Qigong exercises are Chinese breathing and movement disciplines practiced around the world. The term qigong is general, with many specific types of qigong exercise practiced and focused on slightly different goals. Although qigong exercises have been practiced for thousands of years, the correct practices and actual health benefits are still widely debated. Performing basic qigong exercises requires little except the right teacher, which can be in the form of a person, books, or even videos.
The exercises in qigong generally involve many specific motions and control systems of both physical and mental origin. These may include slow and controlled movements, meditation, and stretches. With all of these movements, the main goal is to circulate the qi, or vital energy, properly within one’s body. Qigong exercise is not only for promoting physical fitness, but also for healing both mental and physical ailments.
Different movements and styles belong to different types of qigong, but there are some basic exercises which are universal. Diaphragmatic breathing exercises are used in basic instruction to get the body ready for qigong and to teach controlled breathing. This exercise is done by sitting with a straight back or lying down and breathing in very slowly while imagining all of your lungs and even belly filling with air. Once you feel filled up with air, pause for about a second, then release just as slowly, imagining all of the air leaving your body. This may be practiced for several minutes until controlled breathing feels natural.
Other qigong exercises focus heavily on releasing tension in the shoulders and back and improving posture. It has been shown in studies that straight posture allows deeper breathing, and deeper breathing typically allows more oxygen to flow throughout the body. A basic exercise to release tension can be done by sitting straight and relaxed, inhaling using the diaphragmatic breathing for a few moments, and then tensing your shoulders as much as possible. After holding your tensed muscles for a few seconds, begin to release the tension as you exhale very slowly. This is usually repeated about eight times.
Many qigong exercises have been adapted into other forms of exercise or relaxation, such as yoga. The horse stance, which is famous within yoga, is actually a qigong exercise and is a basic stance for many of the other movements. Stances like these help to keep the blood and qi flowing and improve posture, which is very important for correct practice of qigong.