Qigong meditation is an ancient Chinese healing practice that involves controlled breathing, gentle movement, and meditation in order to promote good mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Qigong meditation is believed to have many of the same health benefits as tai chi, including reducing blood pressure, treating heart disease, managing diabetes, relieving chronic fatigue, and easing leg and back pain. Yet, research backing these claims is limited.
Qigong meditation has been growing in popularity, so you may be wondering if you should try it.
Qigong is an ancient Chinese healing practice that combines meditation, controlled breathing, and gentle movement. It is sometimes pronounced “chee-gong.”
The phrase “the master of one’s energy” is a translation of a phrase from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which combines two important concepts. “Qi” can be translated to “vital life force,” and “gong” means “mastery” or “cultivation.”
This practice is designed to help people harness the power of nature to improve their mental and physical well-being.
In TCM, health problems are caused by a blockage in the flow of energy through the twelve different meridians in the body. Qigong is said to improve one’s health by promoting the flow of qi throughout the body.
Qigong is a popular activity in China that people do for exercise, recreation, and relaxation. It is also used as preventative medicine and a way to physically and mentally heal. Plus, it’s even employed in martial arts training. There is little research to support the theory that qi energy exists.
Types of Qigong Meditation
There are two main categories of qigong: active and passive. Active qigong is more dynamic, while passive qigong is more relaxed. Active qigong uses controlled, slow movements, while passive qigong involves stillness and calm breathing.
Qigong can be performed alone or with the help of a qigong therapist. A therapist who practices external qigong emits qi in order to help someone heal. Though qigong is mostly a self-healing technique that doesn’t require a therapist,
No matter what type of qigong you do, the goal is to let your energy flow freely throughout your body and to connect with the earth’s energy for healing.
1. Active (dynamic) qigong
Active qigong – also known as dong gong – is a form of qigong that involves intentional, active movement and breathwork that enhances yang energy. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, yang is associated with active energy, strength, and vibrancy, while yin is associated with passive energy, calmness, and gentleness.
This type of therapy involves repeating gentle and coordinated movements to help improve blood and lymphatic drainage, strength and flexibility, and proprioception.
This kind of qigong is seen as a form of exercise, but it shares certain features with inactive qigong, like good posture, regulated breathing, focus on relaxation, and visualization.
2. Passive qigong
Passive qigong involves remaining still and cultivating qi energy through the mind.
In this form of qigong, the body is still, but the mind is active, working to cultivate and move qi energy throughout the body. This practice would be similar to traditional meditation.
There are two types of qigong: active and passive. Qigong can be either active or passive. Active qigong uses slow movements to help energy flow through the body, while passive qigong involves stillness and calm breathing.
Benefits of Qigong Meditation
1. Increased Balance
Qigong is a practice that involves controlled, slow movements of the body in order to improve your awareness of your body in space. This increased awareness can help improve balance, muscular strength, and flexibility.
A 2020 study found that qigong improved balance and gait in 95 adults aged 51-96 who practiced it weekly for 12 weeks.
Interestingly, qigong can also improve balance in younger adults. The study found that qigong resulted in a 16.3% increase in stability scores for people aged 18-25. No changes were observed in the control group.
Since qigong is safe for all age groups, it may be an effective way to improve balance and prevent falls.
2. Lower Stress and Anxiety
Qigong combines meditation, controlled breathing, and gentle movements to help lower stress and anxiety.
If you are feeling anxious, one way to help calm yourself is by Controlled Breathing. This tells your body that there is no immediate threat and activates the “rest and digest” system. This makes it more difficult for your body to recover from stress. It also makes it difficult for the body to recover from stress by slowing the body’s stress response system known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
Furthermore, research has shown that those who practice qigong have a higher quality of life due to less stress, greater self-efficacy, and better physical health. Still, higher quality studies are needed. Qigong may help you reduce stress by incorporating it into your daily routine.
3. May Lower Risk of Chronic Disease
Qigong is a relaxing form of exercise that focuses on deep, calming breaths. Working together, this may help to reduce stress on the body, which can improve blood flow and fitness levels, and thus lower the risk of chronic disease.
Qigong has been shown to be beneficial for those suffering from type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It has been shown to lower the risk and improve symptoms. researchers say that more studies need to be conducted before qigong can be recommended as a standard treatment.
4. May Improve Focus
Many people have trouble focusing on their work because they are too busy with their everyday lives.
Qigong requires focus of the breath, mind, and body. Qigong can help you focus and concentrate better by teaching you how to control your thoughts in a more productive way.
Research studies of a higher quality are needed in order to further explore the benefits of qigong.
Qigong has many benefits that can improve your quality of life, such as better balance, increased mental focus, lower levels of stress and anxiety, and reduced chronic disease risk. Although many people have reported benefits from practicing qigong, more research is needed in order to confirm these claims.
5. Lowers Blood Pressure
Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you live a sedentary lifestyle or are constantly under stress, you may be at risk for developing hypertension, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Including activities like qigong in your wellness plan in addition to your regular medical care (such as medications and other types of conventional exercise) may help get your blood pressure to a healthy level.
The study found that qigong may help reduce blood pressure in people who have high blood pressure.
One of the seven studies reviewed found that qigong had similar effects on blood pressure as a conventional exercise routine. This could potentially benefit heart health, as the repetitive movements associated with qigong improve circulation.
Intentional breathwork is a big part of qigong and it can help lower blood pressure and stress levels.
Slow, deep breathing has a calming effect on the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for regulating processes like digestion, breathing, and blood pressure. In turn, it stimulates your body’s parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) response.
The parasympathetic side controls the body’s involuntary actions, such as the beating of the heart and the widening or narrowing of blood vessels. When it “kicks in,” the body’s sympathetic response is halted, and the heart rate and blood pressure decrease.
6. Reduces Anxiety and Depression
Qigong’s emphasis on slowing down and being present may improve your mental health.
A collection of studies on qigong show that it can be helpful in reducing anxiety and stress for healthy individuals.
Listening to music or doing structured movements may not have as immediate an effect on reducing anxiety levels as qigong, according to two of the studies.
Regarding qigong’s potential ability to help alleviate depression, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in November 2019 in Frontiers in Psychiatry examined nine studies across varied people coping with depression who were generally physically healthy otherwise, as well as participants with breast cancer or hypertension.
The study found that in 5 out of 9 cases, participants showed signs of improvement in their depression levels. The remaining four studies observed no change in participants. Qigong was found to be helpful in improving depression, with those who practiced it at least twice a week seeing the most benefit.
The authors believe that the most valid explanation for qigong’s effects on depression is its ability to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and shut off the sympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system being in overdrive can lead to the immune system releasing higher levels of cytokines, which may in turn lead to changes in the brain that resemble depression, research suggests.
7. Improves Well-Being in People with Cancer
Even though people who are fighting cancer often feel anxious, they may turn to integrative therapies to help them cope with stress. Research suggests that qigong may be an effective option.
A study found that patients who practiced qigong twice a week for 10 weeks reported greater improvements in quality of life than patients who received conventional medical care only.
Patients who practiced qigong felt less tense, anxious, depressed, and tired. Other research has found that mindfulness, breathing, and yoga can help to reduce stress.
The authors of the study also point out that many healthcare providers recommend physical exercise to cancer patients as a way of improving fatigue and quality of life.
More research is needed to verify the benefits of qigong for managing cancer treatment symptoms and to determine the best protocols for offering the practice.
8. Strengthens the Immune System
The slower movements of qigong are beneficial for the joints and the circulation of fluids in the body, which in turn strengthens the immune system.
The researchers looked at 19 different trials involving 1,686 people of various ages and with different health conditions. The evidence they found suggests that qigong may improve immune system function and reduce inflammation.
Although the study found that participants who practiced qigong saw some benefits, such as increased immune cell levels and improved regulation of hormones associated with inflammation, the effects were small.
The authors point out that it took participants four weeks of practicing qigong to see changes in their immune response.
However, we need to do more research in order to explore the potential health benefit that qigong may have on the immune system. This is because there is a diverse field of parameters and we lack an understanding of why qigong may impact the immune system.
9. Improves Fitness
Qigong is an activity that is generally gentle and low-impact with aerobic and strength components. Because it is low-impact, just like swimming qigong can be a good form of exercise for people who have limited mobility.
A systematic review and meta-analysis published in March 2017 found that practicing Baduanjin qigong can improve some measures of physical fitness, including muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance.
After reviewing 19 randomized, controlled trials, researchers concluded that Baduanjin qigong can improve quality of life, balance, handgrip strength, torso flexibility, blood pressure, and heart rate.
Both younger and older adults showed benefits from the study, with older adults and those with chronic conditions benefiting the most.
Qigong Meditation & Your Mind
To focus your mind, sit in a comfortable upright position, close your eyes, and breathe in and out with your abdomen (diaphragmatic breathing). The goal is to sit for at least 10 minutes and focus on your breath.
Visualization involves a similar practice but with added imagination. Close your eyes and think of things that make you happy or relaxed, like the beach, a valley full of flowers, or a mountaintop. Choose visualization that helps direct positive energy throughout your body.
You can also imagine energy flowing to an organ or body part that needs to be healed. In order to improve your practice, attend classes or read qigong guides to learn chants, visualizations, and other meditative techniques.
If you don’t know how to meditate, there are many free meditation videos and apps that can help you get started.
The goal of active qigong is to keep your body moving continuously. Active qigong requires you to keep your body moving through various movement sequences, whereas yoga generally focuses on static stretches.
Although qigong requires a set of specific movements, it is easiest to start by taking a beginner’s class or watching an online video. Qigong is best done in a group so that people can feel more connected and have a sense of community. This is something that Traditional Chinese Medicine believes is necessary for good health and healing.
While learning and enjoying the process, remember to have patience with either passive or active qigong.
When active qigong is being learned, it is best to visit an in-person class in order to learn the sequences correctly and to also build a sense of community. You can also watch beginner videos online. To do passive qigong, try meditating for 10 minutes each day in addition to your regular routine.
You should check with your doctor before starting qigong if you have any health problems. There have been many studies that show there are no negative side effects to the practice of complementary and integrative health, even for older adults and people with chronic health conditions.
Qigong can be beneficial for both your physical and mental health, and can even help improve your breathing and immunity.