What is Qigong?
Qigong, (pronounced “chee-gung,”) is an ancient Chinese mind-body movement modality. Roughly 60 million people in China today practice Qigong daily to achieve and maintain health and longevity. Qigong is an ancient Chinese healing art involving meditation, controlled breathing, and movement exercises that dates back thousands of years, and is believed to be based on Traditional Chinese Medicine. (TCM). It rests on 2 concepts: qi, the vital energy of the body, and gong, the training or cultivation of qi. (source 1)
The theories associated with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) formed over 3000 years ago in ancient China. Healing therapies under this system include acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal medicine, acupressure, massage, nutrition, and Qigong, and are often used in combination. Qigong as part of TCM has both movement and meditation methods, which, when practiced move and balance qi in the body. It is said to enable the body to heal itself (source 2).
Clinical Efficacy of Qigong
Sancier (1996) compiled a number of studies on the clinical efficacy of Qigong. Medical conditions and health objectives covered in this article included hypertension, stroke, heart function and microcirculation, hormonal balance and maintenance in elderly men and women, bone density, cancer, senility, blood flow to the brain, and mind-body regulation (similar to biofeedback). The Sancier review showed Qigong’s success in the vast majority of these categories. The most interesting study in my opinion was the one done on measuring the effects of Qigong on senility:
100 subjects classified either as presenile or with cerebral function impaired by senility … were divided into two groups of 50 people … [t]he Qigong group practiced a combination of static and moving Qigong [while] the control group exercised by walking, walking fast, or running. According to the TCM method … more than 80% of the patients in each group were classified as deficient in vital function and vital essence of the Kidney. After 6 months, 8 of the 14 main clinical signs and symptoms in the Qigong group improved more than 80%, whereas none of the symptoms on the control group had improved more than 45%. (emphasis added)
Qigong vs Traditional Western Exercise
The most interesting part of the Sancier study was the exercise in the control group. We all know the positive effects physical activity can have on the body and mind, but this is especially shown in studies with the elderly. Improvements in muscle strength, bone density, and cognition have all been documented with exercise, but the effects of Qigong blew the exercise group out of the water with Sancier’s study. It makes you question what’s happening in our bodies when we’re connecting the mind and the body to affect healing on ourselves.
How to get started
Check out this awesome video for qi gong for beginners. It will walk you through a short series of poses that will give you an idea of what this ancient practice is all about.
Source 1: Guo, X., Zhou, B., Nishimura, T., Teramukai, S., & Fukushima, M. (2008). Clinical Effect of Qigong Practice on Essential Hypertension: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 14(1), 27-37.
Source 2: Sancier, K. (1996). Medical Applications of Qigong. Alternative Therapies. 2(1), 40-46.