An integral part of Chinese medical theory is the role of qi – the internal life force that pervades every cell and plays an equally important role as physical energy in sustaining life and health.
For good health and longevity, qi must be present in all the vital organs in sufficient amount, and must flow smoothly without any blockages in the correct directions. Thus Qigong therapy, massage and exercises are indispensable in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Qigong massage is an effective instant relief for many ailments, and is valuable in unblocking stagnant qi meridian channels. Either soft gentle massage is used or more vigorous strokes, pressure, tapping or even pounding are needed when the blockage is severe or longstanding.
For this reason, it is encouraged to rub the palms together at the end of every practice session until the palms are warm with qi, and then gently massage the face, scalp, neck and shoulders; then down both arms and legs; back up to the back, tapping those areas that are tired, sore or aching; and finally rubbing the abdomen in circular motion to store the undischarged qi in the middle dan tian.
For better healthy effects and preserving a youthful face, there are special Qigong exercises for the scalp, forehead, eyes, ears, nose, cheeks, tongue and neck. Those who spend a lot of time doing facials or applying make-up will see the effectiveness of their facial care much enhanced if they apply Qigong facial massage as well.
The benefits of Qigong exercises have been explained in previous articles. For excellent health and longevity, one cannot ignore the importance of combining Qigong exercises with a healthy diet and lifestyle, and also sufficient aerobic ( for cardiovascular fitness ), isotonic ( weight-bearing ) and isometric ( resistance ) exercises.
Traditional Qigong exercises can be stationary ( somewhat like Yoga ); with slow movements ( like Tai Chi ); or dynamic, fast and forceful ( like Kung Fu ). All these exercises are done with concentration and conscious breathing. The masters perform the exercises in the meditative state. It is often said that Tai Chi is Yoga-in-motion. After having practised both Qigong and Yoga, I think it is most appropriate to describe Qigong as Yoga-in-action.
I have briefly mentioned before that it is possible, to fit our busy modern-day schedule, to combine Qigong with other exercises so that the combined benefits are achieved.
Since cardiovascular health is so important, we all must strive to do at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 times a week. I mentioned how I do the Qigong Walk on the treadmill whenever I am in the gym. It is ideal as warm-up exercise since you need to gradually increase your speed for safe aerobic exercise. The basic Qigong Walk is possible up to a certain speed only. For faster paces I switch to the variation that involves breathing in with each of the first two steps ( as opposed to breathing in twice with the first step in the basic Qigong Walk ), and breathing out with the third step.
Some cancer patients who can physically cope are required to do their walks at a fast pace to enable a much higher intake of oxygen which is very important in cancer-healing. They also get the benefit of aerobic exercise from their brisk Qigong Walk.
ISOMETRIC & ISOTONIC QIGONG
Qigong exercises can be modified to include weights and resistance so that each exercise will have multiple benefits. I add dumbbells to the Qigong exercises I do indoors at home or in the gym. Wrap-around wrist or ankle weights will also give similar benefits. For lower body development, the exercises must include repetitions of squatting and standing. Adding resistance to Qigong exercises involves simply doing the intended movements against the wall.
All the exercises are done with slow movements and conscious, coordinated breathing.
This ensures that qi enrichment and flow occur concurrently with the conventional physical exercises. The gradual increase in muscle strength, tone and bulk is an added bonus to the increased qi.
Imagine the tremendous health benefit achievable if the above combination exercises are done regularly.
ANTI-AGING & LONGEVITY
There has been tremendous interest in Anti-Aging Therapies in the last decade. Modern medicine and alternative therapies have come up with various recipes to help us look young, feel young, and actually be young biologically, even though we cannot stop the relentless ticking of the clock that adds to our chronological age. The quest to slow down aging has shown encouraging results, though the quest to prolong life is more difficult to achieve. However, there is no reason why we cannot expect our life-expectancy not to increase significantly in the next 50 years just as we did ( by about 50% ) in the last 50 years.
Although much is still controversial, there is at least agreement on several of the measures advocated. For a start, reducing the risks of heart attacks, stroke, cancer, hypertension and diabetes will certainly reduce your chance of premature aging and premature death.
The key to prevent all these include a diet rich in fruits, vegetables ( preferably eaten fresh and raw ), fibre and whole grains; avoiding refined sugars, excess salt, burnt meat and unhealthy fats; eating nutrient-rich but low-calorie diet; drinking plenty of water ( at least 2 litres of good-quality water per day ); maintaining a healthy weight ( Body Mass Index 19 – 23, unless you are muscular ); not smoking and not drinking alcohol ( even the much-touted benefits of drinking red wine can be achieved by drinking red-grape drink, and the potential harm from alcohol has been shown to outweigh whatever other health benefits it may have ); and not over-exposing yourself to the sun ( especially those who do not bother to apply sunscreen cream or lotion ).
Controversies remain over the effectiveness of traditional, alternative and nutritional supplements and remedies offered, and also over the medical doctors’ use of hormonal replenishment, anti-oxidants, pharmaceutical drugs, and high-tech therapies to slow or reverse aging.
But everyone agrees on the most important role of adequate exercise. It is better to be fat and fit, than to be slim and unfit. It is of course best to be slim ( but not too thin ) and fit as well. And if you keep physically fit and also practise Qigong regularly, you are definitely more likely to remain young, healthy and live longer!