One useful supplement to traditional chiropractic therapy is the practice of qigong. Originated in ancient China as a method of improving circulation, it emphasizes slow, controlled movements and breathing techniques. The word qigong is made up of two component parts. Qi is the Chinese word for air, and gong means discipline; thus, together they refer to “air discipline,” or the discipline of proper breathing.
There are a number of different varieties of qigong practiced in China and elsewhere in the world. One type emphasizes a technique called diaphragmatic breathing; this exercise, also known as “belly breathing,” engages the full strength of the diaphragm rather than just using the chest for breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is widely practiced in certain yoga styles, and is considered helpful because it helps to fully oxygenate the body. As practitioners of holistic medicine, chiropractic physicians often recommend this technique to help flush impurities from the system; it is also used to treat stammering and stuttering.
Another form of qigong, known as Taoist qigong, puts emphasis on thoracic breathing. This is the practice of inhaling deeply toward the back of the thoracic cavity, or chest region. Thoracic breathing expands the lungs to their fullest, and thus offers many of the same benefits as diaphragmatic breathing, but does not flex and relax the abdominal muscles in the same way. Most chiropractic doctors do not distinguish between these two methods, regarding both as beneficial as part of a holistic health regimen.
The health benefits of qigong are generally accepted by both the Eastern and Western medical establishments, although the spiritual benefits claimed by some proponents of qigong are still in dispute. Qigong is helpful in improving circulation and flexibility; it provides a low-impact way to stretch and tone muscles, while the breathing exercises improve blood flow and consequent oxygen supply to the extremities. As part of your regular exercise regimen, it can strengthen your diaphragm and chest muscles and help to rejuvenate tissues and cells.
Consult your chiropractic physician before beginning a qigong program. Your chiropractor can advise you on the best way to incorporate qigong into a plan for healthful living, and assist you on getting the most from your qigong exercises.