Qi Gong for Anxiety

Although anxiety is a normal reaction to situations that produce fear or stress in everyday life, in some people anxiety is so frequent and intense that medical treatment becomes necessary. Symptoms of anxiety can include excessive fear, heart palpitations, restlessness, insomnia, shortness of breath, sweating, and chest discomfort. Current Western medical treatments for anxiety are usually drug based and are often accompanied by side effects. Qigong is a natural treatment for anxiety and its associated symptoms.

How Can Qigong Help Anxiety?

Qigong is a traditional Chinese medical technique focused on improving the flow of energy, or Qi, in a patient’s body. In Qigong and Oriental Medicine, the mind resides within the heart, not in the brain. Accordingly, anxiety is a sign of agitated heart energy. A heart energy imbalance leads to the physical symptoms of anxiety such as chest pain and shortness of breath. Qigong treats anxiety and its associated symptoms by unblocking the Qi pathways in the heart. Qigong treatments calm the mind, restore mental balance, decrease the body’s stress hormones, and moderate the patient’s response to their surrounding environment.

Qigong treatment for anxiety can include a mixture of practitioner-directed external therapy and self-directed internal therapy. External Qi Gong is performed by a Qigong master who produces the positive energy to repair Qi flow. During a Qigong session, the practitioner will ask the person to lie down or sit while the practitioner directs the individuals’ Qi flow and projects their healing Qi into the patient. Often the practitioner will also teach the patient slow, gentle, repetitive movements and breathing exercises that can reduce anxiety by directing the patient to relax and focus on the present. This self-directed therapy can be used between external Qigong therapy sessions.

Internal (or active) qigong is a personal form of Qigong during which an individual uses his or her mind to focus on the breath and to visualize the movement of the Qi in the body. These self-directed techniques guide the circulating Qi or life energy flow through the obstructions relieving the anxiety. Overtime, regular Qigong practice will help you overcome anxiety and improve other aspects of your life.

Several medical studies support the use of Qi Gong to treat anxiety. As an example, one 2007 review in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine by Y.W.Chow and H.W. Tsang suggested that qigong has a positive medical benefit on individuals with generalized anxiety disorders. Another study by M. S. Lee and colleagues found that treating an individuals’ Qi imbalance improves anxiety and has a significant effect on the hormones related to stress.

What is Qigong?

Qi gong (or Chi Kung), pronounced “chee gong”, is a traditional Chinese medical technique that is reported to be at least 4,000 years old. Qigong therapy incorporates a variety of methods which are able to accumulate, circulate, and work with Qi energy within the body on order to relieve symptoms of anxiety or other illnesses. To treat anxiety, qigong recommends external and internal techniques that are designed to calm and balance the heart. Qigong exists in thousands of different forms, including several popular family styles of Tai Chi Chuan.

How Do I Begin Using Qigong to Treat My Anxiety?

You can learn internal qigong techniques to reduced anxiety and panic attacks through audiotapes, videos, the Internet, or classes led by qualified qigong teachers. Through practice and awareness, the self-directed exercises can help relieve the day-to-day impact of anxiety and panic attacks.

Anxiety treatment by an external qigong practitioner requires finding an experienced and knowledgeable practitioner who treats anxiety and panic attacks. Once a qualified practitioner is located, a treatment appointment can be scheduled.

The best results come from individualized instruction form experience teachers with daily self-practice. Starting from only a few minutes a day of Qigong exercises, you can begin to improve all aspects of your health and life.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a general feeling of being worried. Everyone occasionally experiences anxiety; however, people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) feel anxious frequently or excessively. Usually, individuals with GAD do not have anxiety that is necessarily due to a particular situation. Symptoms of anxiety and panic can vary from person to person, but can include:

  • Tense muscles
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Nausea or churning stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Fast heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Fast or troubled breathing (dyspnea)
  • Dizziness or impaired concentration
  • Palpitations
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances

What Causes Anxiety?

Anxiety can result from numerous causes, such as an underlying medical condition, stress, or medications. In individuals with a generalized anxiety disorder, heredity, brain chemistry, personality, and life experiences often play a role.

Additional Resources

National Qigong (Chi Kung) Association

Francesco and Daisy Lee-Garripoli, Qigong Beginning Practice (DVD), Gaiam, 2005.

Suzanne Friedman, “Medical Qigong Exercise Prescriptions,” Xlibris, 2006.

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