The Benefits of MindBody Practices

Yoga and qigong are ancient mind-body practices that promote peace and mental clarity. They incorporate breathing techniques and slow movements that help to enhance the life-sustaining energy called prana or qi.

Both practice can be beneficial for reducing stress and improving balance, strength and flexibility. Which one you choose depends on what your fitness and wellness goals are.

Increased Flexibility

Yoga, tai chi and qigong have the ultimate two-for-one offer: They strengthen muscles and balance the body while nourishing the mind in a big way.

Practicing these movements improves posture, strength and flexibility, according to research. They also increase trunk control ability, handgrip strength and balance, as well as lower blood pressure and heart rate.

Qigong is a traditional Chinese healing and martial art that integrates physical movement, deep breathing, meditation and mindfulness. It is based on the concept that life-sustaining energy (called prana or qi in yoga) flows through every cell, tissue and organ in your body.

Researchers have found that qigong induces the relaxation response, which decreases heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormone levels. It may also improve the immune system and increase blood levels of endorphins. Unlike other forms of exercise, qigong requires little to no equipment or space. It’s important to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

Reduced Stress

All mind-body movement practices—including yoga, tai chi and qigong—can help reduce stress. They can also improve balance, strength and posture.

These practices can help ease anxiety and depression by helping you feel more grounded and in the present moment. They can also boost feelings of happiness and contentment.

A study found that practicing qigong improved sleep quality, as well as grip strength, trunk flexibility and blood pressure. The study, published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, credited this to the meditative movements, which encourage a state of calm and relaxation.

When you incorporate tai chi or qigong into your routine, work with a qualified instructor who can provide guidance and support. And talk to your health care provider before starting any new exercise program, including tai chi or qigong. They can help you develop a safe and effective plan that integrates your treatment goals with your practice. The goal is to create an individualized holistic wellness plan that’s unique to you.

Improved Sleep

Practicing yoga and qigong can help improve your sleep, by encouraging the relaxation response that counteracts the stress-induced increase in blood pressure and heart rate. The practice also helps improve balance, which is an important component of health and well-being.

Tai chi, described as meditation in motion, is a low-impact exercise that strengthens the muscles and improves balance. It’s also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and to enhance mood and self-regulation.

Like qigong, it involves anchoring attention to interoceptive sensations related to breath or other parts of the body, which has been shown to promote nonreactivity to aversive thoughts and impulses and to shift autonomic nervous system balance toward parasympathetic dominance. The slow movements of tai chi and qigong may also help reduce inflammation and regulate genes involved in the inflammatory process and in regulating inflammatory cytokines and neurotransmitters.

Increased Energy

Qigong and tai chi are slow-moving exercises that involve coordinated body postures and movements, deep rhythmic breathing, meditation and mental focus. Studies suggest qigong can help with balance, strength and flexibility, as well as decrease stress and improve heart health (1).

Often described as “meditation in motion,” tai chi can be beneficial for healthy people, and people with chronic illnesses as well (2). This practice is gentle and can be adapted for all fitness levels and abilities.

It can help with balance, strengthen bones and muscles and reduce fall risk in older adults (3). It also has been shown to help improve blood pressure (4) and lower stress levels, (5) as well as boost immunity (6). It may even be able to prevent depression by increasing serotonin in the brain (7). In addition, a recent study showed that qigong could increase immune function and cellular responses to illness (8). (9,10).


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