Frequently Asked Questions
- Qigong -
What is qi?
In broad terms, qi (pronounced chee) is energy and life force. When we talk about qi in qigong, we are usually referring to all the complex, interrelated functions of our organs, nerves, bones, and fascia, as well the bio-electric field our body generates. At times, qi can also refer to more ephemeral concepts such as “spirit” or “essence.” Qi is meant to flow through us. When qi’s flow is blocked or diminished by injury or trauma (both physical and emotional), it can become trapped and stagnant, which can lead to disease or chronic pain.
What is qigong?
Qigong is a mind-body practice that originated in China over 2,000 years ago. It involves a series of movements, postures, breathing techniques, and meditation designed to cultivate and balance the body's vital energy, or "qi." Qigong is often described as a form of "moving meditation" that promotes physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
What is a qigong form?
A form is a meditation that employs posture, breath, and, at times, movement to cleanse, condition, consolidate, or otherwise direct the flow of qi. Many forms are designed to exercise or massage specific organs and their corresponding energy pathways (or meridians). And some forms employ visualization practices.
What is qigong flow?
A flow is a series of qigong forms created by a qigong master and handed down through ancient text, oral tradition, or more modern transmission. Flows typically seek to meet specific physical and/or emotional needs (such as improving tendon strength and joint mobility, easing emotional distress, focusing healing sounds and intentions into specific organs, or preparing the mind and body for seasonal stressors).
Do I have to stand the whole time?
No. While standing is the traditional “default” position, the most important rule of qigong is “no pain, no pain.” Bodies are built differently and some positions will not work for everyone. If a form is uncomfortable or painful, you should stop and find an alternate way to do it. If a minor postural adjustment doesn’t help, most forms can easily be adapted to seated or lying positions. Our compassionate effort to circulate qi is what matters most.
Is qigong exercise?
Yes. But perhaps not in a stereotypical sense. Depending on a person’s level of physical fitness or mobility, some forms may feel more physically demanding than others. It’s possible to go an entire session without breaking a sweat or having your heart rate increase significantly. But there’s a saying in qigong pulled from the “The Song of the Thirteen Postures” by Wan Zangyue: “In stillness, action stirs. In action there is stillness.” What appears still and calm in qigong may require a surprising amount of effort!
What should I wear?
As ease of mobility and blood and lymphatic circulation are keys to a beneficial qigong practice, it is important to wear loose, comfortable clothing that does not constrict circulation or restrict movement. Wearing clothing that helps you maintain a neutral body temperature is also helpful; so wear lighter clothing in the hotter months, and warmer clothing in the colder months. If possible, practicing barefooted helps your toes root your stance and, if practicing outdoors, allows you to connect more closely with your natural environment. However, you should take care to keep your feet warm with socks in cooler months, as it is believed that cold feet can negatively impact your body’s immune system.
Do I need any equipment?
No, you do not need any special equipment to practice qigong. Comfortable clothing and a flat surface are all you need to get started. Some people like to stand on mats and use a chair or cushion to sit on during meditation, but this is not required.
What else should I do to prepare for a session?
Practitioners are advised to avoid eating substantial meals within an hour or two before a session. The purpose being, digesting meals requires a great deal of your body’s resources and qigong practice may interrupt digestion. However, being hungry or having a low blood-sugar during a session can also cause unhealthy imbalances in your body, so having a small snack (like a handful of nuts or fruit) more than 30 minutes before a session is advisable if you’re feeling hungry. Consuming intoxicants or stimulants before a session can, similarly, impair your body’s natural functions and are not encouraged. However, a small glass of green or herbal tea (such as ginseng or oat straw), may help gently enliven your senses if you are feeling lethargic before a session. You may be getting the sense that there are few hard and fast rules here: it’s all about enabling your body’s natural inclination toward balance.
What are the benefits of qigong?
Here’s what science knows for sure. Regular qigong practice provides: - Increased strength, mobility, stamina, and balance/proprioception. - Reduced emotional reactivity and nervous system dysregulation (common in people with depression, anxiety, and PTSD). - Healthier vascular and respiratory function. - Balanced immune system response. - Greater mental clarity and brain hemisphere synchronization. - Improved digestion and nutrient absorption. - Reduced joint inflammation. - Improved liver, kidney, and bladder function. - Reduction (and, in some cases, elimination) of chronic pain. It’s also believed to help with a variety of other health issues and ailments, from declining vision and early hair loss to rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and Parkinson’s.
Is qigong helpful for people with PTSD/CPTSD?
There is evidence to suggest that qigong may be beneficial for people recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), as well as other trauma-related conditions. Here are some potential benefits of qigong for people recovering from trauma: 1. Stress reduction: Qigong has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, which can be beneficial for people with PTSD and CPTSD. 2. Improved sleep: Sleep disturbances are common among people with PTSD and CPTSD. Qigong may help improve sleep quality and duration, which can help with overall recovery. 3. Enhanced emotional regulation: Qigong can help people with trauma-related conditions learn to regulate their emotions and reduce the intensity of emotional reactions. 4. Increased body awareness: People with PTSD and CPTSD often experience dissociation and a disconnection from their bodies. Qigong can help individuals reconnect with their bodies and increase body awareness. 5. Improved cognitive functioning: People with PTSD and CPTSD often experience cognitive difficulties, such as memory problems and difficulty concentrating. Qigong has been shown to improve cognitive functioning.
Can qigong be harmful?
Not if a person is practicing qigong with the mindfulness and kindness it was designed for. But injury can happen if a person fails to pay attention to their body’s needs and breaks the “No Pain, No Pain” rule. Additionally, thinking of qigong as a “sport” or “physical fitness routine,” competing with yourself or others to force your body to execute a form “perfectly,” or otherwise directing your qi with aggression, fear, or unkindness can certainly lead to injury or other harmful outcomes.
Is qigong a religious practice?
No. Or, at least, not necessarily. Though it was developed within the philosophical framework of Taoism (and later Buddhism), it has long been viewed as a secular health practice in line with the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM). And its efficacy in a variety of health applications has been rigorously investigated and proven by scientific research. There can certainly be a spiritual focus of the practice (such as aiding in one’s path to an enlightened state), but this focus is not required to accrue qigong’s many health benefits.
What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a system of holistic healing that sees the quality of a person’s health as interwoven with the health and wellbeing of their mind and environment. Where Western medicine tends to view the body in more mechanical terms, TCM sees the body as a complex energetic system within a greater ecosystem. Poor health is the result of the imbalance or stagnation of qi. Optimal health is the result of the flow of balanced qi. And, instead of offering “quick fixes”, TCM usually employs a variety of longer-term remedies and preventative practices (such as herbal supplements, sustainable lifestyle changes, acupuncture, acupressure, and qigong) to help a person return to and maintain a state of optimal health.
What are meridians?
Meridians are pathways of qi within and, in some cases, around your physical body. There are twelve principal meridians that correspond with and cycle qi through the body’s twelve primary organs. And there are eight additional “extraordinary” meridians that connect the previous twelve and store qi for the body’s use. Moving qi through this web of energy conduits is the primary purpose of the practices of qigong, acupuncture, and acupressure. As with receiving an acupuncture treatment, one can gain the benefits of qigong without knowing anything about the meridians. The qigong forms are designed to do the work of moving qi through the meridians for you. So, while it can be interesting and useful to learn about each of these pathways, it’s not necessary for practice.
What is Taoism?
Taoism is a philosophical framework that arose from the mindful study of nature and its dynamic cycles. It began to take shape over three thousand years ago in China, but was first translated into a coherent written philosophy in the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. Taoism views all of creation as the result of interacting oppositional forces. These forces are broadly summarized in yang and yin: yang being the expansive, warming, and active, and yin the consolidating, cooling, and more passive. And Taoism asserts that the true nature of existence is change, or movement that tends toward the equilibrium of yin and yang. Therefore, human suffering is the result of resisting change, our disconnection from nature’s cycles, and, ultimately, the disharmony of yin and yang.
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