Alternative and complementary medicine
I bet you have already received a massage in the past. You might maybe have been to a chiropractor or an acupuncturist. And even, once, you assisted in some energy sessions like reflexology and Reiki. But Qigong? It is pretty new here in the West and most people are still shy to book a Qigong session because they don’t know what to expect. Let’s shine some light on it!
In a previous article, I introduced what Qigong is. This powerful holistic healing practice is an important part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Eastern medicine was born from the experimental observation of nature around 5,000 years ago. Throughout their observations, the Ancients came to the conclusion that reality, rather than being fixed and stable, is a dynamic process of constant change. They also observed that for the entire universe to function harmoniously, every part of it must remain in balance. Moreover, what is true for the universe is also true for the human body. From this basic understanding, they developed two theories that are the foundations of Chinese Energy Medicine and Medical Qigong.
Everyone has heard about Yin and Yang energy before and everyone can recognize the universal image, the Tai Ji symbol, that represents the theory. However, I would be curious to hear what people have to say about its meaning.
The Yin and Yang symbol, where the Yang Qi (expansive energy) is represented by the colour white and the Yin Qi (more inhibited energy) is represented by the colour black, reveals that everything in the natural world is composed of opposing forces or energies. For example, Earth energy is Yin, while Heaven energy is Yang. Yang is known to be the bright sunny side of a hill or a riverbank while Yin is the dark shady side of this same hill or this riverbank.
This philosophy teaches us that there is always Yin within Yang and Yang within Yin. They are interdependent; Yin cannot grow without Yang, and Yang cannot develop without Yin. Accordingly, Yin and Yang are also the principles governing all things within the human body, they create all the physiological changes. These two energies are continuously going through subtle fluctuations as the body reacts to external and internal energetic movements.
This elusive dance, this dynamic balance of Yin and Yang is what constantly changes and transforms the body's life-force energy (Qi). If the variations exceed the body's natural energetic limitations and the body loses its dynamic equilibrium, deficiency or excess of either Yin or Yang will occur, leading to the development of blockages and illnesses.
Yin and Yang theory is useful to explain both the psychological and pathological phenomena of the body. The theory is valuable because it provides an important tool for the practitioner to understand a client’s constitution at a given point in time and determine the best protocol to apply.
The Five element theory
The Five Element theory is not as popular as Yin and Yang concepts but is just as important and both are closely tied to each other. This theory is based on the observations of the interweaving patterns of relationships between humanity and nature and the interdependence of mind and body. The foundational belief of Medical Qigong is that we are nature. The Five Element Theory offers a perspective where the functions that govern human biology are viewed as multidimensional where each part reflects the whole.
The body energetically contains the properties of The Five Elements. The Five Elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. All aspects of our life, physical, energetic, mental, emotional, and spiritual, are influenced by the energies of The Five Elements. The functional properties of the Elements are expressed in the body through the organs as they interact with each other to promote and maintain life. The organs and their associated energy channels are divided into Yin and Yang.
Each of the organs, Yin or Yang, is related to one of the Five Elements as shown in the chart below.
The Yin organs are solid and are responsible for storing the pure, refined vital substances (Qi, Blood, Essence and Body Fluids), which they receive from the Yang organs after the transformation of food.
The Yang organs are hollow and are responsible for receiving, moving, transforming, digesting and excreting food substances.
The Five element theory also teaches us that each of the Yin organs also stores virtues and emotions. Virtues are gifts received at our birth. They are inherited qualities that all human beings have. Emotions are acquired through the course of our life.
When the acquired emotions become in excess, they disturb the virtues and create an energetic imbalance, which in turn can cause a destructive physical pattern within the body. An example of this process is excessive anger leading to hypertension.
The virtues and emotions of each organ are as follows:
The Five element theory is the primary tool for the Medical Qigong practitioner to understand the link between the client's physical and emotional health.
Getting to the roots
The goal of Medical Qigong is to activate the body’s innate self-healing ability by correcting the root cause of illness, which is always an energetic imbalance. Imbalances and blockages occur throughout our lifetime as the result of a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, injuries, surgeries, and suppression of emotions. When those blockages and imbalances reach a critical stage, they cause illnesses and diseases.
Caroline Myss uses a very helpful analogy related to the financial world to explain the imbalances of energy in our bodies. As I was an accountant a long time ago, I love her inner energy economy system. So, her image goes like this: imagine you are an investor and you look to different areas of your life to invest your energy in. Of course, what you want is a return on your investment, you want to receive more than what you had invested. You want that specific area in which you are about to invest to give you back some interests; if not, why would you want to invest? The thing is, more often than we would like, we make bad investments. We invest in fast food, desires, negative thoughts, certain beliefs, bad relationships, anger, resentment, and so on.
Those bad investments result in the loss of our energy. So then, what can we do? We need a loan, we need to refinance our energy. We can borrow energy from a friend or a family member. We become then what we called “energetic vampires”. This is not good for our relationships. Or, we can borrow from deep inside our body, from our cell tissues. We contract a debt at our own expense. When we are in debt, our balance is negative. We experience a deficiency. What is the cost of all that process? Fatigue, stress, illnesses, aging, …
Through these explanations, we understand that the best way to prevent or cure disease and restore our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being is to establish and maintain a healthy energetic balance and harmony between our body's energy field and our environment. Balancing these energy fields will assist our body, mind and spirit in moving towards and maintaining wellness. That is what the Qigong session is about.
One of the primary reasons for people to consult their Qigong practitioner is to relieve stress and boost their energy. And that is just fine. But Qigong can do more for people. Medical Qigong practitioners use their skills to heal and strengthen the immune system and improve the function of various organ systems within the body. Some of the most common diseases treated in Medical Qigong clinics are physical pain, insomnia, chronic fatigue, migraines and headaches, digestive issues, high blood pressure, organ weakness and disease, deep tissue obstruction, muscle atrophy, nerve injuries, arthritis, menopause, general overall body weakness, mental fog, anxiety or depression.
To address those ailments, Medical Qigong therapy will generally focus on three major aspects:
Purging- Detoxifying- Cleaning
The purging techniques allow the body to release any energetic clusters at an early stage of development and therefore, prevent malfunction or diseases.
*Eliminate internal pathogenic factors (the accumulation of excessive emotions such as anger,
grief, worry, fear, etc.)
*Eliminate external pathogenic factors (the invasion of Cold, Hot, Damp, etc., from the
Tonifying - Nourishing
The tonifying techniques allow the body to increase its efficiency to eventually fight pathogens.
*Nourish internal organs and organ systems
*Increase deficient Qi (“charge the battery”)
*Correct internal organ dysfunctions
Regulating – Balancing - Circulating
The Regulating Techniques help to maintain the body in balance and therefore give the ability to go forward in life with a sense of global health.
*Moving the Qi to regulate the flow
*Bring balance between Essence (Jing), Energy (Qi) and Spirit (Shen)
Methods & Protocols
Based on the Yin/Yang theory and the Five Element Theory among others, Medical Qigong therapy was developed using methods and procedures for disease prevention, health maintenance and longevity. In this view, the role of the Qigong practitioner is to follow the patterns of change, assess functional disharmony and restore overall balance in the body and mind.
The Qigong session is initiated by the practitioner through a special meditation, thus creating a sacred healing space to allow the client to feel secure and nurtured and therefore be receptive to the healing process.
Throughout the session, the practitioner uses three essentials tools while working with a patient: Visualization, Intention and Affirmation. The power of imagination and visualization in Qigong is undeniable. Bringing in the mind’s eye images of the intended action or the expected result, the practitioner holds the purpose of the actions taken. This reinforces the intention which can be seen as the determination to act in a particular way in the healing of the person treated. Finally, both the verbal and physical affirmations increase the efficacy of the session.
Specific techniques to guide, nurture and manipulate the flow of Qi in the body are used by the practitioner to restore physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health and induce healing. Those techniques include distance Qi emission, non-contact or light touch Qigong massage and acupressure, and healing sound therapy.
Watch the following video to see what a session looks like.
Qi Emission can be seen as sweeping movements made by the practitioner along the energy meridians and organs of the body from a distance of several inches. To stimulate the Qi, the practitioner can also use Invisible Needle Therapy which recalls the work of acupuncture except that instead of using real needles it involves the visualization of energetic needles of light being inserted into specific points on the patient's body.
Non-contact or light touch Qigong Massage and acupressure is a soft-tissue regulation technique that requires the practitioner’s hand to skim the patient's body as lightly as a feather, never exceeding the pressure one would place on an eyeball. The light skimming action is used to dredge the patient's external channel Qi, causing energy to be released from the internal channels.
Healing Sound Therapy is one of the most powerful tools used in Medical Qigong for breaking up energetic stagnations. It requires the doctor to project sound vibration deep into the patient's tissues. When the sound resonation penetrates the patient's body it causes massive chaotic vibrational patterns that disrupt the body's accepted "normal" energetic flow. This energetic disruption softens and liquefies the patient's stagnant Qi, making it easier to purge and disperse.
Generally, the services offered by your Medical Qigong practitioner are guided by the code of ethics established by the International Institute of Medical Qigong. However, it is important to remember that your Medical Qigong practitioner is not a physician. The Medical Qigong therapy does not intend to diagnose conditions nor treat disease, prescribe or perform medical treatment, prescribe substances, or interfere with the treatment of a licensed medical professional. These sessions are not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a licensed health practitioner for illnesses, injuries, or other medical conditions. It is recommended to see a licensed physician or licensed health care professional for any physical or psychological ailment.
Medical Qigong therapy can be very effective in helping people get rid of a lot of their physical, emotional and spiritual ailments. However, Qigong requires the patients to be open and receptive and to actively participate in their healing by doing specific postures and movements, breathwork or meditations recommended by their practitioner. After each session, according to your healing plan and the reveals of the session, you will be given some self-regulation exercises to do at home. Those exercises are meant to augment and maintain the benefits of your Medical Qigong session and to teach you how to keep your energy moving freely and to use it efficiently.
The effects of the energy session can last between 2 to 4 days. Doing your homework is the better way to integrate the benefits of your session.
Another way to improve and enhance your general sense of well-being and support the work you are doing with your practitioner is to join Qigong classes which are designed for health maintenance, longevity and disease prevention.
The personal work realized by the individual between sessions is a really important part of the healing process. It has been demonstrated (in Western medicine as well as in Qigong) that a person not involved in her healing, won’t heal.
Qigong is an effective modality from which you can feel benefices immediately. However, stagnations and imbalances that grew over a lifetime of deficient lifestyle won’t disappear overnight. It is different for each person but generally speaking, it takes about 4 to 6 sessions before feeling a persistent change. It takes time and commitment to make a difference in the long haul.
Moreover, for those who are ready to experience a deep transformation, Qigong provides a path for personal growth and development. While some would be attracted to Qigong for fitness or generalized health practice (which is fine in itself), Qigong offers much more potential for those who seek deeper recovery and life transformation.
If you received a massage before you know how relaxed and calm you feel after the session. Qigong provokes kind of the same effects. Immediately after your session, you will feel a deep relaxation and a general sensation of release (relief).
On top of this general sensation of well-being, you might experience shifts of energy as a healing response. Those shifts in energy may create some physical, emotional or spiritual side effects which may include physical tingling, increased body pain, feeling lighter energetically, mild fatigue, nausea, muscle soreness, headache, thirst, emotional swings, changes in relationships, shifts of perception, as well as other symptoms. This is all a part of the body's healing process and there is no need to worry about these physical symptoms as they will decrease and eventually disappear after a certain period. Regarding the emotional or mental changes that you will experience, it is up to you to make those changes a permanent transformation by pursuing the work begun.
Your practitioner uses tools and knowledge and exercises her judgment during the session for the best and highest interest of your healing. However, as Qigong sessions can be contraindicated under certain medical conditions, you must make your practitioner aware of any existing physical conditions and give any update on your health at all times. In doubt, ask your practitioner.
A modern modality
Old of thousands of years, Qigong is still accurate to help us with our modern difficulties. Issued from simple and complex theories all at once, Qigong reminds us of our belonging to the natural world and all the innate ability we have to heal ourselves. Qigong is powerful and can provoke significant changes in our life by addressing multiple facets of our health and well-being.