A new way to reduce anxiety and stress is ironically a technique that is centuries old. As chronic stress continues to plague our society, it is time that we start taking the effects of stress serious. Even though this is slowly developing as an emerging topic to the general population, it has been a focus to researchers who are pursuing supportive data for stress busting techniques. They are looking for empirical data to support or discredit anti-stress techniques in hopes of providing quality research to those who need it. This has become especially vital in America where those previously surveyed reported that 44% of Americans feel their stress levels have increased over the past five years1.
Most people who are familiar with the current literature on stress can tell you that one of the oldest and most successful methods of defeating stress is the practice of yoga. For hundreds of years, yoga has been an effective way to reduce stress and to improve the health of one’s body and it is beneficial to the novice or the expert. At a minimum, a novice can drop in on a class and benefit from the mere fact that they have an hour to themselves to swim in calming music, breath in the aromatherapy, and focus on letting the stress of the outside world melt away.
A lesser known Chinese practice is called Qigong which has its roots in Taoism dating back to the early 600’s AD2. Qigong is a practice which focuses on cultivating and balancing life energy, especially for the benefit of health. The principles focus on intentional movement, rhythmic breathing, awareness, and visualization. Ancient lore reports that in additional to numerous other health benefits, it has long been credited with improved mental health in areas such as improving mood, decreasing stress, cortisol levels, anxiety and depression.
Moving away from ancient lore, a journal article published this month in the journal of BMC Complimentary & Alternative Medicine conducted a meta-analysis of previous peer reviewed journal articles which assessed the effectiveness qigong has on stress levels3. After a thorough review of all the available research, they concluded that practicing qigong regularly is beneficial in reducing anxiety and stress in healthy adults. Although this study was limited in the extent of published research that is available, it is a great forerunner in the field, suggesting that this area of study is in need of additional research to further support what has already been concluded by previous studies, and what has been known for centuries throughout ancient China.
Although I am a self-admitted novice in the study of qigong, I can’t help but wonder why this practice appears to be so effective. In sync with yoga, and the practice of mindfulness, qigong appears to share similar techniques that promote health, mental focus, and a sense of serenity. It is in these common characteristics, combined with dedicating the time to practice these techniques that is most likely a major player in how they are able to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and stress. The simple act of removing one’s self from the chaos of life to dedicate an hour to serenity, peace, and a controlled pace gives the mind and body a break from the hustle and bustle of our world. Additional claims of health benefits from practicing qigong which are thought to be from the alignment of chi are hard to scientifically support, however the tangible benefits that we can support are reason enough to give this practice some serious consideration.
Taking care of your mind and body is increasing difficult in a day and age where the advancement of technology has increased our workloads and responsibilities 10 times over. Perhaps considering the time honored ancient practices of older cultures is worth looking into. These practices and techniques are not fading fads, and have existed this long for its obvious effectiveness.
Qigong is a strategy for freedom from our cage of isolation. ~ Garri Garripol
- Wang, et al. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:8. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/14/8