Qigong means “cultivation of energy” and it is an ancient Chinese practice combining gentle flowing movements with the breath. The movements and breath, together with our intention, allow healthy flow of qi, or energy, in our bodies.
The roots of qigong are in Daoist philosophy, which places great emphasis on harmony with nature. One aspect of qigong that I love is connecting with the earth beneath and the sky above, and flowing with the seasons as they move from the yang of summer (bright, action-oriented and productive) to the yin of winter (dark, still, nurturing) and back again.
The ancient names of the movements are evocative of the natural world – Rolling Wave, Big Bear, Wise Owl Gazes Back, Turning the Moon, and many others. I find the poetry of the names is another way into that connection with nature as they conjure up images in my mind while I practise.
Qigong has many health benefits, such as enhancing the immune system, improving digestion and sleep, regulating cardiovascular health, and, most famously, improving longevity. How wonderful to remain healthy and vibrant in mind and body as we age!
As we practise qigong, the mind also settles and become calm. We can use qigong to promote a fantastic night’s sleep. On the other hand, it can also help us to strengthen and focus our mental functions and to use all parts of our mind, improving the crossover of the brain hemispheres. Qigong can help to keep the memory sharp, even as we age.
After a qigong session you can expect to feel calm and relaxed, and also energized and vibrant. As qi (energy) is encouraged to flow, stuck qi is released so that we can use it where it is needed. For example, a lot of people hold emotions such as sadness or anxiety in the chest or heart area, and when we move the stuck qi associated with those emotions, it is freed and allows us to feel peace or joy. In the same way, if the digestion is sluggish (associated with stuck or slow-flowing qi), we can move that with qigong and allow both improved digestive flow and also perhaps an increased feeling of energy, motivation and confidence.
Towards the end of qigong practice, we usually stand still in certain poses for a few minutes to allow the qi (energy) to settle and be stored within our body. As we ground down through our feet, energy is able to flow through our newly cleared channels and pool in the lower belly. According to qigong, this is where energy is stored and from where it can be accessed whenever we need it.
Although our intention is important in qigong, we don’t have to worry too much about the energy flow – just by using simple movements and breathing, the qi will start to move in this health-promoting way as our body moves back into homeostasis. We are designed to be healthy in body and mind, and qigong gently helps us to regain that state of balance that is our birthright as humans, in harmony with the natural world.
If you know me from EFT tapping, you may not know I also teach qigong! If you are interested, please sign up here to find out about my online and in person classes.