Taiji and qigong are ancient methods of healing that incorporate movement, breath control, and meditation. Taiji, more accurately called taijiquan in Chinese culture, is a martial art that has been known for centuries for its health benefits, including psychological benefits. Now, since the world has recognized its healing benefits, more and more people practice taiji all over the world. Taiji is a higher level of qi practice, or some say a "higher-level qigong." Both taiji and qigong are excellent methods for reducing anxiety, depression, and sleep difficulties. 

Taiji and qigong practice consists of smoothing energy flow, letting go of negative thoughts, and becoming more positive and open to all. Both taiji and qigong come from Daoist practice and involve balance and nature. All movements entail the yin and yang: constantly shifting weight and turning the waist; left and right, up and down, empty and full, stillness and movement, mind and body, breathing in and breathing out.

Gut problems

Problems in the gut can be exacerbated by emotional imbalance caused by situations like unresolved past experiences and unmanaged, ongoing stress. From an Eastern medical perspective, we would say that these emotional imbalances cause your qi to stagnate. Simply put, qi is not flowing the way it is supposed to flow. Qi flow can be affected by such factors as genetics, long-term use of certain medications, long term misuse of alcohol or other harmful substances. The practice of taiji and qigong have a positive influence on both emotional and qi balance. The movements and patterns of breathing focus and calm the mind and promote the smooth flow of energy in the body. The key is regular practice.

Qigong has several important characteristics. 

  • It is easy to learn, easy to remember, and easy to practice.
  • It empowers the mind, strengthens the body, and improves stamina and self-esteem.
  • Its symmetrical movements balance both sides of the brain to harmonize brain activity.
  • The movements involve learning that stimulates brain functions.
  • The slow and balanced movements calm and balance the brain neurotransmitters, acting as a "natural tranquilizer."
  • The gentle physical movement enhances energy flow in the body and improves daily energy levels.
  • The localized steps require a small space to practice and can be practiced indoors when the weather is inclement.
  • The coordinated, soothing movements improve coordination and balance, open energy channels, and help you open up to nature when practicing outdoors.
  • Most movements are slow, soothing, calming, graceful, peaceful, and especially suitable for the older generation and those with chronic illness. Therefore, it is regarded as the best healing exercise.

How does qigong help with digestive problems?

1. Learning 

Learning is a big part of healing, especially in the healing of emotions. We know our emotions influence our physical body. The brain's emotional center needs to be refreshed, nourished, stimulated, and balanced. When you start to learn things you are not familiar with, you start to shift your focus onto new knowledge, new approaches, and a new life. This sort of internal transformation can improve your situation in life. It is as if you are shifting negative energy to positive energy. The more positive energy you have, the better the chance you can be healed. Once you focus on learning qigong and then start to practice diligently, your qigong form will become more graceful and beautiful. This gives you a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. No matter how old you are, learning can always benefit your physical and emotional health.

2. Specific and Balanced Movements 

Qigong is very soothing and relaxing, and has open-framed movements that help open the energy channels. The movements are symmetrical to harmonize both hemispheres of the brain. It is like a natural tranquilizer that immediately calms your mind and your body. The brain has two hemispheres, which carry out different functions. Most people are dominant on one side or the other of their brains: some people are strong in language, whereas others are strong in artistic expression. Some people learn certain things quickly and other things slowly. If you overuse the dominant side of the brain throughout your life and fail to use the minor side of your brain, that side may become under stimulated and an imbalance can occur. Qigong exercise balances both sides of the brain so you develop a well-balanced brain, improving cognitive skills, communication skills, social skills, and so on.

3. Smooth Qi (Energy) Flow in the Body

Qi is vital energy, or life force. It is the energy that underlies everything in the universe. Qi in the human body refers to the various types of bioenergy associated with human health and vitality. Qi controls the functioning of all parts of the body including the gut. 

4. Group Energy 

Human beings are social beings. Taiji practice brings out a great deal of group energy and is most often practiced in group settings, either in a classroom or outdoors. This method of practice fosters discussion, friendship, and all the positive benefits of group energy. Because the energy of each individual affects the energy of others during practice, everyone feels good. 

5. Martial Arts Applications

In qigong, some of the movements have some martial relevance. People choose to practice qigong for different reasons, such as for inner peace, healing, martial training or self-defense, relief of stress, longevity, maintaining good health, or disease prevention, for flexibility, and for increasing energy and stamina.. The martial arts movements found in qigong and taiji make you feel stronger, especially internally. 

Other Self-Healing Practices for Improving Digestion

Be physically active. Whether your practice is Western or Eastern, daily movement is important. You can choose jogging, walking, swimming, tennis, ball games, hiking, taiji, qigong, martial arts, ballroom dancing, yoga—whatever you enjoy. Remember that any sort of regular movement counts. Even mopping your floors and dancing around your living room are examples of movements that can improve your digestion and metabolism. It has been shown that exercise can benefit the gut-brain-microbiome axis by increasing the diversity of the microbiome in a way that favors the beneficial bacteria that produce serotonin, which improves mood, and short chain fatty acids, which decrease inflammation. It is important you find an activity you actually enjoy. 

Practice being positive. It is not easy to be positive all the time, but it can be done with practice. Developing resilience and optimism can help manage the stress of chronic illness. I have seen many patients who heal at different rates. The main difference in their healing is their attitude; the way they think influences how they act. People who are more positive heal faster than those who are negative. 

Avoid overanalyzing. There are major differences between Western psychology and Daoist healing. Western psychology is constantly analyzing, searching out the reasons for everything. This may lead to an understanding of the cause of a problem but not how to get rid of it. 

In Daoist healing and Daoist psychology, we practice letting go. We accept that things are not always fair and not everything can be reasoned out. Do we have to know the "why" of everything? No. When we are able to let go, we feel like we just unloaded five hundred pounds off our shoulders. This may not always be easy, but it can be done with mindful practice. When you are able to let go, your spirit and energy are lifted right way.

Some people worry about things that may never happen, which is a complete waste of energy. We cannot control everything that can happen or that has happened in the past. We cannot predict everything that may happen in the future. We can only be prepared, try to manage our current situation to the best of our ability, and live in the moment

People who think too much, worry too much, plan too much, and fear too much can create stress and tension, which trigger negative emotions that adversely impact their gut.

Practice forgiveness. Forgiving is a good healing practice. Too often we hold onto slights and grudges, keeping the negative energy within us. This negativity can be held within the body, and the gut is a prime target given the relationship between the enteric and central nervous systems. 

Forgiveness creates positive energy and helps us to let go with ease. When we forgive, we feel free, open, happy, and relaxed. There also seems to be a connection between the capacity to forgive and chronic pain. Those who cannot forgive another person are more likely to be troubled by chronic pain or have a low tolerance for pain.

"True forgiveness includes total acceptance. And out of acceptance, wounds are healed and happiness is possible again."—Catherine Marshall (American author)

The above is an excerpt from True Wellness for Your Gut: How to Combine the Best of Western and Eastern Medicine for Optimal Digestion, Glucose Metabolism and Weight Control by Catherine Kurosu, MD, LAc and Aihan Kuhn, CMD, OBT, Published by YMAA Publication Center, Pub Date October, 2020, ISBN: 9781594397455