THE BENEFITS OF QIGONG
Qigong (pronounced chee gong) is an ancient Chinese practice that means working with energy. It has been used for centuries, by the Chinese, for creating health, longevity and well-being. The health benefits have been well-documented. Qigong helps to maintain good health and prevent disease. Optimum health requires a balance of many factors, including physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual well-being.
Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan), or Taiji, is a form of Qigong. It consists of a prescribed set of slow, rhythmic movements performed with complete relaxation. It is based on the philosophy of Taoism, which teaches that we are one with the patterns of nature, emphasizing balance and harmony. The slow circular movements of Taiji were created by the ancient Taoists, who observed the actions and habits of long-lived animals such as turtles and cranes and adapted the flow and balance of these movements for the human form. These Taoist sages studied all aspects of nature as they believed that the universe within the person was based on the same principles as the universe without.
Now medical science is starting to realize this. It has reversed the former notion that aerobic exercise is necessary for good health. This means you don’t have to train like an Olympic athlete to gain and maintain good health. In studies done with the frail elderly, it was found that the subjects increased their balance and stability with slow, flowing exercise alone.
Exercise not only influences muscles and joints but also nerves, vital organs and bones. In addition, Taiji produces good posture and a smooth, flowing gait. Adult fitness depends upon all of these factors.
It was concluded that senior citizens (average age 76) who practiced Tai Chi movements reduce multiple falls by nearly one half.
Other studies have shown that weight-bearing movements, such as Taiji, strengthen the connective tissue surrounding the joint and stimulate bone formation. This is exciting news because medical science had believed until recently that bones could not add calcium. It was discovered that when the muscles move the bones, there is a stress zone formed in the crystalline structure of the bone which is the signal for the body to deposit new calcium.
There are many adaptations which aging bodies can accomplish, including: stronger bones, better nerve connections to the muscles and even balance control. It was concluded that elderly subjects could adapt to challenging balance conditions.
A number of the chronic diseases, which strike people as they age, are due to lack of movement and lack of circulation. The large, slow movements of Taiji, coupled with the slow, deep diaphragmatic breathing, help to move oxygen and nutrients to all areas of the body. This practice of the ancient Taoists was designed to address the major causes of chronic disease.
One of the most important benefits of Qigong, however, is how it can be used to discharge emotional trauma and help people reduce stress and even change behavior.
Qigong is a collection of ancient and effective methods to develop and control internal energy. The practice is based upon the observation that stress causes destructive energy to be held in the body as physical and emotional tension. The techniques use movement, breathing and visualization to help a person gain mastery over the various types of energy found in everyday existence: anger, fear, depression, sadness, guilt and worry. When these emotions are ignored or not expressed, they tend to accumulate. There are very specific breathing and visualization practices used for removing these long-stored emotions from the organs where they are held. Qigong helps to clear obstructions in the flow of emotion so that feelings can be expressed easily, instead of explosively.
Modern science is now substantiating the effects of deep breathing and relaxation on attitude. A lot of people have the symptom of hyperventilation, rapid, shallow breathing. This type of breathing reduces the ability of the blood to deliver oxygen to the brain and vital organs. By simply relaxing and changing the style of breathing, more oxygenated blood is delivered to the brain. This calms the person and reduces the amount of stress-related hormones in the blood. These hormones, adrenalin and hydrocortisone, have been shown to damage the brain. When the adrenalin is reduced, the mood changes for the better.
An article in Psychology Today points out how stress alters our bodies and our perceptions. It suggests that the most effective ways of removing stress are practices such as mindfulness meditation, relaxation response, cleansing breath, relaxing posture, passive stretches, imagery and cognitive-behavioral skills, all of which are contained in the Qigong practice.
Studies have shown that people using stress-management techniques, such as these, have less anxiety, are better adjusted, perform tasks better, have better coping skills, and manage anger better. The most positive results were obtained with a combination of two or more techniques. The most effective technique for physiological complaints appears to be muscle relaxation. For psychological complaints, cognitive-behavioral skills, which alter the thinking patterns, are the most effective.
With daily practice of Qigong, a person learns to calm the mind at will, let go of outside concerns, relax the body and focus on the technique. Over time, these techniques help change thinking patterns and develop new reactions to traumatic events. The feeling of accomplishment and confidence that comes with the self-mastery developed from Qigong practices is one of the greatest gifts a person can receive. Developed over the centuries, in response to life’s challenges, this ancient practice balances physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. Qigong provides a comprehensive way of achieving optimum health.
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