Getting fit by traditional methods such as martial arts, kung fu, etc has its own set of perks. It not only makes your body more agile but also improves concentration power, mental alertness and coordination. Qigong is an ancient Chinese healing technique that dates back to more than 4,000 years is now gaining popularity amongst fitness entusiasts who don’t want to be restricted to the gym. Qigong (pronounced ‘chee-gong’) is made up of two Chinese words. Qi is usually translated to mean the life force or vital energy that flows through all things in the universe. Gong means accomplishment, or a skill that is cultivated through steady practice. Together, the two words mean cultivating energy to maintain health and increase vitality.
The practice involves a series of exercises and postures, such as slow, circular movements, all while employing regulated breathing, focused meditation, and some self-massage.
Qigong has many varied forms, with some styles being extremely gentle while others have the more vigorous vibe of kung fu. One of its most basic forms is Baduanjin qigong with eight movements, often called the Eight Brocades.
Benefits of qigong
While large-scale studies are mostly lacking, qigong is believed to relax the mind, muscles, tendons, joints, and inner organs — helping to improve circulation, relieve stress and pain, and restore health, writes WebMD. And some research supports these claims.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Hypertension found that qigong helped lower blood pressure.
Another study published in 2007 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found the practice helped control diabetes.
Qigong is mostly gentle, but if you are older and/or have a health condition, talk to your doctor about your plans to try the practice, advises WebMD. Also, if you’re pregnant or have a joint problem, check with your physician first. And of course, talk to a qualified qigong teacher about your concerns.
How it differs from t’ai chi: Here some debate on the subject exists, with some saying that both kung fu and t’ai chi are actually forms of qigong. However, LiveScience reports that unlike the much younger t’ai chi which dates back a few hundred years, qigong has little in the form of movement based on self-defence. Rather, it takes a deeply spiritual and even paranormal approach and some forms can involve touch healing, distance healing, and even levitation. But other forms are more physical and better adopted by Western practitioners.