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October 5, 2018

Eight things I learned about Qigong: Continued from August 13th blog post*

*See August 13th blog post I practiced Qigong for two months. Here are eight things I learned. for the four previous things I learned about this practice.

5. Prepare to let go
2017 was a tough one. It marked the end of a relationship, the second year of a move and finally admitting to myself that I wasn’t happy working behind a desk. Then, during the last few months of the year, a blow of chronic illness quite literally brought me to my knees. For a couple long months I cobbled together all that I could to get through each day, and at night, I fell apart again and again and again. Cutting my losses, I filed for disability, packed my bags and booked a plane ticket home. As I recuperated physically, more significantly, I had to learn how to recover emotionally. Looking back I wish I’d had Qigong in my tool-belt earlier, when all this was at its height. But, as I began to practice, I learned there is always something more to let go of and Qigong can help us lighten a load we may not even realize we still carry.

Journal Entry: I remember Suzanne telling us that Qigong brings up whatever needs to be released. She also said these things will only come up when we are ready and able to release them. Well today was one of those days. It all just came welling up at the end of my practice during “shaking Qigong.” I could feel a pit in my throat and I thought to myself “shoot, not this again.” Because the truth is, I’m tired of perseverating about the “what ifs,” wondering if I could have sucked it up or been stronger. I’m ready to let go of “not fair” because it doesn’t exist, and I’m ready to move on. But, they say, the only way out is through, so I kept up my shaking. And when it was all too much, I sat down on my yoga mat and cried. In the midst of it all, something got released. Afterwards I felt grateful. Grateful to watch yet another layer sluff up and off, settling neatly back into its place in the earth, becoming the stuff of growth.

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6. It gets us back to the ever elusive present moment
On a foggy summer day about midway through the semester, our Qigong class, the majority of us wilting from impending midterms, was tasked with learning the eight brocades.7 One of my classmates was having a particularly tough day, and I heard our teacher Suzanne voice a gentle reminder: “Look around this room! There is so much to be present for.” All too often we fail to experience the joy of living today’s day because we’re ruminating about the past or preoccupied with the future. Qigong has this wonderful way of teleporting us back to the here and now. By concentrating on our breath and our movements, we save ourselves the hassle of dwelling anywhere but the present.

Journal Entry: Crawling into bed after a long day, I can already feel the anticipation of the week creeping in. I’m actually really looking forward to it, in fact, so much so that I can feel a tiny bubble of anxiety welling up inside. Classes to attend, people I haven’t seen since the move, the itch to be doing other things instead of homework. These are just a few things, and I could really make an endless list. So instead of finding a distraction by reaching for my phone to flip through snippets of someone else’s weekend or thinking about the boxes I still have yet to unpack, I’ll choose to do some Qigong and crawl into bed, get all comfy, marvel at the simple luxury of my pillows and blankets, and breathe. Deeply.

7. It ignites the wildfire of self-care

I don’t really have a specific journal to back up this one, but it’s worth mentioning that I’ve noticed

how Qigong inspires other positive routines in my life. When I practice Qigong, it’s as if I’ve been bit by a contagious bug of self-care. It’s an excuse for me to build in more time to do yoga (a lot of times I do a short flow before Qigong), and I find it sets the stage for me to do other pleasant things that I often forget to do, like eating without distractions, reading things that aren’t textbooks, or detouring to appreciate a field of sunflowers. Qigong is a simple way to inspire us to kick back into our better habits. All we need is to unearth a little motivation to get out and do it.

8. Share it!
Like most things in life, Qigong is better when shared. I’ve enjoyed some powerful practices with classmates, friends and family. Doing Qigong with other people is a great way to shore up motivation and accountability in your practice. Set up a Qigong date; I know that when someone is counting on me to share a practice it inspires me to show up when I’m feeling flaky or flat. It’s an opportunity to impart the benefits of this practice to others. Visibly seeing the tension melt off a loved one’s shoulders or hearing them say it gives them relief from their achy back is a pretty sweet feeling and can amplify the benefits of your practice. Make it a ripple effect!

Journal Entry: I had the chance to do Qigong with my family tonight. We were all pretty beat coming off the end of a long week, and to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have found the motivation to do it by myself. We stood in a circle and did a sequence or two. One of the movements is called “ten dragons running through the forest” where you run your fingers through your hair as a scalp massage. We joked about how my dad’s dragons would have a few less trees to run through. It was really nice to have company tonight. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to share this practice.

My Qigong practice is just beginning, and I’ve already been amazed at how this subtle practice can be so very impactful. Dive in, explore and see where Qigong might take you!

Don’t know where to start or want to learn more? Check out this book Heal Yourself with Qigong by Qigong master Suzanne Friedman.

Erin Stewart
I found my way to the profession of Traditional Chinese Medicine out of a desire to provide clinical care that is integrative, affordable and rooted in prevention. This medicine has been deeply influential in supporting my own health and vitality, and I’m thrilled to be taking the next steps to be able to share this medicine with my community. I’m currently a candidate for a Master’s in Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture at the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College in Berkeley, California. When I’m not studying acupuncture, I find great joy in waking up in a tent, Farmer’s Market “retail therapy” and a good powder day up in the mountains.



1. Zhang YH, Rose K. A Brief History of Qi. Boston: Paradigm Publications; 2003.
2. LingGuiQigong. Activating your lymphatic system [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR_mzAkqARk. Published August 5, 2014. Accessed July 27, 2018.
3. Jahnke R. Physiological Effects of Qigong. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/fadc/a1b560a22d87c7ee8b071c986d37311e0acb.pdf.
4. Qigong Breath Work: Wuji Posture. China Hand Kung Fu. http://www.chinahand.com/chikung/chikung2.htm. Accessed July 27, 2018.
5. Holden L. Dan Tian Breathing: Connecting to the Center. Acufinder.com . https://www.acufinder.com/Acupuncture+Information/Detail/Dan+Tian+Breathing+Connecting+to+the+Center. Accessed July 27, 2018.
6. 禪武醫學會. Natural Dan Tian Breathing [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3K-0JpiJu-o. Published October 17, 2013. Accessed July 27, 2018.
7. Mimi Kuo-Deemer. 8 Brocades Qigong practice [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3K-0JpiJu-o. Published October 19, 2014. Accessed July 27, 2018.

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