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How can Qigong and Mindfulness improve our health and wellbeing?

My journey into Qigong and Mindfulness

My journey began as a young boy in 1987, when I was involved in a terrible car accident that killed my mother. For eight years, I suffered undiagnosed depression and chronic pain throughout my entire body. In 1995, my life changed, when overnight, I went from an able-bodied person to being confined in a wheelchair. My spine had partially collapsed as a result of the car accident.

Following surgery, my rehabilitation was extremely tough as in addition to the physical pain I was suffering; I had to cope with the emotional and mental pain I was feeling. It was at this time, I discovered the mindfulness training of Thich Nhat Hanh and learned one to one Qigong from the late Mr. Lui Wei and more recently with Master Zhongxian Wu.

These ‘life art’ practices exceeded my expectations and changed my life. I felt stronger – emotionally and physically and I knew I had to share this with others. I have now been practising Qigong for 25 years. I have learnt that through meditating, mindful living and Qigong not to dwell on the past or worry about the future. Instead, I am fully immersed in the present, which makes me feel wonderfully alive and well.

What is Qigong?

Qigong (or alternatively known as Chi gong or Chi kung) translates from Chinese to roughly mean ‘to cultivate or enhance the inherent functional essence of the human being.’ It is considered to be the contemporary offspring of some of the most ancient healing and medical practices of Asia.

Qigong is definitively more ancient in origin than Tai Chi, and it is the over-arching, more original health discipline. It is an ancient 5,000-year-old practice, which, when done regularly benefits our mental and physical health and general wellbeing. It combines mindfulness and breathing with slow, gentle movement; in fact, The Harvard Medical School calls the practice ‘Movement Meditation’.

These intelligent movements are created to access all areas of the body, activating and promoting the body’s repair mechanisms. There are many forms of Qigong. I teach Ji Ben Qigong which is similar to Ba Duan Jin Qigong and is a popular form of Chinese Qigong known to improve health.

I like to think of it as ‘therapeutic movement’ and it is a great natural health alternative and wonderful for general wellbeing.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness was originally a Buddhist practice and is the ‘energy’ of being aware and awake to the present moment. You can practice it anywhere; whether you are walking, sitting, working, eating, talking, exercising or drinking.

It is also a way to live our lives. Busy lives mean we are all thinking about what’s coming next, what we need to do and where we need to be; whereas mindfulness is a continuous practice of touching life deeply in the moment we are in - it is in effect, mindful living.

My own route to mindfulness was inspired by trying to cope with my mental and physical health issues. I quickly realised that mindfulness could (and did), transform my relationship with myself and with the many, ‘mind-made’ (mostly self-inflicted) challenges of my overbusy life.

How can Qigong help me?

For life today, minute by minute, Qigong is the most effective and responsive therapeutic exercise you can do! It empowers you to understand when and where your mind and body need attention the most. It gives you the tools to self-heal and repair.

Our lifestyles mean we sit more than we move around and we are not designed for such a sedentary existence. By creating shapes and movement patterns in Qigong, we can release areas of tension, stiffness and knots, helping our body’s energy to flow more freely. This not only helps us move more easily, but we also feel uplifted emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Our bodies are amazing and Qigong reminds us that we are natural human beings and not machines. When our body does not move properly, the inner ‘ocean’ (our body’s fluids) that heals us, can’t flow freely. By moving intelligently and within our comfort zone, the body gently unties itself from the habitual knots it has become accustomed to, allowing the inner ocean to flow more easily once again. Tensions ease, the body opens, allowing flowing change and a sense of calm.

Who can Qigong help?

Qigong can help everybody!

• If you suffer from ill-health and find conventional exercise boring, too difficult or inaccessible

• If you suffer from aches and pains, have difficulty moving or struggle with your balance

• If you are suffering from anxiety, stress or worry or are concerned about your general mental health

• If you sit as your desk a lot

• If you suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

• If you have a learning difficulty

• If you’d like to be more proactive in maintaining a healthy mind and body

• If you yearn for a more spiritual practice

• If you need an alternative to the gym, swimming, yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi

Qigong can also help people with specific health conditions such as Parkinson’s, Rheumatism and Arthritis, Chronic Pain and heart and lung conditions and is useful for people rehabilitating from illness or injury.

What are the benefits of Qigong?

The benefits of practising Qigong are too numerous to list! In general, practising Qigong makes you happier, healthier, restoring mental and physical balance.

Some of my students have told me that they feel less stressed and find themselves in a happier disposition, functioning better in everyday life. They feel calmer and more grounded, feeling alive but at the same time having a sense of calm.

Qigong has made others feel more self-confident, with a clearer, sharper mind, more purpose and optimism. At the same time, some of my older students have relished better mobility in their once very stiff joints and feel stronger at heart.

My daily live classes offer a purpose and for some, essential routine in what are still very uncertain and apprehensive times for many during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Is Qigong similar to Tai Chi and Yoga?

Yes – they are similar, but they are not the same. It doesn’t take as long to learn Qigong and you will experience the benefits much sooner, in fact, almost immediately.

• There are no forced movements or stretching

• There is no floor work

• You can practice Qigong sitting or standing or both

• You need no special equipment

• You need no special clothing

When is the best time to practice Qigong?

It’s best to practice Qigong exercises in the morning. Some of my students find this the perfect time as it sets them up for the day - it also means excuses are less likely to get in the way! I have other students who prefer to practice Qigong just before bedtime as it helps them relax and drift off to sleep.

Either way, a minimum of 20 minutes is all you need to help you feel good in your body and happy in your mind.

Where can I find out more?

You can learn Qigong online with me every day!

• Join my free live 40-minute classes at 08.00 every weekday via my website

• Join my free live seated 30-minute classes at 09.30 every weekday via my website

• Join my ‘catch up classes’ and practice in your own time via my website

• Follow me on my Facebook page @MoveLifeBetter

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