Chi Kung has been around for some 2,500 years dating back to a Persian monk named Boddhidharma, who walked the Silk path from India to China and found that the Shaolin Temple monks to be in poor health. Boddhidarma taught Chi Kung to the Shaolin monks so they could take kicks and punches without getting hurt. With this training, the monks’ health improved as well.
Chi Kung keeps meridians–energy highways in the body–open and flowing with energy. With this flow, internal organs remain balanced and disease free. Also, with free-flow of energy comes the free flow of blood which is essential to health. Chi Kung also regulates cortisol from the adrenal glands, which aids in stress reduction to help you stay young.
In the past 2,500 years, the practice of Chi Kung has evolved into three main categories: Chi Kung for martial arts, Medical Chi Kung, and Chi Kung for health. Chinese doctors have accumulated anecdotal evidence over two and a half millennia showing that practitioners of Chi Kung have more resistance to illnesses, have improved energy levels, have lower blood pressure, better sleep, and retarded aging.
Scientific studies have backed up this anecdotal evidence. These studies come from work compiled by Kenneth Sancier. Sancier, a former researcher from Stanford Institute and Chariman for the Qi Gong Institute, has published a compendium of studies on the anti-aging benefits of Chi Kung. He has been studying Chi Kung, using his analytical skills since 1986. He has assembled a computerized database with over 3,500 citations of Chi Kung. Many of these studies were published only in China and only have been recently translated.
Synopsis of scientific research compiled by Sancier.1
- Long Term Balance of Blood Pressure in Hypertensive Patients. A 30 year study on 242 patients conducted by Wang, Xu, and co-workers of the Shanghai Institute found that those who practiced Chi Kung faired better than their control counterparts. Both groups took medication to control their blood pressure and no one smoked in either group. Wan, Xu found that over the 30 year study that the Chi Kung group could reduce their medication while those in the control had to increase their medication.
- Mortality and Stroke. A 30-year study showed that Chi-Kung exercise resulted in a decrease of 50% in terms of total mortality, mortality due to stroke, and morbidity due to a stroke. At the end of 30 years 86 patients survived in the Chi Kung group and 68 in the control group.
- Improvements in Heart Function and Microcirculation. Sancier reports, “Aged hypertensive patients usually are found to have a deficiency of Heart energy, which often leads to a weakened function of the left ventricle and disturbance of microcirculation.” A study was conducted on 120 aged patients using ultrasonic cardiography and indices on microcirculation. Researchers found the hypertensive group (80) partients improved their heart function by 50% after just one year of practice of Chi Kung.
- Improvements in Sex Hormone Levels. Levels of estrogen increase in men as they age and decrease in women as they age. Practicing Chi Kung reduces estrogen in men and increases it in women.
- Reverses Symptoms of Senility. A study was conducted of 100 senile and pre-senile patients divided in half (50 control, 50 experiment). After six month of Chi Kung, the experimental group improved by 80% whereas the control group improved by 45%. These results show that practicing Chi Kung was superior to walking or running in reducing symptoms of aging and senility.
- Chi Kung Increases Superoxide Dismutase or (SOD). SOD is known as the anti-aging enzyme because it helps destroy free radicals which cause aging. As we age, we produce less SOD. A study was conducted of 200 retired workers consisting of 100 males and 100 females divided equally into 2 groups. Researchers found higher SOD levels in the Chi Kung group than the control group.
- Improvement in Cardiovascular Function. Sancier reports that studies have shown this to be true in Chi Kung practitioners.
- Chi Kung Improves Blood Flow to the Brain. “In one study with 158 patients with cerebral arteriosclerosis who practice Chi Kung for 1 to 6 months, improvements were noticed in symptoms such as memory, dizziness, insomnia, tinnitus, numbness of limbs and vertigo headache. A decrease in plasma cholesterol was also noted.”
What first attracted me to Chi Kung
My teacher, Master Irving Leong, impressed me because he was one of the healthiest and strong individuals I have ever met and, interestingly, he seemed to have found a fountain of youth. In the 15 years that I studied with him, he maybe had a cold once or twice. He never got sick and he didn’t seem to age. His muscle tone was that of a person at least 20 years younger, and he took no medication whatsoever. I asked him what his secret was and he said “diligent practice of Tai Chi and Chi Kung.”
What I have noticed with my seniors
I am teaching Chi Kung, stretching, and weight shifting exercises to seniors in the Montreal area. Without exception, my seniors have all reported that they are breathing better, are more relaxed, more energetic, and flexible. The nursing staff at the residence has also said that the majority of Chi Kung students seem to be healthier than their sedentary counterparts. I am working on designing a study on Chi Kung with my seniors, because more research is warranted.