Zhan Zhuang and the Myth of Qi Gong as “soft” exercise

Greetings Dear Readers,

I’d like to dispel a big myth about Qi Gong: the idea that Qi Gong is a “soft” exercise that doesn’t really give you a good workout.

During aerobic exercise your energy and blood goes to the periphery of your body (the muscles) to give them fuel to stay active.  Many people have the idea that aerobics are necessary to “burn calories/fat” and to bring your heart rate up to keep it strong.  The downside is after the workout you have an oxygen debt from all the fast breathing that leaves you tired and over time depletes your body, specifically your inner organs, your liver, kidneys, spleen, pretty important organs, so that when you’re older, like in your sixties, maybe fifties even, you don’t have so much energy for those kinds of workouts anymore and this deficiency is a weakness that leaves the door open to disease.

Now with Qi Gong, you can accomplish the same benefits of aerobic exercise but with many added benefits.  Your heart and lungs still get toned but in a deeper way.  Breathing slowly and deeply along with the energy movement coming from mental intention allows oxygen to penetrate much deeper into the tissues which helps tonify not only the heart and lungs but also replenishes energy of the liver, kidney, spleen and many other organs.   Instead of feeling tired and depleted after exercise, you’re going to have more energy than before!

Here is a question answered by the Meiming Qi Gong Cultural Centre:

Q:What is the difference between Qigong and other physical exercises?

A:Most physical exercises, such as running and weight training make people sweat and feel exhausted.  These are in principle exhausting exercises, and they only work our body.  During a physical workout, our body remains in a very tense condition.  The slightest inappropriate movement is likely to cause physical injuries.  In addition, this kind of exercise creates exhaustion, leading to a sense of inner emptiness, and inner emptiness makes us eat more and sleep more to feel fulfilled.  This process turns our body into a battlefield, caught between exhaustion and over-fulfilling.  Our body tends to wear out faster.
On the other hand, Qigong increases our internal fortification as well as improves out physical fitness.  With correct breathing control and special body movements, qi travels freely throughout our internal system.  It has the same effect as cardiovascular exercises, while our body stays in a very relaxed condition, with little risk of physical injuries.  Practicing Qigong has all the benefits of regular physical exercises, but not the bad side effects that regular physical exercises will cause.

You can practice Qi Gong in the back yard, at the office, even in an airport departure lounge (did this once and it really helped fix that icky “just-been-on-the-plane” feeling).  And Qi gong has many added benefits.

One of my favourite Qi Gong exercises, called Zhan Zhuang (say “JAN JONG”) literally means “stand like a tree” and is one of the foundation practices of martial arts.  It’s benefits are almost innumerable.  I have listed a few here to get you started.  The benefits you’ll experience will come quickly if you practice daily, if only for 5-10 minutes.  What happens is rather unique to each person.  One of the first things I noticed was I became a lot more grounded and my ability to handle stress improved dramatically.  In spite of not doing any other type of exercise, I kept my strength up and didn’t need the usual push-ups and sit-ups routine I normally do to maintain my strength for shiatsu work.  It felt like meditation and exercise all rolled into one with very little discomfort.

Now I’m not saying there’s anything entirely wrong with jogging or swimming.  Who doesn’t like a jump in the lake on a hot day?  But for simple health maintenance and fitness improvement do you need to hit the gym everyday? No, not at all.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    32 Benefits of Zhan Zhuang (say “JAN JONG”)

  1. reduce stress                                                        22. Increases stamina
  2. alleviates pain                                                     23. Calms nerves
  3. promotes blood circulation                              24. Slows breathing
  4. lowers blood pressure                                        25. Increases red and white blood cell count
  5. increases longevity                                             26. strengthens sinews
  6. become grounded                                                27. Builds Essence (pre-natal Qi)
  7. develops strong Qi/energy                               28. Brings about fitness without oxygen debt
  8. increases mental clarity                                    29. Heart rate slows and becomes more powerfu
  9. increases vitality                                                 30. Relieves many chronic illnesses
  10. loosens tight muscles                                         31. Strengthens digestion
  11. increases bone density                                       32. Strengthens and expands auric
  12. develops strong limbs                                               electro-magnetic field
  13. develops powerful internal energy                        radiation
  14. Improves concentration
  15. improves mind-body connection
  16. perfects postural alignment
  17. builds confidence
  18. improves mental abilities
  19. improves immunity (study shows nutriphils phagocyctosis increases 50%)
  20. improves quality of sleep
  21. increases sense of well-being
  22. puts the body into healing mode
Read more about the scientific evidence behind Qi Gong in The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing By Ken Cohen.
What benefits do you get from Qi Gong?  Love to hear your comments and questions.
Happy November!
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