Qigong Mental Health Benefits + How To Get Started

Qigong helps you regulate the flow of energy through your body, which directly impacts how you feel both physically and emotionally. The word qigong literally translates to qi or chimeaning “vital force” or “life energy,” and gongwhich means “practiced skill.”

According to Chinese medicine, chi is synonymous with life, and its most essential characteristic is movement.

When chi moves through your body in a calm and steady way, you feel healthy, balanced, and vibrant. But when chi is stuck, you feel physical and emotional pain; when chi is erratic, you feel moody and unstable; and when chi is sluggish, you feel lethargic and heavy.

In order to feel good, you want to support a healthy flow of chi, and there are many different ways that qigong helps you do this.

The most popular styles of qigong involve slow, gentle movements that focus the mind and relax the body as a form of moving meditation. The breath naturally becomes deep and slow when using these practices as the sympathetic nervous system turns down its stress response and the parasympathetic nervous system turns on.

But qigong isn’t always slow and gentle.

There is a school of qigong called Jinjing Gong that involves long stretches of “shaking.” When you practice Jinjing Gong, you jump up and down in place, vocalize with grunts and moans, and occasionally slap or tap specific channels and organs in the body.

If you’re brand-new to the method, you’ll almost definitely feel self-conscious the first few times you try it. But the beneficial effects can be truly transformative, as Jinjing Gong is thought to help your body discharge stress and trauma. In his book, In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores GoodnessPeter A. Levine, Ph.D., discusses how animals naturally “shake off” stress after potentially traumatic events, while the human inclination is to suppress this primal response.

Interestingly, after practicing qigong for a while, many people notice that even the slower qigong practices can induce gentle tremors in the body, similar to the shaking you might experience when lifting heavy weights. This is seen as a good sign that stuck chi is starting to move and tension is being released.

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