3 easy Qigong exercises to reduce stress and anxiety (2023)

If you’ve ever experienced ongoing stress or anxiety, you know how the effects can invade every corner of your life, health, and wellbeing. Positive stress (i.e., excitement about a project) can make your brain sharper and more resilient, however, chronic stress can weaken your immune system, trigger systemic inflammation, change the structure and function of your brain, and makes you more vulnerable to health issues, mood disorders, and mental illness.

When treating stress and anxiety, Western medicine often turns to psychiatric drugs to tranquilise symptoms and manipulate the balance of neurochemicals (neurotransmitters and biological chemicals that affect the nervous system). Though these prescription medications can have various benefits, they don’t address the root cause of anxiety or stress, address overall health impacts, or equip people with the skills and self-care techniques to recognize, respond, and reduce their effects.

As the societal value of self-care increases, many are seeking to replace or supplement a Western medicine approach with empowering self-care practices — such as Chinese medicine — that can help alleviate symptoms, and reduce the effects of stress and anxiety.

3 easy Qigong exercises to reduce stress and anxiety (1)

(Video) Reduce Stress & Tension Naturally in 10 Minutes - Easy Qigong Exercises

Understanding stress and anxiety through Chinese medicine

Like Western medicine, Chinese medicine views stress and anxiety as a form of imbalance. However, Chinese medicine considers how imbalances equally manifest in the mind and the body, and therefore aims to treat both simultaneously via the meridian system.

Developed in conjunction with Chinese philosophy over 5,000 years ago, the meridian system describes energetic pathways that carry Qi (or “vital energy”) throughout the mind and body. The 12 primary meridians correspond with and originate from one of the body’s vital organs.

Six yin and yang primary meridians course through the arms: the yin meridians of the heart, lungs, and pericardium, and the yang meridians of the small intestine, large intestine, and triple burner. The other six primary meridians course through the legs: the yin meridians of the liver, spleen, and kidneys, and the yang meridians of the gallbladder, stomach, and urinary bladder. The yin meridians run along the inner seam of the limbs, whilst the yang meridians run along the outer seam.

Viewing the mind and body as intertwined, Chinese medicine associates every organ and its meridian with a certain type of emotion, and every illness — physical or mental — from an imbalance of Qi in an organ or its meridian. Whilst an imbalanced organ may be the result of imbalanced emotions, imbalanced emotions may equally arise from imbalances in the organs. For example, Chinese medicine associates the kidneys (yin organ) and bladder (yang organ) with fear. When faced with an extremely fearful situation, a person may lose bladder control and experience urinary incontinence.

(Video) 3 Simple Qi Gong Exercises for Fast and Natural Stress Relief

Qigong was developed by the earliest practitioners of Chinese medicine to help people restore the flow of Qi throughout the meridian system and reclaim their potential for physical health and mental wellbeing. In addition to the numerous benefits of mindfulness and physical activity, each Qigong exercise specifically targets at least one meridian. With different exercises to support different needs, the Qigong practitioner is empowered to customise their own toolkit to calm stress and anxiety, improve mobility, and cultivate holistic health and wellbeing.

3 easy Qigong exercises to reduce stress and anxiety

Qigong supports the interdependent relationship of the body, breath, and mind through gentle, flowing, yet challenging movements. Each one of the exercises below invites you to move intentionally and breathe deeply, both of which encourage a sense of calm, presence, and clarity. If you only have time for a short break, try one exercise at a time. If time allows, try all three for a more immersive Qigong experience.

3 easy Qigong exercises to reduce stress and anxiety (2)

  1. Tiger Climbs the Mountaintop Qigong (Heart, Lung, and Pericardium Meridians)

Part of the 5 Animal Qigong system, Tiger Climbs the Mountaintop Qigong emphasises smooth and circular shoulder movements and metered breathing to dilate the arm meridians and harmonise their combined qualities of joy, grief, healthy relationships, and emotional wellbeing.

(Video) Qigong exercises to manage Stress and Anxiety

How To: Curl your fingers into gentle claws and set your right hand behind your right-side waist. Turn your right foot out to a 45-degree angle, direct your weight into your right leg, and step your left foot forward, keeping your left knee straight and toes pointed forward. If available, bring your spine parallel to the ground as you circle your right arm forward (palm down) and circle your left arm back (palm up). Reach your hands in opposite directions as you keep the back of your neck long and look at the ground. Next, reach your right arm to the right while you reach your left arm to the left. After you’ve reached your maximum stretch, bring your left arm back as you turn your left foot out 45 degrees. Step your right foot forward and circle your arms so your right arm goes back (palm up) and left arm goes forward (palm down). Repeat the same arm actions on this side to complete one repetition. Breathe in when you swing the arms and breathe out as you twist them. Complete 6-10 reps.

  1. Bear Catches Fish Qigong (Liver, Spleen, and Kidney Meridians)

Bear Catches Fish Qigong uses deep lunges and balance to build a stable foundation, create a sense of calm solidity, and balance the meridians and emotions of the liver (anger) and spleen (worry).

How To: Flex the first joint of each finger into a gentle bear claw. Bend and raise your left knee and rotate your torso 45 degrees to your left. Step your left foot as far forward as you comfortably can, then lunge forward, bending your left knee as your right knee straightens. Draw your torso forward so that it hovers above your left thigh, whilst you reach your left hand to the outside of your left foot and straighten your elbow. At the same time, keep your right elbow bent, so that your right hand is at the same level as your left knee. To come out of the form, press down through your left foot as you rotate your rib cage and shoulders to the right. Slowly draw your torso back to vertical whilst balancing on your left leg. Bend and raise your right knee and repeat the sequence on your right side. Breathe in as you twist and breathe out when going down. Repeat 6-10 reps.

  1. Dragon Qigong (Kidney Meridian)

Part of the 5 Element series, Dragon Qigong uses deep stances to dilate the leg meridians, building self-confidence, balance, and grounding. Dragon Qigong also incorporates a spinal twist to balance the kidney meridian and its associated emotion of fear, alongside balancing the arm meridians and the emotions with which they’re associated.

(Video) How To Reduce Stress - 3 Qigong Exercises

How To: From standing, raise your arms to the level of your chest and drop them back down to your waist. Then, position your hands as if holding a ball, in front of your abdomen, with your right hand on top (palm down) and left hand below (palm up). Step your left foot out to the side and point your left toes 90 degrees to the left, then bend your left knee to lunge toward your left side. Rotate your torso to the left as you push your right palm up towards the sky and reach your left hand back, in the direction of your right foot. Look toward your left palm as you take a slow, deep breath. From here, slowly rotate your torso back to the front and return to standing with your feet at least shoulder-width apart. Place the hands as though holding a ball again, with the left hand on top and the right hand below. Repeat this sequence on the right side to complete one round, with the option to complete as many as 3 repetitions.

Your body and mind are intelligent and capable of growth, balance, and change. To learn more about how you can tune into your own innate intelligence through the self-care and wellbeing benefits of Qigong, follow our blog or dive into one of our comprehensive ebooks or online courses.

FAQs

What are the 5 types of qigong? ›

Over time, five distinct traditions or schools of qigong developed in China, each with its own theories and characteristics: Chinese Medical Qigong, Daoist Qigong, Buddhist Qigong, Confucian Qigong, and Martial Qigong. All of these qigong traditions include practices intended to cultivate and balance qi.

What are at least 3 benefits of qigong? ›

Practicing qigong may improve fitness, reduce anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure, relieve chronic pain, strengthen the immune and respiratory systems, and improve overall well-being.

Is qigong good for anxiety? ›

The available evidence suggests that qigong exercise reduces stress and anxiety in healthy adults.

How does qigong help with stress? ›

Qi Gong is a centuries-old mindfulness based practice that involves synching the breath to gentle movements. In this way it harmonizes the mind and body to help relax the nervous system and improve focus. Qi Gong is a common practice in China and is often practiced in large groups in parks throughout the country.

How do I start practicing Qigong? ›

How to Start a Qigong Practice for a Healthier Mind and Body
  1. Learn Qigong by Reading Books. ...
  2. Practice Qigong Exercises for Beginners. ...
  3. Get in Touch with Your Breathing. ...
  4. Slow Down Your Mind. ...
  5. Move with Intention. ...
  6. Consider Learning Qigong with a Teacher.

Who should not do Qigong? ›

Qigong is generally considered so safe that there is really only one main contraindication for qigong practice, and that is if someone has a history of any kind of psychotic disorder.

How long should you practice qigong daily? ›

How often should you practice? Five to 10 minutes daily is all you need at first to start feeling the benefits of qi gong. Of course, if you can't squeeze it in daily, you can still see some benefits. "Just breathing and moving can really make a difference," says Wasfie.

How many times a week should I do qigong? ›

It is quite easy to answer- everyday! While some exercises, such as running or working out, are best to do every other day, qi gong should be practiced daily for best results. It is often difficult to fit a long class into a daily practice which is why I like to focus on short routines.

What are the three treasures in Qigong? ›

The three treasures of Qigong are JING (essence), QI (energy) and SHEN (spirit). The Three Treasures or the Three Jewels are theoretical cornerstones in traditional Chinese medicine and in practices such as Neidan, Qigong, and Tai chi.

Can qigong release emotions? ›

Medical Qigong has traditionally used movements to release emotions. And thus, White Tiger Qigong aims at transforming unwanted emotions into new behavioral patterns through conscious movement, breathing, and meditation techniques.

What are the risks of qigong? ›

After pre-retrieval and repeated discussion, the range of Qigong-related adverse events include headache, dizziness or vertigo, distension of head, tinnitus, stuffiness in the chest and worsening shortness of breath, heart-pounding or palpitations, muscular soreness or pain, and so on.

Is it OK to do qigong before bed? ›

Slow, flowing Qi Gong movements are a great way to calm your mind, relax your body, and prepare for a restful night of sleep. Water Waves, Pulling Down the Heaves, and Pebble in the Pond are just a few great exercises for cultivating Yin energy in the evenings.

How long does it take for qigong to work? ›

People with fibromyalgia who did diligent qigong practice—30 to 40 minutes daily for 6 to 8 weeks—experienced consistent benefits in pain, sleep, and physical and mental function. These benefits were still seen 4 to 6 months after the studies had completed.

Should you do qigong on an empty stomach? ›

It can be quite beneficial to practice qigong on an empty stomach, perhaps in the early morning after rising and before your first meal of the day. With an empty stomach, none of your energy is being used for the process of digestion, leaving you free to direct all of it towards the focus of your qigong practice.

What is the best time to do Qigong? ›

If mornings are a calm time, perhaps that's right for you. If evening is peaceful and quiet, that may be the right time. Having said that, there are some better times to practice. If we are trying to build the yang energy – which is energetic, active, warm, and fast moving – we should practice as the sun is rising.

Can Qigong be self taught? ›

Can Qigong be self-taught? In short, yes! Because Qigong is an art of cultivating Qi and teaches different exercises, we recommend you check out a class or tutorial to learn the movements and begin a regular practice.

Can you do Qigong lying down? ›

It's best to done at night, lying on your bed, leading into a deep sleep, or when you have a few hours to rest during the day.To begin, lie down in a comfortable position either on your back or on your side. Keeping your back straight, allow your awareness to travel up your spine – one vertebra at a time.

Can you overdo qigong? ›

And just like it's possible to overdo it with HIIT workouts, it's also not recommended to overdo it with qigong. “We're not trying to use all our qi to practice,” Barbour says. “We're also trying to cultivate qi.” So basically, if you wear yourself out during practice, you're liable to use up all your precious qi.

Which is better Taichi or qigong? ›

T'ai chi is generally more complex

T'ai chi forms involve a series of many moves. One t'ai chi form can take months to learn and a lifetime to master. Qigong is often one single move repeated over and over, and sometimes does not involve movement at all, but will focus only on breathing.

Which is better tai chi or qigong? ›

The movements of Tai chi are softer and more circular than the harder, linear movements of many martial arts, but they nonetheless can be quite complex. On the other hand, Qigong is simpler and more free-form, focusing less on mastering specific forms and more on cultivating energy.

Is qigong enough exercise? ›

Although qi gong and tai chi are excellent fitness activities for beginners and people with health conditions, elite athletes also benefit from doing the slow movements, because everyone needs better balance and muscle control.

Do you wear shoes for qigong? ›

Flat thin flexible soles – the best footwear for Qigong

The shoes will keep your feet warm, protect them from harmful substances and objects, and cushion them from surfaces which are too hard, while still allowing your weight distribution to be natural and your feet to twist and flex as you move.

Can you shower after qigong? ›

Don't shower or bathe.

Two of my teachers warned against showering or bathing right before or right after qigong.

What are the 6 healing Sounds of Qigong? ›

The Elements
  • Metal. organ: lungs. color: white. sound: SSSS. season: fall.
  • Water. organ: kidneys. color: blue. sound: CHOOO. season: winter.
  • Wood. organ: liver. color: green. sound: SHHH. season: spring.
  • Fire. organ: heart. color: red. sound: HAAHHHH. season: summer.
  • Earth. organ: spleen. color: yellow. sound: WHOOOO. season: late summer.
16 Sept 2016

What is the difference between chi gong and Qigong? ›

Pronounced “chi gong,” qi gong is an internal process that has external movements. Qi means “life force,” the energy that powers our body and spirit. Gong is the term meaning work or gather. Qi Gong together means a form of movement and mind using intention and mindfulness to guide qi to make qi work.

Is Qigong as good as meditation? ›

The bottom line

Qigong is a meditation and healing practice that has been part of traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Benefits of qigong include lowered stress and anxiety, increased focus, and improved balance and flexibility. It may even reduce your risk of certain chronic diseases.

What are the 4 qi? ›

Four Qi are the 4 actions of foods in the body in TCVM when they are consumed. The theory of Four Qi of food or herbs comes from The Materia Medica or Shennong Ben Cao Jing, written between about 200 and 250 CE [2]. The categories are cold, cool, warm and hot.

What does the tiger represent in Qigong? ›

For martial artists and qigong practitioners, the Year of the Tiger has special meaning. As one of the largest extant predators, the tiger is revered for its power, ferocity, and majesty.

What is Shibashi Qigong? ›

Shibashi (meaning 18 in Mandarin and pronounced sher baa sher) is a series of 18 energy-enhancing exercises that co-ordinate movement with breathing and concentration. It is a gentle, beautiful and flowing Tai Chi Qigong exercise routine that is both a joy to do and deeply relaxing for people of any age.

How do you feel after qi Gong? ›

For many practitioners, purging negative energy from the body can lead to fatigue, nausea, soreness, or a mild headache. Some people can even feel a bit hungover after a 'heavy duty' Qi Gong workout. As mentioned, these kinds of experiences are normal during the purging process.

Can qigong heal trauma? ›

The slow, focused movements of qigong and t'ai chi may counteract erratic movements and thoughts by increasing awareness of and eventually releasing muscle holding patterns and their associated attitudes caused by stress, trauma, or past injuries.

How many forms of qigong are there? ›

There are two types of Qigong practice: Wai Dan (External Elixir) involves physical movement and concentration. Nei Dan (Internal Elixir) involves sitting meditation and guided imagery or visualization.

Is qigong a magic? ›

The benefits from qigong can be truly amazing, but they are certainly not magic, they are actually a very practical outcome of developing our skills through qigong practice.

Is there a qigong diet? ›

So the very short answer is that there is no 'qigong diet'. The longer answer is that there are principles from qigong that we can apply to our understanding of nutrition that will be valuable to us in making choices of what we should eat to obtain optimum health and vitality.

What religion is qigong? ›

Qigong Is a Displine and a Practice, Not a Religion

Although, it has some influences coming from philosophies and religions such as Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. However, these influences are natural cultural and traditional influences from its origin, given that qigong came from China.

What are the different styles of Qigong? ›

There are two types of Qigong practice: Wai Dan (External Elixir) involves physical movement and concentration. Nei Dan (Internal Elixir) involves sitting meditation and guided imagery or visualization.

What is the oldest form of Qigong? ›

The earliest known qigong-like movements were animal dances, perhaps first performed to counteract the effects of a cold and damp climate. Ancient Chinese shamans, often wearing a bearskin with four golden eyes on the head, would dance through a village to drive out pestilence and demons.

How many Qigong are there? ›

General: There are many different styles of performing Qi gong, and the Chinese government has reported more than 5,000 types. Internal Qi gong employs prescribed postures and sequences of visualization, breathing techniques, and movements as a self-healing or health-promotion practice.

How long should you practice Qigong daily? ›

How often should you practice? Five to 10 minutes daily is all you need at first to start feeling the benefits of qi gong. Of course, if you can't squeeze it in daily, you can still see some benefits. "Just breathing and moving can really make a difference," says Wasfie.

What are the risks of Qigong? ›

After pre-retrieval and repeated discussion, the range of Qigong-related adverse events include headache, dizziness or vertigo, distension of head, tinnitus, stuffiness in the chest and worsening shortness of breath, heart-pounding or palpitations, muscular soreness or pain, and so on.

How many times a week should I do Qigong? ›

It is quite easy to answer- everyday! While some exercises, such as running or working out, are best to do every other day, qi gong should be practiced daily for best results. It is often difficult to fit a long class into a daily practice which is why I like to focus on short routines.

Should Qigong be done on an empty stomach? ›

It can be quite beneficial to practice qigong on an empty stomach, perhaps in the early morning after rising and before your first meal of the day. With an empty stomach, none of your energy is being used for the process of digestion, leaving you free to direct all of it towards the focus of your qigong practice.

How long does it take for Qigong to work? ›

People with fibromyalgia who did diligent qigong practice—30 to 40 minutes daily for 6 to 8 weeks—experienced consistent benefits in pain, sleep, and physical and mental function. These benefits were still seen 4 to 6 months after the studies had completed.

Can Qigong release emotions? ›

Medical Qigong has traditionally used movements to release emotions. And thus, White Tiger Qigong aims at transforming unwanted emotions into new behavioral patterns through conscious movement, breathing, and meditation techniques.

What country is Qigong from? ›

Dao Yin is a form of exercise combining physical movements, mental focus, and breathing originated in ancient China.

Which is better tai chi or Qigong? ›

T'ai chi is a martial art; qigong is a system of wellness

The founders of t'ai chi were also well-versed in the practices of Qigong, and interwove elements of it throughout their system of self-defense. However, qigong is considered a health system, and t'ai chi is truly a martial art.

Can Qigong cause anxiety? ›

Research shows that Qigong directly impacts anxiety, depression, stress, mood and self-esteem. In randomized controlled trials, anxiety decreased significantly for the participants who practiced Qigong compared to an active exercise group.

What religion is Qigong? ›

Qigong Is a Displine and a Practice, Not a Religion

Although, it has some influences coming from philosophies and religions such as Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. However, these influences are natural cultural and traditional influences from its origin, given that qigong came from China.

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