The Physical Health Benefits of Yuan Qigong
WHY PRACTISE YUAN GONG?
It is not easy to sift through all the ways to improve physical health and maintain it, in the 21st Century! It takes more than the average person’s knowledge of the five basic food groups, 8 hours of sleep and a regular, carefully selected exercise routine.
Science is unearthing ever finer distinctions in each of these categories, from the necessity for micro-nutrients to the benefits of intermittent fasting, while non-scientific, but influential outliers claim we only need 4 hours of sleep given certain cultivated states of mind. The full spectrum of exercise advice from aerobic, anaerobic, weight training, HIIT, Pilates, yoga etc adds to the buffet of choices (or is that confusion) and so on and on we go!
In the same vein, when our health takes a bad turn, there are as many healing modalities – outside of mainstream Western medicine – to turn to.
It is easy therefore, to simply see Qigong in general, as another quirky, fringe, placebo practice, which may or may not make one feel good, but for the rest, who knows and why bother?
Without a doubt, it appeals to some without too much research, as surely as yoga, jogging or swimming do, but it is worth bearing in mind that according to Encycolpedia.com:
- Upwards of 60 million Chinese people practice Qigong daily and it was the mainstay of Chinese traditional health practice for thousands of years, long before Western scientific medicine arrived there.
- It is still commonly prescribed as part of traditional Chinese medicine for various conditions.
- It was initially a secretive practice by monks and spiritual adepts in China and Japan between 5 000 – 7 000 years ago, but spread throughout their nations in more recent times.
- It was only recently brought to the West (only in 1990 did Berkeley, California host the First International Congress of Qigong). Acupuncture was only ‘discovered’ by Western doctors in the 1970s and by way of comparison, the Pilates studio on nearly every street corner today, comes from the now highly regarded movement discipline created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s ~ 100 years ago. It takes time for good things to grow. And to say that another way: just because it is not yet well known in our neighbourhood, does not mean it should be shrugged off!
Claims around Physical Health Benefits of Qigong
Having said all that, what are the claims around the physical health benefits of this ancient practice:
- It is suitable for people of all ages and physical conditions: mindful, carefully executed movements means the body is exercised in a low impact, safe way and all practices can be modified for more unusual physical limitations.
- It is easy to learn, costs nothing once the methods are familiar and can be practised anywhere and anytime.
- It naturally develops greater mobility and strength: flowing movements and synchronised breathing increase oxygen and blood in all organs, joints and tissues, which brings obvious benefits to every part of the body, including regeneration and healthier function.
- The following article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3085832/ reports on research articles covering more than 6 400 participants from 13 countries. It synthesises the information in these articles, to analyse the benefits achieved in regard to bone density, cardiopulmonary conditions, fall rate and balance, quality of life, self-efficacy, patient reported outcomes (a broad category of ailments where patients subjectively described themselves as feeling better), the cluster of psychological conditions incorporating anxiety, stress and depression, immune function and inflammation. In all these categories, there were overall improvements.
This article does combine research in both Tai Chi and Qigong, however critically states:
“As noted earlier, it is not unusual for the intervention used in a study or trial to be named Tai Chi, but to actually apply a set of activities which is more a form of Qigong, that is, easy-to-learn movements that are simple and repeatable rather than the long complex sequences of traditional Tai Chi movements that can take a long time to learn. For example, many of the studies examining Tai Chi effects on balance use a modified, repetitive form of Tai Chi which is more like Qigong. Thus, while it appears that fewer studies have been conducted to test what is called Qigong, it is also clear that when a practice called Tai Chi is modified to focus, especially on balance enhancement, for example, it actually may be Tai Chi in name only.”
- No research has shown it to cause harm and more specifically, Yuan Gong, was especially created with safety in mind, with highly trained teachers prioritising the well-being of their students in every class. This relates to physical limitations and the careful stacking of competencies throughout the nine methods.
- Being a movement meditative practice, it trains the body-mind system to cultivate deeply calm and relaxed states while moving. Many people who meditate routinely declare with frustration that they feel wonderful while seated in the stillness of their meditation practice, only to be yanked into all their stress patterns as soon as their eyes open and they begin their usual daily activities. Yuan Gong goes a step further in addressing this, with clearly designed methods that focus on integrating this deep calm into everyday life. One is training from the first class one attends, how to operate in a calmer, more relaxed and centred way, in all areas of one’s life.
- This has all the benefits of reducing stress throughout our waking hours and contributing to deeper, more restful sleep at night.
Yuan Gong will not be all some people wish to practice regarding exercise, but there is sufficient evidence anecdotally and research-wise, to show that just a 20-minute daily practice, will benefit everyone, especially as life gets busier and more demanding. The extent to which the cracks have begun to show in all manner of physical ailments, is the extent to which Yuan Gong will slow down and reverse the decline of vital force in a way that only exercise may not accomplish.
For many reasons related to the integration of the mind, body and breath while practising Yuan Gong, to exclude it while only doing some form of physical exercise, is likely in time, to prove limiting.
An Open Invitation
We invite you to book a free, introductory class (using the booking section of the main website), to experience how readily the body benefits from even one session. Utilise the coupon code ‘freeqi’ when you get to the checkout option of the booking process.