The Qi Gong way of silk brocade

The latest kid
on the block in terms of therapeutic exercise is Qi Gong. Practised for
thousands of years in China,it is now slowly becoming recognized for its health
benefits outside China.

For
people who want to combine a form of exercise that also has meditative and
spiritual elements, Qi Gong could be what you are looking for. One of the other
great advantages Qi Gong (pronounced Chi Gong) has over other more strenuous
forms of exercise, is that it can be practised by any one at any level of
fitness and you still see benefits. Allison Davis, who teaches Qi Gong at the
DaVinci centre says, “ It is very versatile and the exercises can even be done
sitting down.”

What exactly is Qi Gong? 

Qigong comes from the Chinese words Qi meaning
energy, plus Gong, meaning work or practice, and it is a Chinese Exercise
system. which through movements and breathing focuses on cultivating and
attracting Qi or life force energies.

As
with most Chinese disciplines the central belief is that energy runs along
pathways through the body and if the energy gets blocked, stagnation sets in
which in turn causes illness. The key, then, is to keep the energy flowing by
postures and breathing that work on the meridians.

Allison
explains: “In Qi Gong the postures are static but not in the same way as yoga. It
can involve just moving one arm and with a slight bend, or moving your head
from side to side.”

She
adds: ”While in the postures there is a concentration on breathing and a
meditative focus which helps build up the body’s own energy resources.”

The Postures

The
postures have wonderful names that evoke Chinese imagery and history. There are
the Eight Silk Brocade Exercises. Looking Backwards is about simple, head movements
coupled with breathing that have health benefits, such as lowering stress and
revitalising the nervous system. Another exercise called Drawing The Bow, is
probably self explanatory. This particular movement as well as helping posture
also improves blood circulation. Yet another one, my own particular favourite,
is picturesquely called Punching With Tiger Eyes! And yet another is simply
entitled Lifting One Arm.

Allison says initially people
who are expecting some type of martial arts or strenuous system are
disappointed because Qi Gong is so static, but she says once people stick with
it, they recognize the benefits and even though it looks comparatively simple
you get a very good physical workout.

The benefits

As well
as the stretching and strengthening that is happening within the postures,
Allison explains that Qi Gong also works at a deeper therapeutic level, on
circulation, cardiovascular, and on the internal organs.

The breathing is an essential
part of Qi Gong. Allison says: “ Most of us are used to very shallow breathing
not using our whole lungs or diaphragm. In Qi Gong you use deep abdominal
breathing right down to below the belly button where in Chinese medicine they
believe a lot of our energy is stored.”

Because you are also working so much
with the diaphragm, the whole core of the body is strengthened and this in turn
helps the internal organs.

Allison says the health benefits
are numerous. “People sleep better, digestion is improved and the spine becomes
more flexible.”

Because of the breathing there
is also a meditative spiritual side to Qi Gong that helps calm and de-stress.

Allison says it is a
very good form of exercise for all levels of fitness, but people who have
particular problem areas would certainly benefit because the postures are
simple, not strenuous but still improve all over fitness.

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