When we think about the brain, we usually think about all the thoughts it generates. Our brains allow us to remember things, aiding us to make decisions, form opinions, and come up with all sorts of ideas. Sometimes, our minds can feel cluttered or chaotic—what we call the “monkey mind”—because our brain is always hard at work. On top of that, our brains also control the muscles in our body, helping us process all the things we see, feel, taste, smell, and hear. Taking care of the brain is essential, but it can be tricky to figure out how to give it the exercise and relaxation it needs in the way we might for our other body parts.
So, can Qigong help the brain? What does Qigong do for cognitive health? We explore this question and more in this post.
Is Qigong good for the brain?
Practicing Qigong has excellent benefits for the health of your brain. A complex organ, the brain enables our bodies to function in various ways. For instance, the brain is connected to the spinal cord and is a crucial part of our central nervous system. The back part of the brain is responsible for our balance, while the front controls our ability to concentrate. The top of our brains is where we analyze and make decisions. When we do Qigong, we’re working on all of these parts! Qigong’s mindful movements improve our focus (front), balance (back), and meditation skills (top), giving our brain a workout from all angles. Plus, research has shown that practicing Qigong can help to promote neuroplasticity in the hippocampus (where we store our memories), which aids in the improvement of memory and learning. Neuroplasticity is how the brain creates new networks and adapts to change. It’s vital for healthy functioning, from the early stages of a child’s cognitive development to recovery from a head injury. That’s why Qigong is perfect for kids, teens, and anyone who wants to grow and improve their brain’s flexibility.
What are at least 3 benefits of Qigong?
Qigong offers a multitude of benefits for the brain. Here are a few of the main ones:
1. Increased mental clarity and focus
The mindful movement of Qigong is an exercise of purposeful attention. Even when the movements may be very simple—such as balancing as though you have a cup of water on your head—it requires a tremendous amount of focus. It also allows us to hone our attention on the task before us, regardless of the task. This helps to exercise the brain’s frontal lobe, which is responsible for concentration. Practicing focused attention through Qigong meditation and exercise helps cognitive function and can help keep dementia or other illnesses at bay.
2. Practice balance and equilibrium
Qigong exercise also requires balance. Standing on one leg or even remaining still on both legs requires that we focus and find our center of gravity. This physical skill of balance is directly connected to the equilibrium of our Qi, which affects us physically and emotionally. Because our brain plays a vital role in maintaining balance, it also contributes to distributing energy throughout our bodies to find equilibrium. In other words, when we practice balance, we circulate Qi not only within our brain but throughout our bodies, which grounds us.
3. Reduces stress and increases relaxation
Qigong’s focus on regulating the breath and mindful meditation is significant in calming down your central nervous system, especially where your brain and spinal cord meet. Suppose you’ve ever felt panicked or anxious. In that case, you may have noticed your breath become short, quick, or out of control—that’s because there are specific patterns of breathing associated with emotions like stress or anxiety and certain ways of breathing related to relaxation, which tend to be longer and slower. Qigong helps us practice regulating our breath so that we can calm down when we feel stressed, increasing relaxation and providing long-term health benefits (stress is linked to decreased mental health, illness, and cancer). Meditative breathing also increases blood flow to the brain, promoting neuroplasticity and aiding in cognitive decline prevention. Qigong helps train ourselves to practice breathing patterns associated with relaxation, which heals the body. You can read more about Qigong breathing in this post.
Overall, Qigong engages the brain and promotes healthy functioning by emphasizing mindful movement, balance, and relaxation.
What exercises invigorate the brain?
Any Qigong exercise is good for the brain because Qigong is a holistic exercise that requires active mental engagement. But here is an exercise we like that encourages focus, balance, and relaxation for the brain.
Standing Tree Meditation:
This is an excellent Qigong exercise for finding physical, mental, and emotional balance. It also teaches us to have a soft mental focus while simultaneously relaxing our body, which is the sweet spot called meditation.
In this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in your knees. Let your arms come down to your sides and let the hands rest against the legs or the waist wherever the palms land. Now take three slow breaths in through the nose and out through the nose. Very slow with no rush. Now we will elevate the hands slightly as if they are being pushed somewhat out away from the legs energetically. Open the armpits slightly as if you are holding an egg in each armpit. This allows some space for energy to circulate.
Next, bring your mind’s attention to the front of your forehead, this area of the brain is called the frontal lobe. By doing this, you are calling the mind’s attention away from the analytical function of the top of the brain (monkey mind) and bringing it to the control tower – the frontal lobe. You can begin to redirect the body’s energies from the frontal lobe.
Now take your attention and extend it down to the area just below your navel center. This area is called the lower dantian in Chinese Medicine and Taoist practices and the Hara in Japanese Martial Arts. Take ten slow breaths in through the nose and see if you can effortlessly expand the lower belly with your breath. Let your exhale come from the mouth. As you exhale, imagine your breath is going down through the lower abdomen into the legs and down through each foot into the ground. This will further connect you to the ground, help detoxify the body, and become more centered.
How does Qigong make you feel?
Qigong exercises your muscles, brain, and emotions, which can evoke feelings of warmth and happiness or even sadness. Everyone’s journey is unique, so the emotional experience of Qigong differs from person to person. However, if negative emotions arise during practice, you can channel them into self-empowerment. Qigong involves harnessing strength by transforming that energy into a state of calm. Developing this life skill allows you to cope better with whatever challenges come your way and supports your mental health and brain function.
How do you optimize your brain?
Qigong optimizes brain function by enhancing our ability to focus, control our breathing, and find balance. It helps us stay mentally active and physically fit, which are both vital for optimizing our cognitive abilities. When we practice Qigong, we balance our brain’s left and right hemispheres, creating flexibility in its neural pathways. This keeps our blood vessels healthy and allows us to adapt to new experiences.
Being mindful while practicing movement or stillness is an excellent way to begin. Our brains are connected to all of our senses, affecting how we perceive the world, make decisions, and feel. Keeping our brains engaged has a positive impact on our overall physical health. We could say what is good for the brain is good for the whole body.