Wednesday, November 11, 2009

ABC Wednesday: Quieting the Mind



This week's ABC Wednesday is brought to you by the letter Q, quite a difficult letter to represent unless you enjoy . . .


. . . Qigong

"Qigong is an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention."


The word Qigong comes from two Chinese words: Qi (pronounced chee), which refers to the life force or energy that flows through all things, and Gong (pronounced Kung or gung), which means skill or work. Thus, Qigong means "the skill of attracting or cultivating energy." The practice uses slow, graceful movements and controlled breathing techniques to promote the circulation of qi, or energy, within the body. Such movements can reduce stress, build stamina, increase vitality, and build up the immune system. Some practitioners believe it can even improve many of the body's functions, such as the respiratory, cardiovascular, and digestive systems. While not all agree on all its effects on health, Western scientific research has found that Qigong "reduces hypertension and the incidence of falling in the aged population."**

For the past two years I have been attending a weekly Tai Chi class at our local community college. Our instructor includes a Qigong routine in each session as a warm-up before practicing our Tai Chi stances and forms. The routine consists of slow movements that are simple enough so that you can really focus on your breathing during the movements. One very simple exercise is pictured above:
  • Stand with hands in front of you, palms facing each other, several inches apart. Slowly bring palms to shoulder width, as though you are holding an expanding balloon. Bring hands back to first position, as though the balloon is deflating. Repeat four times, inhaling on the expansion and exhaling on the deflation of the "balloon."

While I don't know about the effects on the immune system or some of the other claims made by Qigong practitioners, I can attest to the fact that after going through the whole routine I feel more relaxed, and my muscles have lost much of their tightness. Focusing on my breathing drives any wayward thoughts out of my mind, and I am truly "in the moment." Because it is a great way of relieving stress, which has been found to contribute to so many illnesses, Qigong is bound to have a beneficial impact on one's health.




For an added benefit, try Qigong outdoors in a park, the perfect place to meditate and get your Qi flowing!



**Information taken from the website of the National Qigong Association USA.

The quintessential compilation of ABC posts for Q can be found here.


38 comments:

  1. I love hearing about the eastern health systems. There were some great techniques born out of eastern philosophy.

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  2. Some of these techniques have been adapted into modern Western psychological techniques, especially related to the control of breath an thought.

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  3. I did Tai Chi for awhile too Rose. I didn't like my instructor who always was in a rush. Can't rush Tai Chi I thought. I had never seen it spelled with a Q. Interesting.

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  4. I love watching the practitioners in the park...It is beautiful sight. I remember taking Tai Chi while a grad student, but the practice was too early in the morning! Isn't that too funny! Mt accupuncturist thinks it would be great for me to try again. gail

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  5. Qigong sounds so cool. I've never heard of it before. Anything that loosens and relaxes muscles is much needed in my house!

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  6. Thanks Rose, no wonder you are always cool as a cucumber! I had no idea you were a practitioner of ancient arts in addition to all of your other talens! Thanks too for the step by step approach. Now I have something to quiet my mind during those anxious moments when I cannot go out into the garden for relief. :-)
    Frances

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  7. Hi Rose, that sounds like a great class and great exercises. The last time you mentioned tai chi I meant to see if I could find a local class and I haven't looked yet. I should!

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  8. Sounds great Rose. It is all good.

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  9. This is interesting Rose. I have always heard Tai Chi is a great form of exercise for relaxation.

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  10. It sounds very interesting Rose, I keep meaning to look into this sort of thing as I'm sure I would find it beneficial especially as I have respiratory problems.

    A great Q, thank you.

    PS There were two Qs in the word verification!!

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  11. It sounds like something I'd enjoy. I could certainly use something to attract energy;)
    Marnie

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  12. does one need QUICK hands for this or QUIET ones? seems interesting.

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  13. Dear Rose.....what a delightful post. I am very much into the East and all they offer in the form of exercise and diet.

    I agree with you it is lovely to enjoy the fresh air whilst exercising.

    I am pleased that you are enjoying your classes Rose and that it is beneficial......

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  14. I've taken Tai Chi/Qigong for some time now and find it the very best thing for the body, for balance, for calming the mind. It's excellent! Great post for the day!

    Enjoy!

    Sylvia

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  15. A great take on the letter Q! There are so many wonderful aspects of Eastern medicine that go beyond our penchant for using drugs to cure everything.

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  16. Qigong is another new word this week.

    I do believe gentle exercise and breathing is useful for relaxation but its ritualisation brings out the sceptic in me.

    There is a Tai Chi instructor who leads a small class here sometimes and we've watched them in the lounge while waiting for our transport.

    I'll do a bit of flexing now before bed.

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  17. Very interesting post, Rose. Not heard of Qigong before, but it sounds very beneficial. I enjoyed the info. And your shot of the park and lake is beautiful and serene, perfect for this post.

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  18. I do believe there is much benefit to be gained from such practices, but my problem is that I get so bored trying to practice them. I have a butterfly mind. :(

    Good 'Q' though!

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  19. I'd love to find such a class, but I seem to be in a yoga-centric area.

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  20. Anthony, Western medicine can learn a lot from other philosophies.

    RuneE, Yes, deep breathing seems to be a central component of many practices.

    Lisa, Tai Chi is meant to be done very s-l-o-w-l-y. Our instructor is great. Qigong is actually something different; not so many movements.

    Gail, I am a devoted proponent of Tai Chi--so many benefits, including improving the memory. Oh, I can relate to not wanting to go to an early class:)

    Tina, Today you could actually hear my joints popping as we did the stretching movements:)

    Frances, Obviously, you haven't seen me in my stressed-out stage:) Qigong doesn't take any talent, fortunately.

    Monica, Definitely check out a tai chi class! It's great for someone like me who is athletically challenged.

    Janet, Yes, at the end of class I feel very mellow:)

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  21. Susie, it is great for relaxation, but also for balance and flexibility, which makes it a great exercise as one gets older.

    ShySongbird, The main focus of our class is on Tai Chi, which is a kind of exercise that anyone can do. I would think the deep breathing would certainly help you.

    Marnie, Unfortunately, the energy effects don't last until the next week's class:)

    Roger, Quiet is good; definitely not quick:)

    Cheryl, I am not an athletic person and I'd rather walk than do any other form of exercise. This class has been wonderful for me. Our instructor is 74 and amazing! I hope to be doing Tai Chi that long!

    Sylvia, Originally, I was looking for a yoga class and took Tai Chi only because it fit my time schedule. So glad I did--I'm hooked on it now!

    Rose, I'm all for "alternative medicine" whenever possible. I'm glad to see Western medicine beginning to study the holistic or naturalistic ideas of Eastern cultures.

    Gerald, Actually I find the ritual and repetition very calming; besides, it's taken me over two years to learn one routine of Tai Chi!:)

    Carol, I wish I could say I've done Tai Chi in this park, but I haven't. Once in awhile I'll do some in my backyard where no one can see me:)

    Jay, Having a class each week forces me to practice. When I say I'm going to exercise or practice something on my own otherwise, I usually give up:)

    MMD, Qigong classes are hard to find, but Tai Chi is much more common. I had originally planned to take yoga, but it met on Sat. mornings at 9 AM, which wasn't for me:)

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  22. I've never tried this but do yoga quite often. You're so right - breathing is most important!

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  23. I have an aunt who is very involved in this form of eastern movement. Thanks for sharing so much info on it.
    Thanks too for stopping by.

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  24. I did Tai Chi for a while and there was something similar in that. However it was never spelt with a Q.
    The man in charge was always moaning about my back & trying to straighten it up & my chiropractor had told me I had slight scoliosis so it seemed futile & annoying that he kept saying this in front of the class, even though I had told him the reasons.

    Q is not an easy letter to photograph! That was a good idea of yours.

    Nuts in May

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  25. Interesting post Rose. I've never heard of this technique. :)

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  26. Interesting introduction to Qigong. I can see how it would be relaxing, especially in that beautiful location.

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  27. This was such an interesting post.

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  28. Rose, the photo of your hands turned out great. Glad you decided to use this one instead of the first one you tried. :)

    I have enjoyed hearing about your Tai Chi classes and about some of the ineteresting people in them. It must be beneficial-there seem to be several long lived people in them.

    Qigong sounds like my type of exercise and I would love to try it to reduce my blood pressure. Maybe there will be one offered we can both attend.

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  29. It made me more calm just concentration on my talking about it. You naturally bring that out in folks. When you donated to Operation Christmas Child and I was asking about you to our other garden blogging buddies. They just raved about you. It was nothing but the best of comments. So there should be really good karma all around you. Big hugs.

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  30. Tumblewords, I'd love to do yoga, but Tai Chi is easier for me:) I think both provide the breathing and meditative benefits.

    Beverly, This is a great form of exercise for older people, not that I'm old, of course:)

    Maggie May, Qigong is a little different from Tai Chi; it doesn't have all the set forms and movements. Shame on your instructor! I'm lucky to have a great instructor who recommends adaptations for anyone with physical limitations. She's 74 and has a black belt in karate!

    Racquel, It's not as well-known as yoga or the martial arts. We just use a little of it in our class.

    Sarah, Our class meets in a gym, unfortunately, but many Tai Chi classes do meet outside. Once in awhile I do practice in my yard.

    Hip Chick, Thanks and thanks for stopping by!

    Beckie, I think you would really enjoy Tai Chi--it's such a gentle form of exercise. The photo...I didn't realize till later that all day I had been going around with my middle button undone. Hope no one enlarges the photo, lol:)

    Flowergardengirl, Thank you for such wonderful comments! I've seen your name in comments quite often, but lately it seems it's all I can do to keep up with some of the "regulars" I read. I hope many people contribute to your project!

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  31. I haven't tried either tai chi or qigong (yet.) I'm definitely a believer though, in eastern-style energy medicine and physical/spiritual practices that enhance energy. We have a local martial arts center that offers tai chi and qigong classes, as well as a local alternative medicine center co-owned by an old friend that offers free qigong classes once a month. I'm already interested, and your endorsement of these practices is further encouragement to give them a try. Thanks Rose!

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  32. Fascinating. I had never heard of this. It seems like a form of meditation, helpful in quieting the mind.

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  33. What an interesting post, Rose! I was wondering what Q would be. ;-) Have a great weekend!

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  34. Sorry, but the mental picture of deflating a balloon--sound effects--would quickly quell my quiescence. What a great post, Rose. I'll give this technique a try with some other image in mind.

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  35. A fine Q post. I think we could all benefit from this technique.
    Thanks for calling on mine.

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  36. Thanks for the lesson, Rose (I feel more relaxed already :) Have often thought of taking a class in Tai Chi ... my wish list of new things to do is now getting QUITE l o n g!

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  37. Dear Rose,
    I am so interested in this!
    I have made some notes and will do some research. Adding Quigong to my daily routine would be great.
    Creative q!
    Sherry

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