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Alternative Medicine: How Qigong Can Help with Cancer Recovery

separator Qigong is a Chinese form of movement, often called a moving meditation. According to Chinese medicine, there’s a constant flow of energy moving through your body through channels called meridians. This energy is called “qi” (also sometimes spelled “chi” and pronounced “chee”). Qi is considered to be the life force. When it doesn’t flow through your body well, it becomes stagnant and stuck, which can lead to illness.

The qigong movements stimulate your body’s qi to flow more easily. You remove so-called “blockages of qi,” which helps your body function better--the immune system, circulation, breathing, etc.

Qigong movements are very gentle, not difficult to get into or difficult to hold. Often, you repeat the movements over and over, as many times as you like. This repetition helps to get you into a meditative state, in which you begin to feel relaxed and stress free. Many qigong movements are done in a standing position, but others are done sitting down and sometimes lying down.

The principles of qigong are similar to those of acupuncture. Acupuncturists place fine needles in meridians on the body. These practitioners believe that the placement of needles helps open up the body’s energy, or qi, pathways, allowing the qi to flow more efficiently throughout the body.

One difference between qigong and acupuncture is that qigong is something you can learn to do on your own. For that reason, many people refer to qigong as a self-healing exercise. Qigong is similar to t’ai chi, but many people believe it’s easier to learn.

There have been many small qigong studies that have shown that qigong helps your body reach a relaxation state, that it helps lower blood pressure, control pain, and reduce anxiety. For someone who has had a diagnosis of cancer, the calming effect of qigong can be invaluable. Additionally, small studies conducted in China have shown that cancer patients who were treated with a combination of drugs and qigong exercises showed greater improvement in strength and appetite than patients who received drug therapy alone.

If you’re interested in trying qigong, there are several ways to find a class in your area. You could try asking a member of your healthcare team. Qigong is becoming more and more popular in the U.S., and some healthcare providers can help patients find referrals. You could also try looking up qigong in the Yellow Pages. If there are no listings, local yoga and t’ai chi centers sometimes also teach qigong classes, so you could give them a call. If there’s a health food store near you, there might a bulletin board listing different types of classes, and qigong could be one of them.

K Cohen, The Way of Qigong, The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing, Ballantine Books, New York, 1997; K. Pelletier, The Best Alternative Medicine, Simon & Schuster, New York, New York, 2000.; The National Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
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