Qigong for Arthritis
(In the United States, May is "National Arthritis Awareness Month." There are two major types of arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis, which is the most common chronic condition of the joints affecting approximately 27 million older Americans. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease of the immune system and attacks the synovium (a thin membrane that lines the joints) causing inflammation and pain. (RA) affects approximately 1.5 million Americans.)
First, I would like first to discuss the attitude, which you need to adopt in your practice. Quite frequently, people who are ill are reluctant to become involved in the healing process. This is especially true for arthritis patients. Both Western and Chinese physicians have had difficulty persuading them to become involved in regular exercise or Qigong.
The main reason for this reluctance is that the patients are afraid of pain, and therefore believe that these kinds of exercise are harmful. In order to conquer this obstacle to your healing, you must understand the theory of healing and the reason for practicing. Only then will you have the confidence necessary for continued practice. Remember, a physician may have an excellent prescription for your illness, but if you don't take the medicine, it won't do you any good.
Another factor that has caused the failure of many a potential cure is lack of persistence. Because the healing process is very slow, it is very easy to become impatient and lazy. Very often in life we will know exactly what it is that we need to do, but because the emotional parts of our minds control us, we end up either not doing what we need to, or not doing it right. Either way, our efforts will have all been in vain.
It seems that most of the time our "emotional mind" and our "wisdom mind" are in opposition. In China there is a proverb, which says: "You are your own biggest enemy." This means that your emotional mind often wants to go in the opposite direction from what your wisdom mind knows is best. If your wisdom mind is able to overcome your emotional mind, then there is nothing that can stop you from doing anything you want.
Usually, however, your emotional mind causes you to lose your willpower and perseverance. We always know that our clear-headed wisdom mind understands what needs to be done, but too often we surrender to our emotional mind and become slaves of our emotions.
The first step when you decide to practice Qigong is to strengthen your wisdom mind and use it to govern your emotional mind. Only then will you have enough patience and perseverance to keep practicing. You can see that the first key to successful training is not the techniques themselves, but rather your self-control. I sincerely believe that as long as you have a strong will, patience, and perseverance, there is nothing that you can't accomplish.
Forming the habit of practicing regularly actually represents changing your lifestyle. Once you have started regulating your life through Qigong, not only can it cure your arthritis and restrengthen your joints, but it can also keep you healthy and make both your mental and physical lives much happier.
The following are keys in your practice where you will be able to see and feel how Chinese Qigong is different from similar Western arthritis exercises.
Important Training Keys
1. Regulating the Body:
Before you start your Qigong exercises, you should first calm down your mind and use this mind to bring your body into a calm and relaxed state. Naturally, you should always be concerned with your mental and physical centers. Only then will you be able to find your balance. When you have achieved both mental and physical relaxation, centering, and balance, you will be both natural and comfortable. This is the key to regulating your body.
When you relax, you should learn to relax deeply into your internal organs, and especially the muscles that enclose the organs. In addition, you must also place your mind on the joints that are giving you trouble. The more you can bring your mind deep into the joint and relax it, the more Qi will circulate smoothly and freely to repair the damage.
2. Regulating the Breathing:
Breathing is the central strategy in Qigong practice. According to Qigong theory, when you inhale you lead Qi inward and when you exhale you lead Qi outward. This is our natural instinct. For example, when you feel cold in the wintertime, in order to keep from letting the Qi out of your body, you naturally inhale more than you exhale to lead the Qi inward, which also closes the pores in the skin. However, in the summertime when you are too hot you naturally exhale more than inhale in order to lead Qi out of your body. When you do this you start to sweat and the pores open.
In Qigong, you want to lead the Qi to the internal organs and bone marrow, so you must learn how to use inhalation to lead the Qi inward. When you use Qigong to cure your arthritis, you must inhale and exhale deeply and calmly so that you can lead the Qi deep into the joint and also outward to dissipate the excess or stagnant Qi that has accumulated in the joints. Therefore, in addition to relaxing when you practice, you should always remember to inhale and exhale deeply. When you inhale, place your mind deep in the joint, and when you exhale, lead the Qi to the surface of the skin.
3. Regulating the Mind:
In Qigong, the mind is considered the general who directs the battle against sickness. After all, it is your mind that manages all of your thinking and activity. Therefore, a clear, calm mind is very important so that you can judge clearly and accurately. In addition, your attention must also be concentrated. Your mind can generate an EMF (an electromotive force or "voltage") that causes your Qi to circulate. The more you concentrate, the more strongly you can lead the Qi.
When you have a calm and concentrated mind, you will be able to feel and sense the problem correctly. Therefore, when you practice Qigong for your arthritis, you must learn how to bring your mind inward so that you can understand the situation, and you must know how to use your concentrated attention to lead the Qi.
4. Regulating the Qi:
Once you have regulated your body, breathing, and mind, you will be in a good position to start regulating your Qi, and will be able to lead your Qi anywhere in your body in order to make repairs.
5. Regulating the Spirit:
The final key to Qigong is raising your spirit of vitality. Good morale or fighting spirit is necessary to win the struggle against illness. When your spirit is high, your willpower is strong, your mind is firm, and your patience can last a long time. In addition, when your spirit is high your emotions are under control and your wisdom mind can stimulate the Qi to circulate in the body more efficiently. This will significantly reduce the time of healing.
You should now have a clear idea of how to practice most efficiently. During the course of your practice, you should frequently remind yourself of these key requirements. If you would like to learn more about the keys to Qigong practice, you may refer to the YMAA book: The Root of Chinese Qigong.
(The above excerpt is from Arthritis—The Chinese Way of Healing and Prevention by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming.)