In 2013 someone suggested to me that I try Qigong. My response was: I don’t know what that is. I had returned to Australia after what had been pretty much two years of travelling and self-exploration, after leaving my 15-year career in Property at the end of 2010. I had started a business in wellbeing and it wasn’t going so well, I felt lost and unsure of what to do next. I went home and googled Qigong to discover that it was an ancient Eastern self-healing practice derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine. I found the person that would become my first Qigong teacher; Lee Holden. My google search led me to YouTube and to various short videos from Lee Holden that shared what was described as a modern form of Qigong. I started practicing at home, it felt good.
Qigong is pronounced ‘chee-gong’, which is two words ‘Qi’ meaning life energy and ‘Gong’ meaning work or cultivate. Sometimes the spelling is Chi Kung or Qi Gong, in terms of pronunciation I’ve got to say I’ve heard it all over the past 5 years! The dictionary describes Qigong as ‘a Chinese system of physical exercises and breathing control related to tai chi’, I prefer to describe it as a practice of presence. It is a moving meditation and mindfulness practice that explores acupressure, slow stretches, gentle flowing movement and stillness. It is similar to tai chi although generally it is more static and meditative, and less difficult.
Qigong… why do you want it?
Our modern lifestyles are predominantly characterized by busyness; cramming as much as we can into each day, in every area of life; family, business and leisure. In a nutshell modern life is ‘yang’ – active, engaged, rapid, overloaded. The opposite aspect of yang is ‘yin’. Yin is the passive – slow, restful, calm, soft. Yin and yang are opposing yet complementary and interdependent opposites. You can’t have one without the other. Much like the breath, you can’t breathe in without breathing out, and like two sides of the same coin.
Active, engaged and busy needs slow, rest and calm to endure. It is not possible to have yang without yin… not for very long. Too much yang leads to burnout, overwhelm and depletion.
Qigong is the ultimate yin practice and research indicates it delivers many physical and emotional health benefits (Jahnke et al. 2010). An article in Time (2017) titled ‘Why Tai Chi as good for you as Crossfit’ shares that health benefits can include regulated blood pressure, improved immunity and cardiovascular health, as well as lower rates of insomnia, depression, illness and inflammation. Dr. Peter Wayne, director of research at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School describes it as ‘meditation on wheels’. You receive all the cognitive benefits you might get from meditation; mental clarity and focus and lower stress, AND you’re getting physical exercise.
Ultimately we don’t need more yang, most people seek out high intensity leisure and fitness activities as a way to relieve stress and overwhelm when what their bodies, minds and spirits are calling for is more yin…more rest, more calm.
Qigong – it’s for everyone
Back in 2013 when I discovered Qigong I had no idea that I would end up teaching the practice and that it would change my life in so many ways. I often describe it as a practice of becoming intimately connected to yourself and I believe when you really know yourself you are able to better connect to others and the world around you.
Some of the things I love about Qigong are:
- It’s accessible. It is possible for people of all levels of fitness and mobility to undertake, the movements and postures are scalable and adaptable depending on a person’s needs.
- It’s easy. You don’t need to twist yourself into a pretzel or almost make yourself sick from exertion.
- You don’t need anything. You can do it anywhere, anytime and in just a few minutes if that is all you have.
- Its engaging in a completely different way than most other activities and exercise, it’s about practicing mastery.
- Doing less. This is a fundamental aspect of the practice. Unlike the rest of our lives (a lot of the time) qigong is about doing less – being more.
Qigong – where can you get it?
Like everything, of course you can get Qigong online! There are a multitude of videos and online offerings. Personally, I like to practice Qigong in a group, in person and I highly recommend a trained and knowledgeable teacher. Many of my students comment that when you’re doing the movement or posture correctly it feels better (not surprisingly), that element is something you can’t get online. There’s also the community aspect, I am passionate about bringing people together IRL (in real life!) and in qigong we have a name for the energy that is cultivated collectively by a group, it’s called Qichang Gong.
Small group and private session Qigong is offered at my specialised studio Chi Space in Balaclava (Melbourne, Australia). The studio is designed to be a place of ‘doing less’ offering tea, social space and a small library. We open 30 minutes prior to class for tea, chit chat and rest, the ethos being to imbue the fundamental of ‘doing less’ into life. After all, the reason we practice in a formal way (qigong class) is ultimately to take that practice into the rest of our lives.
There are many classes each week, find one that suits you at our website. Bookings essential.