Today more people than ever are looking for ways to improve their health, increase energy, reduce stress, restore or enhance functionality, relieve aches and pains, balance emotions and sharpen mental focus. Because of the demands of modern life--the very things that throw our lives out of balance--most people want those ways to be relatively simple and not require much time out of their busy day. If you have searched for something to fit your needs and still haven’t found what’s right for you, you may want to consider Chinese Healing Exercises.

Chinese Healing Exercises is a branch of Chinese medicine that is almost never taught as a discrete, separate system of healing, but they are used in many practices you probably recognize. Some are part of the oldest of Chinese medical practices, including acupressure and tuina, a type of Chinese massage therapy. Others have their origins in ancient self-healing or spiritual practices, such as Chinese forms of yoga and meditation. They are routinely taught along with more detailed and complex practices, such as taiji (tai chi), qigong (chi gung), and other advanced medical, spiritual, or martial practices, as a way to prepare a student for those more demanding disciplines, or as adjunctive exercises that can make some aspects of those practices easier to perform. Some sources are less well known in the west, like medical qigong (the medical application of qigong) and paidagong, a tapping and patting technique used to break up qi blockages. Most of the exercises have proven themselves for over 600 years, and many have been around for more than 3,000 years. That amount of historical refinement has made them a remarkably effective self-care system.

Some Distinctions Between Chinese Healing Exercises and Qigong

Qigong is increasingly familiar in the US and is also practiced to benefit health and promote longevity. Common translations of the word "qi" are energy, vitality, or life force, while "gong" is translated as practice, work, or cultivation. So, "qigong" means "energy practice," or “cultivating life force”, and are methods people use to work directly with their qi.

Qigong is not one single practice, but a wonderful constellation of practices, with thousands of variations, each having its own purpose. That purpose can be straightforward, such as improving the healthy functioning of your heart, or it can be very deep and seemingly esoteric, such as accessing celestial and terrestrial energies and circulating them through one's body in very specific ways, for example.

Almost all fall under one of five philosophical bases, medical, martial, Daoist, Buddhist, and Confucian qigongs. While some exist as purely one type or another, there is often some overlap among them.

To be a true qigong, even fairly simple practices must adhere to the principle of The Three Regulations, the Regulation of Body, Breath, and Mind. So a seemingly simple single movement qigong is much more complex than is readily apparent to the inexperienced eye, and may involve weeks, months, or years of training and practice to master. Because of that depth and richness, most reputable teachers assert that qigong can only be learned directly from a teacher in a live setting. Without personal guidance and correction, there are many ways a student could do themselves harm, physically (including damage to nerves and internal organs), psychologically, or energetically, if trying to learn these things only from a book or video.

Conversely, Chinese Self-Care Exercises are easy, and can be learned quickly. Most have a narrow range of focus. As effective as they are, they are not very demanding physically, psychologically, or energetically, and can be performed by anyone, regardless of age, gender,  level of fitness or current state of health. The majority of them involve the Regulation of the Body alone, although some include relatively simple breathing and/or mind components. Because of that, there is almost no danger of harming oneself, even if practiced incorrectly. They are so gentle that injury is much less likely than in conventional exercise like running, lifting weights, and some types of yoga. While it’s always advisable to work with a qualified teacher whenever possible, Chinese Healing Exercises can be safely and effectively learned from a book or video.

They do provide benefits on an energetic level, affecting qi in their own way, just as acupuncture, shiatsu, and herbal medicine all access qi directly, if in different ways. Qi is life force, and is responsible for all healthy functionality, animation, vitality, emotional balance, and mental clarity. These exercises have a unique positive impact on all those qualities.

Chinese Healing Exercises can amplify the benefits from taiji or qigong if you already have such a practice. In that context, they will help to open targeted area of physical or energetic restriction, deepen your sensitivity to qi sensations and increase qi flow, and root you more securely, thereby improving your overall performance. 

How Chinese Healing Exercises Produce Their Benefits

1.They create openness and improve flexibility.

Openness and flexibility are two different things. Openness means increasing internal space, by opening a joint or expanding a body cavity. Flexibility has more to do with making muscles more supple, limber, and freely moveable. The two are interrelated in a few ways, but the easiest to explain is that if a muscle is tight or inflexible, it will narrow (close) the joint space between the bones to which it is attached. If a joint space or body cavity is closed down, it will restrict the movement of the surrounding muscles. Additionally, if the joint space becomes sufficiently closed, there will almost always be local inflammation, which will irritate the surrounding muscles, further reducing flexibility, and creating a downward spiral.

Both flexibility and openness can be increased through stretching, which may be linear, rotational, or a combination of the two. Many of the Chinese stretching exercises strongly influence a particular acupuncture meridian or meridians (well-defined energy pathways with functional health associations), promoting qi flow through those meridians for additional specific health benefits.

Openness can also be increased as a secondary effect of passive joint mobilization, range of motion, and vibrational types of exercises, and through acupressure and self-massage techniques. All these methods are included in Chinese Healing Exercises.

2. They disperse qi stagnation.

Qi can become stagnant due to injury, illness, inactivity, prolonged emotional states, inhospitable environments, poor dietary choices, and as a side effect of certain pharmaceutical drugs, among other things. Qi stagnation reduces functionality and causes mild to moderate pain in its earlier stages, and severe pain in the case of some injuries or after it has persisted for some time.

Chinese Healing Exercises address qi stagnation primarily through acupressure and massage practices, applying direct pressure to pockets of stagnation. Such pressure frees up and disperses that localized stagnation. Paidagong, a tapping and patting technique, directs waves of qi from the surface of the body to the interior, or along meridian pathways, and breaks up qi stagnation in its path. As qi stagnation is often a component of tight, inflexible muscles, the flexibility exercises discussed above also help to unbind qi.

If your healthy qi has only been restricted for a while, you will have access to that previously unusable bound qi, so you will feel energized by having it available again. That qi can then be put to use in improving your general health and the functionality of your entire body. If the qi has been stagnant for a longer time or has been generated by an internal pathology, it can't be used for healthy purposes any more, but your body can dispel it so it causes no further harm and allows for more complete healing in the areas where it formerly lodged.

3. They normalize the directionality of qi flow.

Some health problems are caused by qi flowing counter to its normal direction. One easy-to-understand example is that of Rebellious Stomach Qi. Stomach qi should normally descend, sending digested food downward into your intestines for further processing. If stomach qi rises (rebels) instead, it can cause symptoms ranging from mild belching or hiccups to severe nausea and vomiting. Some of the gentlest exercises use very light touch and mental focus to guide the qi to flow in its health-supporting directions, quelling rebellious qi in this example.

4. They improve blood flow in the major blood vessels and the microcirculation through tiny capillaries, nourishing all the cells in your body.

Some of the more vigorous exercises can function as conventional cardiovascular/aerobic exercises. But since "the Qi is the commander of the Blood" (a well-known Chinese medical precept), all of the exercises that benefit qi flow as described above benefit blood flow as well. Blood carries oxygen, nutrients, and qi to all the organs and tissues in your body, and removes the toxic waste products of cellular metabolism and reduces inflammation, the root cause of many chronic diseases. If qi flow is impaired for prolonged periods or if due to acute trauma, it can become quite severe and cause Blood Stasis. Blood Stasis is usually very painful, and sets the stage for many serious illnesses, including some types of cancer. Keeping blood flow strong and free prevents the onset of many diseases, nourishes all body tissues, and moistens the muscles, improving their supple flexibility.

5. They create emotional calm and mental focus.

The most obvious methods to promote calmness involve focused breathing, which soothe an overactive mind and facilitate the release of tension from the nervous system, and simple meditation practices, which also utilize breathing and mindful awareness. Less obvious, when a body is freer of pain, there is less mental distraction caused by that pain; being free of pain means more qi is able to be utilized by all the body’s organs. In Chinese medicine, it is understood that every organ has specific emotional correspondences. When the organ is out of balance, upsetting emotions arise. When organs are functioning properly, as they will when supported by more available, freely-flowing qi and blood, the emotions will be appropriate, balanced, and harmonious.

Why include Chinese Healing Exercises in your daily life?

1. They’re easy to do.

Regardless of your age or level of fitness, anyone can do these exercises. Most are very gentle, and the more challenging ones have easier variations that may suit you better until you’re ready to progress further. Even sticking with just a few of the simplest exercises will provide substantial health benefits. As you experience progressive improvements, you can add more challenging ones later if you choose.

Many people are attracted to the healing benefits of taiji or qigong, but find they are unable to do the more demanding aspects of those practices, or do not have the time required. That can make it difficult to experience any benefits. If something is too difficult for any reason, you just won’t do it. Here there are no such problems.

2. They take very little time.

Healing exercises can be performed in as little as 1-2 minutes, and you get the full benefit specified for each exercise in that amount of time. The range of benefits is targeted to a specific concern, which is why they require so little time to learn and practice. They really shine where “fast and easy” is desired.

3. They are completely customizable.

There is no set regimen you have to follow, you can choose only the exercises that apply to your needs and create the personalized program that works best for you. If you practice exercises you’ve selected, ones you know will benefit you specifically and which will allow you to feel those benefits almost immediately, you’ll be more encouraged to be faithful in your practice.

4. They’re convenient, and can be done anywhere, anytime.

Because they take so little time and space, these are great for break periods at work, school, or home, and can reduce stress, boost energy, or address an ongoing problem whenever you can fit it into your day. You don’t need any special clothes, and you don’t need to go to a gym or yoga studio, so there’s no additional expense.

5. Most importantly, they work!

These exercises have withstood the test of time, having been developed over thousands of years. With so much research and development, only the best, most practical and effective exercises have endured.

How You Can Learn These Self-Care Practices

If you have a taiji or qigong practice, or are a student or practitioner of Chinese medicine, you may already have access to these types of exercises through those related disciplines. For everyone else, it’s not easy to find such instruction. Since these exercises are so beneficial for everyone, I decided to help bring them to a larger number of people.

A while back I gathered all the exercises I’ve learned over my years of studying taiji, qigong, Chinese medicine, and related practices, organized them according to body region, wrote detailed explanations of their background and range of physical and energetic benefits, and carefully described exactly how to perform each one. I compiled all of that into a book, Chinese Healing Exercises, A Personalized Practice for Health and Longevity, which was published by Llewellyn Publications. The book gives you guidance on selecting exercises that work together to help you quickly achieve your goals, and includes many exercise prescriptions, short sets of exercises you can use to address many common health problems. 

I also created a companion DVD, A Visual Guide To Chinese Healing Exercises. The DVD gives you detailed demonstrations of each exercise, with verbal instruction guiding you every step along the way.

You can read reviews of the book on Amazon, including unbiased accounts of some readers’ remarkable healing experiences. Additionally, you can see a sample of the DVD on Youtube, to help you decide if these practices will benefit you. In both the Amazon and Youtube search fields, type Cardoza Chinese Healing to find the book, DVD (both available on Amazon), and video presentation.

I am available for personal instruction in the Boston area, offering private lessons and  classes and workshops. I’m also available on Skype, for private instruction anywhere. You can contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be put on my class email list or to request private lessons. 

Wishing you great health, long life and a peaceful heart!

Steven

Short Bio:

Steven Cardoza, M.Sc., L.Ac., holds a Master of Science degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist practicing in the alternative health field since 1985, and a certified instructor of Wu style taiji and numerous styles of qigong, with more than 25 years of teaching experience. He is the author of the book Chinese Healing Exercises (Llewellyn Publications) and its companion DVD, has authored numerous published articles, and has been interviewed on radio programs throughout New England.

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