The first thing that pops into your mind when you hear “qigong” is most likely a group of elderly folks gathered together in a park or a community center. However, is qigong only suitable for the older population?
Overview of Qigong
Many qigong styles were initially created as an aid to improve one’s health and mental well-being. In fact, most Chinese martial arts have their own form of qigong/neigong within their system. While many people think that qigong is only about breathing, it is in fact considered an advanced component and is usually taught only after students have shown competency in the other movements.
The qigong that is commonly seen today is but a diluted version of the original forms. In the soft style of qigong, development of internal strength is essential. Younger people can adopt lower stances when practicing which taxes the body more but also leads to a bigger training effect.
Some Benefits Of Practicing Qigong
Loosens muscles and builds “soft” power
In qigong, muscles are worked differently from the other types of exercises you are more familiar with. While weight training and stretching build strength and flexibility, exercises that focuses on internal strength such as qigong build on looseness and suppleness. According to qigong practitioners, the feeling of being "pumped up" obtained in other types of exercises are actually due to muscular contraction which prevents qi (energy flow). The goal of qigong is to experience the feeling of relaxed power, where you will loosen up and let the energy flow through.
Prevents injury to joints, ligaments and bones
We lock our joints unintentionally when we fall or get into an accident. This can easily result in broken joints or overstretched ligaments where recovery time can take awhile. In qigong, you learn how to relax during a fall which reduces injuries. You will also achieve better balance and have increased flexibility and springiness of your ligaments, as well as being more aware of unlocking your joints when moving around.
Balances the organs
No, this does not mean taking out your organs and putting them on a weighing scale. Through various qigong movements, qi is cultivated and circulated throughout the body, which clears the meridian (qi channels) and organs. This helps to nourish, strengthen and balance the organs.
Improves mind-body connection and body awareness
With repeated practice, you will be able to develop an awareness of your own body through qigong due to increased sensitivity. This awareness is useful in our everyday movements and interaction with our surroundings, for example you will be able to adjust your weight and center of gravity when walking on slippery or uneven surfaces and reduce the impact if you fall unexpectedly.
Enhances a sense of well being
When your qi is full and flowing well, you will feel a sense of inner fullness and strength. Do you remember waking up on some days feeling energized and ready to take on the day’s challenges, while waking up feeling flat and cold on others? Or you find it easy to perform an exercise on some days, as opposed to feeling the strain and tenseness in your body on other days? In qigong, you learn to let the qi flow through your body which improves your performance.
Eases stress and balances emotions
Most of you know that physical exercise is useful to destress and relieve anger, but we find that typical physical activity does not necessarily aid in handling our emotions when we look at the behaviors of some athletes. Through the practice of qigong, you learn how to relax and release the unnecessary tension that we hold in our bodies and mind, letting us have control over ourselves.
A simple exercise for you to try (wuji aka neutral position)
Stand with feet shoulder width apart, feet pointing straight ahead, knees unlocked, palms resting on thighs, eyes closed.
In this position, allow tension to flow from the upper body into the lower body and into the bottom of the feet. When the bottom of the feet feels heavy, allow your weight to sink onto the ground. Maintain that heavy relaxed feeling and continue standing for roughly 10 more breaths.
This simple exercise helps with rooting and centering which counteracts the modern day momentum of drawing attention out and uprooting ourselves.
At the end of the day, there is no exercise that is solely made for a specific group of people.
With a proper exercise program that is inclusive of a mixture of strength, cardio and flexibility, promotes a balanced body and sustainable healthy lifestyle.
This article is written by our Personal Trainer and Qigong Specialist, Edwin Tan.
Edited by Gina Chan
If you would like to know more about private qigong training, contact us for a free consultation.