Qigong, the ancient Chinese practice of harnessing Qi (vital energy), is receiving a lot of attention as a major part of traditional Chinese medicine. Medical Qigong has been practiced for centuries to promote health, healing, self-defense, longevity, and spiritual development. One of the goals of practitioners is to master tension and relaxation. Chinese doctors prescribe certain forms of Qigong to patients, depending on their diagnosis. According to them, many illnesses are cause by a disrupted flow of energy through the meridians. Meridians are channels that allow energy to flow through the body. The Qigong techniques provide a balance of energy in the patients' body in an effort to return them to good health. Chinese medicine attributes great importance to the homeostasis of energy in the body.
Qigong consists of three different methods. These methods are movement-oriented Qigong, meditation-oriented Qigong, and breath oriented Qigong. Abdominal breathing is a vital part of Qigong. This deep breathing allows for more oxygen intake per breath. In Qigong as well as yoga, deep breathing also serves as a hypnotic tool. By focusing on the breath, one can truly relax and pay full attention to the body. During these semi-meditative states, metabolic, autonomic, endocrine, neurological, and psychological changes can be noted.
Doctors tend to prescribe drugs for hypertension. Hypertension is another word for high blood pressure, and is a very common problem in our society. Essential hypertension is one form of high blood pressure that has no detectable cause, and is treated as soon as possible to prevent cardiovascular disease. The use of antihypertensive drugs does have side effects, suggesting that an alternative form of prevention may be better in the long run. Due to the side effects of antihypertensive drugs, there is a growing interest in nonpharmaceutical procedures to treat and prevent hypertension.
Qigong has effects on blood pressure in mildly hypertensive subjects. Qigong practice could lower the blood pressure. Many studies show that after Qigong training, blood pressure decreased in those practicing Qigong, and did not decrease in the control group. Many hypertensive patients have proclaimed that receiving Qi auspiciously affects heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other important bodily functions that determine ones health.
A decreased level of urinary catecholamines is indicative of a lower level of sympathetic nervous system activity. Catecholamines play important physiological roles as hormones and neurotransmitters such as epinephrine and dopamine. Blood pressure is directly related to sympathetic neurological activity. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the fight or flight response we have when faced with a stressful situation. Therefore, Qigong is thought to lower blood pressure by affecting sympathetic nervous system activity.
Qigong can be an extremely beneficial martial art for those looking to improve their health. Through relaxation and stabilization of sympathetic nervous system activity, Qigong can help treat and protect against mild essential hypertension. Along with lower sympathetic nervous system activity comes a lower level of overall stress. With a lower level of stress comes a lower level of Cortisol, a hormone that regulates our metabolism of carbohydrates. High levels of Cortisol are known to cause weight gain, persistent fatigue, raise blood sugar levels, and more.