I’ve mentioned Qigong many times in my other posts, and I’ve recommended it for various reasons, but I realized this morning that I’ve never really told you why I always recommend it. In the last few weeks, I’ve had a few different opportunities to tell the story of how I got started doing Qigong, and how it has helped me since. Sharing my story has given me the chance to process and heal even more, but it has also given me the opportunity to help other people start their journey as well.
Just in case you’re worried that this is just one big advertisement, let me say up front, it is and it isn’t. It is, because I whole heartedly encourage you to go to Chris Shelton’s YouTube channel and try Qigong for yourself. I also encourage you to look into their Qigong Teacher Training if you want to dive deeper. In doing so, I have to mention that, because of my experience with them, I am now an affiliate for the program, and I will get commission if you sign up through any of the links on my website. (If you do so, thank you!)
However, this is not just an advertisement because I genuinely believe that doing Qigong can vastly improve your life. I believe this because it has become such a big part of my own life.
What is Qigong anyway?
Qigong, pronounced Chee-gong, is an ancient form of martial arts; a way for us to process and release negative emotions and promote positive ones; and a means of healing our bodies, all rolled into one.
Our Qi (chee) is our life force energy. It flows through all things. Gong is the movement of this life force energy.
Without going to far down the rabbit hole, there are three different schools of Qigong:
The first is martial arts.
The physical movements in Qigong, like Tai Chi, can be used as a form of self-defense. Many people don’t know this because Tai Chi is often seen as something that only old people do. In reality, the movements that you learn in Tai Chi can be used in marital art style fighting. The difference between it and other forms like karate, Tae Kwan Do, and Ju Jitsu, is the idea behind it. The other forms of martial arts focus on moving towards your opponent. Tai Chi focuses more on moving away from your opponent. Think, deflecting an attack vs. pushing back.
The second school of Qigong is spiritual, and focuses heavily on the inner self.
The third school of Qigong is medical, and this is what the Qigong Teacher Training, and most all of the YouTube videos focus on. All of this teaches you to become more aware of your body, your emotions, and the world around you. It gives you the tools to help you be a healthier person in every aspect of the word; physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
How do you do Qigong?
The movements are all very simple. Chris’ motto is, “Simple Movements, Profound Results” for this reason. Anyone can do the movements. You can do them standing, seated, and even lying down. The simplicity of Qigong often trips people up at first. Most of us think that if we aren’t moving fast, sweating profusely, and hurting afterwards, then we really haven’t done anything. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this type of exercise, and its benefits are too numerous to count, there’s something to be said for balancing this out with slow, gentle, contemplative movement as well.
My personal story with Qigong began about a year ago.
But I have to step back a bit farther to start. A little over two years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 37. I had a wonderful doctor, went immediately into treatments, and now I’m cancer free. Overall, I did really well with the treatments, and I didn’t have any major physical issues, other than what went along with all of the chemicals that were put through my body during that time.
At the end of my treatments, I ended up also having a full hysterectomy.
After all of this, I was looking for a slow, gentle exercise to get some movement back into my life. Our bodies are designed to move, and I knew at the time that I would feel better mentally and emotionally if I could move around more. Not only that, movement would also help to detox my system.
I have taken Tai Chi off and on for years, so I was already doing that, and what yoga I could. At the time, yoga wasn’t working for me, mentally or physically, so I began a search for something to add to my practice.
In this search, I found Chris Shelton, and Shelton Qigong.
I had never even heard of Qigong, but the similarities to Tai Chi intrigued me from the beginning. In my initial search, I tried a few different videos and they just didn’t resonate with me. As I scrolled through the videos on YouTube, I came across Chris Shelton, and Shelton Qigong. My first thought was, “he doesn’t look like someone who would do Qigong”. Then I laughed at myself for saying that because really, what does someone who does Qigong look like?
I guess, like a lot of people, I imagine someone doing an ancient form of martial arts and talking about Traditional Chinese Medicine, to be an older Asian person. I shook my head at my stereotypical thoughts, and clicked on the video.
Since getting to know Chris better, I laugh even more at my original thought process. He is asked sometimes why he wears jeans, t-shirts, and such when he’s teaching. I asked a similar question when I did my Q&A with him.
Question: You have a different approach to teaching Qigong and Tai Chi. It’s not always so serious and you don’t wear traditional clothing. Why do you choose to teach this way?
His response was this: I choose to teach this way because I feel that I can reach more people by being light-hearted and by dressing in my normal clothes. Making it into a “Chinese” thing separates people and wearing silk-pajamas puts the teacher on a pedestal, and if you feed into this, then it feeds the students ego of seeking a guru-type mentor.
Now, sometimes you will see him wearing his “silk pajamas” because he has also learned to pay attention to the audience that he’s working with in any given moment. For a lot of people, him wearing the traditional Chinese “uniform” does intimidate them. But for others, if he’s not wearing those types of clothing, they can’t see him as someone who knows what he’s talking about.
People are funny that way. We tend to believe that someone is more of an authority on any given subject if they are dressed the part. But, like my experience, if we really break it down, what does it even mean to look like a pharmacist, or look like a fire fighter. These impressions in our head cause us to separate people, which in turn causes all kinds of problems.
So really, despite my initial thoughts, the way Chris often dresses, and teaches his classes, is one of the things that drew me in. He didn’t seem like someone who was unapproachable, or overly egotistical.
I started my Qigong journey with the “30 Days of Qigong” series on YouTube.
This set of videos takes you from the very beginning. Each day Chris introduces a new practice, but it also builds on itself. For instance, in one of the first videos, you learn the Center and Balance Meditation. From that video on, you do this meditation in almost every other video.
The goal of this series, to me, is two-fold. It teaches you some of the Qigong movements, so that you can then take these movements and create a practice that is tailored to your specific needs on any given day. In addition to this, the videos are always there, if you’re feeling like just following along more so than developing your own practice.
I personally bounce between the two. Some days I feel more like following along with the videos, and not really having to concentrate on what I’m going to do next. Then other days, I really want to focus on one thing or another, so I do my own thing based on what I’ve learned thus far.
About 3 days into the 30-day program on YouTube, I wanted even more. I love to learn, and I’m always curious about the why behind the things that I’m doing. I was also teaching at a friend’s studio at the time, and excited about sharing Qigong with others. This is how I learned about the Qigong Teacher Training program. I signed up to take it, and the journey has continued to grow from there. I’m now in Level Two of that program, and the more I learn, the more I want to know.
My reasoning for seeking Qigong out to begin with was to find a form of gentle exercise, but in doing so, I’ve also gotten the added benefit of being able to process and release a lot of the emotions that went along with the cancer treatments (and life in general since then as well).
Things I didn’t even realize were an issue, or didn’t realize bothered me as bad as they did.
When you’re going through something like cancer, or any big event really, you’re so focused on getting through it, doing what you have to do in the moment, that you really don’t have the time or energy to process what’s going on around and within you. It’s not until the dust has settled a little more that you’re able to start the process of sifting through everything.
For me personally, one of the hardest things that I dealt with (outside of the treatments themselves) was finding out who was there for me and who wasn’t. It’s not until you go through something big like this that you find this out who will be there to support you, and who won’t. And it’s not always who you think it’s going to be.
People that I thought would be there no matter what, didn’t really come around much. Those that I thought would disappear entirely, were the ones taking me to my treatments, bringing me food, sending me cards, and doing whatever they could.
For a while, I didn’t think that this bothered me much. I knew that people had their own reasons for not being involved. But in going through my Qigong classes and practices, in peeling off those layers, I began to see just how much this really did bother me. Especially given other aspects of my relationship with people.
That’s the beauty of Qigong though, you slowly peel off layers, deal with the emotions that are causing you problems, and learn more about yourself in the process.
The more that I’ve learned about the meridians, the organs, emotions, etc., the more the puzzle of my health has come together.
So many problems that I’ve gone to see doctors for, that I’ve had test after test for, only to be told that it’s nothing, or it’s just my hormones, or some other vague diagnosis, have started to make more sense. Seeing how everything in our bodies is connected, has made the puzzle pieces of my health come together more and more.
I’ve learned how to pay more attention to the emotions that I’m feeling, and to process these emotions AS they come up, rather than shoving them down and having them pop up later.
So, how do I recommend you start learning Qigong for yourself?
1) The 30 Days of Qigong series that I started with.
2) Sign up for the Qi Club.
If you enjoy following along with an instructor, and you want to mix it up each day, Chris and Parisa created the Qi Club. The Qi Club is a subscription-based service that they offer, for those who want a guided daily practice, and the fun of having a live class from the comfort of your own home.
Every day, Monday through Thursday, they have a live class at 8 a.m. PST. It lasts around 30-40 minutes. The classes are also recorded and available for members to watch, or re-watch, for a week. This way, you can do them live and/or you can watch them on your own time.
3) Take the Qigong Teacher Training program.
Whether you ever plan to teach or not, this program will help you develop a deeper understanding of the Qigong practices. In the process, you’ll also learn more about yourself and be able to better your own health.
4) Get Chris’ book.
Qigong for Self-Refinement goes along with the 30 Day videos on YouTube, but it also includes more information as well. In it are ailments associated with the different organ systems, how the meridians work; and how all of these things work together to keep us healthy.
Doing Qigong is really a form of self-care for me now.
The movements alone are a form of moving meditation, and a chance to relax. When I add the element of processing and releasing the emotions that sometimes get stuck, and those that are lingering from my past, it’s even more beneficial.
My husband and I can both tell when we haven’t done any of our Qigong practices in a few days. I can’t explain it fully, and everyone is different, but we feel heavier somehow. You may not realize at first that it’s doing anything for you, but if you continue practicing regularly, you’ll see a difference.
If you have any questions along the way, feel free to reach out.