Transform your Health with Qigong

healthy ageing love yourself well menopause mindset self-care well-being Feb 11, 2024

I believe we are in a time where many of us are looking for more than just following a trendy diet and grinding at the gym. Many of us want more than feeling exhausted and unfulfilled and scrolling senselessly through social media. We constantly search for ideas and tips to feel well and live healthy. We are searching for deeper connections with others and ourselves. We seek things to connect our mind and body, allowing us to see into our soul. It only comes through moments of slowing down, being still and silent. But many of us are not quite ready for that. The pull to be busy and continuously moving is still so strong. Too often, it is not until we don't like what we see in the mirror, are unwell, or lose our health that we may look into holistic methods that support our health and well-being. If you feel as though you need to reconnect with yourself to manage your stress levels, reevaluate your lifestyle, live long and reduce your risk of co-morbidities as you age (the list goes on), I would like to share with you a little about a practice that I have been using to create calm in my life and to improve my health, Qigong, a system of exercises, breathing techniques, and meditations designed to harmonise your mind, body, and spirit.

 

What is Qigong? 

Qigong (pronounced "chee-gong) is an ancient practice originating in China thousands of years ago. It is a mind-body-spirit practice involving gentle, flowing movements, static postures, breath control, and mindfulness. Taoists and Buddhist monks developed Qigong to promote physical health, mental clarity, and spiritual growth. At its core, Qigong is rooted in traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and philosophy, encompassing a rich tapestry of techniques. Think of it as a dance of energy, where your movement, breath and mindfulness integrate to cultivate your body's balance and vital energy (Qi). Qigong is a fusion of 'Qi', meaning life force or vital energy, and 'Gong', denoting skill cultivated through consistent practice. The graceful and intentional movements are designed to harmonise the flow of Qi within the body and are simple, accessible and adaptable to all ages and fitness levels. The emphasis is not on exertion (although you will get your heart rate up!) but on cultivating awareness, relaxation and a deep connection with your soul. 

I like to think of Qigong as a small band of instruments - physical training, active relaxation, focused attention and conscious breathing – which together create a symphony harmonising our flow of energy, allowing us to release the things we hold tightly. These things are stuck in our body and mind (some we don't even realise) that prevent us from moving forward, living true and experiencing joy. 

There is a saying, 'through Qigong practice, one will become strong as a woodcutter, flexible as a child, and calm as a sage.' This is due to the nature of Qigong movements, which are smooth and deliberate with rotations from the belly, posture changes, and weight shifts that seamlessly flow one after the other. Whether performed slowly, controlled and gently or fast and strong, the movements support relaxation, coordination, balance, strength, flexibility and health.

Edmund Jacobsen, the creator of the Progressive Muscle Relaxation technique, stated, 'An anxious mind cannot exist in a relaxed body.' Do you agree? I do! In an anxious state, you can feel the tension in your body, but simply stopping and taking a breath, giving your mind a moment to clear, instantly changes your physiology; shoulders can drop, and your jaw releases its clench. Through active relaxation, Qigong allows our entire body weight to sink into the earth, releasing all unnecessary tension not involved with the movements.

Qigong keeps us present, focusing on body movements, positions and breathing. It also allows us to check in with how our body feels, an awareness in the moment to connect our mind and body. When we are busy throughout our days, it is rare to stop and listen to our bodies; Qigong offers space for that. It is a meditative movement of sorts, offering moments to calm the mind and allow our body to express what it is feeling, allowing us to take preventative and corrective action for better health.

Controlled breathing can change our state of mind, and Qigong takes us to a place to breathe with consciousness, aware of the belly's rise and fall. Breathing deeply from the middle in place of the shallow, sharp breaths where our chest rises and falls and synchronising movements with the breath creates an environment for better digestion, self-healing, lowering cortisol levels, reducing high blood pressure, anxious feelings and other health complaints.

 

Health Benefits of Qigong

There is an emerging body of scientific evidence in support of the psychological and physiological healing benefits of Qigong. A capacity for self-healing is evoked when we become intentional in our mind-body integration. Combining self-awareness and self-correction of posture, the flow of breath and calming of the mind stimulates endogenous neurohormones (these regulate mood, stress responses and pain perception) and other natural recovery mechanisms that offer our body time and space to heal. A regular Qigong practice has been proven to support an increase in bone density in women, reduce blood pressure, offer sympathetic and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system balance and activity, support better balance, improve cognition, and Qigong has been known to help sleep quality and improve symptoms of fatigue in cancer patients. 

 

As a beginner in Qigong, here are some benefits you can expect to experience

Stress Reduction and Emotional Resilience

The gentle movements combined with deep breathing and mindfulness activate your body's natural relaxation response, helping to alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety and tension in your mind and body. Being present with your mind and body encourages a harmonious balance of emotions, improving mood and reducing depressive symptoms. Think of a Qigong practice as a sanctuary for your mind, promoting a sense of calm and supporting emotional resilience. When we lower our stress levels, we foster a clear mindset, are better at problem-solving and make decisions that align with our values, supporting us toward better health and well-being. 

Improved Balance and Posture

The deliberate and controlled nature of Qigong movements helps maintain balance and coordination, which is vital for healthy ageing. Even if we enjoy other types of exercises and movement, we are not always challenging our balance, which is one of those things that declines gradually, and we may not notice. A regular Qigong practice will help maintain personal proprioception (the body's awareness of its position in space), giving you confidence in your physical stability. A regular Qigong practice will promote the awareness of body alignment and improve posture. Good posture supports our breathing, digestion and confidence and reduces the risk of musculoskeletal issues. 

Increased Vitality and Improved Flexibility

Qigong movements aim to harmonise the flow of Qi through the body, leading to increased vitality and energy levels. The flow of Qi is promoted through gentle stretches, reducing the potential of Qi becoming stagnant in the joints, therefore promoting flexibility and reducing pain, and it has been recorded to be beneficial for individuals with arthritis or other joint-related issues.

 

"My world collapsed after I injured my knee followed by 2 years out of action I struggled mentally and physically. I came across Qigong, not knowing much about it I gave it a go sitting in a chair as could barely stand. Surprisingly, I felt some life force breathe back into me. It gave me hope." Dagmar. Qigong Practitioner and Teacher.

 

Enhanced Immune Function

A regular Qigong practice can support immune system function by reducing harmful inflammation and improving circulation. Qigong may act as an immunomodulator, suppressing immune overreaction to avoid autoimmune disease and supporting the production of our T cells (protect us from disease) and B cells (produce antibodies to help fight pathogens).

 

Personally, I have noticed an improvement in my breathing, being able to take in longer, fuller breaths. Becoming more conscious of my breathing has helped me improve my cardio program, and I am finally losing my perimenopause weight gain and experiencing a more balanced mood with less anxious feelings (that can occur with the drop in progesterone during menopause). Qigong has amplified my mindfulness, and I am more present and aware, experiencing more joyful moments throughout my days. There is a deeper awareness of my Qi, allowing me to notice imbalances and restore harmony, which has meant I have been less likely to be unwell and experience overwhelm or exhaustion. Qigong is transformative for me.

 

The key to unlocking the transformative power of Qigong lies in regular, consistent practice. As with any skill or discipline, the benefits become more pronounced with time and dedication. What constitutes a regular practice? From my research, regular practice can vary between 10 minutes daily to 30 minutes or more four times a week. Practice as often as you can is my recommendation! 

 

Embarking on the Qigong journey is both empowering and transformative. I encourage you to incorporate this ancient practice into your daily routine and experience the wide range of physical, mental, and emotional benefits that enhance your overall quality of life. Whether you're a beginner or looking to deepen your practice, I believe Qigong offers something for everyone on the path to greater well-being. I would love for you to join me in regular weekly practice in real life (if you live in my part of the world), or you can book here or through my Love Yourself Well Online Membership, you can join here.

 

 

As always, remember when you fall in love with yourself, everything else falls into place.

 

OM xx

  

Blog posts are not intended to provide medical advice or take the place of medical advice and treatment from your doctor. Readers are advised to consult their qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Ocea Marie does not take any responsibility for possible health consequences for anyone reading or following the information available on the blog. All readers, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their doctor before beginning any nutrition or supplement program.

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