Life after cancer is never the same. Some people may have permanent scars on the body, and many may not be able to do the things they once did easily. Some may even carry emotional scars from having to go through so much. As a low-impact, meditative form of exercise, qigong has helped countless of cancer patients and survivors improve their physical ability and fitness, wellbeing and quality of life all over the world.
What is Qi Gong?
Qigong is an ancient Chinese health practice that incorporates breathing techniques, postures and a mind-body connection. Qi, as a Chinese word, carries the meaning of ‘vital energy’ which flows through everything in the universe; while ‘gong’ means a cultivated skill.
For thousands of years, people in Asia have been practising qigong for its many benefits. Today, there are thousands of qigong forms available. Some common ones are Soaring Crane Qigong, Wisdom Healing Qigong, Wild Goose Qigong and Primordial Qigong.
The goal of qigong is to enhance the flow of “qi” energy through the body. Mental visualizations and gentle physical movements are performed to open the meridians of the body, through which the qi flows. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that illness occurs when blockages build up in the meridians, thus clearing the meridians to allow the free flow of qi is necessary for the restoration of health.
The effects of clearing the meridians can be experienced as improvement in physical health, including lower blood pressure, increased flexibility, sounder sleep, less pain, fewer headaches, improved immune function and increased energy.
There are two methods to refresh or gain this vital energy – internal or external qigong. Internal qigong or qigong practice is a self-cultivation to achieve optimal health of both the mind and body. The other is qi therapy or external qigong, which refers to the process by which qigong practitioners direct or emit their qi energy to help patients clear blockages and remove bad qi out of the body to relieve pain, balance the qi flow in the body and help eliminate or reduce the effects of disease.
Health, Vitality and Mood Booster
Various studies conducted suggest that qigong practice contributes to a positive impact on the well-being and quality of life for people living with cancer.
Having to deal with the stress and suffering cancer brings take a toll on the body physically and mentally. Low mood, or even depression, is one of the most common side-effects of cancer survival. Research has indicated that between 25 and 40 per cent of cancer survivors go through depression for months or even years. Many also feel overwhelmed by side effects of cancer treatment, such as fatigue, mobility difficulties, pain and discomfort. Disrupted sleep, which is common among cancer survivors, added to the frustration and dejection a cancer survivors may feel.
Qigong helps to calm the mind and soul and achieve a state of relaxation through breathing, meditation and movement. The practice involves slow, graceful, continuous movements that engender a state of relaxed alertness in the practitioner, thus providing a feeling of tranquillity, comfort, balance and rejuvenation. Several studies have found qigong to have a positive effect on mood and stress levels among people with cancer when practised regularly.
Qigong, especially external qigong is also reported to be able to help with the chronic pain experienced by some people with cancer.
Besides, research that looks at blood tests for inflammation (such as C-reactive protein) has shown a reduced level of these inflammatory markers in cancer patients who practice qigong.
A recent study found that cancer patients who underwent qigong exercises had a significant improvement in their immune function as it stimulate the function of the lungs and activate the ‘Yang’ qi.
A 2008 pilot study of medical qi gong for cancer patients, conducted by University of Sydney researchers found it to be “an effective therapy for improving quality of life, cancer-related symptoms and treatment side effects and promote patient longevity” compared to non-practicing cancer patients.
Meanwhile, researchers from the Santa Barbara-based Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi, Arizona State University and the University of North Carolina analysed data from 66 randomised controlled qigong trials involving 6,410 participants. The review was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion. The strongest and most consistent evidence of health benefits found include bone health, cardiopulmonary fitness, balance, mental focus and improved self-efficacy (the confidence in and perceived ability to perform an activity).
While qi gong is typically not considered a “cure” for cancer, it is extremely helpful in coping with the disease. However, it should not be used to replace any cancer therapy prescribed by your physician. It is also advisable to check with your doctor or oncologist before starting any qigong practice.
Together for Qigong
In Malaysia, various qigong associations offer group classes usually held in parks or school premises. Some of these classes are held for free to the community. The New Straits Times reported on a group of cancer patients and survivors who practise Guolin Qigong in 45 parks nationwide every morning, including the Tun Abdul Razak Memorial at Lake Gardens. Members of this group testified to the many benefits of Qigong in helping them to cope life with or after cancer, including feeling fresh after qigong, a return of appetite and quality sleep, enhancement of one’s physical fitness, better immune system and morale, and improvement in the chances of survival. The group also give counsel to new cancer patients. The support for each other coupled with the benefits and love of this ancient art has knitted this group closely together. For more information, contact 03-89488775 or log on to www.guolinqigong.net.
Qiqong Benefits for Cancer Survivors
- Lowers blood pressure
- Relaxes the mind
- Improves mental alertness
- Increases flexibility
- Improves sleep quality
- Manages pain
- Boosts immunity
- Increases energy
- Improves the appetite
- Lifts the spirits
- Promotes longevity