What is qigong?

We’re all pretty familiar with some Eastern practices – yoga, meditation and tai chi to name just a few – but what is qigong?

This ancient practice is one that’s increasing in popularity. It’s a deeply relaxing form of movement and is proving to be a wonderful antidote to modern life. With an emphasis on engaging the breath and focussing the mind, it encourages us to live in the present moment and not let our thoughts run away with us.

But just what exactly is qigong? And who is it best suited to? We chat to qigong master, Katie Brindle, who explains the benefits of this healing practice and why you should get started.

What is qigong? 

Qigong has roots that date back to around 10,000 years ago, where it was created as a dynamic meditation to allow Taoist masters to keep their muscles relaxed, supple and strong. It’s considered to be a form of internal exercise, using a combination of slow, considered movements that require mental focus and engagement with the breath.

The idea is that qigong promotes self-healing. It helps qi (an energy that’s also sometimes known as prana, or the life force) to flow freely around the body. You might be familiar with this concept if you’ve practised tai chi or martial arts before – you’ll probably even recognise many of the relaxed, flowing movements of qigong too. Qigong forms the basis of all martial arts, and trainees study it before learning how to fight.

What are the benefits of qigong?

Chinese medicine uses qigong for three main purposes: as a healing tool, as training for a martial art and to elevate the spirit.

In modern terms, it leaves you feeling rejuvenated and more energetic. It’s also deeply relaxing and has been shown to lower the heart rate, blood pressure and relieve pain. There’s thought that it may help to support the immune system, too.

We often think of exercise as a tool to help us improve how we look, or improve the health of our heart and lungs. Chinese medicine says that, while aerobic exercise does work those organs, it simultaneously taxes them too.

Qigong aims to work the muscles and nourish the organs without straining them. It boosts your oxygen uptake and circulation while your body is relaxed. This builds your capacity to store and generate your reserves of qi, or life energy.

Who is qigong suitable for?

In a word, everyone! According to Chinese medicine, your organs control the entire health of your body. This includes, among other things, your muscles, fascia, bones, body fat and any tendency towards weight imbalance. Look after your organs and you’ll see a knock-on positive effect on all of your health.

Qigong will give you stamina without stress, tone without pain. As you do the exercises, you’re balancing the whole body and, because they’re so gentle, they suit people of all ages, as well as those who are recovering from illness. 

How can I start qigong?

Following my live feeds on Instagram @katie_brindle is a great way to get started. I do a qigong practice every morning at 8am and a wise elders qigong live feed (for anyone older or with health issues). 

Are there any reasons why qigong might not be suitable for me?

Qigong really is suitable for everyone, you can even do a form of it if you’re bed bound. As with any new exercise, ask your GP before you start if you have any concerns.

Start gently and go at your own pace. Everyone needs movement – there is a great Chinese proverb that sums this up: ‘Flowing water never stagnates, and the hinges of an active door never rust. If the body does not move, essence does not flow. When essence does not flow, energy stagnates.’

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