Seated Qigong For Seniors

Tens of millions of people around the world use Qigong exercise regularly to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing. Older populations, in particular, benefit from regular Qigong practice due to the adaptability of the programs to different physical limitations. Seated Qigong for seniors is the perfect tool to regain the stability, flexibility, and mobility lost over the years.

Why would Qigong be an effective exercise for senior citizens?

The answer is simple and comes in three parts. The first is all about flexibility.

Qigong’s Effect on Flexibility  

The movements of Qigong are specifically designed to stretch, twist and pull the muscles of the body through multiple planes of motion. You can think of Qigong practice as modern dance in slow motion. 

One of the most debilitating factors when it comes to ageing is STIFFNESS! Stiffness of the joints (which we will get to) and stiffness of the muscles. Like all things in life, “if we don’t use it, we lose it!” and flexibility is no different. 

As we age, we tend to reduce the physical activity we incorporate into our lives. And the physical activity we do incorporate tends to be limited in impact, exertion and difficulty.

But why? If you want to feel and look like an old person, then train like an old person! But if you want to feel young, strong and pliable like a Romanian gymnast, then you better investigate something different.

Now it's not to say you don’t have to take precautions and modify movements based on your own personal limitations. But every day of your life you need to challenge yourself both physically and mentally... period! 

The moment you stop challenging yourself in life, 

is the moment life begins to be a challenge.”

What Makes Us Stiff?

The muscles of our body are connected by, encased in, and permeated by connective tissue called fascia. It is that fascia that allows us to move in the integrated and complex way we do. But it's not just the muscles that are ruled by fascia. 

Every tissue in your body, including bones and organs, is also held, connected and affected by the stuff. Think of fascia as a spider web of connective tissue linking every part of your body to…well….every other part of your body.

Within that spiderweb are millions upon millions of nerve endings and blood vessels. All exchanging information with each other. It is truly the internet of the body. Thousands of years ago traditional Chinese medicine based its healing treatments on the stimulation of that information web via movement (Qigong) and then later by manual stimulation (Acupressure and Acupuncture).

Connective tissue. Pin

What makes fascia so interesting is that it is constantly growing and being torn apart. Picture your internal spider web growing on and into itself every second of every day. Slowly adding layers and bonds all reinforcing one another.

Every time you move your body through large ranges of motion or in complex or different patterns you pull apart a tiny layer and the growing process begins again.

You wake up from a restful 8 hour night sleep. You sit up at the edge of your bed and instinctively stretch your arms above your head as you take a deep breath in. At that moment you tear apart the super fine layer of new fascia that has grown while you lay sleeping.

Now picture someone laying in a hospital bed for days or weeks on end. How stiff does their body become? With each new layer built and not torn away, the reinforcement slowly becomes like scar tissue scaffolding, until they physically can't move in the same way they could before.

We call that scar tissue, fascial adhesions. Basically, it's the glue that sticks everything to everything else. The more adhesions, the less the body can stretch and move freely and easily.

Qigong movements tend to be undulating and rotational in nature and mimic nature's natural ebb and flow movements. The rise and fall of a wave, the flapping of a bird's wing, the slither of a snake's body. Picturing any of those natural movements you can instantly feel the freely moving energetic movement.

By softly dynamically moving the body, the fascial adhesions that restrict muscle movement are broken down, allowing for greater flexibility and ease of movement.

What are the Benefits of Qigong for seniors?

The second part of the physical equation is the Joint range of motion.

a woman with arthritis in her hands. Pin

Qigong’s effect on joint range of motion

The movements of Qigong are designed to move all joints of the body through large ranges of motion. Whether it is flexion, extension or circumductive motion, all our joints need to be moved through their full range of motion regularly.

Similar to muscular flexibility, when it comes to joints, if we don’t use the range, we lose the range. But what makes things even worse is the fact that when joints aren’t moved in dynamic ways they tend to build up turbid debris which literally gums up the mechanics. 

Debris causes friction, friction irritates, irritation leads to inflammation and eventual degeneration. As our muscles become stiff we move less, and the less we move the stiffer our muscles become. All of that leads our joints to move through tiny ranges of motion and not very often.

Weight-bearing joints of the body take the brunt of irritation and degeneration. Visualize a 75-year-old building with a large, heavy metal door on the front. Now imagine the door sitting in a half-open position for the last 20 years. 

The hinge of the door strained under the pressure of the weight of the door, not to mention it being exposed to the elements for years on end. Wind, heat, rain, causing the hinge to fill with debris and rust. Now, open the door. What sound does it make? 

The creaking and cracking I'm sure you’re imagining right now doesn't sound much different than the average 75-year-old person's knees getting out of a deep chair.

The final part of the physical equation is Muscular Stability.

Qigong’s Effect on Muscular Stability 

An Asian man doing Qigong.Pin

Our muscles are designed to move our skeletal structure dynamically through space with ease. We are built to crawl, climb, run, lift, push and pull. We don’t need a bodybuilder physique to accomplish these tasks but we do need muscle. 

What we need is balanced development in our muscles that allows for full-body mobility and stability. Physical pain in the body, whether it's in the neck(our phones are becoming a pain in the neck) or the knees, is a result of certain muscles being overused while others are underused. This results in certain areas being strong while others are weak. 

The problem with this imbalance is that our bodies are built to move with unified force. Any weak link will cause a ripple effect through the chain of muscles which are acted upon by the corresponding fascial tissue.

This is why although weight training can be quite beneficial, it can also create more problems than it solves. Conditioning the body to use isolated parts such as in a bicep curl, trains the body to move unnaturally.

Once again this is where Qigong exercise is a great idea, especially for older people. Challenging the body to move in ways it is not used to, causes the body to respond by creating complex motor pathways in the brain. This improves balance and coordination facilitating greater mobility, while the added physical stimulation encourages the muscles to strengthen and stabilize the structure.

Although Qigong exercise is typically done in a standing position. The beauty of the practice is it can be adapted to a sitting position for those lacking the mobility or strength to do it.

Many people of a certain age stop challenging themselves physically more out of fear of falling than physical inability. As I said before, 

“The moment you stop challenging yourself in life, 

is the moment life begins to be a challenge.”

A seated Qigong program is a fantastic way to get all the physical, mental and energetic benefits, without the fear of injury or inability. And just maybe, a seated program is only a first step to getting out of the chair and back on your feet, both physically and mentally.

It's been said you have to walk before you run. But it should also be said that we need to be able to sit before we stand. We are all a work in progress. Celebrate what you can do, not what you can’t. As long as you have breath in your lungs and blood in your veins there is Qi to be moved, and a Seated Qigong program for seniors is a great place to start.

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