qigong and beyond
Qigong is a gentle form of martial art that has been a part of Chinese culture for thousands of years.
A simplistic translation of qi (氣) is "energy", while gong (功) means "work" or "skill". Qigong, then, refers to the practice of working with vital energy in the body. This practice elegantly combines strength building, flexibility, balance, breath and focused intention to promote wellness.
Medical qigong is the practice of prescribing specific postures or movements to patients as a method of treating illness. It has also long been understood that qigong is a tool that practitioners may use to hone their medical skills by increasing their level of sensitivity to and awareness of vital energy in the body. For this reason, qigong was a central component of my medical education.
While qigong is a unique and valuable part of Chinese medicine and culture, I hold a broad perspective on what therapeutic exercise can and should look like. When one considers the purpose and method of qigong as being a physical and energetic practice that combines breath, movement and awareness, one can extrapolate this to many other health-promoting activities. For some, yoga might be their preferred method of mindful exercise, while for others that might look like hiking, rock climbing, cycling, walking meditation, or breathwork. Health and vitality are promoted any time we engage in movement that aligns the body with the mind, particularly when we find pleasure in it.
While medical qigong is not a central modality I use in patient care, I occasionally prescribe therapeutic exercises and lifestyle habits aimed at addressing symptoms and generating vitality between office visits. I encourage all my patients to engage in a therapeutic exercise modality that works for them, and can offer coaching and lifestyle guidance to support them in making meaningful health-promoting changes in their lives.