Question from a Student
“I have a miserable cold. Is it wise to do qigong during this time and if so, which forms might be better?”
First of all, I’m sorry to hear that you’re not feeling well. Get well soon!
With Flowing Zen Qigong, it’s not only okay to practice while sick — it’s recommended!
If you know it, and if you have the strength, then do the 5-Phase Routine.
Stick to simple exercises like Lifting The Sky, Swimming Dragon, or Pushing Mountains. Avoid advanced exercises like the Small Universe, zhan zhuang, One Finger Zen, Sinew Metamorphosis, and Bone Marrow Cleansing.
But don’t force it! If you don’t have the energy for the 5-Phase Routine, then do the 2-Minute Drill instead. Just get up from your bed or from the couch and do 2 minutes. Simple.
The goal with the 2-Minute Drill is to engage the Wei Qi, which is the energy that powers your immune response and your lymphatic system.
Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow
Different qigong schools have different approaches to this. Some schools recommend that you do not practice qigong while sick, especially with a high fever.
Obviously, I disagree with this approach. But why the disagreement?
The difference can be boiled down to one thing: Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow.
Most schools do not teach this skill. It’s not their fault. It was kept secret for centuries.
I happened to win the qigong lottery by learning this technique, and I don’t hold it against other teachers who haven’t.
But Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow makes all the difference and allows us to do things that schools without it simply can’t do.
Let it Flow
With Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow (FBSW), we stimulate the qi so that it flows freely in the body.
Then — and here’s the important part — we ALLOW it to flow. In other words, we allow the body’s own wisdom to do the healing.
If you’re sick and you go to an acupuncture physician like my wife, then she’ll have to do a diagnostic to determine exactly what is wrong with you. Once she knows what’s wrong, she can choose a treatment plan.
For example, colds and flus are common categorized in Chinese Medicine as either Wind Heat or Wind Cold.
But which one is it?
If you’re treating yourself with some types of qigong, then you need to know the answer, which means that you need a diagnostic.
But with FBSW, we don’t need to know. This is because we don’t direct the qi to any particular organ or meridian or system. Instead, we just get the qi flowing, and then let it flow.
But what about the 2-Minute Drill? In that routine, we don’t do FBSW. Is it still safe?
Yes, it’s safe because the dosage is so small. It’s true that the exercise that you choose, like Lifting The Sky or Pushing Mountains, will direct the qi to certain meridians. But because the session is so short, the qi doesn’t really get directed very much. The overall effect is simply a small boost to the ENTIRE system.
Feedback from Students
Why do I give this advice about practicing qigong while sick?
In a word: evidence.
When I make a decision to implement a teaching or a methodology in my school of qigong, it’s based on evidence.
I’m not just talking about scientific research. Sure, that’s important too. (Click here for a free infographic on the 13 proven benefits of qigong and tai chi.)
But I’m also talking about actual, real-world feedback from students.
For example, many of us have followed the advice above, and we’ve found that it works. Practicing a little qigong while sick typically kicks it out faster than usual.
Over the years I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of feedback from my students. This feedback matters! It means that my teaching is alive, and it’s based on direct experience.
Here are what some Flowing Zen Qigong students recently had to say on the subject in a discussion in our free Facebook group.
“In my personal experience; actually practicing Qi Gong has helped me to “get the flu out of my body” faster. Gentle movements; kind exercises and a big smile from the heart. If you are feeling a little ill now; I hope you feel better soon!” – Dani from Venezuela
“I usually do exercises to keep the qi flowing, but listen to my body and don’t overdo.” – Chuck from the US
“I like to do only my most favorite Qi Gong exercise for a couple of minutes when I am ill. And after that my preferred therapy is: SLEEP!” – Angelika from Germany
“Feedback about Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow: After practising 5-phase routine I feel amazing, I feel almost cured of a strong flu.” – Sanja from Croatia
“I continued Qigong while I had a cold/fever. And I believe that helped me recover faster. Thanks Sifu for the advice.” – George from the US
“When I have been sick, Qigong is a lot harder, but I still do it, and I’ve felt a lot better because of it. Also: I’ve had magic results with Shooting Bow and Arrow helping breathing related symptoms.” – Charles from the US
Don’t forget to sleep. Most people simply don’t rest enough when they’re sick. If you do your 5-Phase Routine or the 2-Minute Drill and you feel tired afterward, then go take a nap! Let the qi continue working while you sleep.
Also, stay inside if it’s cold. It’s nice to practice qigong outside, but if you’re sick and if it’s cold out, then don’t push your luck.
The Bottom Line
If you’re sick and you don’t know Flowing Zen Qigong, then go learn some!
Tell me about your experiences. Have you had any success with using Flowing Zen Qigong while sick? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! Best regards, Sifu Anthony I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world how to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. As the director of Flowing Zen and a board member for the National Qigong Association, I'm fully committed to helping people with these arts. In addition to my blog, I also teach online courses and offer in-person retreats and workshops.