Qigong – A journey of self discovery Part 3

We have lost touch with our own bodies. It is not just the vehicle used to get us from point A to Point B. The body can be our greatest source of information, if we can only learn to listen to it. If we can quiet the thinking mind long enough and allow ourselves to go inside, to become aware of the magic that lies within, then we can tap into it’s true potential. The energy that flows within each and every one of us is the same as that which runs through the wild tiger, or the wolf running through the forest.

It is not enough just to be healthy, there are many who go to the gym, eat good food, and yet still have no idea how to get in touch with the energy within. By utilizing breathing techniques with inner awareness we can begin to tap into our true potential. Our inner healing and power, that lie dormant awaiting discovery. Through the practices of Tai Chi and Qigong we can begin and embark on this journey of self discovery.

In the first stage one is trying to memorize the movements which is the way it should be. When one becomes familiar with the sequences, then we move onto the breathing, either coordinating it with the movements or just becoming aware of it as we go through our practice. Now this is when things get interesting. After we have the movements down and the breathing has begun, now we can actually get inside our selves, out of our minds and into our bodies. Sometimes it is as simple as a tingling or warm sensation, for others it is an acute feeling of flow, for lack of a better word. The sensation of energy coursing through your entire being.

As often happens, distraction finds its way in. Not to worry. As with meditation, acknowledge its presence, then let it go and come back to your practice. This is the biggest challenge for most, bringing yourself back to awareness and away from the monkey mind that is so prevalent in modern humans. The breath can be the key, bring your awareness to your breathing, nothing else. Follow it as it enters into the lungs, and feel it as it exhales and leaves your body. Stay with this method until it becomes natural, you almost laugh when you notice your mind wandering “ Oh there you go again, come back here and behave”.

This simple yet effective practice of Qigong/Tai Chi, has enormous possibility for self healing and self awareness. It truly can be life altering.

 

Qigong – A journey of self discovery Part 2

Part 2.

 

In Part 1 we discussed a basic overview of what Qigong is and what it is meant to do, or how it can help us. In this discussion we would like to address what makes qigong unique and why it is so effective.

The beauty of most Qigong training is in its simplicity. The majority of movements are gentle and easy to do. There are virtually no complicated motions in the beginning levels, making it easy for anyone to take part. Unlike the pretzel positions of yoga, or some of the complicated sequences of Tai Chi, Qigong is simple, almost too simple. What does this mean? Well, when something looks as easy as Qigong beginner programs do, people often ask, “How can this be effective. I mean really, can just moving your arms around or turning your waist really be that beneficial? Other than getting a mild bit of exercise?” Valid question. If all one does is body movements, then yes, it is a mild form of physical exercise and nothing more. But that is not Qigong.

Qigong uses not only the movements of the body, but incorporates specific breathing along with the movements and a form of awareness. The awareness principle is similar to that achieved through meditation, a quieting of the thinking mind. More on that in Part 3.

When we utilize these three principles then we have the essence of Qigong.  Therefore, Qigong can almost be considered a moving meditation, which heals the mind and body. One does not have to have a deep understanding of such aspects as the five elements, yin/yang etc to receive the benefits. This is one of the reasons why Qigong is becoming more and more popular. A simple, yet effective practice that calms the mind, heals the body through the opening of blocked energy, and allows one to return to a natural state of balance.

 

In Part 3 we will discuss the specifics with respect to the breath, and the mind during your practice.

Qigong & Health Benefits

While Qigong has been in widespread practice for thousands of years in Asia (particularly China), until recently it has been a relatively unknown martial art in North America.  Like its cousin Tai Chi, Qigong has been growing in public awareness and practice at a rapid rate in recent years.

Part of the reason for this increase in popularity has been the steadily increasing body of scientific research and analysis that supports the fact that Qigong can have a very positive effect on health and well-being.  In scientific terms these are termed ‘beneficial physical and psychological effects’.

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The nice thing about the scientific method is that it can help us all understand the world around us in ever greater detail.  At times, however, it can take time for science to catch up with the common practice and awareness of millions of people.

Here at Healthyqigong.com we have known about the benefits of Qigong for years.  We have seen its positive effects in our families and friends, and in our growing number of students.  Nonetheless, it is nice to have our personal experience supported by scientific evidence as the body of research continues to grow.

In the American Journal of Health Promotions we see that ‘Research has demonstrated consistent, significant results for a number of health benefits… for Qigong and Tai Chi.”  The Journal of Holistic Nursing has an article stating that ‘Preliminary research indicates that Qigong may be an effective complementary therapy for promoting health and wellness in older adults and an effective adjuvant intervention for managing chronic conditions in older adults.”  The journal of Psychophysiology notes that “Because of its safety, minimal cost, and clinical benefit, health qigong can be advocated as an adjunctive exercise therapy for older people with chronic conditions.”

Each of the above studies are just the tip of the iceberg in starting to understand the health benefits of regular, mindful Qigong practice.  Most of us know this from our own experience, and it is very nice to see science start to get behind Qigong practice as a beneficial health boosting activity as well.

Qigong – A journey of self discovery. Part 1

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Qigong. Translated loosely as energy work. The origins of Qigong are shrouded in mystery, legends, stories told and retold. Passed down from generation to generation, spread across continents by travelling sages and yogis. Adopted and adapted by different cultures. The story of the Indian sage Bodhidharma reaching the Shaolin temple and sharing his knowledge with ailing monks and reinvigorating them with Qigong exercises, which were later developed into their form of Kung Fu.

The art itself has many branches, hard qigong, soft qigong, medical qigong, and more. At its heart and root, it is an art which involves going within the body, to allow the natural energy within, to move freely as it should and in turn bring the body back to health. The blockages of energy are caused by injury, poor diet, sedentary lifestyles, toxins, etc. The problems resulting from poor energy flow range from stiffness in the joints, aches, pains, lethargy, to more serious issues such as lack of mobility, and numerous illnesses.

Qigong aims to reset the balance within the body. Through a series of body movements, breathing exercises, and mental awareness we begin to open the flow of energy within. The various forms of Qigong will sometimes focus on a specific body part or area, while others will take a general overview of the entire human system. When practiced properly the results can be felt almost immediately. When dealing with long standing health issues, more time may be needed. As when someone adopts a healthy eating pattern, it is not something to pick up for a few weeks and then drop, going back to eating junk food. It is the same with Qigong, once it becomes part of a healthy lifestyle, it stays.

While still relatively unknown in the west, unlike yoga, which everyone has heard about, Qigong is just beginning to flower and spread into the western culture. In countries like China, where many forms of Qigong originated, the art is practiced by millions of people. It is also supported and endorsed by the government as a form of natural healing which surely keeps health care costs down.

As with yoga, Qigong is so much more than just a form of physical movement or a gentle form of exercise. It truly is a spiritual practice. Yet one that involves getting in touch with your own spirit within.

In Part 2 we will look at what makes Qigong so unique and why it is becoming the new natural body movement trend.

Qigong and Stress Relief

In today’s busy world, stress is a major contributing factor to poor health and unhappiness. It can have an awful effect mental stability and well-being. Everybody needs a regular, healthy stress-buster.  A consistent, habitual Qigong practice can be a very effective technique to manage and reduce stress from your life.

Pronounced as “Chee Gong”, which roughly means ‘Energy Practice’ this martial art has been used for well over 4000 years.  Regular practice can help you reconnect to your body, develop flows of energy and create a calm, stress free center in yourself. The flowing movements of this exercise contribute to strengthening and healing the entire body.

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Qigong is a meditative, low impact workout that has the ability to convert stress into healthy energy. The energy flows in our bodies affect the functioning and process of the internal organs, mood, thought process, and physical and spiritual health.

When you experience stress, your energy is affected, which in turn affects physical condition, mental stability, and emotions. Qigong can help refocus the energy of your body towards good health and strengthened well-being.

Healthy Qigong is definitely not a ‘no pain, no gain’ form of training. While all exercise can be a way to improve your health and connect to your body, Healthy Qigong is a calming, low impact exercise that can be completed by anyone, no matter your current physical condition.

You might not have time or desire for regular visits to the gym or the ability to participate in vigorous sports, but everybody can set aside a few minutes each morning to reduce stress, boost health, build strength and improve well-being.

Very shortly after beginning a Healthy Qigong practice you will feel relaxed, healthier and become more aware of the energy flowing through your body. The 18 simple movements of our Tai Chi Qigong course can help in revitalize your energy, boost recovery from illness, increase your stamina and improve your immune system.  Our Qigong for Mobility course can help you improve your flexibility, balance and core strength while further enhancing your  health and well-being.

Awareness exercise.

Awareness is one of the main purposes of the Qigong practice. Not just during the movements. So here is an easy exercise you can try anytime.

Take a simple daily routine, such as brushing your teeth, shaving, or even making your morning coffee or tea (the Japanese have a ceremony around the making of tea which was based totally on ones awareness), when you are engaged in this regular yet simple daily activity, bring your full attention to it. However brief it may be, allow nothing but the doing of it to enter your mind. Feel every moment as it passes. Just be totally engaged within the action of your doing, and you will feel your being. This is your awareness opening up. Try this a few times throughout the day with the simple things in your life. Eventually this can be accessed during any activity of situation.

Good luck.

Mobility = freedom

The word mobility is defined as “the ability to move freely”  this can be applied to a number of different areas, physical, social, political, etc. But for our purpose we will look at the physical. Our bodies were meant to move, walk, bend, run, climb, lift, and so much more. They are beautiful and amazing sprit carrying machines that allow us to explore and enjoy this journey called life.

If the body is restricted in it’s ability to move freely, then the quality of ones life can be deeply affected. Pain, injury, sedentary lifestyle, can all be contributors to this type of restriction. Mobility = freedom. Even if one does not have full use of their body, having good mobility in those parts that do can bring quality into life.

We are so proud to be able to announce the launch of our second beginners program at www.healthyqigong.com. This program is called “Qigong for mobility” and is designed to help anyone, regardless of present limitations, to improve your ability to move. It is very simple to learn and gentle on the body, but addresses the major areas of limitation. Movement in the shoulders, hips, back, and legs will be dealt with and improved upon. This program will focus specifically on opening up and allowing the energy to flow more freely throughout the entire body.

Check out our site and have a look at this incredible new offering.

The new movement – natural movement

There is a new buzzword out there in the health and wellness industry – natural movement. You hear about it on the internet, in the studios, and even in the world of mixed martial arts. The recently crowned champion Connor McGregor is a huge proponent of natural body movement and uses it very effectively in his fighting style.

This new concept is anything but new. However, there is no denying that a renewed interest is underway. So what is natural movement and where did it come from. Well, it has been around for a very long time, it is the ability and practice of moving, stretching, strengthening, and conditioning the body using, well, natural movement. 🙂 As opposed to standard type gyms or studios with mechanical equipment, practitioners usually perform outdoors, with little to no equipment, using nature as the gym. It is a wonderful way to not only get in shape but also get to know your body.

The beauty of this type of training is getting back in touch with your body, in a holistic manner. Sounds very much like Qigong, don’t you think. The additional benefits to taking up the practice of Qigong is the spiritual side of this art. Just think, physical benefits, stretching, conditioning, and spiritual growth. We’re glad this renewed interest is happening, maybe this 3000 year old natural art will catch on too.

Newbies

For those who are just beginning their qigong practice, it can seem a bit overwhelming. Especially for the ones who are learning via streaming videos at home, as we offer @ heathyqigong.com. The movements are new, and for some, quite foreign for the body to adapt to as well. In addition there are the aspects of breathing properly, clearing the mind, awareness, etc.

Let’s just start with the basics. The first step is to just memorize the physical movements and get comfortable with them. Nothing else. This may take a few days, or it may take a few months. It doesn’t matter. There should be no rush.

The key is consistent practice, daily is best. However, on those days when for one reason or another you missed it, then it may be an option to visualize the movements, maybe when you go to bed. Just imagine yourself going through the set in your mind. Visualization can be a very powerful tool when learning any skill.

Eventually our goal is to develop a habit, memorize the movements, then move on to the next level which we will discuss in our next blog post. For now, wishing you peace, happiness, and wellbeing.

choices, choices, choices

Which Qigong pattern should you choose? Well that depends, with our online courses we start with the beginner level such as the 18 movement and the qigong for mobility, soon we will have some intermediate level programs available, and then some advanced. It makes sense to progress through them in this order, spending enough time at each level until it feels very natural and flows well.

Once this is reached then it is ok to move on the more advanced patterns. Once you have a few under your belt, then it is basically a matter of how you feel, to listen and acknowledge if you’re feeling like going back to the basic levels for that day or advanced. Some days you may feel the need for a very gentle flow, other days you may feel like a more intense level of body movement.

Myself, I am a routine person, so I rotate through them, one per day,  then cycle through them again. This helps keep my sword sharp on the details of the various patterns, however, every once in awhile I too feel like doing a specific pattern or set. When this occurs I listen. I will do the set my body is telling me to do, then go back to routine the next day.

A big part of Qigong practice is getting back in touch with our bodies, learning to feel them again, and eventually to listen to them. What is your body telling you to do?