August 10, 2020
You may have seen people practicing their Qi Gong or Tai Chi forms in the Bay Area’s many parks. Often older generations of Chinese Americans swear by the practice for their joint health and overall well-being. So what is this ancient practice and how could it benefit you?
Qi Gong is a form of meditative movement like the asana practice of yoga. The sequences are often more gentle than modern yoga but the basic principle is the same: breath, body, and mind united in a pose or movement. Of the Chinese movement practices, Qi Gong is known as the more meditative branch, while Tai Chi has more of a martial affiliation. They have overlapping forms and sequences and are often referred to interchangeably.
We know the benefits of meditative practices: enhanced emotional regulation & decreased anxiety, lower blood pressure, and lower cortisol levels. For so many of us, sitting meditation is a barrier to entry to gain these benefits: it can be intimidating, uncomfortable, and challenging to begin. Moving meditation can be just as beneficial for the heart and mind, or Shen and Yi as they’re known in Chinese Medicine, and can be more palatable to our busy minds and bodies. In one meta-analysis of modern research, Qi Gong has been shown to increase white blood cell count, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve measures of depression in adults managing chronic health conditions.
Tai Chi or Qi Gong are not your typical exercise regimen. “No pain, no gain” is certainly not the motto– but it does stack up well when compared with aerobic exercise as well as resistance training for building strength, enhancing measures of bone health, and increasing cardiovascular health.
How To Get Started
Like the martial arts, there are different lineages and styles of Qi Gong. Different styles are also more appropriate for different age groups and levels of overall health and wellness. It is important to choose a practice that works for you and your body; one of our teachers at AIMC emphasizes that this practice is not about pain– as soon as there is pain in the practice, we should adjust and make our movements smaller or less intense so that the pain does not arise. Sometimes, this means that our practice should be adjusted so that we can sit or lay down.
Study Qi Gong At AIMC!
One of our teachers, Suzannah Stason, has been teaching our Qi Gong class virtually this summer and offered us a recording of one of the practices. This sequence is known as the 8 Brocades, or Ba Duan Jin. The movements are called the 8 Brocades because “after practicing the sequence, it feels like one is wearing a dress made of a rich soft, silk fabric,” according to Cicily Thomas. The movements are depicted in texts from as early as the 11th and 12th centuries and have been passed down from generation to generation of Qi Gong practitioners. It is one of the most famous and recognizable sequences and is a good place for any beginner to start or for seasoned practitioners to strengthen their practice.
If you are interested in studying with Suzannah, the 2020 Medical QiGong Certification series begins in October. All upcoming Qi Gong courses at Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine College will be taught online.