According to the National Qi Gong Association, Qi Gong is an ancient Chinese health care system that reestablishes the body/mind/soul connection. It has numerous health benefits and is practiced for spiritual enhancement, medical purposes, and even self-defense.
Qi (pronounced chee) is the Chinese word for energy or life force. Gong (pronounced gung) means skill obtained through constant practice. Qi Gong is essentially the practice of cultivating life energy through breathing techniques, postures, mental focus and movement.
There are many styles of Qi Gong and when practiced regularly the body’s stress levels decrease, endurance and energy increase and the immune system is enhanced. It also can improve functions of major organs, like the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. Several scientific studies have shown Qi Gong’s particular impact on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
One study by Chun, Lee, Suen and Tam found that Qi Gong improves lung function and actually slows the progression of COPD. Participants in this study engaged in 60-minute Qi Gong sessions twice a week for several months. They were taught various breathing techniques and slow, gentle movements and after six months demonstrated a marked improvement in lung function, endurance and activity levels.
A different study by Leung, Alison, McKeough and Petus boasted similar findings. They found that participants in their study developed increased exercise capacity, improved balance and muscle strength, and enhanced quality of life.
Qi Gong is an effective, inexpensive, highly accessible and adaptable form of physical, mental and spiritual exercise. No special equipment is needed, so it can be practiced anywhere.
People of all fitness and skill levels can participate and benefit from practicing this art. It is especially beneficial for those who have chronic lung disease. It relieves anxiety/stress, increases energy levels, helps slow the progression of COPD and improves overall quality of life. There are a number of Qi Gong instructional books and DVDs available for purchase at bookstores and on the Internet. Many health and wellness centers offer classes, as well.
Jessica Jackson is a registered respiratory therapist and certified asthma educator at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation.