Qigong -Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Self-Help System

Chinese Medicine / Female Health / Male Health

Within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) there is large emphasis placed on the importance of self-help in maintaining health and recovery from illness. Whilst the TCM Medical practitioner helps by intervening in the health recovery process, through acupuncture and herbal medicine, it is also the responsibility of the client to take charge of dietary and lifestyle issues based on the advice given by the practitioner.

However self-help within TCM goes much further than this. Qigong is the most widely used branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine used in the world today. Qigong is an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused mind intention. It might be surprising that many TCM doctors consider Qigong to be the most effective form of treatment for many conditions. For over five thousand years Qigong has been recognised in the East as the key method of disease prevention and prolonging healthy lifespan. Modern science is starting to cast a fresh eye on this most powerful branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Extensive scientific evidence is now revealing that daily practice of Qigong is the best preventative measure against acute disease as well as many chronic degenerative conditions such as AIDS and cancer.

The Chinese phrase ‘Qigong’ is made of two words, ‘Qi’ and ‘Gong’. ‘Qi’ can be interpreted as ‘Life Energy’ or ‘the breath of life’. The presence and active movement of Qi energy and force in the body distinguish the difference between a persons body when alive compared to dead. When ill, Qi in a person flows excessively or weakly through the body compared to when in good health. ‘Gong’ means ‘cultivation’ or ‘development’. When Qi is properly cultivated or managed in the body a person remains in good mental, emotional and physical health.

Qigong focuses on the management or cultivation of Life force energy for the maintenance of good health. Management of Qi is carried out by utilising special breathing techniques in combination with mental concentration exercises and still postures or slow, coordinated physical movements of different parts of the body. These keep blood flow and pressure healthy, improve efficiency of oxygen delivery as well as balance activity of the nervous, hormone, digestive and immune systems.

For many TCM practitioners, a working knowledge of Medical Qigong and a practical experience of its management of the body’s Life supporting ‘Qi’ Energy is a vital element of daily practice for themselves and their patients. Medical Qigong practitioners either show patients how to do specific exercises for themselves or perform management treatments for the patient.

What makes Qigong different from standard exercise regimes? Fundamentally standard exercise regimes do not involve the meridian system used in acupuncture nor do they emphasise the importance of adding mind intent and breathing techniques to physical movements. When these dimensions are added, the benefits of exercise increase hugely.

The gentle, rhythmic movements of Qigong reduce stress, build stamina, increase vitality, and enhance the immune system. It has also been found to improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive functions.

Those who maintain a consistent practice of Qigong find that it helps one regain a youthful vitality, maintain health even into old age and helps speed recovery from illness. Western scientific research confirms that Qigong reduces hypertension and the incidence of falling in the aged population. One of the more important long-term effects is that Qigong re-establishes the body/mind/soul connection.

Modern Western medical science recognises that the main mechanism involved in ageing and health deterioration, is the cumulative damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are destructive molecules that are produced as a by-product of the body’s metabolism. Free radicals are controlled in the body by antioxidants which act to neutralise free radicals by balancing their electric charge. Most antioxidants are either basic nutrients such as vitamins A, C and E and various minerals such as selenium. Certain enzymes are also classified as antioxidants and are specifically designed and secreted for this purpose. The most important antioxidant enzyme in the body is called Superoxide Dismutase (SOD). Scientific evidence has shown that after Qigong practice the level of SOD in the bloodstream of elderly practitioners is over double that of younger non-practitioners. This enhanced antioxidant activity scientifically verifies the claim of TCM doctors that Qigong retards the aging process and prevents degenerative illness and disease.

Qigong’s great appeal is that everyone can benefit, regardless of ability, age, belief system or life circumstances. Anyone can enrich their lives by adding Qigong to their daily routine. Children learning to channel their energy and develop increased concentration; office workers learning Qigong to reduce stress; seniors participating in gentle movements to enhance balance and their quality of life; caregivers embracing a practice to develop their ability to help others; prisons instituting Qigong programs to restore balance in inmates lives; midwives using Qigong techniques to ease childbirth.

Psycho-neuro immunological research confirms what Qigong practitioners have known for thousands of years; that the Mind can both cause and cure diseases. Healing visualisations sometimes act as a catalyst, increasing the rate of chemical reaction within the tissues. Improper Mind states, however, can lead to chemical imbalances that perpetrate the diseased condition. As the Qigong Master Zheng Zhan Ding would say, “When the spirit, like a lake, is undisturbed, it mirrors the Heavens perfectly” – meaning that when the Mind enters into stillness it allows one’s true inner nature to be revealed and healing can truly begin. It is therefore essential when learning Qigong, that a large degree of emphasis is placed on this mental aspect of Qigong.

How do you find a good Qigong instructor? Keep in mind the following criteria for choosing a qualified instructor: what is their background and experience; are they of good character; what is their knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine and do they impart that knowledge effectively. Do they teach the mental aspect of Qigong and do they live what they teach? While keeping these points in mind, remember to trust your intuition in finding an instructor who is right for you. A key test is do you enjoy the Qigong class?

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