QIGONG5Qigong is an important part of Chinese Medicine.  It is a combination of gentle, healing exercises.   Qi can be translated as “breath”, “energy”,  “vital life force” and gong means the art of cultivation of a skill through practice.   Qigong combines movement and meditation.   There are many forms of qigong, going back thousands of years.   It is very similar to the more familiar Tai Chi.

According to qigonginstittute.org  “It is believed that regular practice of Qigong helps to cleanse the body of toxins, restore energy, reduce stress and anxiety, and help individuals maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Although there is not yet an instrument that can measure the strength of Qi and that we may not fully know what Qi is physically, research has shown that external Qi of a Qigong master could produce significant structural changes in water and aqueous solutions, alter the phase behavior of dipalmitoyl phosphatidyl choline (DPPC) liposomes, and enable the growth of Fab protein crystals (Yan et al. 1999). It has been said that Qigong is one of the most powerful healing traditions ever developed in human history. It is literally a health wonder of the world.”

More and more studies are being done of the health benefits of qigong and Tai Chi.  These include improved strength, balance, flexibility, and range of motion.  They are considered aerobic exercises of moderate intensity.  Studies indicate that it can be beneficial for arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, and other health conditions. (http://qigonginstitute.org/html/papers/TaijiResearchRev1.pdf)

Five Animal Frolics Qigong

What can we learn from animals?   A lot! Animals live in the moment and react appropriately to their environment.  They respond to threats by the well-known “flight or ,fight” response.  We humans tend to let stresses of everyday life- jobs, bosses, money, traffic, kids- weigh us down.  There are many ways to appropriately deal with stress:  exercise, talking, writing, creating art, or meditation.  Qigong is another way. Qigong is an ancient Chinese exercise that combines the breath, intention, pose, and movement.  It was created for health practices to build qi.  (pronounced “chee”). Qi is difficult to define, but it is often regarded as our life force or energy.  When we increase our qi, we have more life and vitality.  Qigong can help relieve stress and anxiety, improve balance and flexibility, and integrate our minds, bodies, and spirits to achieve harmony.   The Five Animal Frolics is a form of qigong which includes exercises inspired by animals: the bear, deer, monkey, tiger, and crane.

What can these animals teach us?

The bear:  Get your rest!  The bear is slow and lumbering and hibernates in winter.  He allows himself to rejuvenate so he can go out into the world refreshed.   The bear qigong exercises can help us access our stored energy reserves and strengthen our legs and bones.

The deer: Run and bound! The deer is tall, proud and graceful.  He is also alert and runs from threats.  We should not react to stresses in our lives by trying to suppress them.  We need to release them through exercise such as running, jumping, walking, martial arts, or qigong.  The deer exercises help us to maintain free flow of our energy despite worries and help us to keep tendons and ligaments flexible.

The monkey:  Make time for play!!  The monkey is quick and fun-loving.  The monkey exercises can help blood circulation, agility, and balance.

The tiger:  Have patience!!   The tiger is a solitary and patient hunter.  It takes time to get in the perfect position to pounce.  He tenses up his muscles to catch prey or when there is a threat, but then when he rests, he becomes totally relaxed.  His muscles, like those of a pet cat, are soft and supple.  Tiger exercises can help promote strong healthy muscles and improve digestion.

The crane: Fly high and let go!  The crane is light and graceful.  If we want to fly like the bird, we need to spread our wings and let go of old baggage.  Crane exercises help develop the lungs, improve balance, and help the spine.

All the animals represent a different energy in Chinese Medicine and by doing each of the exercises, they can help us develop each of the energies and transition from one to the next to bring about balance and harmony.

Who can do Five Animal Frolics Qigong? People of all ages and abilities.  If necessary, the exercises can be tailored to individuals based upon needs and limitations.  All the exercises are gentle movements: some standing with some upper body movements combined with breathing techniques and some also include walking.

Harmony Acupuncture and Healing Practices
Christie M. Savage, M.A., Dipl.Ac. (NCCAOM)® . L.Ac.

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