It is now commonly accepted that exercise is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately for me, I have always struggled to maintain a regular exercise habit. Actually, who am I kidding, I have struggled to do any exercise at all. When I was pregnant with my first child I enrolled in a Tai Chi course and absolutely loved it. I’d tried yoga in the past but found that it didn’t seem to agree with my body shape, and that lying on mats on the ground was both uncomfortable and often painful. Tai Chi is done as a standing sequence of exercises, which I enjoyed far more.
Much later I discovered Qi Gong, also knows as Chi Kung or Chi Gung. While Tai Chi was originally a martial arts practice, Qi Gong has always been practiced for health and exercise. It is a combination of different standing movements which includes breathing techniques and can be used as a form of mediation. The exercises are based on the principles of Chinese Medicine with the aim being to cultivate Qi or Chi and move it around the body. From a western perspective, Qi Gong is the perfect exercise to develop strength, balance and flexibility.
There are an almost endless array of different Qi Gong exercises with a wide range of different sets or sequences. Personally I practice the Shibashi Qi Gong. This set of exercises was created using many of the forms in a standard Tai Chi sequence. In Qi Gong, rather than moving from one posture to the next, each exercise is repeated a set number of times before moving on to the next. It is easier to remember but still provides a nice flowing sequence. Another great thing about Qi Gong is that you can do it anywhere. It is especially enjoyable outdoors.
In a perfect world, you could do the 15 minute set of exercises morning and evening. I aim to do the set once each day, but in reality I usually manage about four times a week. I did practice the set each day for about three months and noticed a definite improvement in my sense of wellbeing. Despite not being a cardio exercise, I was able to run for a bus without losing breath, I found stairs much easier to manage, and I seemed to pick up less colds.
With hundreds of reported benefits including improved circulation, regulating blood pressure, reducing fatigue and lowering stress levels, Qi Gong may well be the perfect exercise for those who like to take things slowly.