If the NOOMA office ever played a game of “Most likely to…”, in a landslide vote I’d take“Most likely to be on an episode of the show Portlandia.”
I’ll admit it. I do (and eat) some weird stuff. One of those things is a practice called Qi Gong (pronounced chee-gong), though I’d like to think it’s not weird at all, it’s just not as mainstream as let’s say, yoga. It’s something that has been around for over 4,000 years, has changed my life and could change yours, too.
So what is Qi Gong?
Qi Gong literally translates to “vital energy cultivation”.The practice has very close ties to that of Tai Chi and involves a flowing meditation, coordinating slow movement, deep breathing, and a calm state of mind. You may have an image in your head of an old monk with a white beard gracefully flowing through movements in a beautiful setting, but that's far from what it looks like for me. Most mornings I turn on YouTube with a push from my wife. We stumble through the movements together while our six month old baby stares on with a, “WTF are you doing?” grin on her face. There’s zero graceful movement in our household but we’re working on it. The benefits of the practice are just the same, despite our setting or inability to squat past 90 degrees like the old man in the video.
Here are some reasons why I love it:
It is a calm yet invigorating way to wake up and makes an immediate difference in my mood. I find a lot of clarity on days I practice.
I’m more in tune with my body and my breath with less anxiousness about the future. I also notice an immediate difference in my posture.
I’ve had chronic low back pain for years and I find that the gentle stretch and movement of Qi Gong is enough to loosen me up first thing in the morning. A lot of the movement is paired with breath that further helps to stretch out the thoracic spine area and rib cage making it much easier to breathe.
It is a healthy routine that I can stick to. If I’m short on time I do a 5-10 minute practice. If I have more time, I try a longer, more involved practice. Either way, it’s always a good start.
Some Useful Tips to Help You Get Started
Set a time and routine for your practice. For me, it’s first thing in the morning. I leave my phone on airplane mode, put on a pot of coffee and begin my practice. If you’re able, even a5-7 minute practice on lunch break is a great way to reset and refresh.
When starting out, stick to practices that are no more than ten minutes. A shorter practice is more realistic as you’re starting out. Also, stick to videos that offer guided breathing with the movements. This is a key component to the practice as a whole and having someone guide you will help you tune into the practice.
Here is a great example that helped me get into a routine.
Here are three more of my favorite teachers to follow (explore what they have to offer!)
Shaolin Temple Europe
Yoqi Yoga and Qi Gong
Go with the flow, quite literally. Most likely this practice is going to feel very foreign to you. I still laugh at myself from time to time with some of the movements. I still have trouble touching my toes and I can’t keep serious when I beat on my chest. That’s half the fun. Don’t take it so seriously but know that it’s benefiting your physical, mental, and spiritual well being.
Maybe you’ll see Portlandia come out with an episode on Qi Gong practice. Maybe they already have. All I’m saying is don’t knock it until you try it. It’s changed my life and it can change yours, too. Join the communi-qi! Yep, I went there.