WHAT IS QI GONG?
Qi Gong is a traditional Chinese gymnastics and breathing science based on the knowledge and control of vital energy and combines slow movements, breathing exercises and concentration. The term literally means “qi exercise (gong)”, or “control of life energy”.
Many Eastern medicinal practices are developing strongly in Europe – including acupuncture, meditation, Ayurveda and yoga – so it is very likely that Qi Gong and Tai Chi will follow the same path and continue to develop in Europe.
RESEARCH ON QI GONG.
Chinese practitioners have known about the benefits of Qi Gong for centuries, but now Western scientific research is taking a close look at it, and confirming that Qi Gong can help prevent and manage many health problems. This ancient practice is particularly beneficial for the elderly and people who are chronically stressed.
In 2010, a meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that – after reviewing 77 articles on Qi Gong – there were many significant benefits associated with this practice.
These benefits included: improved bone density, beneficial effects on the cardiopulmonary system, improved physical condition, reduced falls for older adults (and associated risk factors), improved quality of life, improved psychological status and improved immune function.
MORE ABOUT QI GONG.
Some experts estimate that there are over 3000 different styles of Qi Gong today.
Tai Chi and some forms of Qi Gong are believed to be one of the secrets of people living in the blue zones. Today, holistic practitioners promote Qi Gong for its proven benefits in reducing stress, as well as its ability to improve flexibility and focus.
Qi Gong involves gentle movements that are synchronized with breathing in and out, making it similar to yoga in that it is a powerful holistic practice for the body and mind.
Qi Gong is considered a form of exercise, but it is also a mental “skill” that must be mastered over time with practice. Science confirms that Qi Gong improves energy, promotes inner peace, develops strength, improves sleep quality and vitality.
Regardless of the style of Qi Gong, all types usually share several key characteristics:
They involve specific body positions or exercises that are both flowing and stationary.
The movements are linked to the breath.
Qi Gong requires no equipment, can be performed anywhere, and can be tailored to a person’s needs based on their goals and physical abilities. This makes it a good exercise choice for almost anyone looking to improve their range of motion and relaxation.
THE BENEFITS OF QI GONG:
1. QI GONG LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE AND IMPROVES HEART HEALTH.
It is said that the movements associated with Qi Gong and Tai Chi help to stimulate the natural energy, called qi (chi).
Many Tai Chi practitioners report a feeling of warmth and energy after their practice. In Western science, this idea is embodied in Qi Gong’s ability to improve blood circulation and lymphatic drainage.
Qi Gong can certainly vary in terms of intensity, which means that it affects the cardiovascular system differently depending on the style. Some practices involve slow, steady, deep and smooth movements. This helps to calm the heart. A more vigorous practice will increase the heart rate, making you sweat while providing a low to moderate aerobic intensity during the workout.
Scientific research results indicate that Qi Gong practice has significantly lowered blood pressure in active subjects. Measurements taken at the beginning and at the end of the experiments indicate that their average systolic pressure went from 152 mmHg to 137.3 mmHg, and their average diastolic pressure from 97.2 mmHg to 83.6 mmHg. In the control group, these data remained stable throughout the trial, at about 150 mmHg systolic pressure and about 95 mmHg diastolic pressure.
In addition, the patients in the Qi Gong group developed higher self-esteem during this period and a more positive attitude about their ability to control their blood pressure.
The study authors point out that high blood pressure is a recognized risk factor for cardiovascular disorders, including myocardial infarction, stroke and kidney failure. They note that non-drug treatments for high blood pressure have the advantage of not causing the adverse effects associated with synthetic antihypertensive drugs.
2. QI GONG REDUCES THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF STRESS
A 2014 review published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that Tai chi interventions have beneficial effects for various populations on psychological well-being, depression, anxiety, general stress management and self-efficacy. (source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
Another cross-over study of 10 healthy students assessed the effect of a master’s Qi release (external Qi Gong) on experienced stress, cortisol (stress-associated hormone) concentrations, and brain waves. Students alternated between participating in a 60-minute real or simulated Qi Gong session. They experienced significantly more satisfaction, calmness and relaxation with the real Qi Gong than with the simulated Qi Gong. The results also show a significant reduction in stress level indicators: lower cortisol, lower beta waves and higher alpha waves.
Because stress and digestion are closely related, Tai Chi and Qi Gong can also help with problems like gastritis and ulcers.
It is said that Qi Gong helps to restore the body/mind/spirit connection. From there, Qi Gong goes beyond what many other types of exercises can do or provide, often affecting practitioners on a deeper, emotional level. It is about a deeper spiritual development, an experienced body confidence, a greater autonomy of attention and a deeper sense of connection to others.
The link between body movements, breath and concentration make Qi Gong and yoga very similar. Both practices help improve the functions of the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms the body and mind, reduces nervousness and muscle tension, improves deep breathing and can help with relaxation and sleep problems.
3. QI GONG STRENGTHENS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Numerous in vitro and in vivo studies have examined the effect of Qi Gong on various parameters of immunity. Many have indicated that the emission of Qi by masters or regular practice of Qi Gong can have a measurable effect on the production of various immune cells, such as monocytes, lymphocytes, natural killer cells (NK cells), neutrophils, etc. Although these results are encouraging, their clinical significance is still limited. However, according to the majority of the authors, further research seems justified.
4. QI GONG IMPROVES THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF THE ELDERLY AND CANCER PATIENTS
In 2010, a research on the effects of Qi Gong was conducted with 162 cancer patients. They were divided into 2 groups: Qi Gong (15 minutes of health discussion, 45 minutes of exercise and 30 minutes of meditation, twice a week, for 10 weeks) and control group receiving usual care. The results indicated that at the end of the treatment, the quality of life, fatigue, mood and measured parameters of inflammation of the people in the Qi Gong group had improved compared to the control group.
Another study published in 2003 analyzed the effect of Qi emission on anxiety, fatigue, depression, pain and blood pressure in 94 elderly people. The participants were randomly separated into 2 equal groups. Those in the first group received a 10-minute Qi emission. In the other group, the master applied the same procedure, but without Qi emission. In the Qi Gong group, only the level of anxiety reported by the subjects decreased significantly compared to the placebo group, although the other parameters also decreased slightly (depression, fatigue, pain and blood pressure).