The start of a new year and a new Bowdoin semester is always an exciting time. Between fresh notebooks for class, friends back from abroad, and subtle (but still immensely important) changes at Thorne, the campus is ready to spice up last semester’s old habits. For some students this also includes new sport seasons, changing fitness routines, and spring health and wellness classes. While many of us might have skimmed the list of classes and signed up for yoga or spinning yet again, why not try a new class you haven’t experienced yet? For example, qigong is a wellness class often overlooked at Bowdoin. Maybe you are turned off by the fear of mispronouncing the name, or maybe you just have no idea what to expect, but trying something entirely different can be wonderful for your body, mind, and state of being. Supposedly you should do something everyday that scares you, why not make qigong that something?
Qigong is an ancient Chinese art made up of different postures, circular movements, and breathing techniques. “Qi” translates to “the vital energy of the body,” and “gong” refers to “the skill of working the qi.” Thus, the idea behind this practice is not just working your muscles or breaking a sweat, but working the energies of the body. The goal is to train the mind to utilize and control the body’s various energies. In the hectic days of Bowdoin life, we often are forced to move from class to meeting to rehearsal and find our energy slumping. Thus, using your workout time to harness your energy and learning how to re-direct your energies is a very valuable skill. Likewise, learning how to work the qi has many medicinal healing effects that might just help you avoid the health center.
There are two main energy types worked during qigong. Through physical exercise and breathing focus, the internal qi is worked for healing one’s own body. However, advanced students also learn how to work external qi, which is emitting your energies to heal another person’s body. Both these processes have been clinically found to lower stress levels, bolster the immune system, lower blood pressure, improve balance, increase stamina, and improve digestive and circulatory function. Although heading to the gym is a form of stress release for many, qigong’s de-stressing effects extend beyond the moment of exercise. Learning to increase the mind-body connection will help you make it through a late night cram session and stay sane in the stress of midterm periods. Qigong is a great way to shake up last semester’s exercise rut and improve your health and mental sanity in the process. So as you work to add some variety to your Bowdoin life this semester, consider trying this valuable ancient practice. You might just be able to improve your health and the health of those around you in the process.
For further qigong reading:
Written by Elizabeth Huppert ’12.