What's Qigong? Qigong(Chi Kung) is thousands of years old, and is sometimes referred to as "Chinese Yoga". It is the predecessor of Tai Chi. Both systems are exercises, but they are also internal arts as they move or exercise the "CHI" or internal energy. If our energy systems are in good working order, we have the capability to keep our body in a healthy state, which includes appropriate weight. 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.
From the moment of conception; our mother's and father's chi or life force combine to form "life". At that moment, if there are no genetic problems our energy is balanced. We are, even in the womb subject to stress, mostly of a physical nature. Is our mother eating properly, is she resting, is she in a safe warm environment, is she using drugs which may affect us, drinking alcohol, smoking, or is emotionally stressed? All of these environmental factors play a role in our prenatal development. So even before we are born, stress can negatively influence our health.
What kinds of stresses are there? Mental: Loss of loved ones, illness in family, abuse, financial worries, children's welfare, relationships difficulties, work pressure, time pressure. Physical environment (hot/cold), shelter, air and water quality (pollution), food starvation or abundance or poor food choices, food additives, pesticides, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, injuries, exposure to contagious disease. All of these stresses challenge our body's ability to keep the balance of health. Are you wondering how Qigong can affect this? The flow of chi or internal energy is natural, but these stresses can cause it to become blocked, so how we can help it flow through our systems to keep us in balance is to practice these slow moving, breathing, loosening exercises to help restore the flow. The energy pathways are not physical like blood vessels or nerves but are the areas where the energy flows, similar to the magnetic forces around the earth: they are unseen, but present. If we internally and externally relax, we can help the flow improve. By aligning the body, breathing slower and deeper, and focusing and emptying the mind (meditation) we can positively influence the flow of this energy and therefore improve our health. We can further stimulate the flow by moving our weight from one foot to the other in a slow relaxed manner; this stimulates the lower endpoints of the energy pathways and helps to improve the circular flow. (It is also where we train the body for the balance). The mind focusing on the finger tips helps the energy flowing to the upper endpoints also, and thus completing the circuit. It's just like using Draino on a clogged drain; as we loosen the physical body and breath and the mind relaxes the "chi" is able to flow properly and efficiently through the pathways.
Our bodies are not just mechanical devices. The mind is highly connected to all our body's functions. When we sense danger, we produce hormones (cortisols) that affect our heart rate, blood pressure, respiration etc. These hormones are useful in the short term, they give a boost to our breathing, allow faster circulation to our muscles to provide more oxygen and then we can escape from danger! They even tell our bodies to store fat for the emergency! But if stress triggers these emergency hormones to be released full time, it causes negative side effects. So de-stressing is very important to maintain our systems' balance.
Studies have shown that even the immune cells related to varicella zoster (first experienced as chicken pox and sometimes later on as shingles) can be influenced by energy work, and to the extent that in one study a rise of 50% in those cells was seen in the tai chi group compared with the control group. More research may soon show that these practices will be seen to provide support to the immune system in general, helping us to stay healthier. So source a Qigong or Tai Chi class in your area today, you'll get a lot more than just a workout