Recently, I have noticed more people are starting to inquire and learn about Qigong. That is a great thing to see. I believe that Qigong will eventually become as common as Yoga is today. However, like Yoga has in the past, Qigong has some obstacles to overcome to become accepted by more practitioners. One such obstacle is basic understanding of Qigong and the benefits of practicing it. I strive to make Qigong more accessible by making it simple to do, and easy to understand. Hopefully, this piece will make the reader want to give it a try. Now, for the basics.
Qigong (pronounced: Chee Gong) is a Chinese word that literally means “energy work.” Thousands of exercises, that can be as complicated as a one hundred and eight position Tai Chi Chuan form, or as simple as standing in an upright position with your arms holding an imaginary sphere, are all called Qigong. Qigong exercises can be practiced by anyone that wants to enhance their overall health or increase their martial power.
I began studying Qigong many years ago, and I was drawn to the simplicity and effectiveness of the standing variety of Qigong. I eventually wrote a book on the subject which was published last year: “Standing Qigong for Health and Martial Arts – Zhan Zhuang.” Qigong is an internal form of exercise that has both a meditative and physical property. Your mind is engaged when you practice, whether standing or moving and your whole body is exercised with purpose and intention.
The benefits of Qigong are similar to those of Yoga, and many students seek it out for similar reasons: People looking for a meditative exercise. Literally, anyone can practice Qigong and at any age. If you can’t do the moving forms for some reason, then you can stand. If you can’t do the standing forms, then you can sit. I teach young and old how to do some form of Qigong. Want to try it out?
Let’s try a really simple breathing exercise that you can do right now:
- Stand upright with your feet about shoulder width apart.
- Rest your palms on your abdomen just below your navel (one hand over the other).
- Relax your body. Drop your shoulders. Imagine your head floating up.
- Bend your knees slightly with your weight pushed to the outsides of your feet. (don’t lock your knees)
- Inhale and think about pushing your stomach out against your hands as you slowly count to 5.
- Exhale slowly for a count of 5 and feel your hands riding on your abdomen as they sink back to the original position.
- Do this exercise for about 10 breaths. Feel free to increase the counting during the breaths from 5, to 7 or 9 for longer breaths.
This is a very basic diaphragmatic breathing exercise that I like to do and teach, because it brings the practitioner back to the most important part of all life: The breath. After practicing this exercise the practitioner is usually in a calmer state and more relaxed. It is a great way to bring yourself back to the present when you are under stress. Use this exercise anytime that you want to take a break from the chaos of the world around you and steal a peaceful moment. Don’t wait though; try it out now… Really, right now!