Utilizing Qigong to Counter Chronic Pain

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Here is an article I wrote for the Natural Awakenings New Haven edition for October. 

Qi gong is a practice that is part of traditional Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years. It is a practice that is rooted in Taoist philosophy which at its core connects to the energy of nature that flows through all things. A literal translation of qi gong is the practice of cultivating qi. Qi gong is often called meditation in motion. This mindful movement can be a different approach to create more awareness in someone’s life. Most of the traditional exercises are done in the standing position. The focus is on the breath, the body, and the mind.

Qi gong is the foundation for Tai Chi. Most people know of Tai Chi but are not aware of its origins in Qigong. Tai Chi was developed around 600 years ago whereas qigong much like Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years. Qigong is a great modality for people that are dealing with chronic pain and illness. It is gentle yet powerful in how it can affect healing on all levels- physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. In fact it may be even better for the chronic condition population than Tai Chi or Yoga because some of the exercises in those practices are too much for people that deal with chronic pain or illness. The beauty of Qi gong is that it can be modified to suit the needs of the student. Most of the exercises are done in the standing position but they can be modified to do while seated if needed.

There are my different styles of qigong but they are only two types. There is Dong Gong which is the movement exercises. Then there is Jing gong which connects with stillness. These are a combination of seated or standing meditation positions where you focus on the wu ji or the universal energy flowing through you. This practice is very simple but not always easy. This is why it is called a practice. When you practice the exercises on a daily basis there is a cumulative effect. Often people call Chinese medicine slow medicine because it can take a while to take effect but once it does it has long lasting benefits. The changes can be subtle at first but over time they can make a tremendous impact.

Being a part of Chinese medicine Qi gong has a connection to the five elements and the organ systems. One of its main focus areas is to open up energy through the meridians that are energy channels of the organs that flow through the body. There are even ancient Taoist chants that correlate with the five elements and organ systems. Another concept that is focused on in Qi gong are the three Dan Tiens. These are the three main energy centers in Qigong. You can maybe equate them to the seven chakras in yoga but they are a different application to the flow of energy. The lower Dan Tien connects to the Body or more external energy. The middle Dan Tien connects to the Mind. This relates to the concept of Shen which is our spirit that resides in the heart. Think of it as the true mind not the ego mind. The upper Dan Tien connects to Spirit. Imagine a connection to the universe, creator, or a higher power. When exercises are done focusing on the Dan Tien’s there is a bridge or connection of the Body, Mind, and Spirit that is created.

Here is a description of a set of movements that focuses on the 3 dan tiens. The lower dan tien is at the abdomen. The middle dan tien is at the area of the chest. The upper dan tien is at the area of the forehead.

“Start by bringing your hands up towards your lower abdomen. Separate your hands at the top of your stomach and make a circle back down to the lower abdomen. Continue this movement for a few breaths.

Now move to the middle dan tien bringing your hands up towards your chest. The circles get a little bigger now as you come back down to the lower abdomen and then back up to your chest. Continue to breath and bring your hands up, separate, down and to the center again.

Move up to the upper dan tien at the area of your forehead. You will make big circles now. Separating at the forehead coming down to the lower abdomen and then back up. Do this for a few breaths.

Now go in the opposite direction so take your hands hold them up and out and then bring them towards your forehead and then down to your lower abdomen. Then separate your hands and bring them up and in and then down at your forehand towards your abdomen.

Do this for a few breaths and then start to make the circles smaller.

Continuing down your body now starting at your chest. Bring your hands in and down. Up and around. Continue for a few breaths. Then move down to the lower abdomen.

Circles will be very small now coming down, separating, up, and around.

After a few breaths allow yourself to come to stillness.”

Erik Harris has been a Qi Gong practitioner for 17 years. He is certified through Fengyang TCM with Dr. Ming Wu. He is offering a Qi Gong for Chronic Pain Certification Course at the Red Barn in Durham. The next offering is on 10/7 and 10/8 2023 from 10-5 each day. For more info go to chiforhealing.com or contact erik@chiforhealing.com




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