If you’ve tried meditation before and failed miserably at the art of focusing on nothing but your breath for several minutes, you may want to try a moving meditation, such as Qigong (pronounced Chee-Gong). Not everybody does well with seated meditation. A one-size-fits-all approach to anything — especially diet and stress-relief — will ultimately fail a large group of people.
What is Qigong?
Perhaps the dearth of medical literature up until recently on the health benefits of Tai-Chi and Qigong are due to the theory in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that Qi (vital energy) controls the flow of blood in the body. (Tai-Chi is actually a martial-arts form of Qigong; the latter provides the foundational power for the former.)
It’s difficult for scientists and medical researchers to run tests on an invisible life force, which is what Qi is. Chinese medicine theory posits that Qi helps the body remain balanced. Qigong, which dates back at least 2,500 years and perhaps as many as 5,000, is comprised of breathing techniques and soft, gentle movements designed to strengthen Qi.
Just as yoga has several styles, so too does Qigong. These include a martial arts-style series of exercises; medical Qigong, which focuses on detoxifying breathing techniques; and more spiritually minded Qigong, which focuses on meditative techniques and setting intentions.
What are the proven health benefits of Qigong?
The health benefits of Qigong are similar to those of Tai-Chi. An Australian study published in the Annals of Oncology tracked 162 patients with a variety of cancers, and concluded that medical Qigong can improve patients’ quality of life, “mood status” and reduced specific side-effects of treatment. Qigong, the study hypothesized, may produce physical benefits in the long run by reducing inflammation.
A meta-analysis of Qigong or Tai-Chi interventions, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion also concluded that research has demonstrated “consistent, significant results for a number of health benefits” in randomized controlled trials. Blocked Qi flow can lead to disease, according to TCM. The analysis reviewed 77 published articles for the effect of Qigong or Tai-Chi in nine categories including:
- Bone density
- Cardiopulmonary effects
- Immune function
- Psychological symptoms
- Falls and related risk factors
The efficacy of this ancient discipline in maintaining the body’s homeostasis (balance) is clinically proven.
How long does it take to get good at Qigong?
Much like Tai-Chi, it can take 20 years or longer to master this art, but the benefits can be derived in a short time. The Qigong Institute says on its website that for health maintenance, Qigong practitioners do not have to be experts. Almost anyone can learn to practice Qigong to maintain or improve health. Those who should consult with a doctor to get clearance before practicing Qigong include pregnant women or those with respiratory diseases. The Qigong Institute provides a directory of teachers and therapists around the world.