The benefits of yoga for the body, mind and spirit are undeniable to those who have devoted time and focus to a practice. Performing the various asanas regularly assists with flexibility, circulation, coordination, balance and overall well being.
By comparison, qigong is more energy-focused and can bring a new dimension to health and vitality. The following is a discussion of the benefits of qigong and how practicing it in addition to yoga can be highly complementary.
What is Qigong?
Qigong is a Chinese health care system that has ancient, time-honored roots. Like yoga, qigong is a combination of physical postures, focused intention and mindful breathing. However, slow, graceful movements are also employed to move universal energy in health-supporting ways.
The Chinese term itself – qigong (pronounced chee-gong) is made up of two words: the first, qi, means vital life force energy. It refers to an energizing subtle substance that flows through everything that exists in the universe.
The second term, “gong,” means skill or accomplishment through study and practice. The full word qigong refers to, in effect, cultivating energy in the body for health, strength, vitality and mental clarity.
Thousands of Qigong Forms
Literally thousands of different schools and forms of qigong have been developed and practiced over the centuries. Some are more dynamic and resemble tai chi or martial arts. Others are gentler and focused on medical benefits and healing. Still others are more meditative and spiritual, with little to no movement at all.
What all qigong types have in common is that they involve postures, fluid movements, focused attention, the movement of qi throughout the body, and mindful, aware breathing. The different qigong forms can do the following:
- Move qi around the body to cleanse it.
- Bring fresh qi into the body to energize it.
- Draw in qi for specific healing intentions.
- Emit qi to help people or situations.
One of the most valuable benefits of qigong is a cultivation of the awareness of qi, or vital life force, both in our bodies and in everything around us. When qi is flowing optimally, there is health, growth, balance and vitality. When qi is not flowing properly, there can be dis-ease and disharmony in the body and the life situations around us.
As those who practice yoga know, the restoration of balance and bodily harmony is a major benefit of a yoga practice. Yoga tends to be more physical and dynamic than qigong, strengthening the muscles, joints and core of the body while building physical stamina and flexibility.
Conversely, qigong is more internal and energy focused, tapping into other dimensions of healing at a deeper level. It works directly with the body’s meridian channels and chakra system, addressing blockages and cleansing stale qi so that it can be replaced by the fresh, new energy that is crucial to health and well being.
Health Benefits of Qigong
The specific health benefits of qigong include:
Increased energy levels. Those who practice qigong consistently report having more energy and vitality available to them throughout their day.
Improved mental clarity. Moving qi through the body and mind results in an enhanced ability to focus and concentrate. Short and long-term memory is improved as well.
Stress reduction. Connecting with universal life force energy on a regular basis has a natural stress-reducing effect. You’ll feel calmer, more balanced, more centered and happier overall.
Enhanced immune system. Immune system health is the basis of all health. As stale qi is cycled out of the body and its systems, fresh, clean qi can circulate in. The result is a more energized and effective immune system that isn’t so bogged down with negative energy and stale qi.
A range of physical benefits. Beyond just immune system health, qigong is known to augment and improve a number of specific bodily systems and functions. You’ll have better circulatory, cardiovascular, respiratory, lymphatic and digestive health.
Anti-aging and longevity benefits. Qigong also promotes a more youthful appearance while supporting internal cellular anti-aging processes. The foundation of this effect is the movement of fresh vital life-force energy into the body for continual renewal of its cells and systems.
Spiritual benefits. While qigong is non-denominational, practitioners report feeling an enhanced spiritual connection to the Universe and to all living things. This is because qi is the life force energy common to all of us, uniting us at a primary and foundational level.
Additional benefits of qigong include:
It’s easy and affordable. Instruction and equipment are usually quite basic for most qigong forms. A chair, cushion and/or yoga mat is usually sufficient. You can study with a teacher or learn from a DVD or online video.
Universal benefits. Everyone can benefit from qigong, from the very young to the elderly and infirm.
Non-denominational. No specific spiritual belief system is required.
A little goes a long way. Small amounts of qigong can have tremendous benefits. Even just 10 minutes of qigong in the morning can set the tone for the day and tap you into universal forces that will help energize all that you do.
As you can see, there is tremendous overlap between yoga and qigong. While yoga is more dynamic and physical, qigong is more meditative and energy-focused. Both modalities have benefits for health and well being, and there is some overlap in terms of how they promote balance and harmony within the body.
Doing both yoga and qigong can result in a holistic, comprehensive treatment of the entire body system. You’ll become more connected with universal life force energy. Yoga definitely taps into these forces, but qigong allows you to go even deeper into this flow and merge with it.
As your qigong practice progresses, your yoga poses will inevitably become more fluid, grounded and connected with higher energies. You’ll likely feel a richness that wasn’t there before. You’ll breathe more deeply and become more aware of who you truly are.
And isn’t that what health and fulfillment is all about? Being more of who you truly are in the most positive and life-affirming ways is a profound benefit of a yoga practice, and qigong can enhance this effect. You’ll then be able to walk this earth as your best self in body, mind and spirit.