Alex writes about the beneficial effect Qigong has on blood pressure.
When Suzanne asked me to pen a short piece for the March newsletter, I was keen to avoid falling into the realm of dogma and instead decided to put it “Out to Tender” so to speak, by setting a mini competition inviting people to drop me an email with something they would like to see an article about, the prize being a Tai Chi Fan (a Traditional Weapon). The response was great, thank you to all who took time to message us. There were some really good ideas that I will shamelessly use in later articles however, for this, the inaugural piece, I couldn’t decide between two similar entries wanting to know about some specific health benefits. It would have been wrong to choose one over the other and so I selected Helen Cunningham and Janet McCaw as the joint winners. Congratulations to you both.
This article will therefore cover a specific health benefit, this month, Blood Pressure, and at the end there will be a link to a short video of with a simple exercise that can be done anywhere, anytime to balance blood pressure.
“..Potato, Potahto, Tomato, Tomahto..”1
Before we look into this any further it is perhaps apposite for me to very briefly explain what the relationship is with Tai Chi and Qigong. Tai Chi is variously written or spoken as T’ai Chi Chuan, Tai Ji, Taiji, Taijiquan and bar the spelling (and sometimes the pretentious ways I have heard some so called “Masters” pronounce it), it is all the same art. Similarly, you will see and hear people refer to Qigong as Chi Gong, Chi Kung, Ch’i Kung. And all of this is before you start to throw in the main family or tribal styles Again, don’t get bogged down with that – it’s all broadly the same thing.
What is very different is the “Chee” sounding part. In the art of Tai Chi, the “Chi” part means “ultimate” whereas in Qigong the Qi (which is also pronounced “Chee”) refers broadly to one’s energy. Indeed the symbol for Qi is comprised of other symbols – primarily symbols for Air and Rice2 – and is often enveloped into the expression of being “a resource so essential it is impossible to define or translate”3
Over time, as people in the West have become used to phonetically saying “Tie Chee” and “Chee Kung”. They have just assumed the “Chee” means the same when in fact, as you now know, they are entirely different.
In classic Tai Chi practitioners will typically move through a gentle flowing sequence of movements known as a “form”, doing each movement once then flowing into the next movement. In Qigong one does a smaller number of exercises but with more repetitions of each movement. Whilst all Tai Chi forms encompass the concepts and movements of Qigong, a pure Qigong session might not include any Tai Chi within it.
You mentioned Blood Pressure?
Okay, okay I know I said I wouldn’t get all dogmatic and here we are some 500 words later after a lecture on the etymology of Tai Chi and Qigong. I am sure if you are reading this and, especially if you have stuck with it this far, you will have more than a passing interest in holistic health practices whether you practice a form of Yoga or Tai Chi / Qigong or are just a regular Gongster. You will undoubtedly have come across some of the many hundreds of articles like the selection below4;
Now, if like me, you were born with a healthy dose of scepticism and an inquiring mind then you would be keen to see some hard science. Well, thankfully there are plenty of well documented case studies for many of the common chronic illnesses and the benefits Tai Chi Qigong can offer in improving them.
I want to point out at this juncture that I am very much in agreement with the eminent Author, Speaker and Doctor (both Medical and Traditional) Deepak Chopra who often advises people that modern medicine is 100% the best solution for acute health problems and emergencies. For example, if you break a bone, suffer a bad cut, get shot etc then you go to the modern medical practitioner or hospital. However, he argues, that chronic problems may be more effectively addressed by altering lifestyle. For example, if you notice a link between eating certain foods and outbreaks of eczema then you may want to try a different diet. Similarly if you have high blood pressure or mobility problems then perhaps some gentle flowing movement is what you need to incorporate into your daily routine. When it comes to this amazing machine we have been given – the body – then the old saying about “use it or lose it!” is never truer.
How Does It Work?
When we practice our Qigong the way we move and breathe all help to lower naturally the blood pressure. My regular attendees will know that I nag a little about the benefits of breathing through the nose as opposed to being a mouth breather. They, along with any of Suzanne’s Yoga students or people who are doing breath training with her, will recall that if we breath in through the nose one of the benefits is that the air gets a good old dose of Nitric Oxide (NO). NO has a relaxing effect on the endothelium and promotes vasodilation which allows for easier blood flow and lowering of blood pressure. Now imagine breathing in that way and getting a good dose of nitric oxide from your own internal pharmacy coupled with some gentle flowing movement. The latter making use of all that free flowing blood by sending it around the parts of the body we are moving, in some cases parts that have not been moved for too long.
Time for Flow
Well, imagine no more! Enough reading, it’s time to experience this for yourself. Join me now in this short video which demonstrates an exercise that is great for getting some Nitric Oxide breath into the body and making use of it.
For those who want to see the science, check out this academic report covering 45 separate studies into the effects of Tai Chi Qigong on Hypertension:
Spoiler Alert ! All 45 reported very positively – indeed some reported better results than medication.
If this has raised your interest in Tai Chi Qigong then why not check out some of the many Qigong videos in the Members Area, join the Monday morning session at 9.30 on Zoom or contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org to book a private session or to discuss further.
Next month we will cover another health topic and another simple exercise that can be done safely at home.
In trust and friendship,
- Gershwin, George & Ira 1937.
- Jahnke, Dr R – The Healing Promise of Qi, McGraw Hill, 2002.
- Various, BBC, The Guardian, The Daily Express, The NHS et al.