Mon | Sep 24, 2018

Religion & Culture | QIGONG: the art of self-healing

Published:Sunday | November 19, 2017 | 12:00 AMDr Glenville Ashby
Participants in Trinidad during the 'Lifting the Sky' movement from Eight Brocades medical qigong.
Dr Glenville Ashby (centre) with participants at the Qigong Self-Healing workshop in Claxton Bay, Trinidad.
Persons going through the paces of Zhan Zhuang or standing meditation.

As alternative healing modalities become increasingly popular in the west, the ancient art of qigong is emerging as the simplest but most effective method for combating mental, physical and physiological challenges.

I was moved by the overwhelming interest shown in my 2017 Qigong Self-Healing workshop in Claxton Bay, Trinidad.

An eclectic group of artists, wellness professionals, doctors, media personalities, educators, homemakers and entrepreneurs listened to a brief history of qigong in the west, the many forms and styles of the art, the difference between qigong and tai chi, the benefits of controlled breathing, balance and coordination, and standing meditation.

More important, the workshop encouraged participant involvement with ample time afforded for feedback, demonstrations and questions. Understandably, the needs of every participant are different. Still, there were some subjects that proved more intriguing than others, for example, the role of qigong in treating emotional and mental instability.

Today I will focus on this area.

Any wellness professional worth his or her salt must exercise caution when addressing mental and emotional problems. Intense mental or spiritual training could likely lead to panic attacks, uncontrolled spontaneous movement, sensory problems such as auditory and visual hallucinations and flights of grandeur. From a theoretical perspective, the reason is straightforward.




Prolong internal meditation or even praying obsessively will ignite the subtle nerves around the energy centres (called chakras or nervous plexuses) triggering what many call "dark nights of the soul".

Here, it should be noted that qigong or any alternative healing modality should not be blamed. There are countless cases of delusions and mania supposedly caused by religious obsession. Notably, the Bible is never identified (and rightly so) when such mental disturbances manifest.

It is essential that we examine the personality, family history (propensity for instability) and the nature of instruction being disseminated and absorbed.

That said, I cautioned participants at the workshop that experiencing sensory hallucinations during qigong, yoga or intense prayer may not necessarily constitute a mental disorder.

Some of the greatest inventions and literary works were conceived during otherworldly experiences. Joan of Arc and a host of Christian saints, psychiatrists Carl Jung and Stanislav Grof, scientist Alfred Russel Wallace (the theory of evolution), legendary author Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes series), and many others, attributed their genius to altered states of consciousness.

This brings us to the question: How do we determine when a practitioner is experiencing a breakdown or a breakout (towards healing and creativity)? The cultural, religious, spiritual and psychological make-up of an individual must be determined before any diagnosis or treatment.

Fortuitously, many psychologists and psychiatrists are now employing art therapy and nutrition to address so called mental disorders. Other modalities, including appropriate qigong treatments and therapies, are also used.




At this point, I led the class through a series of qigong movements clinically proven to bolster mental clarity, emotional stability and overall vitality. These movements concentrated on breathing exercises (pranayama), standing meditation postures, hand spirals that correspond with the sun and moon rotations, and a sequence of moving meditation to improve balance and coordination.

Participants also visualised images of the sun and moon and their respective masculine and feminine energy centres (in the body) that promote strength, creativity, intuition and compassion.

While qigong is not meant to usurp modern medicine it is now used in American hospitals' integrative medicine, departments to facilitate the healing process.

Only recently I was hired by a rehabilitation centre in New York to work with patients with sensory and motor disabilities.

Indeed, the benefits of qigong are staggering. Here is an abbreviated list:

Qigong loosens the muscles and builds power, strengthens the organs, improves cardiopulmonary function, strengthen the nerves, improves vascular function, facilitates recovery from illnesses, speeds recovery time from injuries and surgeries, builds athletic and martial power, prevents injuries to joints, ligaments and bones, relieves stress, and counteracts the ills of being sedentary at work.


In an interestingly prophetic article, qigong master Anthony Korahais identified several reasons why qigong will eclipse yoga as the most practised wellness modality.

He stated that it is easier to learn and perform than tai chi and yoga, it is engineered to be medical, the practitioner can reap health benefits in as little as a couple of hours, the world is ready for mindfulness, there is a rhythm and flow to qigong that makes it enjoyable, and Chinese culture is rapidly spreading to the west.

I couldn't agree more.

- Dr Glenville Ashby is the author of 'The Mystical Qigong Handbook for Good Health', available on at Amazon Feedback: or follow him on Twitter@ glenvilleashby