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If you ever find yourself in an outdoor park in Beijing around 7 or 8am, you will see people walking backwards and smacking themselves all over. Most westerners, myself included, would find this unusual. However, they are practicing an ancient Chinese art known as Qigong.
Chinese people have practiced Qigong as a form of moving meditation for more that 4000 years. On the whole, It has been rumored to help with mental focus, stress management, flexibility, and balance. It is also a n easy exercise that you can do anywhere. I can personally speak to some of these benefits.
For 10 days I decided to test the effects of Qi Gong. Everyday, I followed a youtube guided session (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ac08kMK-dyI) that walks you through the traditional moves. As a result, I can honestly say that I feel more relaxed, balanced, and aware. But don’t just take my word for it; check out the exercises below and see for yourself. It only takes 10 minutes per day.
1. Knocking on the Door of Life Qigong Twist
Stand with your arms at your side and begin to twist at your torso. After each full rotation, allow your arms to hit your body where they stop. Consequently, this slight contact activates two acupressure points to stimulate energy flow throughout the body.
2. Tiger Qigong Flow
This movement loosens the entire body while strengthening the legs. You can use it in the morning to wake up your organs and get your system moving. I found myself starting to sweat after 15 repetitions (don’t judge). Follow your inhale by raising your hands above your head. Start to drop your hands toward the ground as you exhale. Then, take your hands all the way to the ground while bending your knees in a squat position. It is hard to describe so see the video below for reference.
3. Qigong Massage
Qigong teaches that the base of the spine is a vital source of life energy. Therefore, by lightly pounding on the lumbar spine, you can release any energy that may be trapped in this area of the body. The same goes for many other areas of the body like the face as well as the arms and legs. Be sure to take a moment to stand and feel any changes in your energy after this massage. I know I felt a consistent vibration in my legs and arms.
4. Buddha Holding Up the Earth
This breathing exercise is meant to expand the lungs. Motioning up and down with your arms sets the pace for your breathing. Additionally, it also teaches you to breath with more than just your chest. This helped me to calm down after a stressful day at work. I also found that I felt a little sore in muscles that I don’t normally use to breath.
5. Embrace the Tiger Return to the Mountain Qigong Flow
Any of the flows in Tai Chi or Qigong are designed to move energy throughout the body. In fact, a founding principle behind Qigong is that energy can get trapped in certain parts of the body. When this happens, you must take measures to move this energy or it may cause physical harm. This can manifest in the form of tension or anxiety. After doing this flow for about 20 repetitions, I felt incredibly balanced and energetic but I had a sense of clarity as well.
This alternating motion is a way to bring balance to your thinking. Switching back and forth between hands takes a little bit of focus. Focusing on the movement of my right and then left hand resulted in a deeper awareness of my thoughts. After doing this exercise, I realized that I spend a lot of energy worrying about the past and future. It wasn’t until I realized this that I could begin changing my anxious reactions to these thoughts. Please reference the video for how to do this motion.
Additionally, you can find the link to a video with guided instruction on how to perform these moves in a sequence above.
Swinging arms is a very simple Qigong move that you can use to loosen your arms and back. Basically, you just swing your arms back and forth in front of your body while shifting your weight from side to side. This motion is similar to what a golfer would do when swinging a club. After doing this motion you are likely to feel blood rushing to your hands. Take a moment to recognize this feeling. Please see the video below for a demonstration. Skip ahead to 2:55 to go right to swinging arms.
Qigong is an ancient art that is well known for its positive effects on mental and physical health. This article only taps the surface of Qigong but I hope it sparks your interest and encourages you to explore this beautiful art. Altogether, it doesn’t take long to feel the benefits of this exercise as 10 minutes per day was plenty for me. Please share your experience after trying these exercises in the comments below and check out the video.
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