An ancient healing system for modern times
Practitioners of allopathic medicine are welcoming the role of complementary therapies in treating patients. In a classic example of East meets West, qigong (pronounced ‘chee-gong’ and also written as ch’i kung) is one of the four pillars of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and is utilised at leading health facilities in the United States and Europe.
Case in point: New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering, a leading institute for the treatment of cancer, has included qigong in programmes offered at its Integrative Medicine Center.
While encouraging alternative and complementary healing, experts caution consumers to consult with their physician before embarking on any new health-related activity. In addition, consumers are urged to ensure that qigong instructors are certified and experienced.
Notably, there are hundreds of qigong forms, each promoting a particular speciality. For example, cancer patients and survivors primarily practise Guo Lin qigong. It follows that beginners must sift the wheat from the chaff and determine the type of qigong best suited for their condition.
It is against this haze of boundless literature on qigong that Zhou Qingjie’s 10-Minute Primer emerges as an authentic work. It offers the fundamentals of this ancient art in an easy-to-follow template that strips bare the art from all its complexities.
Qingjie, an associate professor of physical education teaching and research at Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, traces this 4,000-year-old practice to man’s natural efforts to enhance his heath. He writes, “Qigong originated from primitive man’s efforts to protect his health.
When we feel tired, we yawn, stretch or sit with our eyes closed. After a few moments, we are relaxed and more energised. Exactly such conscious and unconscious behaviours led to the formation of qigong as a means of fitness. This was the origin of qigong.”
Throughout, Qingjie emphasises the preventive quality of this art form, citing the Chinese aphorism: “ A good doctor prevents a disease rather than merely curing it.”
According to the author, the mental rewards of this practice cannot be overemphasised. He pens, “The slow, fluid qigong movements will create a feeling of calm and relaxation [with the] ability to concentrate more fully and a heightened ability to ignore distraction.”
Of the benefits of qigong to the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, Qingjie is exhaustive. “Qigong has special requirements for breathing. The breathing cycle is longer, the rhythm is slow, the scope is deep, and the breaths are even and soft. Improvement of the function of the respiratory system will have a corresponding impact on the nervous system; this in turn affects the cardiovascular system so that the contraction and expansion of the heart and blood vessels will be improved. The most direct effect is that the lowered heart rate will also lower blood pressure.”
Expectedly, Qingjie views the body as an interconnected organism. Thus, the physical rewards of qigong are determined by one’s respiratory health.
Closely connected is the practice of “good posture”, which is said to be “the first step in practising qigong”. He elaborates: “A natural and relaxed posture is the prerequisite for doing qigong, breathing properly and inducing a calm state of mind. Different postures – standing, sitting and lying postures – have different physiological characteristics.”
Breathing, Qingjie asserts, “is one of the basic elements in the cultivation of chi”, and “proper breathing is an important link in falling into the meditative state”.
He adds, “Through the training of breathing, the practitioner can regulate the tension of the sympathetic nerve and the parasympathetic nerve in the nervous system, expand the vital capacity of the lungs, promote normal breathing and improve blood circulation, massage the internal organs, aid digestion and absorption, keep in good health and prevent and cure disease.”
Qingjie offers simple breathing techniques to induce the illusive state of deep meditation.
He explains, “One breath equals one cycle of breathing in and out. When you do the exercise, silently count the number of breaths, from 1 to 10, from 10 to 100, until you hear nothing, see nothing, and think of nothing.”
He also advises readers to repeat words and phrases silently, almost hypnotically – simple phrases such as ‘relax’ and ‘be quiet’ – to prevent the perturbation of a wandering mind.
Later, Qingjie introduces Baduajin (also called Eight Brocades of Silk), a classical form of the art that dates back some 800 years.
Baduajin is renowned for increasing physical strength and strengthening the tendons and bones, in addition to treating diseases and symptoms affecting the internal organs. Its benefits are all-encompassing. “The exercises,” the author notes, “ consists of stretching, bending forward and backward and rocking movements, impacting the regions above the diaphragm, above the navel and below the navel which include the heart, lungs, spleen, stomach, kidney and other organs.”
For the sedentary folk, the athlete and the disabled, qigong is an advantageous resource. Health professionals in the West have conceded its value. Finally. Qigong works, and we need not take Qingjie’s word for it.
Book: 10-Minute Primer – Qigong (With Instructional Video)
©2019 Zhou Qingjie
Publisher: Singing Dragon, London and Philadelphia
ISBN 978 1 84819 212 6
Available on Amazon
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