Tag: Tai Chi for Health UK

Qigong, the essential ingredient for a healthy lifestyle

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Please be advised that it is always recommended that you consult with your GP and other healthcare specialists before starting ANY Qigong program

Qigong belongs to the great family of physical exercises designed with the purpose of cultivating and preserving the Three Treasures of the human being: the Essence, the Qi and the Shen (Mind, Spirit). By helping in preserving and cultivating these three vital aspects of the human being, Qigong is not only important in health preservation and prevention of disease, but they can also assist us in restoring our health.

The Alchemical healing arts that stemmed from the Tao many ages ago comprise a vast array of bodily movements and physical exercises designed to prevent illness but also heal. Tai Chi and Qigong are but two of them. Many schools have developed these techniques over the centuries, some schools focused on them as martial arts, some schools developed healing forms. However, they all operate with the same principles of cultivating and preserving the Three Treasures and manipulating the Qi to serve a specific purpose.

People ask me what the difference is between Tai Chi and Qigong.

Tai Chi, or Tai Chi Chuan by its full name, has roots in the martial arts, developed by the ancient monks and priests in order to counteract the long time spent in meditation. Tai Chi presents many forms and styles, some more slow and graceful, designed for training and Qi cultivation, others faster and sharper, designed for combat and self-defence. All of them work on the same principle of the integration of body and mind. By setting the focus and the intention, the warrior was able to gather and direct the Qi so that their moves could defeat their opponents.

Tai Chi became more popular in the West especially due to the martial art films and a lot of the martial artists performing these graceful moves clad in those specific uniforms. Many of them actually teach in real life as well.

Unlike other cultures, which put more emphasis on muscle mass and the size of their warriors, the ancient Asian cultures focused on creating warriors that were quick, agile and with a sharp mind. Their skills were developed from their ability to preserve, cultivate and direct their Qi. One of the contemporary examples is Bruce Lee, who did not have a large muscle mass, yet he mastered the Qi so that he could conjure such strength and power that could defeat any opponent, irrespective of their size. He actually created his own martial art system but also educated people in the ancient art of Qi cultivation.

As a form of Qi cultivation, Tai Chi is performed in slow motion, paying attention to the flow of the Qi in the body and mind, very similar to Qigong.

Tai Chi is a bit more dynamic, the hands coordinate with the feet when moving and require a bit more room to practice.

Qigong is more static, meaning one does not require as much room to move as in the case of Tai Chi, which makes it ideal for people confined in small areas or with limited mobility.

Qigong has been designed from the beginning with health and healing in mind. Many martial art practitioners will also engage into Qigong or other forms of Qi manipulation, in order to perfect their combat techniques, but also to speed up the healing processes and have a better control over the body, mind and emotions when operating with the Qi.

Qigong moves are slow paced and the focus of the practitioner is on the Qi that is being gathered from the Qi of the Universe and its Elements. Much like a mindful gardener, the Qigong practitioner uses the physical movements to cultivate their beautiful garden. They bend down or forward to water the plants and work the soil, they stretch their arms and hands to harvest the fruits up in the trees, they walk in a circle around the shrubs to trim them down, they contemplate the garden and give thanks to the Universe for all the beauty and nourishment that grows within it. The gardener knows nature can’t be rushed. The garden is part of the gardener and the gardener could not exist without the garden. They are one, not two.

Qigong is the most natural way to move and one of the most beneficial. It encourages the practitioner to use their own level of comfort and mobility to execute the moves. Throughout the practice, the natural breathing is encouraged. The movements open up the chest and abdominal cavity in a natural way, so that the breathing becomes deeper and healthier. Everything is natural and designed to re-set the body and mind to the factory settings. People actually develop better balance, reflexes and coordination after just a few months of constant practice.

To the beginner, the movements may even seem simplistic, sometimes too slow for someone used to hit the gym, sweat and pant for an hour. Yet, professional athletes practiced both Tai Chi and Qigong and declared that they felt more muscles being involved in the moves than during their regular training practices and some actually woke up with sore muscles the following day!

Some benefits of Qigong exercises:

  1. Health preservation and restoration. The moves engage the entire being: mind, body and breathing. The movements have been created to activate the Qi along the meridians and move this Qi in a certain way so that balance is restored. A good Qi means there’s enough energy in the body to perform its daily activities, the mind is bright and clear and the breathing is deep and nourishing. Because the moves are meant to restore balance, this means that they also contribute to an optimal digestion and optimal function of all the internal organs and their systems.
  2. Pain reduction. From the Chinese medicine point of view, Qigong enables the free flow of Qi, Blood and Body Fluids. The moves are especially designed to follow the natural flow of Qi along the meridians and collaterals, thus restoring the healthy flow of Qi and the elimination of stagnant energy and pain. A good flow of Qi also leads to a good flow of Blood and Body Fluids, which nourish the muscles and the joints, which means less pain and stiffness and more mobility.
  3. A clear mind. Because the mind is present and aware of every move the body makes and it focuses on the breathing at the same time, these practices are in fact moving mindfulness. They makes you aware of your body and breathing in the present moment, helping you control the mind from wandering off. This calms the mind and helps you think more clearly. Plus, by releasing the tense shoulders and neck, the Qi will be able to flow freely and send more Blood to the Brain.
  4. Stress reduction. The classes do not measure progress in any way. All the participants are there to enjoy themselves while moving within their own range of mobility and comfort, including the instructors. Most of the instructors actually became instructors after learning these healing arts to heal themselves, they may still be suffering with life-long or debilitating conditions, yet they teach others. Anybody can practice Qigong. This contributes to a very a relaxed state of mind. And there’s lots of laughter in many of those classes.
  5. Weight management. Because Qigong helps restore the balance, it can also affect the weight. However, one must take into account that other changes must be made, especially in the nutrition and lifestyle, especially in restoring proper sleep and mental hygiene. It also depends on one’s constitutional traits. Qigong can basically help one become the best and healthiest version of themselves, taking into account everyone’s individual characteristics.
  6. Strong immunity. One of the main Qigong features is that it teaches the practitioners how to breathe proper. Sitting down forces the body to perform shallow breathing, from the upper chest, while the rest of the body is immobile. This means that very little fresh Qi and Blood will reach those areas, leading to illness. A strong immunity depends on deep breathing, as well as a stress-free mind and a relaxed, flexible body. Qigong exercises and moves incorporate all these in each form.

Please note that these are potential benefits of Qigong found in the literature. Please do not stop your regular exercises or medication prescribed by physiotherapists or medical doctors. Qigong is not a substitute for any form of treatment. Please consult your physician before starting the exercises and follow the guidelines of qualified and fully trained Qigong instructors.

There are very few contraindications for practicing Qigong. Certain moves or techniques might be contraindicated in pregnant women. Usually, as long as one uses common sense and does not perform any moves beyond their capabilities, Qigong is considered to be safe.

People under the influence of alcohol or drugs should not practice. Also, if you are ill, very weak, with a high fever or otherwise unwell, you should refrain from practicing.

Make sure you wear loose, comfortable clothing, comfortable, flexible shoes that prevent you from slipping, you wash your hands before the session, and the room is well ventilated and warm enough (not too hot or too cold).

It is advisable to have a light meal before the sessions, or if it’s a copious meal, make sure you don’t practice for two hours after you’ve eaten. It is also recommended you do not drink any cold drinks or alcohol.

You are solely responsible for ensuring your own personal safety in the training area. Please make sure there are no object you can trip over or you can hit with your arms or legs. For safety reasons, please do not share your learning outcomes with other people, unless you are a qualified Qigong instructor.

If you are interested in joining any of my online classes, please drop me a line using the Contact Form page.

Private one-to-one sessions also available.

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