Qigong is a thousand-year-old discipline that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention to heal the body and mind. Some of its therapeutic benefits, scientifically proven in China, are now being studied and promoted in the West.
Qigong is accessible to all: young and old, from the sporty to the less inclined, can participate in the ancient art, whose name signifies the mastery of energy and which is based on breathing exercises in conjunction with slow, non-violent movements that aim to reconcile the body with the mind and restore vitality.
In China, where it has been practised for centuries, qigong is said to aid the circulation of energy and help release tension as well as relax the body. There, and more recently in the United States, doctors have applied qigong in hospitals and clinics to treat individuals suffering from a variety of ailments, though in countries such as France, the practice is reserved for practitioners with a medical degree who have completed a five-year curriculum in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), of which qigong is one of the four main branches, along with acupuncture, herbal medicine and medical massage.
The discipline is thus utilised there as adjuvant to treatments for cardiovascular, rheumatic and neurological problems, while in Germany and Switzerland, qigong is actually reimbursed by social security within the framework of preventative medicine.
In the United States, the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is continuing its research into unconventional approaches for health such as tai chi and qigong, which, according to Gary Jiang, president of the American Tai Chi & Qigong Association, “is a formal recognition by the Congress and American people that the effectiveness and the safety of the unconventional approaches like tai chi and qigong have been proven by reliable evidences”.
Known for preventing disease thanks to better oxygenation and nutritional intake by the organs, the practice can heal different illnesses such as nervousness, insomnia and constipation. It also can put an end to back pains and weight issues.
Numerous therapeutic applications
Most of the current research on qigong being conducted and published in Asia indicates that there are benefits across multiple medical sectors.
In 2007, a journal published a series of 12 randomised clinical trials in which almost 1,000 people participated. The results indicated that the regular practice of qigong could have positive effects on lowering blood pressure but that they would need more rigorously designed trials to ascertain for sure.
Another study relating to qigong practiced alone and a second to qigong practiced with a teacher reveal that the discipline could prove efficient in relieving chronic pain. In 2010, further research corroborated this fact and indicated that the participants of a qigong group experienced a reduction in pain intensity after four weeks of treatment.
Scientific literature has also shown the benefits of qigong in improving the quality of life after cancer by playing notably on things like mood, fatigue and inflammation and reducing the undesirable side-effects of chemotherapy.
Other studies with limited clinical scope have revealed that qigong could improve the quality of life for older people or those suffering from cardiac problems and that it could have positive influences on the immune system.