Yoga and Qigong for Stress Management: The Ancient Secrets

Center for Acupuncture & Anti-Aging Movement Therapy room

In our fast-paced world, stress has become an inescapable part of daily life. As we navigate through the relentless demands of work, personal relationships, and other facets of life, it is crucial to find effective ways to manage and reduce stress. Today, let's dive into the time-honored practices of Yoga and Qigong, two ancient practices with proven stress-relief benefits.

The Science of Stress

Before understanding how these practices work, it’s essential to grasp what stress is and how it impacts our bodies. Stress is the body's response to perceived threats or demands (1). This 'fight-or-flight' reaction prompts the body to release stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. While this response can be life-saving in emergencies, prolonged exposure to these hormones can lead to various health problems, including hypertension, depression, and impaired immune function (2).

Yoga: An Ancient Indian Practice

Yoga, with its roots in ancient India, is a holistic practice integrating mind, body, and spirit. The term "Yoga" is derived from the Sanskrit word "Yuj," which means to join or unite. This unity is achieved through a combination of physical postures (asanas), controlled breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation.

Scientific studies show that yoga can lower stress hormone levels, reduce inflammation, and enhance mood (3). One of the key mechanisms by which yoga reduces stress is through the vagus nerve, a critical part of the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. By promoting a 'rest-and-digest' state, yoga can lower heart rate and blood pressure, fostering relaxation (4).

Qigong: The Chinese Art of Harnessing Energy

Qigong, originating from China over 4,000 years ago, is another powerful stress management tool. Translated as "energy work" or "life energy cultivation," Qigong incorporates smooth, flowing movements, rhythmic breathing, and meditative focus to balance the body's vital energy, or 'Qi'.

Clinical research indicates that Qigong has a calming effect on the sympathetic nervous system, thereby reducing the stress response (5). Regular practice has been linked to lower cortisol levels, reduced anxiety, and improved mental well-being (6).

Yoga and Qigong for Beginners

Beginning a new practice can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. Here are a few simple ways to get started:

Yoga: Start with simple poses like Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Savasana (Corpse Pose), and Balasana (Child's Pose). Begin each session with slow, deep breaths, and gradually sync your movements with your breath. Several online platforms provide free, beginner-friendly yoga sessions.

Qigong: Begin with Standing Meditation or 'Zhan Zhuang'. Stand comfortably, with your feet hip-width apart, and focus on your breath. Gradually move to practices like 'Lifting the Sky' or 'Pushing Mountains.' The National Qigong Association (7) provides resources for beginners.

A Lifelong Journey

Integrating Yoga and Qigong into your daily routine is not just about managing stress. It's about leading a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. Both practices offer a journey of self-discovery and personal growth, which, as you'll find, is often the most significant reward.

Remember, every journey begins with a single step. So, take that step today, and embark on a voyage toward tranquility and wellness. 

Dr. Chianni Lin is a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She is also a certified and highly experienced yoga teacher. Her yoga certifications include pre- and post-natal, and certification in Advanced Relax and Renew restoratives. She’s been featured on the front cover of Yoga Journal and in Complete Home Practice, a DVD series put out by Yoga Journal.

Growing up in Taiwan, Dr. Lin’s interest in and experience with Oriental healing practices began when she was very young and are quite extensive, including practicing qigong since she was a young child. In addition to her Acupuncture and Anti-Aging Medicine practice, Dr. Lin enjoys studying and integrating different spiritual practices. 

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  1. American Psychological Association. Understanding chronic stress.
  2. Mayo Clinic. Chronic stress puts your health at risk.
  3. Pascoe, M. C., Thompson, D. R., & Ski, C. F. (2017). Yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction and stress-related physiological measures: A meta-analysis. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 86, 152–168.
  4. Kuppusamy, M., Kamaldeen, D., Pitani, R., Amaldas, J., & Shanmugam, P. (2020). Effects of Bhramari Pranayama on health–A systematic review. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 10(1), 6–12.
  5. Jouper, J., & Hassmén, P. (2013). Qigong exercise with concentration predicts increased health. American Journal of Health Promotion, 28(1), 16–23.
  6. Wang, C. W., Chan, C. H., Ho, R. T., Chan, J. S., Ng, S. M., & Chan, C. L. (2014). Managing stress and anxiety through qigong exercise in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 14, 8.
  7. National Qigong Association.
Dr. Chianni Lin at the Center for acupuncture & Anti-Aging Medicine Dr. Chianni Lin, DAOM As a Doctor of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (DAOM) in Santa Monica, California, Dr. Chianni Lin is highly respected as one of the leading Eastern Integrative Medicine providers serving Los Angeles. Her integrated practice, the Center for Acupuncture & Anti-Aging Medicine, incorporates acupuncture, herbal therapy, myofascial release, lifestyle coaching, and movement therapy (yoga, qigong). Dr. Lin is deeply committed to making a meaningful difference in her patients' Health, Longevity, and Vitality.

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