By Laura Freix
Do you struggle with seated meditation? Are you always on the go? Do you find yoga poses too challenging due to poor flexibility or excess weight? Qigong could be the answer.
I was invited to attend a qigong class for the first time several years ago. I knew very little of qigong at the time, and because I had always been more of a hardcore exerciser, I felt like I wasn’t actually doing anything; but, at the same time, I noticed that I felt calm and energized when I was done.
What you may not understand about exercise is that you want to feel really good when you are done. In contrast to the “no pain, no gain” mentality that is so pervasive in our society, this feeling is an indicator that your body loves what you are doing. Too many people push their body into stress mode when exercising often resulting in injury and other symptoms associated with stress. Are you one of them?
So what exactly is Qigong and what can it do for you? Qigong (pronounced “chee” “gung”) is the ancient art of energy cultivation. One of my mentors, Francesco Garripoli, prefers the distinction that qigong is the art of energy activation. Given that energy cannot be created or destroyed, I like this focus as we are activating the energy that already exists within us and around us.
Tai Chi is perhaps more well-known in the West, and is a form of qigong that has its roots in the martial arts. Practicing qigong can be especially beneficial for boosting health, vitality, internal power, and mental clarity.
I like to think of qigong as a moving meditation, and bring that focus into my teaching style. Helping my students focus on what my mentor, Roger Jahnke, OMD, calls the three intentional corrections: “lengthening the spine, deepening the breath and clearing the mind or visualizing healing.”
The mindfulness aspect of the practice is far more important than the number of repetitions or the precision of the physical movements. There are other qigong masters that demand far more precision from their students, but that is not my current focus. I believe, as Roger does, that your own personal practice is your best teacher. As an energy healer and life coach, I would have to agree that you are the foremost expert on yourself. Developing this muscle within yourself supports healing and personal growth.
I have taught students who struggle with the idea that there is no right way to do the practice, and I am happy to work with anyone who seeks more precision, but encourage all to bring home the movements that speak to them. As Roger states, in his book The Healer Within, “All forms were originally created by someone, why not you?” I love the freedom this mindset invites into your personal practice. If you are doing movements that you enjoy, you are more likely to continue the practice.
My students often ask how often they should practice Qigong, and my first answer is that any practice is better than no practice at all. That said, to reap the greatest benefits, it is good to put this type of self-care practice at the core of your life, by making it a non-negotiable part of your day. You can realize results in as little as ten to fifteen minutes a day.
For health improvement, you may want to consider lengthening your practice and doing your chosen form multiple times a day. Experiment with different times of day, to see which times work best for you. For disease intervention, start slowly and build up both repetitions and the number of practices you do in a given day, as you gain strength. If you are just starting out, start slowly and build gradually depending on your level of fitness. Nothing in qigong is supposed to hurt, so if that is the case, ask for a modification from the instructor or modify the movement to avoid pain. Honor your limits.
By now you may be wondering how qigong promotes healing. The gentle movements promote the circulation of blood and oxygen, or Qi, in the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients into the cells. The deep breathing causes the diaphragm to descend, stimulating the lymphatic system to carry toxins and waste out of the body, supporting your immune function.
The combination of gentle movements and slow relaxed breathing shifts the nervous system out of stress mode and into the parasympathetic state of rest and healing. This has the power to shift your brain’s neurochemistry and move you into an alpha state of awareness. What’s really exciting about this is that it all happens automatically during a qigong practice. Healing doesn’t have to be hard: qigong cultivates the body’s natural ability to heal itself. What may be surprising to those unfamiliar with mind-body practices, is that even visualization of the movements can produce benefits.
Studies have shown that qigong can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and physical pain. In addition, practicing qigong regularly can improve mood, sleep, and overall well-being. Increased energy is another benefit of the practice. There are literally thousands of studies that have been done involving the benefits of Qigong, feel free to explore the detailed research resources available through the Qigong Institute for more information.
Practicing with others can also be very healing. When a group of individuals come together to share these ancient forms, an amplified field is created that enhances the benefits for all involved. In China, there are even hospitals based solely on the healing principles of qigong.
Qigong is a metaphor for life. With practice you can access an inner peace and calm despite any chaos going on around you. It’s not about how long you practice, or what forms you practice, but how you practice. As my first teacher often shares “If you have a smile on your face, you know you are on the right track.”
If you are interested in discovering what qigong can do for you, I invite you attend one of my classes at Rise on Tuesday evening or Friday morning. If you are interested in life coaching, that incorporates radical self-care as a central theme, Schedule your FREE Discovery Call today. You can find out more information about Laura at her website: https://www.iembracewellness.com