Using Qigong to Protect and Enhance Our Life Systems as We Age
John Du Cane, qigong author and teacher
After thirty years of personal experience and research, I have yet to find a practice that more completely offers me a way to protect and enhance my life systems, than qigong.
The old cliché goes that “youth is wasted on the young”. Until we reach our thirties, most of us take our bodies for granted. We party, we blow energy, we burn the candle at both ends, aches and pain disappear as fast as they show up. We feel close to immortal. We are strong, flexible, energetic and eager to do anything, try anything. We do foolish things happily and often, without regard for the consequences. Hey, why not, we think, life is short.
Then life starts to rear up and slap us in the face. Then it starts to punch us in the stomach. Then it starts to kick us in the kidneys. Then it picks us up and body slams us into the concrete. And starts to stomp on us really hard. Suddenly, in our mid-thirties, mid-forties, or, God, certainly by our mid-fifties, we struggle out of bed, gaze weakly into the mirror and ask “What happened?” Yes, life is short, but I didn’t think I’d be reduced to this in the blink of an eye.
Big generalities, but you get the picture.
So, what did happen? Basically, aging happened. The decline really begins in earnest in our twenties, with a precipitous drop in hormone levels. It just takes a while to show up in our bodies.
If you don’t adopt a daily practice, like qigong, that has the capability to protect and enhance every aspect of your life system, the greased slide of your decline just goes on getting slipperier and slipperier.
Here’s a partial list of factors that will contribute to your decline, if you don’t act differently:
Decline in production of growth hormone paralleled by hormonal imbalances—leading to slower healing/recovery times.
Decline in digestive, eliminatory and circulatory systems—leading to weight gain, constipation, fatigue and cold extremities.
Emotional imbalances—leading to stagnation, debilitating tensions increasing inability to cope with stress.
Reliance on stimulants and other drugs to regulate energy—leading to depletion of natural energy reserves.
Addiction to stress-response—leading to depletion of kidneys, libido, vitality, feelings of discomfort and malaise.
Imbalances in meridian energy flow—compromising immune and other major survival systems.
Shallow breathing—leading to a decline in energy and strength.
Deterioration of joints—leading to lack of flexibility and mobility, increase in joint pain.
Postural irregularities—leading to increasing physical discomfort.
Decline in physical strength—leading to injury-vulnerability and task-inadequacy.
Decline in lymph system—leading to poor skin, edema, cancer and other major diseases.
Decline in powers of attention—leading to poor performance and social alienation.
Decline in sensitivity and responsiveness—leading to decline in ability to experience pleasure.
Inability to relax—leading to diminished capacity for spiritual growth.
What a good qigong program will give you, to address age-related problems
A worthwhile qigong program covers all the bases, when it comes to a daily self-hygiene practice. (Of course, you also need to pay attention to appropriate diet, your environment and other external factors for a complete health program.)
Some qigong teachers have emphasized one aspect of qigong over another, but I consider it unwise not to cover all the bases when the methods are there for you to access.
A good qigong longevity program will include cultivation of the following skills and habits:
Movement. Which should include tapping, shaking, pumping, coiling, twisting, squatting, stretching, flexing, joint rotations, walking, and spontaneous, playful dance-like releases. Movement will range from the very vigorous to the very tranquil.
Handwork. One of the distinguishing characteristics of qigong is the use of the hands, as off-the-body “magnets” to affect and redirect energy flow within and around the body. These self-carressive hand patterns complement the use of sensing and consciousness to cultivate stronger energy.
Breathwork. Qigong returns us to the innate breathing skills we possessed as small children, correcting the impact of stress-induced shallow breathing and other breath-related health challenges.
Posture. Qigong teaches skills for optimizing posture for “stillness” practices, both standing and sitting. These usually involve careful use of sensing and attention to cultivate energy while physically still.
Consciousness. Qigong cultivates and refines the skill of awareness and attention to both guide energy and attain deep meditative states.
Sensing. Cultivates the skill of “feeling” and affecting energy flow.
Find a good qigong teacher (or at least start studying available literature and DVDs) who can help you cultivate all of these skills. Develop a daily qigong program for yourself that addresses every aspect of your health—and you every chance of extending your life, while reducing the impact of the aging process.
A thorough qigong program will act to:
Cleanse you of toxins.
Elevate and balance hormone levels.
Accumulate, restore and maintain your energy.
Build a physically strong, limber, vibrant and resilient body.
Help you rest and recuperate, to avoid unnecessary depletion.
Protect you better from disease, whether it be an internal or external threat.
Restore all your internal organs and systems to optimal functioning.
Help you master tension and relaxation.
Balance your emotions—crucial for long-range good health.
Enhance your ability to meditate and to grow spiritually.
Build presence and the ability to be truly “in the now”.
On a final note: longevity is not just about living longer, it’s about living longer and deeper. Qigong offers a comprehensive methodology for enriching the quality of the life you have succeeded in extending.