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An ancient Chinese health care practice, Qigong can be literally translated to “cultivating energy”. Qigong combines posture, breath work, and mental focus to maintain health and increase vitality, heal, calm, and connect. These integrated exercises positively affect the energy in our body (Qi). Qi exists in everything and can be summarized as an all-embracing compound of every material that can be absorbed through nourishment and breathing. Qigong includes concentration, movement and meditation exercises to increase, circulate, store or emit Qi, ultimately strengthening, cleansing, healing and balancing the body. Blocks in the body and mind can be released, supporting harmonious energy flow.

The origin of Qigong can be traced back to the Chinese emperor Huang Di who practiced exercises for breathing and inner alchemy. Qigong was forbidden during the Chinese Cultural Revolution but revived again in the seventies. Today Qigong is very popular in China and considered a traditional Chinese medicine. It activates self-healing and releases stress. Traditional Chinese medicine supposes that diseases appear as a consequence of the imbalance of the energies Yin and Yang in our body. Qigong harmonizes these energies.

There are two martial arts: soft and hard Qigong. It is important to concentrate on posture, restraint and precision when practicing these exercises to reach points of energy in the body (meridian channels). Exercises correlate with these specific pathways and are linked to particular organs or purpose. The gentle exercises are expressed through changing elements of breath, visualization and movement. We’d like to introduce you to a few exercises below.

In the first mental relaxation exercise, let the Qi fall. Stand with your feet parallel and as wide as shoulder width. Your arms can be dropped loosely along the body and the palms of hands should face outwards. Concentrate on your tail bone and imagine that it is being pulled down by something that stretches the back longer. Keep your head relaxed yet upright and think of your crown as the highest point of the body being pulled upward by a tie. Be aware of the changes of your posture and spine as you travel through your imagination. Pay attention to the inside of your body, identifying the hardening and aching locations to unblock and release.

The second exercise is a circular breathing practice. Observe your breath and inhale from the stomach – the centre of power and energy of our body. Continue relaxed breathing and visualize how the energy flows from the centre of the body along the spinal column downward when breathing in and upward when exhaling. Imagine your breathing to be a cycle without any breaks during breathing in or out. If you feel any blocks in your body try to operate your breathing to this very location with the help of your imagination to remove them.

For the third exercise for concentration, imagine a rotating bowl inside of your body. Only a single movement of your body can move the bowl before the body itself moves. Disperse the weight evenly all-over your feet. Visualize how the bowl slides slowly from the centre of your body downwards into the right foot. Simultaneously, mentally relocate the weight to the right leg until the left foot rises slightly. Imagine the sliding bowl returning back slowly to the centre of the body. Repeat this exercise using the other foot. Finish the exercise concentrating on the bowl in the underbelly. Place your hands on your navel and practice rotating movements on the stomach.

Whether you want to reduce stress, restore balance, or improve quality of life, everyone can benefit from Qigong. There are many additional exercises and methods. To learn more about Qigong, visit the British Health Qigong Association. And as always, consult your physician before beginning any exercise programme.