How an ancient Chinese mind-body practice of qigong could help you live longer, happier.
Eight senior citizens gather at a Hong Kong park. It’s time for their weekly class in qigong, an ancient Chinese mind-body practice similar to tai chi, with qigong master Joe Lok.
The word combines “qi” meaning energy and “gong”, which loosely translates as an accomplishment or practice, explained Lok, who has been engaged in the practice of qigong for nearly 30 years.
It involves becoming aware of your breathing, sensing the energy within you and then following a series of slow, coordinated movements.
Movement, meditation and controlled breathing are the staples of every qigong session, with the ultimate focus being holistic well-being.
For Lok, it is vital that all his students experience “qi” before they begin any movements. In his class, he says you can start by simply holding a specific posture.
Your feet should be between hip and shoulder distance apart and your toes turned out slightly. From here, breathe deeply and straighten the curve in your lower spine by moving your hips slightly forward.
With your hands hanging loosely, relax your body so you don’t feel any pressure or tension on your joints. Focus and straighten fingertips slightly with hands in front of your stomach and pointing at an angle down to the ground.
Lok then asks his students whether they can sense “qi”– a warm feeling or feeling of life in their fingertips, often causing a tingling sensation. Once his students all feel it, the movement routine can begin.
The goal of the movement is to clear blockages, release pain and refresh the body and mind.
The movements in qigong are very slow. Students raise their arms over their heads, rotate their wrists, lower their arms and then make circular motions with their hands. Lok says that “as soon as you get into it, the qi begins to flow.” Emotions are calmed and people tend to live more happily.
Cecilia Chan of the University of Hong Kong has been studying the effects of qigong for years.
Her team studies internal qigong, or exercise qigong – a simple set of movements in which no energy is given to participants through a qigong master. Participants use their own energy to do the movements, similar to yoga.
They do not explore external qigong, in which many believe that a qigong master can give you healing energy through hand gestures.