A Modern Explanation

April 24, 2010, New York City – A man almost at his 50s grinned while watching dozens of people perform a Shuang Shou Tuo Tian (Two Hands Hold up the Heavens). The man had bad posture; his body, leaning downward into a slouch. There was doubt and ridicule on his face (aside from that quick grin that broke my heart) while he was watching the performers. He was probably saying to himself “I don’t really know what these people are getting by doing those weird karate poses.” It was the World Tai Chi-Qigong Day in Central Park – the day I decided to spread the word about Qigong and its benefits.

At 75 years of age, I have better posture than the man in Central Park. I probably breathe better than that man in Central Park. That is because I practiced Qigong day in and day out for decades now. Now, what is it in Qigong that make people practice it every day? How can Qigong help you and other people that suffer from poor posture and back pain?

The central idea in qigong practice is the control and manipulation of the flow of qi, which is described as a form of energy present in all things. Although this belief is widely embraced in China and to almost all martial arts groups, qigong practice still exceeds the capabilities and understanding of traditional science. Effort on making the whole practice of qigong and other Chinese medical practices such as acupuncture fit the Western paradigm have been made, though wide following in the West is still elusive. The Chinese belief in qi “life force” may sound too “Star-Wars” or supernatural to many. The explanation that, in this instance, back pain can be alleviated by practicing Qigong is far off from being acceptable to many; a medical explanation on how Qigong does this is thus required for people to reap the benefits of this Chinese practice.

Based on a study conducted  in Taiwan, 82 middle aged women were subjected to an experiment,  44 of which received a 12-week Baduanjin Qigong training in preventing bone loss in middle aged women. The 44 women who received the training showed reduced Interleukin and bone mineral density which are determinants of bone loss. How did the results come about? What’s behind Baduanjin Qigong that allows practitioners to maintain their posture even in their 80’s, 90’s or 100’s?

Qigong is made up of several positions that correct posture. Standing up, sitting down, and even in recumbent poses. It is also done together with meditative and breathing exercises. Good posture promotes good blood circulation that allows the nutrition that we get from food evenly spread all throughout the body, this includes the distribution of calcium to our bones. Baduanjin movements also train the muscles in such a way that they reduce the strain to the bones and joints. Coupled with breathing exercises that make the lungs inflate the correct way to push the spine in correct position and meditation exercises that allow the body to relax, Qigong is the perfect exercise. Practiced daily, this exercise will snap you back into correct posture after being subjected to awkward poses.