In our weekly series, we send a member of the USC team to try out some of the weird and wonderful sports we have on offer so you know exactly what to expect. Up this week is the Chinese martial art Qigong, pronounced Chigong (don’t worry, we didn’t know either…)
What is Qigong?
Qigong is a Chinese martial art that pairs physical exercises with breathing exercises to align the mind, body and soul. The practice is related to mental clarity and building awareness of how your body moves through space. ‘Qi’ translates to ‘that which gives life.’
Our class was at Tai Chi Matrix, an independent concept based in Berlin-Schöneberg with a focus on Qigong, Tai Chi and Feng Shui.
What can you expect?
Tai Chi Matrix is an independently managed concept that is hosted by O·YOGA in a beautiful Alt-bau in Schöneberg. The moment I walked in I felt a sense of serenity and calm. The studio is bright and spacious. Parichard, the founder of Tai Chi Matrix, had laid wool yoga mats on the floor of the studio with blankets and a stool next to each one.
Everything in the room was circular, a symbol for life, and no sharp edges meant my subconscious instantly relaxed. They should call it Chillgong I thought to myself, then laughed out loud at my own joke.
Before we began I told Parichard that I had a stomach ache – she said “the stomach represents the earth. Digestion is all to do with emotion. If you suppress your emotions and don’t allow them to move freely, you get stomach pain. Qigong will help you free these emotions.” I was curious to see if this worked…
How was the workout?
We began by sitting on the stool next to our mats and practicing deep breathing exercises. Parichard instructed us to draw the breath from inside our stomach, fill our lungs and slowly breathe out again. The exercise made me realise I never concentrate on my breathing – slowing it down wasn’t as easy as it seemed.
We then stood up and Parichard led us through traditional Tai Chi and Qigong movements. The art of Qigong is based on the idea that we are made up of five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Qigong aims to harmonise each of these elements within us; every exercise is designed to unblock and channel each of these elements through our system.
The movements are slow and accompanied by deep breathing exercises. It’s all about allowing the energy to flow seamlessly through your body, stopping any mental and physical blockages within us. This is the healing aspect of Qigong.
Some instructions were more abstract than others – at one point Parichard told us to ‘smile through your kidneys.’ I tried my hardest and I reckon I got the beginnings of a grin out of them.
After we’d exercised the five elements we took a seat and faced the ‘Four Directions’ focussing on various internal organs while we did so. East represents health, and here we ‘breathed through our livers’.
Parichard explained that as the sun sets in the West this is the direction we face to relax and to let go of the day. Here we pointed our arms to the sky and let the ‘energy flow through our hearts’.
We faced in different directions to represent different elements: The North represents the Polar star and is a symbol of stability. The South represents the element Fire. The West represents the expression of sadness to find space to heal. The Southwest is the direction of the Earth, which stands for stability and nurturing.
We then practiced some vocal breathing exercises, which involved flopping to our knees and making obscure noises several times. Half way through a guttural AAARRRRGGHH noise I caught my colleagues eye and burst out laughing – I was grateful I could cover it up with more guttural throat noises.
We then lay down on our mats and covered ourselves with the blankets Parichard had laid out. We finished with relaxation and breathing exercises.
How did I feel after? (i.e. was my stomach ache cured?)
Immediately after, no, but later that day, yes. It’s a miracle!
I felt very zen. The exercises are designed to clear your head and bring your body and mind into alignment. I felt calm, focussed and at peace, and I found it very easy to concentrate throughout the day.
For the rest of the day nothing could stress me out, not even encountering terrible drivers on my bike in Berlin’s rush hour.
Health benefits of Qigong
Many physical problems are caused by mental stress. Qigong develops inner tranquility to alleviate many physical symptoms, including back pain, lymph node issues, IBS and many more. Doctors often recommend Qigong as a medical solution to physical issues.
Spending an hour a week focussing entirely on yourself and your breathing is excellent for stress levels and overall mental wellbeing.
Qigong focusses on unblocking mental and physical energy – this means you can let your mind drift away from everyday stress and focus on letting go of the mental and physical symptoms of stress.
Don’t forget to bring…
Comfortable clothes and an open mind. The exercises may seem frustratingly slow at first but that is the beauty of Qigong.
Pay a visit to Parichard’s Tai Chi Matrix studio in Schöneberg, and if you aren’t based in Berlin fear not – Urban Sports Club has many Tai Chi and Qigong partners in Germany and in France. Take a look at our site to see what’s on offer in your area.