Did you know that the American Medical Association has cited stress as the primary cause of at least 60 percent of all illness? That figure may climb to 95% when stress is considered simply as a major contributing factor. Currently up to 95 million Americans take medication related to symptoms of stress. And U.S. businesses pay out up to $300 billion dollars per year to cover stress-related work loss and treatment.
It goes without saying that stress is perhaps the most pressing concern facing us at this time. In this article, we’ll explore an ancient practice that modern research supports for reducing stress and increasing happiness and wellness. Best of all, this practice takes only a few minutes every day.
Now, if someone told you that there was something you could do for 15 minutes every day that would take you to a relaxed, positive, clear inner state, while improving your health and increasing your energy-would you be interested? What if this practice felt great to do? What if it carried over into everything else you did, so that you could relax in the midst of life’s challenges? What if it also sharpened your mind, improved your memory, and increased your sense of inner guidance? Personally, I’d call that a treasure. Since this practice is not well-known in much of the world, I’d call it a hidden treasure.
This hidden treasure is called Qigong.
Qigong is a Chinese word meaning “cultivating Life Energy.” It is a simple natural practice that anyone can do. It uses conscious relaxation, attention to posture, deep breathing, positive attitude, movement, and visualization to increase the smooth flow of vital energy through the human body. There are standing, seated, still, and moving forms of qigong. Qigong Meditation is a still practice that is often alternated with movement, self-massage, and stretching. It is sometimes called “acupuncture with your mind.”
Recent research has shown qigong to be beneficial not only for reducing the feeling of being “stressed out,” but also for gastro-intestinal disorders, asthma, heart disease, and even leukemia and various cancers. In a psychological sense, qigong participants report feeling more “together,” “centered,” “calm,” “present,” and “alive.” This is backed up by brain scans showing greater left-right brain coherence and increased activation of the right hemisphere and frontal lobes during qigong, which correlates with those subjective feelings. In truth, we have barely scratched the surface of what the calming power of qigong can do for us. For further study, The Qigong Institute has an extensive online database compiling thousands of research studies on the effects of qigong.
In China, qigong has tended to be a closely guarded secret handed down from masters to select students. As the practice has migrated around the world, the techniques have become much more accessible and time-efficient. While there are numerous forms and traditions, the basic principles are similar. In qigong you learn to:
1. Relax and align your posture;
2. Adopt a positive, accepting, inner attitude called “Inner Smiling”;
3. Breathe consciously in a slow deep rhythm; and
4. Imagine and feel life energy flowing through your body.
“Aahhh, that feels good!”
Enjoy your practice!
Kevin Schoeninger graduated from Villanova University in 1986 with a Master’s Degree in Philosophy. He is certified as a Life Coach, Reiki Master Teacher, Qigong Meditation Instructor, and Personal Fitness Trainer.