How Qigong could benefit your mind, body and spirit
Almost everyone will have heard of yoga, while other forms of spiritual exercise such as tai chi and Pilates are becoming ever-more popular. However, many people will not have even heard of Qigong, let alone be familiar with what it entails and how to practise it.
Here, we'll present our brief guide to Qigong so that you can learn more about the benefits it could offer you and see if it's something you'd like to explore for yourself.
What exactly is Qigong?
Qigong (pronounced chee-gung) has its roots in Chinese philosophy, medicine and martial arts and literally translated means 'life energy cultivation'. It is a process of aligning the body, mind and breath, as well as to balance the chi or energy flow throughout the body.
It can trace its history back around 4,000 years and a wide variety of forms have developed since then. However, it is typically classified into two categories: dynamic or foundational, which is characterised by slow-flowing movements; and meditative or passive, which is more still and focuses on the breath.
Qigong users will practise moving meditation, movement, deep breathing and a relaxed state of mind to achieve the full potential of the art.
What are the benefits?
Qigong has been found to offer numerous benefits for developing human potential, including a positive outlook on life, a balanced philosophy and the elimination of harmful behaviour. This could provide more harmony and stability in everyday life, which will contribute to a greater enjoyment.
Children who do Qigong can benefit from higher levels of concentration, office workers may use it to lower their stress levels and older people commonly practise it to achieve better balance. In addition, it has been found to boost posture and respiration, aid relaxation when modern life gets too stressful and improve self-awareness.
Daoists and Chinese like to use Qigong to balance chi, while Buddhists typically aim to calm the mind and bring the focus inwards.
The chi can then be used to cleanse and heal or even to emit chi to help others, which is why Qigong has become an important part of complementary medicine in the western world.
Who can do Qigong?
As we have suggested above, almost everyone could do Qigong and benefit from it, from the very young to the very old. It can be done standing up, lying down or sitting and is very low-impact, so it is even suitable for people recovering from injuries.
As ever, it is worth checking with your doctor before beginning any new form or exercise, but the only risks are those associated with low-intensity physical activity, including sprains or strains and over-stretching.
We must also point out that Qigong is not intended to be practised instead of medical treatment for injuries or illnesses, but rather should be seen as a way of complementing it.
How do I find somewhere to do Qigong?
If you know someone who already does Qigong, you could ask them if you can go along with them to sample a session. Alternatively, look in the local telephone directory, newspaper or online to see if there is anywhere that offers classes.
Many cities in the UK have spiritualist centres and it is likely that Qigong instructors will practise there, while halls and community centres can become the ideal form of accommodation for this kind of exercise.
If you're really struggling to find anywhere, then don't forget that many books and instructional DVDs are available and video clips are regularly published on YouTube – although remember that the layperson can just as easily record classes here as more experienced instructors!
Once you have got used to some of the moves, the most important thing is to be consistent; don't just do a few sessions and then stop. Indeed, experts suggest that Qigong should be done daily, even if it's just for a short time in the morning or at night. Once you have been doing it for 100 days, you should start to notice a difference and really enjoy it as a gentle form of meditative exercise.
Why not have a look around in your area and see if you can give it a go for this new season? You could find it is just the thing to harmonise your mind, body and spirit.