Qi means energy or breath. Gong means work. Put together, Qigong means energy work. Qigong teaches us simple movements that we learn to coordinate with our breathing. When these movements are practised with mindfulness, we can activate our body’s natural healing systems and increase the flow of energy in our bodies.
Qigong is physical exercise as well as a meditation practice. A Qigong practice can increase energy, reduce stress, and strengthen muscles and joints.
It originated several thousand years ago in China, and has many forms. T’ai Chi is one of more than 200 forms of Qigong. Some forms have no movement at all. Sometimes only one movement is practised and sometimes a practice is made up of a few simple movements.
Practising Qigong can increase energy, reduce stress, and strengthen muscles and joints
Traditional Chinese medicine teaches us that there are meridians in our body. Your Qi or life energy flows through these meridians. This energy flow is like water flowing in a river or stream, or possibly like the traffic flow on a highway. We are born with a certain amount of Qi. Different life experiences add to, or subtract from, this Qi. It is almost like depositing and withdrawing money from a bank account. If we’re not conscious about it, we are likely to withdraw more from our Qi account than add to it. This could result in poor health or lack of energy.
Our energy becoming blocked or sluggish is much like a tree falling over and blocking a river—or like a traffic jam. These blockages will keep energy from reaching parts of our body, causing a depletion of Qi, or will overflow into other areas, resulting in too much Qi.
Increase the balance in your Qi account
With a smooth energy flow, we can experience good health. With a vigorous energy flow, we experience vitality, and with an abundant energy flow, we experience longevity. Qigong counters the effects of a poor diet, lack of exercise, environmental factors, stress, even our emotions and thoughts—or thinking too much—a common ailment in our world.
If we’re not conscious about it, we are likely to withdraw more from our Qi account than add to it
The increased energy flow that comes from practising Qigong includes an improved immune system, lower blood pressure, increased flexibility, and reduced stress.
One of the first Qigong forms I learned was called Eight Brocades. It is an 800-year-old practice. It was designed to help bad backs, neck ache, weak joints, low energy, lost flexibility, and stress. Here we are, 800 years later and many of us have very similar complaints.
One of the best things about Qigong is that is can be practised anywhere and any time. There is no special outfit needed. Loose, comfortable clothes allow for freedom of movement. No special shoes are needed.
All you need is 10 — 15 minutes a day of your time and the result—better health. Now, to get that better health, you do need to be dedicated and practise every day. You will also need to be focussed on your practice, and not thinking about the 20 other things you need to get done before lunch.
One of the best things about Qigong is that is can be practised anywhere and any time
Living my life to the fullest with Qigong
I have been practising Qigong and meditating for several years. I can’t say I have fewer frustrations in my work, in fact this past year was a particularly difficult one. I have noticed however, that on a personal front I show up differently. I am less likely to get frustrated when things pile up—I avoid making mountains out of molehills—I notice that I am often reminding others around me to take a breath before reacting. I feel calmer inside, I relax more, and I enjoy life more.
Although there are many different movements you can learn, you only need to learn a few. Your goal in practising Qigong is to get the energy flow happening. After 10 – 15 repetitions of a simple movement, you just need to get out of the way and let the energy flow. Like water will naturally flow to the lowest point, your energy flow will move to any areas in your body that are in need of it. In fact, if you direct the energy with your mind you will more than likely send it to the wrong place.
One day, I was experiencing some cold symptoms. My biggest difficulty was getting a good night’s sleep. I was too stubborn to stay home from work and get some extra rest. I quickly decided that is was going to be a very, very bad day! I was miserable and grumpy and I had not even left for work yet.
Like water will naturally flow to the lowest point, your energy flow will move to any areas in your body that are in need of it
I have been practising my Qigong in the morning before work. I set a goal to practise every day. I knew if I skipped my morning practice time, it would be easy to find excuses about why I could not possibly practice later in the day. Even though I wanted to skip this morning practice, I spent some time doing the simple movements and then continued to get ready for my awful, miserable, no-good day. About halfway through my drive to school, I noticed that I was smiling.
My next thought was, “Wait a minute—I am having a terrible, awful day—I can’t be smiling.” That resulted in a bigger smile, a chuckle at myself for being so silly—and a very good day. Did my 15-minute Qigong practice that morning make a difference? I truly believe so.
A version of this was first published in the April 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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