Qigong

Some ancient practices have stood the test of science and time and have proven to hold immense mind-body benefits in our world today. Qigong is just one of those practices. We unpack the healing benefits of this early practise and how you can incorporate Qigong in your daily life. 
THE ANCIENT ART The word Qigong is made up of two Chinese words. Qi, pronounced 'chee' is commonly translated to mean 'the life force' or 'vital-energy' that flows through all things in the universe. The second word, Gong, pronounced 'gung', means accomplishment, or skill cultivated through steady practice. Together, Qigong means cultivating energy. It's a system practiced for health maintenance, healing and increasing vitality. Qigong is an integration of physical postures, breathing techniques, and focused intentions. Like any other system of health care, Qigong is not a cure-all solution, but it's certainly an effective practice. Many health care professionals recommend Qigong as an important form of alternative complementary medicine. WESTERN BENEFITS In our fast-paced modern world, we're often over-run with anxiety, stress and physical pain. Qigong can provide a core group of benefits to improve health and well-being for those of any fitness level. Its gentle movements stretch and strengthen muscles, improve balance and flexibility, and reduce inflammation in joints. The movements help improve circulation and flow of oxygen throughout the body, improving the immune system and removing toxins. Qigong's deep breathing exercises help to reduce stress, anxiety, and tension. The breathing techniques emphasise slow breathing from the diaphragm with a relaxed posture and straight spine. They help to calm and centre, and can be an effective aid for reducing anxiety and assisting sleep. The meditative state of mind achieved by practicing Qigong provides powerful mental and emotional benefits. Qigong requires concentration, focus and clear thinking. This discipline is reported to help foster creativity, improved mood, and enhance overall cognitive capability. FOUNDATON TECHNIQUES Concentration is a process of focusing in and letting go at the same time. Focus doesn't mean wrinkling your forehead and straining to pay attention. Instead, through deep relaxation and expanding your consciousness, you're able to create a frame of mind that is large enough to encompass your entire mind-body-spirit's functions, and focused enough to allowoutside distractions, worries, and everyday hassles to melt away. You'll find as you do Qigong exercise and meditation you'll become more adept at this form of concentration. While breathing is an automated process in the body, we generally breathe in very short shallow breaths most of the time, especially when feeling stressed or anxious. With this practice, breathing deeply and slowly is incredibly important. One of the breathing methods consist of inhaling, extending the abdomen, filling it, and then your lungs with air. When you exhale, you contract your abdomen, expelling the air from the bottom of your lungs first and then pushing it up and out until your abdomen and chest are deflated. You may want to practice inhaling for a slow count of eight and exhaling for a count of sixteen. As you breathe in and out, imagine inviting your Qi energy to flow through your entire body; you want to gently guide the flow, not tug at it or push it.  BASIC EXERCISES *The Gentle Sway This introduces you to the concept of being mindful of the present. Practise this exercise for around 10 to 15 minutes. For five minutes, move both of your arms from your shoulders in a gentle swinging motion. The motion itself is initiated from your waist: Twist from your waist as though your torso were a cloth that you were wringing out. Don't twist from the knees or you may harm them. Twisting from the waist provides a massage to the internal organs and provides you the full benefits of the exercise. To get started, move your arms side to side across your torso, and then back to front. Keep your knees slightly bent and let your hips sway. Allow your mind to clear. At first, focus on the release of unnecessary and unconscious stress. After several weeks, you may shift your focus so that you think only about the swaying of your arms and the motion of Qi energy. *The Bounce In the beginning, try this for one to three minutes. With your feet parallel and about shoulder's width apart, bounce with your knees loose and your arms relaxed and hanging at the sides. They should feel empty and neutral. This is the zero position for your arms. When you are bouncing back and forth, your arms should jiggle. Keep your shoulders natural; don't pull them back or let them slump forward too much. When the zero position is used on the whole body, you should feel relaxed and your internal organs and skin should hang down. This process brings awareness of internal tension. The combination of exercises one and two gently massages and tones the organ systems, promoting longevity. *The Accordion Feel Qi energy by using your hands like the bellow of an accordion or a bicycle pump. This exercise cultivates Qi, builds awareness, and sensitises you. Close your eyes halfway. Clear your mind and concentrate your attention on your palms. Allow your breath to become slow and easy, without force. Bring your hands together, palms touching and fingers pointing upward. Slowly move your hands apart. When they are about 30 cm apart, slowly move them together using the least amount of physical effort possible. You'll be compressing the air between them like an accordion would. You may feel a warm or tingling sensation on your palms. Move your hands slowly back and forth, varying the range of the bellows. Repeat the accordion technique in different directions: horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. While these are some very simple and basic movements, there are many Qigong techniques you can easily practise morning and evening in the comfort of your home.

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