Over the past few decades, there has been an increasing interest in a special class of physical activity referred to as “meditative movements.” Various styles of yoga and even martial arts practice are included therein and feature an acutely holistic nature, seeking to better the health by aligning the energies of the body.
Perhaps the foremost example is qigong, which is by all definitions an arcane practice of balancing life energies to improve health. Sounds like hocus-pocus? Maybe, but the benefits of this ancient practice have also been extensively studied and extolled by modern medical science.
What is Qigong?
While the documented studies of qigong date as far back as 500 BCE, there is considerable evidence to suggest the original techniques and foundations of qigong were established between 4000 or even 7000 years ago.1
According to the fundamental principles of qigong and traditional Chinese Medicine, the energy of the mind, body, spirit, and emotions are intrinsically connected and one can’t be altered without affecting all others. Qigong seeks to improve health by balancing the energies that course through the body and can cause dysfunction when not properly aligned.2
Another way to look at this is that the body is a highly complex machine built to regenerate itself and adapt to its environment. When everything is working properly and vital energy is not interrupted, good health is not possible it is inevitable. To better understand how qigong accomplishes this, it is important to understand a little about “qi”.
What is “Qi” Energy?
“Qi” literally translates to “air” or “breath,” but is considered the life force energy of the universe manifest in all living things. The concept of a divine energy from which all life flows is found in most cultures and goes by different names. This word corresponds to the Greek “Pneuma,” Sanskrit “Prana” and Japanese “Ki”.
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Simply, put “qi” energy is the energy which brings life to the body. When it leaves the body, we die; when it isn’t balanced we feel unwell in body, mind, and spirit. During the practice of qigong, this life energy is what is being cultivated. The “gong” in “qigong”, means “effort” or “practice.”3
For a novice practitioner, the first challenge is to fully synchronize physical movements with the breathing. These physical and breathing exercises must be perfected to allow the practitioner to develop a feel for the subtle ebbing and flowing of energy as it is manipulated through various postures, breathing patterns, and transitional motions.
Therefore, through the ongoing study and practice of qigong, the individual seeks to develop a connection with this vital energy that will eventually allow them to improve their capacity for good health, resistance to disease and injury and even increase their lifespan. Other practices like Reiki and Pranayama are very similar in this regard.
What are Qigong Healers?
As a qigong practitioner delves deeper into the practice and builds a comprehensive understanding of the foundational concepts and techniques, their capacity to improve health extends beyond personal benefit. The study of qigong suggests that after a certain level of personal health has been attained, it is possible to directly emit qi energy to improve the flow of qi to heal other people.
Those that have attained and carefully maintained their level of health through the practice of qigong are called qigong healers and apply a number of advanced techniques to addressing health through the balance of qi. Some of these are very similar to acupuncture or massage and others could be considered akin to the power of prayer.4
It is interesting to know that even though the scientific and medical community admit that research into the power of prayer has led nowhere, they do not deny the medical and psychosocial benefits of prayer and religious practice.5
Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Qigong
There is currently a massive exodus as health seekers leave behind from conventional medicine in pursuit of better health and well-being through healthy living. Studies suggest that meditative physical activities, and qigong almost more than any other, have important benefits to improving conditions of the mind and body.
Here are some of the most significant findings:
Improved Physical Fitness and Balance
As an exercise routine, Qigong involves engaging the muscle systems of the body in forms and motions that engage the heart, lungs and muscles systems increasing fitness and strength. Studies have found that Qigong can help to improve balance and reduce the risk of fall injuries while helping to maintain excellent cardiorespiratory fitness.6,7
Aids in Recovery
Qigong is therapeutic and holds great promise for those suffering and recovering from debilitating physical conditions. Studies have suggested that the practice of qigong can aid in easing the detoxification process in those recovering from alcohol dependency. Other studies have investigated the pain relieving power of qigong and its capacity to fight fatigue even in those battling cancer.8,9
Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a result of many unhealthy habits intrinsic to modern living. Two of the most common causes of blood pressure conditions include unhealthy diets and a lack of exercise. Studies have found that Qigong is highly beneficial for countering hypertension because it has a slow and gradual way of lowering blood pressure and preserving the blood vessels. Traditional Chinese Medicine has prescribed qigong for this condition for thousands of years now.10
Stress Relief and Mental Health
As a holistic treatment, qigong uses the movements of the body and refinement of breathing techniques to relax and soothe the mind and emotions. Those suffering stress, anxieties, and even the debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress disorders have found relief through cultivated practice.11,12
Improves the Aging Process
As we age, the energy processes of our body tend to lead to greater inefficiencies and become at risk to disease and injuries. Seniors who practice qigong regularly enjoy a fun and engaging exercise program that stimulates the mind improving the mood and engages the body to enhance health. Stronger minds and bodies are less prone to health conditions, and qigong is a valuable skill for older adults to cultivate.13
Final Notes on Qigong for Healing
Practicing qigong is a worthwhile endeavor for anyone hoping to enjoy a long and happy life. There are some very advantageous reasons to seek training with a qualified instructor, mostly so you can truly understand the goals of each lesson.
Since the foundation principles of qigong are based on form, breathing, meditation and mindfulness, any efforts in this direction will give you a head start when your training does begin.
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