Imagine something between an art and a science that anyone can do no matter their condition, even chair bound, that's is scientifically proven to reduce stress and relieve chronic pain - yes it's true. It's called qigong which translates as
chi = energy
gong = work
Around the world, it's referred to as the Chinese origin known as dao yin which translates to guiding energy. And you may see it pronounced and/or spelled differently: chi gong, qi kung. Either way you, it's still pronounced like chee - gong. Sounding somewhat the stuff of legends this practice is how ninjas and samurai practiced mastering their breathing, body, and mind for thousands of years.
Qigong is moving with the breath and allowing the breath to dictate the speed of your movement. It's a gentle, flowing exercise moving the body a number of times in repetitive movements. Qigong comes from the Daoists over 3,000 years ago who are known for bringing the concept of yin & yang and acupuncture to the world.
I incorporate qigong while teaching my zen yoga classes as this was an important part of my training. The reason why I think this is so important is that many problems in life, including chronic pain, are caused by a lack of mental clarity which can be from anything like replaying situations in your mind, negative thought patterns, worrying and negative self-talk. These thoughts cloud the mind and cloud the ability to see a more broad and different perspective. As these things tend to fester they cause people stress which means breathing in the upper chest so a lack of oxygen through the body, poor quality of sleep affects a workday and your relationships. The knock-on effect of what happens in the mind is huge but so many people say, "oh my knee/back/neck/shoulder hurts" and they don't know the link between inflammation, chronic stress and chronic pain. I certainly didn't.
Here's an important study from Ohio State University linking loss of sleep and marital stress to inflammation. “This type of inflammation is associated with higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and other chronic illnesses,” says Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research. We really take for granted how our thoughts and emotions affect our physical bodies and I'm speaking from experience. All of this information for me, falls under "the things I wish I knew when I was younger!"
Most people shallow breathe which is breathing in the upper chest. Ask anyone you know to show you how to take a deep breath and, more than likely, they will move the chest and shoulders up when breathing in. This is an ineffective and unhealthy way to breathe. We need to bring the breath down into the belly (ok it doesn't go to the belly exactly) to breathe diaphragmatically like in this video here demonstrating how to reduce the stress effect. So how does this tie into qigong, by practicing regularly, the body takes in more oxygen nourishing the blood, brain and body which reduces stress. "Deep, slow breathing is the oldest and best-known technique to decrease stress" according to Harvard Medical School. We can stop choosing stress over truly helping our physical bodies. Over 20 years of research in this field and time and time again it's proven that when we calm our bodies, our minds follow.
Qigong isn't complicated though there is a right and a wrong way to do it. Many people go too fast which means you're likely not taking full slow breaths. We want to take good full breaths and empty the lungs with each exhale. In the basic qigong sequence that we do in my zen yoga or mindfulness classes, we take a moment after the practice to feel the energy in the body by holding the hands close to each other but not touching to notice the sensations between the hands. People describe this as a heat, magnets between their hands and tingling while children often describe this as ‘the force.’ The first time for me, I felt nothing and thought people sounded a bit crazy saying they felt magnets between their hands when I felt absolutely nothing! I didn’t get it - though with practice I suddenly started saying "wow this is so weird!. I got it." I could feel that my body doesn't just end where I see it end. The heat (energy) coming off my hands is doing something and I've got more power than I ever knew! What a revelation!
For me, initially I never knew about energy or energy healing in this way. And maybe it's my Catholic upbringing but looking back it felt like 'well if ya can't see it then how is it real?!' What I do know now is that taking the time for myself, no matter how packed the kids' and our schedules are, I'm a better Mom, a happier wife and I can recognise that I can control my outlook, mood and my day! Start with me here and message me to tell me how it goes. I look forward to it.