Qigong is thousands of years old, and is sometimes referred to as ‘Chinese Yoga’. It is the predecessor of Tai Chi. Both are martial arts exercise systems, but they are also internal arts as they move or exercise the ‘CHI’ or vital energy. The two in combination creates a powerful health system. If our energetic systems are in good working order, we have the ability to keep our body in a healthy state. So why do we have to work at, or cultivate our ‘CHI’? Why doesn’t our body balance itself automatically? We have a common enemy against this natural process, and that is STRESS.
KINDS OF STRESS Prenatal: We are, even in the womb, subject to stress. Our mother’s lifestyle, environment, diet, heredity and emotions affect us. Mental/Psychological: loss of loved ones, family illness, abuse, war, financial worries, children’s welfare, relationships, work and time pressure. Physical/ Environment: temperature, shelter, air and water quality (pollution), food (starvation, excess or poor diet), food additives, pesticides, alcohol, drugs, tobacco, injuries, exposure to contagious disease.
FIGHT OR FLIGHT? Our bodies are not just mechanical devices. The mind is highly connected to all our body’s functions. When we are stressed, we produce hormones that affect our heart rate, blood pressure, respiration etc. These hormones are useful in the short term; they give a boost to our breathing, allowing faster circulation, delivering more oxygen to our muscles so that we may escape from danger! But if stress causes these emergency hormones to be produced full time, it may cause negative side effects.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
The flow of chi is natural, but stress can cause it to become blocked and thus challenge our health. One way we can assist its flow through our energy pathways (meridians) is to practice these slow moving, breathing, loosening exercises. The meridians are not physical like blood vessels or nerves. They are the paths where the energy flows, similar to the magnetic forces around the earth; they are unseen, but present. We can positively influence the flow of the ‘CHI’ to move efficiently along the pathways by achieving both external and internal relaxation by1. Aligning the skeletal structure. 2. Breathing slower, deeper. 3. Loosening the muscles, tendons. 4. Emptying the mind by focusing on the moves (meditation)