In the west, many see getting older as synonymous with decreasing health and lessening of vitality. We often attribute stiff muscles and reduced mobility to a number associated with our age. Although the process of aging does present some additional life challenges (and opportunities), there is a lot we can do to maintain our health into our wisest years.
Of all the opportunities available for nurturing our health, none is more promising than Qi Gong. This blog post will explore how Qi Gong can be a fun, exciting, and fruitful way to enhance our health and feel our best.
What is Aging?
What does it really mean to grow older? If we listen to what most of the world tells us, it means that our muscles weaken and our joints grow stiff. There’s an almost contagious belief about what it means to age, and for many, that belief tells us that the process of aging is completely beyond our control.
However, if we look at a large number of people we can see that how we live truly has a profound impact on how we grow old. In the early stages of life, most people have a pretty similar relationship to their body and movement. Look at a kindergarten playground and you’ll see a crowd of children running, laughing, and exploring the world of movement.
Although we all can access the joy of childhood throughout our entire lives, the demands of the world often pull us away from our connection to our body. At first, we may not notice this, but even a young person who doesn’t move much will soon experience the stiffness and fatigue that stagnation brings.
Throughout life, it becomes easier and easier to find reasons to not engage our body. Work, family, and the other tasks of the world lead us away from our inner self. Once we stop working with our body, stagnation accumulates and it becomes more difficult to reactivate our relationship with ourselves. For many, this experience reinforces the belief that aging itself is the culprit of decreased health and reduced mobility.
In reality, it is not the addition of more years on Earth that is primarily responsible for these challenges, but rather it’s how we chose to live. An older person who doesn’t move a lot simply has had more time for stagnation to accumulate. In Qi Gong, we learn that stagnant Qi is one of the primary causes of illness and discomfort.
Lee has an interesting story about an injury that both he and his father experienced. At different points of their lives, each of them sustained a similar finger injury. Lee’s father put his finger in a cast and didn’t move it for three weeks. Lee, on the other hand, put his finger in a less restrictive that still protected it, but also practiced easy finger stretches to maintain the suppleness of his joints. After Lee’s father’s finger had healed, he realized he had dramatically reduced mobility and could no longer bend it as he could previously. However, Lee’s finger healed perfectly and he retained full movement. This simple example is a microcosm of difference between a body in motion and one in stagnation.
Move with Mindfulness
Some elderly folks realize that movement is important, but they’re afraid of getting hurt. Indeed, injury is the opposite of good health and it’s wise to take care that we avoid harmful stress. However, just as Lee’s father may have gone a little too far by putting his finger in complete stillness, many people do similarly with their entire body.
We all have to pay attention to our body and focus on movements that are healing rather than harmful. If we really tune in and pay attention, we can learn the signals that our body is telling us. It can be good to challenge ourselves, but we need to find a place where our bodies are both feeling alive and also in peace.
An elderly person who hasn’t exercised in a while would be ill-advised to jump on a mountain bike and race down a hill. Sometimes, we do need to let go of previous sports and find those that are nourishing for where we’re at in life. Lee has a saying that he loves to share, “No pain, no pain.” If we listen, we can find the place that works well for us.
Qi Gong for Seniors
One of the things that we love about Qi Gong is that it is accessible to people of all levels of physical fitness. No matter where you’re at in your relationship to exercise, Qi Gong offers practices to help strengthen your body, relieve stiffness, and release stagnation.
All of Lee’s courses and programs offer exercises that are great for awaking Qi and cultivating our life force energy. Many of his practices engage all parts of the body in a way that is safe, fun, and nourishing.
However, even Qi Gong can feel too strenuous at times. What should you do if you’re not able to practice a movement or posture?
Returning to the example of the injured finger, we reemphasize the importance of finding the right balance that is both safe as well as engaging. In a Qi Gong class, if you’re not able to perform a certain movement, no problem! Either take some deep breaths during that part of the class, or find an alternative that works well with your body. When the class moves on to a practice you feel comfortable with, continue following along and doing what you can. The important thing is to practice, regardless of what that means for you.
At Holden QiGong, we have several great programs that are excellent for seniors! Here are a few that may be of particular interest. Just click the titles below to learn more about each of the programs:
Thanks for reading our blog! We hope these practices are helpful and wish you nothing but the best in your Qi Gong journey.
By Ian Drogin