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We could all use a little something to reduce our stress levels every now and then. Here are the basics on qigong, a classic form of spiritual centering!
By: Chloe Persichetti
We’ve all seen them. You know who I’m talking about: the lone person in the park, winding their arms and body slowly in what appears to be a mystical dance mixed with some sort of martial arts. They always seem unbothered and in their own world as their legs float about and their arms rhythmically sway. Ever wonder exactly what it is that they’re doing?
Those slow, methodic movements are really an ancient Chinese practice. A surge of interest in the art has made its way to America. The magic of this practice is rooted in the participant’s deep understanding and repetition of body movements that are all connected through their breathing. Though the name of the practice might change, the heart of it remains the same: to help the body and mind in a positive way. This is the art of qigong.
With a ridiculous amount of quick and trendy de-stressing methods at your disposal, it can be difficult to sift through the muck to discover a true method of reducing stress and regaining a sense of relief. You’re in luck, because a method with centuries of use to back it up has just come into your life. If you haven’t heard of the ancient practice until now, qigong (pronounced chee-gong) has proven itself to be highly effective over the years. It consists primarily of slow movements that sync with the flow of your breath, helping to center your body and leave you feeling especially balanced.
Qi means energy, while Gong means a skill grown in practice. This Chinese mind and body exercise takes the participant on a trip back in time, as they practice the same movements that have been around for ages and closely resemble Tai Chi. These timeless movements all have a purpose and meaning, and they allow you to walk away with a freshened outlook on the rest of the day.
As we learn to function in a time of intense social distancing, finding new ways to relax on a daily basis is essential. This could be the perfect addition to your daily routine! There are no props or required articles of clothing for this practice – just yourself and the perspective you bring to the long-time art form. What would you do if you could be more centered throughout the day? How do you think your daily outlook would change?
In a time where we are asked to always be “on,” whether it be for overtime work calls or social media, our mind can take something of a beating. Working through these meditative motions could ease you into a more serene headspace. It’s easy to feel forgetful and disorganized when you’re under large amounts of stress. Getting our bodies moving in a controlled way can alleviate those symptoms and get us back on track with our true selves. Qigong has many health benefits, and it might be just what you need while you’re staying at home. In general, trying new things and shaking up your normal routine can be great for your mental health as well. Taking time outside your mind and getting into the qigong flow is going to spiritually transport you far away from your home for a needed break. Who knows, maybe this will be your next hobby!
Think about it, this may be a perfect addition to your daily routine. You have an abundance of time to try it out with no one around to judge. The wisdom and peace of mind that you gain from qigong can transfer into other areas in your life as well. Let’s say you love spending time in the mountains and actively participate in skiing or snowboarding. While on the slopes, the movement of your body can bring you back to what qigong taught you and thereby instill a peace in your mind, giving you the ability to think clearly and achieve the best runs possible.
According to the National Qigong Association, “Qigong can be described as a mind-body-spirit practice that improves one’s mental and physical health by integrating posture, movement, breathing technique, self-massage, sound, and focused intent.” These fluid movements can target various aspects of the mind and body. Comparatively, zoning in on your breath can help you release stressful thoughts, leaving you focused solely on the task at hand.
Qigong is an essential tool when looking to achieve a greater sense of calmness. It can act as a form of teleportation, sending you out of your home and into a realm of pure relaxation. In addition to being a form of mental relief, the low impact exercise can strengthen joints and align the body back to its normal state.
Breathing is a central part of this practice. “Qigong opens the flow of energy in meridians used in acupuncture and Chinese medicine,” says the National Qigong Association. “It enhances our ability to feel the Life Force underlying the physical world and to deepen our communication with it.”
Qigong has been practiced for over 4,000 years, even through the Chinese Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong in the 1960’s and 70’s. After Mao’s death, there was a resurgence for the practice, and now, an estimated 60 million people practice qigong in China alone. As we’ve talked about before in Wellness Wednesday posts, breath work is important. Breathing deeply allows us to better connect to the universe.
Unplanned changes are bound to arise in your life. By changing the way you breathe, qigong can help you achieve a better headspace in no time at all. This tried and true practice has been perfected over the centuries to provide the ideal energy-harnessing experience – all while helping you burn some calories, which we certainly won’t complain about. In fact, there are said to be multiple other benefits to practicing the art of qigong, such as improved mental functionality. When you connect to the energy within your body, you can gain a level of mental focus and clarity that you never thought possible. The world we live in is fast, but that doesn’t mean our thoughts and heart rates have to be! Dedicating time to calming your mind, body and soul can save the wiring of your brain from being damaged by stress, and it could even change your outlook on life.
The mind can go on long tangents, winding down chaotic and creative paths. The noise and confusion that you encounter daily don’t do anything to help, leaving you feeling like you’re fighting an uphill battle. Thankfully, we all can quiet our minds; all it takes is a little practice to gain a stronger sense of relaxation. For some it’s painting, for others it’s organizing; for you, it could be qigong.
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