Qigong Exercises for Stress Relief

There are many ways to alleviate stress and reclaim our peace of mind—restoring balance and serenity in our lives. Meditation, yoga and moderate exercise can all help. But, after twenty-five years of personal research into what works best to counter stress, I’ve found the ancient Chinese art of qigong to offer the surest results.

Firstly, qigong exercises emphasize and teach us how to breathe correctly into the lower stomach.

When we breathe this way consistently, our lymph systems are effectively activated, detoxifying the body and sending a gentle stream of energizing oxygen into the tissues. Activation of the lymph system automatically triggers a relaxation response throughout the body. We automatically feel balanced and “well”.

Qigong exercises also activate the lymph system with off-the-body stroking movements and an emphasis on pumping the legs with up and down squatting movements.

Secondly, qigong’s strong mental emphasis on internal relaxation shifts us out of the sympathetic nervous system (associated with fight-or-flight and our normal reaction to stress) into the parasympathetic nervous system (associated with feelings of pleasure and harmony).

This is so important. Over-use of the sympathetic nervous system depletes our adrenals and floods the body with toxic levels of cortisol. We literally burn ourselves out. But like rats hitting the button for more cocaine, we just can’t stop.

Qigong exercises slowly seduce us back into the gentle world of the parasympathetic and over time we build up a “body-memory” that allows us to choose a different, relaxed response to stress rather than the frazzled, knee-jerk reaction we usually employ.

Thirdly, qigong exercises for health balance the meridian energy flow in the body, through scientific movement and direction of mental intention.

Areas that are depleted are restored to their correct levels; areas that are excessive are “calmed down.” As we become more energetically balanced, we are automatically capable of better adjusting to daily stress.

Fourthly, qigong exercises build the skill of becoming tranquil and appreciating the value of that tranquility. Qigong exercises accomplish this by meditative standing and sitting practices where we go deep inside and use our attention to release ourselves emotionally and psychically.

Significant healing occurs at this level of qigong practice, with tremendous implications for stress management.

Lastly, qigong exercise steps integrate our three major centers or “brains”, the third eye area, the heart center and the stomach.

In the computer age, we have become “headier” than ever, losing touch with the wisdom of our hearts and the grounding of our stomachs. Western science and organizations like HeartMath have proved that attention on the heart center can entrain the head to process emotions in a less stress-inducing manner.

Through its emphasis and cultivation of all three centers, qigong ensures maximum resilience when it comes to handling stress effectively. Qigong exercises are like a practical course in acceptance and letting go.

We learn how to conserve our energy and stay calm, whatever the pressures. We learn how to gain control of our inner being and take responsibility for enhancing the quality of our lives. These are skills you can use and apply for the rest of your life.