If you’re looking for a meditative practice to get your body and mind in check, qigong meditation may help you feel that “ohmmmm” and “aaaah.”
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) views poor health as a sign that you body’s natural energy flow — known as qi or “chi” — is blocked. Qigong is thought to help prevent this blockage and promote a healthy flow of qi throughout your body.
To do this, qigong combines meditation with gentle movement and controlled breathing techniques to harness this energy and strengthen your body. This is believed to promote mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.
No matter which type of qigong you practice, the overall #goals remain the same: to connect with the earth for healing and to let energy move freely through your body.
In TCM, yin and yang represent these active (yang) and passive (yin) forms of energy. Active qigong focuses more on controlled movements, while passive qigong requires stillness and breath control.
Each type can be practiced either a) externally with a qigong therapist or b) internally by yourself. While most folks opt for getting their qigong on solo, you can choose whatever works for you.
Yang is all about that active energy, focusing on strength and vibrancy. Active qigong focuses on intentional movement and breathing to boost your yang energy.
Also known as dong gong, active qigong involves repeated coordinated movements in a gentle flow. This technique is believed to promote balance, muscle flexibility, bodily awareness, and blood and lymphatic draining.
If you’re thinking this sounds a lot like yoga, think again. While both involve a flow of intentional movement, yoga focuses more on stretching and holding poses. Active qigong is all about keeping the flow going by continuously moving through various sequences to keep that sweet yang energy pulsing through your body.
Passive qigong harnesses the power of yin energy to focus on stillness and breath control to mentally cultivate qi energy.
The flow in passive qigong is mental. Your body may be embracing calming stillness, but your mind remains active to keep the energy moving.
There are two main types of passive qigong: visualization (cun si) and mental focusing (ru jing). Passive qigong can be done sitting, lying down, or even standing. Standing meditation — or zhan zhuang — is thought to promote increased vitality and power during meditation.
Embryonic breathing is another way to get deeper into a passive meditative moment. This breathing technique helps to revitalize your body and mind through deep lung breathing.
Traditional Chinese meditation boasts a ton of benefits, and qigong is no exception. While more research is needed to prove some claims, here’s how qigong may do your mind and body some good.
Qigong’s controlled movements help create awareness of your body and its relationship to space. This not only affects muscle flexibility and strength, but it also keeps your sense of balance in check.
In a 2011 study of young women ages 18 to 25, those who practiced qigong for 8 weeks showed a 16.3 percent increase in stability scores versus those who did not.
A 2020 study of adults ages 51 to 96 had similar results: those who did qigong weekly for 12 weeks showed improvement in balance and walking scores over those who didn’t.
Curbing stress and anxiety
Breath control in particular is a key component of meditation. When your breath is calm and controlled, your body often feels relaxed and safe.
It’s easy to stray from any task you have at hand (we see you trying to tempt us with your wonderful distractions, cell phone!).
Because qigong requires you to focus on your mind, body, and breath, regular practice might help strengthen your ability to concentrate in other areas of your life. However, more research is needed in this area.
Reducing risk of chronic disease
Again, we need more research in this area, but what’s available looks promising. Reported benefits of qigong meditation may include lower stress, boosted blood flow, and overall wellness — which could potentially reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Most people choose to practice qigong first thing in the morning, but you can incorporate a regular routine at whatever time works best for you.
Qigong is generally safe to practice every day and typically lasts anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour. But, keeping a regular practice is more important that how long it takes. Remember, any form of meditation is a practice you have to consistently keep up with.
Starting out with qigong can be a bit overwhelming. Here’s a basic breakdown.
How to start an active qigong practice
The many postures incorporated into active qigong take time to learn. The easiest way to get a handle on all movements is to sign up for an active qigong class or follow a guided video.
Sessions will often start with a series of inhales and exhales to connect with and control your breath, before beginning a series of postures to awaken and activate your qi.
This routine from Yoqi Yoga and Qigong is a great place to begin your qigong journey. This 30-minute routine guides you through (and explains!) a set of common qigong movements and breathing techniques.
How to start a passive qigong practice
If a passive qigong meditation is more your jam, we’ve got you covered.
To get started, simply sit in an upright position, close your eyes, and breathe. Let your tummy rise and fall with each breath in and out. Continue focusing on your breath for 5 to 10 minutes.
If you want to add in a bit of visualization, picture things that spark a sense of joy or calm within you as you breathe (a tropical beach or fairy tale-esque cabin?).
Another popular visualization technique is rainbow meditation. Picture the colors of the rainbow, and with each inhale, fill your body with each color, one at a time. When you exhale, allow yourself to release both the color as well as any tension, distraction, or negativity you may be holding.
So, what’s mindfulness got to do with qigong? Quite a bit, actually.
Mindfulness is all about creating awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and actions in the present moment.
When combined, mindfulness and qigong meditation practices can work hand-in-hand to deliver you a healing helping of self-aware energy flow.
Both focus on your mind, body, and breath, opening you up to a greater self-awareness. Visualization practice also allows you to access specific thoughts and feelings to ground you in the moment.