance and p. Examples of active Qigong include:
- T'ai Chi Ch'uan (Tai Chi) -- A form of self-defense and calisthenics, t'ai chi ch'uan incorporates slow, gentle movements, breathing, and cognitive components, notes Live Science.
- Baguazhang -- Features circular movements that are intended to confuse and exhaust opponents, and absorb natural energy.
- Xing Yi Quan -- Is the most aggressive in nature of all forms of active Qigong. Xing Yi is sometimes said to be performed in linear fashion, with the lead hand and lead foot often in the same vertical axis.
In meditative Qigong, participants hold specific postures for an extended period of time -- a practice similar to that which is performed in yoga. Examples of meditative Qigong include Baduanjin Qigong, also known as Eight Pieces of Brocade, which is further broken down to include multiple postures, such as:
- Two Hands Hold Up the Heavens
- Drawing the Bow to Shoot the Hawk
- Separate Heaven and Earth
- Wise Owl Gazes Backwards
- Sway the Head and Shake the Tail
- Two Hands Hold the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist
- Clench the Fists and Glare Fiercely
- Bouncing on the Heels
Benefits of Qigong
The benefits of Qigong are substantial, to say the least. According to the Wall Street Journal, Qigong may be effective when it comes to the treatment of cancer, depression, hypertension, and certain mood disorders. Greater relaxation, a stronger sense of focus, reduced rates of fatigue, and enhanced quality of life may also occur as a result of participation in Qigong, notes the Wall Street Journal.
Other significant health benefits of Qigong include improvements in circulation, greater stamina and vitality, an enhanced immune system, and a decreased risk of falling, notes WebMD. Finally, WebMD reports that individuals who participate in Qigong may notice reductions in symptoms of fibromyalgia and improvements in the functioning of cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic, and gastrointestinal systems.
Practiced for over 5000 years, Qigong is a safe and effective form of physical activity that has a number of proven health benefits. No matter if you are new to exercise or an old pro, it can be incorporated as part of your regular exercise routine.