Qi gong is the ancient Chinese art of relaxing, rejuvenating and healing the body and the mind. It consists of exercises that boost the flow of qi (pronounced chee), the universal life force within the body.
According to the principles of Chinese medicine, qi flows through the body along channels called meridians. As long as this flow is smooth, the body remains healthy. But any blockage or imbalance of qi quickly results in illness.
To learn more about qi gong and how to use it in our own lives, we spoke to Dr. Simon Wang, who has received a standard Western medical education, but has spent years studying and using qi gong. No one knows exactly how qi gong works. My own hunch is that it affects the release of hormones in the body.
I could relate countless anecdotes about the effectiveness of qi gong. My 66-year-old father, for instance, has practiced it for years and he never even gets a cold. But qigong has also been shown to be effective in many clinical studies…
- In a controlled study at the Shanghai Hypertension Research Institute, subjects showed improved cerebral blood flow after 12 months of qi gong training. Headaches, high blood pressure and several other ailments are associated with reduced blood flow in the brain. The same study showed reduced levels of blood lactate after qi gong training suggesting a beneficial reduction in metabolic rate.
- Studies conducted at the Traditional Medical College in Beijing showed that people taught qi gong experienced a marked rise in alpha brain waves. Alpha waves are associated with a calm, alert state.
- A study of68 AIDS patients in San Francisco showed that two months of qi gong training brought a 13% to 22% rise in the number of infection-fighting white blood cells.
How to practice qi gong
There are numerous kinds of qi gong. All include operating the flow of qi via meditation, breathing exercises as well as self-massage.
Qi gong can be accomplished while standing, sitting or even lying down. It can be done anywhere you can find a little peace and quiet at home or at work or even while traveling.
Weather permitting, it’s best to do qi gong outdoors. The flow of qi is stimulated by fresh air and close proximity to plants.
Qi gong works best if done every day, on a lifelong basis. Devote 20 minutes or so each morning to learning qi gong, and within two months you should feel calmer and more refreshed.
Here is my daily routine. I do it every morning, immediately upon waking…
Relaxing your mind
Lie in bed or sit cross-legged on a bed or the floor. Relax. Concentrate on breathing naturally for a minute or two.
Next, concentrate on “guiding” qi to an area deep within your brain, just behind your forehead. Imagine this “qi cavity” glowing with red or yellow light or imagine that it’s filled with ocean waves, a green meadow or another natural scene.
Concentrate on these images for five minutes. Gradually, a sense of calm will wash over you.
Rubbing your hands
Now activate the qi cavities in your hands. Shift your focus from your head to your palms. Gently rub your palms together for a minute or two. Then use one palm to rub the back of the other hand for another couple of minutes.
Reverse hands and repeat, breathing naturally throughout.
Rubbing your arms
Continue focusing on your palms. Close your eyes, and run your left palm up the outside of your right arm, from the wrist to the top of your right shoulder. Rotate your right arm outward, and run your left palm all the way down the inside of your right arm.
Do this 20 times, then switch arms and repeat.
Bathing your face
Close your eyes. Gently press the tip of your tongue against the back of your upper teeth. Cover your face with your palms, with your fingers pointing upward. Using both hands, rub your face from forehead to chin. Then rub it again from chin to forehead. Repeat 20 times, until your hands and face feel warm.
Rubbing your chest
Use your right palm to rub from the top of the right side of your chest, down and across your body to the lower portion of the left side of your chest.
Then take your left palm and rub from your upper left chest down and across to your lower right chest. Repeat 20 times, concentrating on the center of your palms.
Rubbing dan tian
Close your eyes. Using your right palm, rub your abdomen, just below the navel, in a tight, circular pattern. Repeat 20 times.
The lower abdomen contains the Dan Tian point, one ofthe most important of all qi cavities.
Yong Quan is a qi cavity in the center of the sole of each foot.
Place the fingers of your left hand against the bottom of your right foot at the point where the arch meets the ball of the foot. Rub rapidly in a circular motion 20 times, concentrating on the Yong Quan point. Then switch to your right hand and left foot, and repeat.