Yoga practice is pretty widespread nowadays. But besides hatha yoga, there is also qigong (pronunciation: “chee gung”). This this highly effective exercise system has its roots in China and it’s still relatively unknown in the Western world. Qigong promotes an optimal flow of qi (lifeforce) through gentle body movement and visualisation. The exercises can be easily adapted for elderly people and persons with health issues.
As long as 4,000 years ago, people from ancient China performed certain exercises to keep their joints healthy. I don’t know for sure if this claim is true, though there is some conclusive evidence that qigong practice dates back at least two millennia: an archeological excavation in the 1970’s in China has revealed a silk cloth depicting people who are practising qigong-like exercises. This cloth is over 2,100 years old.
You may wonder if there’s been a cross-pollination between the Indian hatha yoga and Chinese qigong over the centuries. This could be very well the case, since China and India are geographically relatively close to each other. For instance, it’s said that Bodhidharma, a 6th century buddhist sage from India, has taught Chinese monks exercises to keep fit. This suggests that there was indeed mutual influence. However, qigong is really quite different from hatha yoga, both in the way they’re practised as in their underlying theories. So if there was any mutual influence at all, it must have been minimal. Yet in today’s Western world, qigong and yoga increasingly blend into each other – which is good, as both systems have their merits.
Although some qigong exercises may challenge your coordination and balance quite a bit, they’re not really strenuous. In our Western “no pain, no gain” way of thinking, it’s therefore hard to believe that these exercises are so very effective. But they definitely are, as you’ll find out when you practise regularly. Moreover, the fact that these exercises are so less demanding makes them very suitable for elderly people and for those in a poor health condition.
Practise qigong yourself!
Qigong is not yet as well known as yoga. But fortunately it’s rapidly gaining popularity. I myself practise qigong very often and I’m clearly experiencing the benefits of it.
If you’d like to try it yourself, you could find out if there are any qigong classes near you. But if you aren’t able to take classes, you could learn qigong exercises at home. There’s a lot of instructional material out there, so that shouldn’t be a problem. To help you on your way, I’lI discuss some instructional videos and books in future blogposts. So stay tuned!