By Tim E. Renzelmann (August 9, 2022)
In an article titled, “Qigong vs. Tai Chi vs. Yoga: How to Choose the Best Meditative Mobility Practice for You” by Bojana Galic, published recently (June 17, 2022) at LIVESTRONG.com, the author explains, “Tai chi, qigong and yoga are all ancient meditative practices that involve doing low-impact exercises that help strengthen your mind-body connection. Although they share similarities, they are different forms of mindful movement.”
Read the full article here: https://www.livestrong.com/article/13772683-qigong-vs-tai-chi-vs-yoga/
Although I have varying degrees of experience with all three practices, I am by no means an expert with regards to any of them. Although I enjoy them all and feel they all have many worthwhile benefits, admittedly qigong is my favorite.
The term “qigong” combines “qi,” which, (as I understand) in Chinse translates to “life energy” and “gong” which translates to “work.” Together, “qigong” is about working on your life energy!
Qigong practice can be described as a moving meditation that involves slow gentle movement with deep rhythmic breathing and a focus on mindfulness. People practice qigong throughout China and worldwide for recreation, exercise, relaxation, preventive medicine, self-healing, alternative medicine, meditation, self-discovery, training for martial arts and just because it is fun and relaxing!
My first introduction to qigong occurred about five years ago during a Tai Chi for Cancer Survivors session. As a warm-up to that practice, we were instructed on a qigong routine known as the Eight Brocades. Michael Finney, CYT, one of our more recent Tai Chi for Cancer Survivor instructors, would also use the Eight Brocades as a warm-up, which he demonstrates here: https://youtu.be/T_JifFiZJds
There was just something about the simple, slow, gentle, rhythmic and repetitive movement of qigong that I find intriguing and very relaxing. And the more I practice and explore it, the more it appeals to me. In February of this year, I challenged myself to practice qigong as many days as I could throughout the month. This allowed me to experience the practice at a deeper level. And, as I look back at my activity log since February, I notice that I have increased my qigong practice from a couple times a month to a couple times a week or more and I have begun to experience the benefits of qigong on a more consistent basis.
More than anything, I find the practice of qigong to be profoundly relaxing. There are times, while doing qigong, that I get so deeply relaxed that the world around me as well as the world within me just seems to melt away. It’s hard to explain... but I will say it is better than any runner’s high I have ever experienced. The more I practice, the deeper that relaxation becomes. And I find the gentle, often repetitive movements have improved both my flexibility and my balance as well.
Some days I may practice qigong for up to an hour, but that is the exception rather than the norm. Instead, a few minutes of qigong supplements my day as a great way to warm-up for other activities or just take a break at various times throughout the day. Just 20-minutes of qigong can be immensely beneficial!
Qigong can be done almost anywhere, inside or out. I particularly enjoy practicing Qigong outdoors – as we often do at our ST&BF POP UP-portunities where we have enjoyed it while high on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, in the shade of a tree overlooking a field filled with kites, at the foot of the North Pier surrounded by water on three sides, and at any number of peaceful locations at the Christopher Farm & Gardens!
As much as I enjoy practicing Qigong with others, I also enjoy practicing alone – at home or away. Admittedly, I am not comfortable enough (yet) to practice qigong alone and in public (foolishly thinking about what others might think) but I am hoping to overcome that insecurity soon! 😊
I typically follow along with various DVDs and YouTube videos (I will list a few of my favorite YouTube videos at the end of this article). As I have practiced more and more, I have also familiarized myself with several routines that I can practice on my own.
Although many Qigong instructors that I have been exposed to (either in-person or through various videos) refer to “feeling the qi” move through specific parts of the body, I can’t say I can relate to that. Sure, when I move my arms and hands in a certain way, for example, I can feel a tingling sensation. Is that qi, or is it simply my blood circulating? I don’t know!
However, several months ago, as I continued to explore Qigong, I purchased a DVD program titled “Essentials of Tia Chi and Qigong” by David-Dorian Ross in which he tells this story (reprinted from the course guidebook):
Nearly 2,000 years ago, a great flood ravaged China – and after the flood, a plague did the same. Concerned for the common people, a great physician named Hua Tuo traveled to the countryside to see if he could determine the cause of the epidemic.
His discovery astonished him. “People,” he later wrote, “are like water. Water that moves and flows freely is clean and healthy. But water that is stagnant breeds pestilence.”
After the flood, the peasants were homeless, with their farms destroyed and crops and fields devastated. They sat around all day, and like stagnant water, they developed disease. Hua Tuo surmised that a lethargic body affected one’s inner life source, an energy known in Chinese as “qi,” the “spirit breath.” Sluggish qi, like sluggish water, was responsible for the plague.
I can relate to this kind of “qi”!
It is my understanding of evolution that human beings evolved from simple molecules to today’s modern man. As such, I believe that before we could do the things that today make us human (before we walked on two feet, before we could use and understand language, before we could think (and before we could think about what we think about), before we could speak and tell stories, before we could love) we moved.
We are all familiar with the benefits of movement (a.k.a., exercise), but consider these consequences of NOT MOVING (physical inactivity) proposed by the American Council on Exercise:
As soon as one sits down, electrical activity shuts off in the leg muscles. Calorie burning is significantly reduced (potentially to as little as one calorie or less, depending on one's height, weight, gender, etc.) and lipase, an enzyme in the legs that assists with the breakdown of fat, dramatically and rapidly drops. After two hours of sitting, HDL (the so-called good cholesterol) levels drop by 20 percent. After 24 hours of sitting, insulin effectiveness drops 24 percent and the risk for diabetes rises. Sitting increases the risk of death up to 40 percent.
Read the full article here: https://www.acefitness.org/resources/pros/expert-articles/5282/proof-that-the-human-body-was-made-to-move/
As a lifelong fitness enthusiast, I actually “feel good” (good qi) when I keep moving and stay active and I “feel bad” (bad qi) when I cannot or choose not to move.
Admittedly, I can no longer do the things that I once did. I cannot move with the speed, pace, intensity, strength, or duration of my younger self but I do hope and plan to keep moving in gentler, more sustainable ways as I continue to age. And I suspect qigong may become a more consistent part of that movement.
If you are interested in exploring qigong, consider joining us for any of our ST&BF Qigong for Cancer Survivor sessions - in-person or virtually (see attached flyer).
Below is a list of a few qigong-related YouTube videos as well as a link to the National Qing Association’s website which includes their “Five Treasures” routine. This was one of my first introductions to qigong and it remains one of my favorites and a regular “go to” video and routine (I often bring it up on my phone and simply follow along with the narrator’s instructions).
I especially like the narrator’s closing instructions: “As you resume your other activities, take this calm, vital feeling with you in all that you do. And remember, do your best.”
National Qigong Association - Five Treasures
Lee Holden – Twenty-Minute Morning Qigong
Nick Loffree – Bioenergetic Health: Five Elements
Dr. Jeff Tarrant – NeuroMeditation Institute: Five Elements