Moving meditations such as Qigong (pronounced Chee Gong) have become increasingly popular as of late, due to social distancing restrictions on gyms and mounting mental anxiety in society. For many, Qigong is quickly becoming the “go-to” in the quest to heal the mind and body.
If you are reading this, chances are you were Googling for answers on how to begin. I’ve got you covered. Let me break it down for you in one stop with what I call “Qigong for Beginners - The Ultimate guide to get you started”.
What is qigong?
For thousands of years, Qigong exercises have been used in the east as a powerful healing modality It’s composed of three components.
Physical movements - When it comes to practice, Qigong exercises for beginners employ soft flowing calisthenic (body weight) movements performed primarily in a standing position. This factor enables the vast majority of people of all ages and fitness levels to be comfortable with the practice.
Breathing Patterns - Similar to practices like yoga, Qigong movements are coordinated with a mindful connection to your inhalation and exhalation. Qigong specifically incorporates deep diaphragmatic breathing called “Beating and drumming the Qi”. In this type of breathing pattern, the stomach is expanded on inhalation and contracted on exhalation.
Visualization or Intention - All physical movements of Qigong are connected to specific visualization such as certain colours of energy flowing over the body or intentions such as the cultivation of specific emotions. This added layer turns the physical practice into a moving meditation.
What are the physical benefits of Qigong?
You can think of Qigong movements for beginners as dancing in slow motion. Due to the dynamic nature of the movements. Qigong exercise benefits include increases in total body muscular flexibility, range of motion around the joints, as well as structural strength and stability.
Much of the degenerative pains and problems we experience in our bodies are due to the limited ways in which we move our bodies on a regular basis, in short, disease is a product of behaviour. Most of us can pretty much get through our entire day with little more than the initial rising from a lying position in bed and then the meager addition of a few short or long walks between sitting back down on the different chairs and couches in our environment. For most, this makes up the majority of their physical stimulus.
Of course, there are those motivated enough to run, ride, lift weights, walk, hike, or do some yoga or Pilates a few times a week. The problem with these activities is the repetitive linear patterns of movement that make up the bulk of the stimulus.
Our bodies are meant to reach, stretch, lift, climb, twist, bend, push and pull. That being the case, the physical stimulus we do on a regular basis needs to employ all of these factors to truly promote physical well-being and longevity.
Muscle stiffness and tightness make up a great deal of the physical discomfort that people experience. This is due, in part, to the small ranges of motion that people typically use in their day as well as their workouts. When it comes to the flexibility of our muscles and the range of motion of our joints, “If you don’t use it, you lose it!”
Whether it's shoulder pain, back pain, hip pain, knee pain or the ever-present pain in the neck. Qigong helps to balance the push and pull of the muscles while relieving the pain that stops you from moving.
Is Qigong good for Joint pain or injury?
The joint stabilizing effects of Qigong are one of its most powerful healing effects. Qigong moves for beginners are typically circumductive in nature. This means that the movements typically move in a circular fashion. By moving the joint in this manner, you activate all the small stabilizing muscles typically overlooked in conventional workouts.
But even more important than the stabilizing effect is the cultivation of reactive reflexes. Kinaesthetic awareness is the ability to know where your body is in space and the ability to react to external stimuli.
Much of the “fall’ injuries people suffer could easily be avoided if they were able to confidently correct a trip or misstep without losing their balance and ultimately falling to the ground. The dynamic footwork of Qigong trains the body’s ability to stabilize against stimulus, as well as the mind’s ability to react to it.
Does Qigong help with stress?
Of the many beneficial attributes of Qigong practice, the effect it has on the central nervous system is truly magical. Our bodies are designed to function 90% of the time in a parasympathetic state, otherwise what’s known as a state of “rest, digest and Heal”.
However, in today’s crazy non-stop stimulus world, it is our sympathetic state that is engaged 80-90% of the time. This stressed state of “Fight or flight” is extremely detrimental to the health and wellbeing of our bodies. In this state our digestive process is compromised, our ability to fall and stay asleep(qigong for sleep) is reduced, and our ability to heal is basically shut off!
The slow-moving, deep breathing, meditative aspect of Qigong quickly shifts the body back into a parasympathetic state. This allows the body to do what it should and needs to do most of the day…REST, DIGEST and HEAL!
Does Qigong affect the internal organs?
Because Qigong exercises for beginners are specifically designed to stimulate the acupuncture meridians that travel through the fascia of the body as well as their associated organs, Qigong can have a powerful healing effect on all organs and bodily systems.
A major component of Qigong practice is breath control, and rightly so, it is a wonderful way to condition the lungs to breathe deeply using the diaphragm. Conditions such as shortness of breath, asthma, and allergies will all benefit from its practice.
Qigong’s long, slow, controlled breathing patterns slow the heart rate and lower the blood pressure, making it a fantastic way to help with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. In addition, because the movements incorporate the full-body, Qigong helps to promote circulation to the extremities.
The ability of the kidneys to process and excrete water is a major concern for many people as they age. Stimulating the kidneys through Qigong movements that massage the kidneys can promote better blood flow and nourishment to the kidneys ensuring that they can do their job properly.
In Traditional Chinese medicine, the liver is responsible for the smooth movement of Qi (energy) around the body as well as regulating menstruation. The gentle movements of Qigong promote the movement of Qi and blood around the body helping to soothe the liver.
Is Qigong Meditation?
On top of the nervous system reboot, it is the meditative aspect of Qigong practice that takes this kind of workout to the next level. The complex physical movements, combined with the mindful connection to the breath, plus the addition of certain visualizations, act as anchors which connect the mind to the present moment. This serves to alleviate the stresses of the past and anxieties of the future.
Does Qigong Help Digestion?
The extended diaphragmatic breath used in Qigong practice is incredibly stimulating on the digestive process. As the diaphragm contracts, it stimulates peristaltic movement through the digestive tract as well as organ massage on the liver, spleen and kidney.
Qigong helps to improve both digestion and absorption of food eaten, as well as the elimination of waste moving through the body.
Can Qigong make you stronger?
When we think of strength training, we typically think of weight lifting. Despite that fact, most people are not training with the intention of stepping up on stage at a bodybuilding show. On the contrary, the true purpose of most muscular training is to allow the person to effortlessly do whatever physical things they want to do in their day (and looking better in a bathing suit doesn’t hurt!). To do so, training must be functional in nature. Once again this is where the dynamic movements of Qigong are of great benefit.
Improved structural strength and postural stability are two of the added benefits of Qigong training. With many of us living chained to our computer desk for 8 hours a day, postural awareness is becoming increasingly important to alleviate the headaches, lower back pain, neck and shoulder pain that is becoming an ever-present complaint on the doctor zoom call.
What is the difference between Qigong vs tai chi
Just like kung fu is a style of martial art, Tai Chi is a style of Qigong. It was created by the Yang family and has become the most commonly trained system of Qigong in North America. To date, there are over 3600 different accredited styles and systems of Qigong.
You could learn a new style every week and never run out of new lessons to learn throughout your whole life. All systems share the same conceptual framework of soft flowing movements, breathing patterns and visualizations.
Qigong vs yoga
Qigong and yoga share many historical origins. Although history is a bit muddled, the theory and practice of both arts share many similarities.
Both arts are designed as physical meditations with a focus on the connection of the mind to the breath and body. But where yoga’s postures are done in more of static succession with weight supported by both the hands and feet, Qigong is performed with continuous flowing movement in a standing position.
Both practices are wonderful healing modalities for the mind and body and can be used interchangeably.
How do I start practicing qigong?
A good teacher is the best place to start. Like any skill, it is important to have proper instruction. Although there are millions of people around the world (and online) who practice Qigong, practice does not always make for a good teacher.
It has been my honour to have studied Qigong for the past 15 years with some of the top Qigong and Kung Fu masters in the world. Teachers such as Grandmaster Rupert Harvey, Grandmaster Rob Moses, and Master Daisy Lee.
I have also studied with the International Institute of Medical Qigong and am certified as a medical qigong practitioner. As a practitioner of Traditional Chinese medicine, I use Qigong with my patients in my clinic in Toronto every week. I find the practice to be a wonderful addition to the healing process, and will often give patients Qigong exercise as their homework between treatments to speed their recovery.
Even though I have taught Qigong for many years I continue to see myself as a student of the art and endeavour to deepen my knowledge and understanding to help my students and patients promote their own self-healing.
As for what makes a good teacher, it is really up to the student. One person’s recommendation does not always mean a perfect fit for someone else. I always encourage people looking to start a practice to try out several teachers to see what feels right for them.
As a medical practitioner, I tailor my Qigong programs to the needs of my patients. I use my YouTube channel as a repository of health and wellness tutorials designed to help people to help themselves.
Here are some great Qigong Videos for beginners;
And of course
Qigong for Beginners
In 2020, it was my honour to release my very own Medical Qigong program to the world. The Bodhi Medical Qigong app sells in 19 countries and has helped thousands of people to heal themselves in mind and body. It is the first app of its kind to actually diagnose disease and dysfunction and prescribe a tailored Qigong program for the user.
I am a firm believer that “True health care is self-health care”. It makes me so proud to know that people are taking control of their health care with a little help from my program.
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