Stress is a powerful emotion. It can take over our minds and wreak havoc on our bodies. There are many over-the-counter and prescription medications that are used to manage stress. But what if there was a simpler solution – an ancient one? Qigong, an ancient Chinese exercise, offers just that: a relief from stress through controlled breathing and movement.
Controlled Breathing & Movement
By Julianne Hale
Although Qigong has been practiced by millions of people in China and around the world for thousands of years, it is relatively new to the United States. Lynne Forrest, a certified Level-3 Facilitator of Supreme Science Qigong, gives a simple definition of Qigong: “Qi (pronounced “chi”) is the Chinese word for energy. Gong is the word for discipline or practice. Qigong is the practice of moving energy.”
Forrest explains that the Taoists and Chinese believe that there are three kinds of Qi: internal Qi, energy that moves and operates our bodily organs; external Qi, the medium of energy in which we live; and Miraculous Qi, based on the belief that there is a Source of energy that breathes life into all of us and everything.
“Through physical alignment, Qigong allows us to align with that Source and bring it into ourselves to rejuvenate, heal and maintain the body, mind and heart,” says Forrest.
The practice of Qigong cleanses the body and strengthens the internal organs through breathing and movement. The movements are slow and fluid, but they get the body’s blood pumping. If performed correctly, Qigong is believed to be as beneficial to the cardiovascular system as a traditional aerobic workout.
Anyone can go to a local gym and get a great workout on a treadmill or elliptical machine. Why choose Qigong? While cardiovascular exercise is always beneficial, Qigong is much more than a simple exercise. According to Forrest, harnessing the power of Qigong can have a significant impact on your health.
Qigong focuses on the body as a whole and involves the regulation and regeneration of the cardiovascular/circulatory, lymphatic, digestive and nervous systems, as well as the body’s internal organs. Slow, graceful movements combined with mental concentration and relaxed breathing are used to increase and balance a person’s Qi. According to the Qigong Institute, when mind intent and breathing techniques are added to physical movement, the benefits of exercise increase exponentially – and these benefits go above and beyond strengthening the heart and keeping the arteries clear.
According to Dr. Sai Hwan Oh of the Om Integrative Medicine Center in Chattanooga, the benefits of Qigong are far-reaching. “Qigong can improve the general well-being of an individual,” says Dr. Oh. “It can help with chronic pain, as well as breathing problems such as asthma. It washes out the organs with controlled breathing and allows you to circulate the Qi through your internal organs. Qigong is a powerful stress reliever, as well.” Qigong is also known to boost the immune system, and is used to heal a wide array of diseases and conditions.
The benefits of Qigong are clear, but there is no simple explanation of the actual practice. Qigong has been around for more than 5,000 years and, as a result, many different types of Qigong have developed. All are beneficial, but each has its own nuances and focuses.
Forrest teaches Supreme Science Qigong at Nutrition World on Lee Highway in Chattanooga each Tuesday. “The Qigong that I teach incorporates food,” says Forrest. “The Chinese believe that eating foods high in Qi is better for the body. I teach people about eating raw or whole foods so that they can take in as much alive energy (Qi) as possible. Chi is what gives us life.”
Chattanooga is home to several Qigong teachers, and each offers students a way to learn this ancient Chinese exercise and enjoy its benefits.
Dr. Oh offers some tips to get started in Qigong: “It takes a little practice. Sit down, relax and concentrate on your breathing. Qigong is a sort of meditation, but you are aware of your internal organs.”
To really enjoy the benefits, Dr. Oh stresses the importance of finding a good teacher. He says he has witnessed firsthand the incredible power that an individual well-trained in the art of Qigong can harness. “I once observed a Qigong Master that actually knocked down 10 people standing in a long line without ever touching them,” he says.
Even if you don’t have any interest in this kind of telekinetic energy, it does offer a compelling testimony to the power of Qigong. If a Qigong Master can harness that kind of external energy, just imagine the health benefits a mere novice can experience with just a little practice.