There are literally thousands of Qigong exercises available for study and use. Probably the most well known are variations of the Baduanjin (Eight Pieces of Brocade), the Wu Qin Xi (Five Animal Frolics), and the Yijin Jing (Muscle/Tendon Change Classic). Unlike Tai Chi, the less complicated Qigong exercises can be mostly learned from reference material.
I follow a combination of several movements from the many routines I have learned over the years. I have taken the ones I am most found of and put them together into one series. I also have broken it down further into a short session and a long session, and I choose one depending on what's going on that day. If you do a quick check on the Internet, you will find plenty of resources (most are free) to get started. My starting place was finding the World Tai Chi Association and the efforts of Master Peter Hill. I use the association's Five Organ and Five Centering Sets as my base for Qigong training.
Unfortunately, when most people think about Tai Chi, they are primed to think of old people. What they may not know is that Tai Chi translates into "The Supreme Ultimate," which refers to its martial art prowess. It is a genuine martial art that is extremely deceptive and effective.
To be fair, however, I will warn you in advance that the martial art side of Tai Chi is not easy to learn. My earlier training in Korean Karate was a cakewalk in comparison.
Finding a good instructor is paramount if you want to really learn the martial art. However, by focusing on the health aspects, you can still learn enough on your own to reduce your stress and improve your health from instructional Tai Chi DVDs, YouTube snippets, and by ordering instructional books. Initially I focused my efforts on the basic 13 postures and later studied the standardized 24 short forms. I trained solo for years until I decided to find an instructor and explore the fighting side.
If you're still not convinced this is a viable option for reducing stress, please consider the following from the well known Mayo Clinic. Experts there say preliminary evidence suggests that Tai Chi (they lump Qigong and Tai Chi together) may offer numerous benefits beyond stress reduction, including:
- Reducing anxiety and depression
- Improving balance, flexibility, and muscle strength
- Improving sle ep quality
- Lowering blood pressure
- Relieving chronic pain
- Increasing energy, endurance, and agility
- Improving overall feelings of well-being
Studies show that chronic stress is very harmful. Reducing and controlling stress is therefore paramount to maintaining good health. Though there are many ways to do this, Qigong and Tai Chi are often overlooked as possibilities because people assign them esoteric qualities or think they are beyond their reach. Anyone, at any time, can benefit from this type of training.
One of my friends suffered from back pain combined with limited range of motion from injuries received early in his police career. I showed him some basic Qigong routines and worked with him over a period of several months. He stuck with it and is currently enjoying an enhanced range of motion and his back pain is all but gone. He is also finally getting a good night's sleep. The bottom line: whether you use Eastern or Western techniques, learn to manage your stress or it will manage you.
Amaury Murgado is a retired Army Reserve Master Sergeant, a 30-year-plus martial artist, and currently serves as the Special Operations Lieutenant for the Osceola County Sheriff's Office in Kissimmee, Florida.
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