Introduction to Qigong
18 March 2021
Qigong is an ancient Chinese art which has a number of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health benefits. We recently spoke to Karen Soo, a qigong instructor in Cheltenham – where our One Bayshill Road and Latherham House communities are located – to find out more about the practice and the different classes she offers.
Hi Karen, could you tell us a bit about qigong?
Qigong (pronounced “chee-gong”) is an ancient Chinese healing art developed thousands of years ago. “Qi” means life energy or vital force, while “gong” means cultivation or skill. When we practice qigong, we’re cultivating skill with our life energy.
Qi runs through all living things and when we work with our energy through qigong, we allow it to flow naturally through the body. It releases qi blockages, like tension and stress, and has a number of holistic health benefits – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
There are multiple parts to qigong, including moving, breathing, standing exercises and meditation. It’s very simple and gentle, and available for all ages and abilities. I have taught qigong to people from the ages of four to 100! All you need is your body and breath.
What are the health benefits of qigong? Have you noticed an increase in interest over the last year?
People in general are becoming more interested in mindful practices. The whole idea of qigong is to relax and heal yourself from the inside out – lockdown has allowed people to become more aware of their health and wellbeing. The benefits of qigong are numerous: better health, increased strength and balance, more vitality, sounder sleep, better mobility and more joy in life to name just a few. Before lockdown, I’d never tried online teaching but now have people from all over the world taking part in the sessions, such as Italy, Germany and the USA. The exercises are gentle and it’s easy for people to practise them at home.
What kind of classes are available?
Classes run for an hour each and there is a session to suit all abilities. I’m currently running five online classes a week during lockdown. We have a short discussion at the end of each session and this has developed a lovely sense of community – people have also built strong friendships through our outdoor qigong sessions.
I run two outdoor classes; one at Pittville Park on a Thursday morning, which is free (optional donation to our chosen charity), and one at Lineover Wood on a Monday, which costs £6. These classes are currently paused but I’m hoping to start them again next month, guidelines permitting.
I also run two indoor classes, but it is to be determined when these will resume.
What advice would you give someone looking to try qigong?
So many qigong exercises are simple to do. My website has lots of free video resources for those looking to try qigong. You can watch the videos and follow along as the movements are easy to learn.
To bring qigong into their daily lives, I tell people to ‘mind the gap’ and find little gaps in their day to practise qigong, whether that’s waiting for the kettle to boil or while the oven preheats. Many of the exercises can be done within the time that you have.
Breathing in itself is a beneficial exercise. Just taking a few conscious, slow, deep breaths can help to calm the mind, relax the body and bring yourself into the present moment, and is a simple, effective qigong practice.
Discover more about qigong, Karen’s free resources or book a class by visiting www.shibashiqigong.com.