In this edition of Ask Sifu Anthony, you’ll learn about: chronic pain and qigong; depression with chronic pain; digestion and qigong; meditation for depression; stiffness and pain; menopause, reflux, and belief; and the many benefits of qigong practice.
About this series: I believe that students should be able to get practical, no-nonsense answers as they learn the art of qigong. Q&As are critical when learning an esoteric, ancient art in the 21st century. Since 2005, I’ve been answering questions in my classes, in our Facebook group, inside my online programs, in our live webinars, and here on the blog. We have an amazing, global community and my goal is to continue supporting you so that you can get more and more out of this art!
Question 1: Chronic Pain and Osteoarthritis
I have osteoarthritis in my spine. My knees and hips have been replaced. I am in chronic pain. How can I best use qigong to help the pain? Is there a specific movement that can help? – Debbie
Hi Debbie. I’m sorry that you’re in chronic pain. I know exactly how that feels and it’s awful.
From your submission, it looks like you’ve been practicing the 5-Phase Routine daily for about 6 months. First of all, congrats! That’s great work. If you can solidify that habit and keep it going long-term, then I think you’ll be amazed at your results.
In qigong theory, all pain is caused by a stagnation of qi. However, this theory is often misinterpreted in the West. Even if we grasp the theory of qi, we make the mistake of assuming that the stagnation is localized.
In other words, you’re probably imagining a stagnation of qi in your spine, knees, and hips. Certainly, that’s part of the problem, but it’s not the solution to the problem. The solution is to start recognizing qi stagnation as being non-local.
Your qi stagnation may be a stuck emotion from something that happened decades ago. In fact, I would bet good money on that explanation. I can almost guarantee that more than 50% of your pain is due to stuck emotions.
Years ago, I wrote 3 articles on chronic pain that may be helpful. You can find them here:
- Part 1: What Big Pharma Doesn’t Want You to Know About Pain
- Part 2: Why Your Chronic Pain Is All In Your Head
- Part 3: Why You Need Qigong If You Struggle with Chronic Pain
I haven’t updated those articles in a while, however. One of the biggest additions I have for you is this book by Dr. Alan Gordon, MD:
The combination of Dr. Gordon’s book plus qigong can be very powerful. Acupuncture is another addition that I recommend. These three therapies work synergistically to heal the body, mind, and energy.
Question 2: Chronic Pain, Trauma, and Depression,
The kit & kaboodle! I’m in chronic pain trying to withdraw from Prednisone which I used for 7 years and counting to manage autoimmune trouble. I have a history of clinical depression and trauma. Depression is flaring with a vengeance. Just starting to practice again.”
Hi Robin. As I mentioned to Debbie above, I know all about chronic pain. I also know a thing or two about depression. The combination of the two is awful.
Unfortunately, depression and chronic pain feed each other, creating a vicious cycle. The combination of all these issues will make it very hard to treat your trauma, which is likely the root of many of these problems. We need to find a way to start healing the trauma.
My article about treating trauma with qigong is a start, both for you and for me. As I mention in the article, I’m still relatively new to the topic. I’m still experimenting with ways to adapt qigong specifically for trauma. My ideas are evolving, but my current advice is in that article.
Since you’re just starting qigong again, your path is pretty clear. Start with 2 minutes a day, then work up to the 5-Phase Routine. (All of this is explained and taught in my book, for those who aren’t familiar.)
Use the 13 tips in the trauma article and see what works better for you. You may also want to look into some of the trauma therapies, like IFS or EMDR. The combination of those therapies with qigong can be very powerful.
Whatever you do, remember this proverb: Fall down 7 times, stand up 8. Keep standing up until you have a strong, daily qigong habit. By then, I’m sure you’ll have seen lots of progress with the pain and the depression.
Question 3: Digestion and Qigong
What would you advise for the timing of eating around the practice of Qigong? I tend to have breakfast directly after my morning 5-phase practice, but wonder if I am missing out on experiencing the qi I have just “created “. Also I would tend not to do the practice immediately after eating. Digestion has been a challenge my entire life–varying in efficacy. As gotten older I am fairly active but falling asleep sitting up after meals—-have to get up and moving. Pre diabetes diagnosis recently. Thanks so much for your communication efforts!!!!!! The pace and clarity of your teachings are perfect for me!!!
Hi Sandra. I’m so glad that you’re enjoying my programs. Here are my thoughts on your situation.
We don’t create qi per se, but rather absorb it from the food we eat, the air we breathe, and from the Cosmos through our qigong practice. Eating immediately after the 5-Phase Routine isn’t ideal, but it’s also not a big deal. It’s better to wait about 20 minutes. If that’s not possible, then don’t worry too much. You’ll still get plenty of benefits.
There’s an old Chinese proverb that I think you should adopt:
Take 100 Steps After Every Meal and You’ll Live to 99
Honestly, 100 steps are too easy. It should be more like 1000 steps, or 10 minutes of walking. Adding just this one habit can have a huge impact on your digestive health. I don’t have a link handy, but I read some modern research showing that walking after a meal helps with insulin, which makes sense.
If you’re falling asleep after meals, it’s because your Spleen and Stomach meridians are depleted. You can nourish them with qigong, but also with walking after each meal.
Another tip from Chinese medicine is to cut down on cold beverages and foods. Westerners love their iced drinks, but according to Chinese medicine, this weakens the metabolic fire of the digestive system. Switch to room temperature or hot beverages whenever possible, and cut down on cold foods like salads, yogurt, ice cream, etc.
Question 4: Depression and Meditation
I grew up in a cold and neglectful home. I’ve been fighting depression for literally my entire life (was suicidal in kindergarten!). I’ve tried everything – therapy for years, all sorts of anti-depressants including ketamine infusions, and multiple rounds of ECT and TMS. I’ve taken several mindfulness courses from Jon Kabat Zinn and others and I have a fairly strong sitting meditation practice going. I use a SAD lamp daily. I’ve read a zillion books on the topic. I even have a Vagus Nerve Stimulator implanted in my chest to activate my parasympathetic nervous system. I’m taking an in-person Liangong class which has helped with some of my physical issues. Unfortunately, between being estranged from my only child, and with our democracy and even our planet dying before our eyes, it’s been impossible for me to feel very positive. Sifu, I know you found your way out of depression through Qigong and I hope to do the same. How long did it take, and what advice can you give me? Help me Sifu Korahais, you’re my only hope!” – Barbara
Hi Barbara. I’m not Obi-Wan Kenobi, but I will do my best to help you! It sounds like you’ve tried really hard to beat depression. It probably feels like you’ve failed, but I don’t see it that way. You’re still alive, and you’re still trying to heal. To me, that seems like a win. It’s heroic, honestly.
I’m going to suggest something that may seem crazy, but hear me out. Sitting meditation, as powerful and wonderful as it is, can actually aggravate trauma. This is precisely what happened to me when I was first battling depression in my 20s. I tried strict, seated Zen meditation, and my depression got worse.
Sitting meditation is advanced. I suggest that, for a period of at least 6 weeks, you stop practicing all sitting meditation and use the Flowing Zen 5-Phase Routine instead. (Barbara already knows it, but you can learn the 5-Phase Routine from my book and the bonuses.)
You’re not quitting sitting meditation for good, just for a period of 6 weeks. Later, you can try again and see how it feels. Don’t feel guilty for setting your sitting meditation aside; it’s just an experiment.
Many students have, to their great surprise, found relief after pausing their sitting meditation practice. It’s something that never even occurred to them to try. I hope you’ll consider trying this experiment.
You might also try practicing The Five Statements (a technique I teach in my Qigong 101 program) toward your child. It’s worth healing that relationship even if only from your side. See if a few sessions of this help.
Since you’ve tried so many things already, what you’re looking for now is not miraculous, instant relief but rather small wins. For example, after setting aside your sitting meditation for a week, do you feel slightly better? After practicing the 5 Statements once or twice toward your child, do you feel like the dynamic is a bit healthier (even if you don’t talk to them)?
Question 5: Stiffness and Pain
I need ways to relief stiffness and pain. My health is poor since 1994. Chronic fatigue, sleep apnea, high BP, and now low diabetic. Also back, neck, and shoulder pain. – PK
Hi PK. I’m sorry to hear that your health has been poor for decades. I understand that you are in your 60s and that you have not yet learned the 5-Phase Routine.
I sound like a broken record, but the 5-Phase Routine that I teach can help you will all of these issues. It’s easy to learn, enjoyable to practice, and it only takes 10-20 minutes.
If you can do the 5-Phase Routine for at least 300 days in 2023, then I’m confident that you will see tremendous improvement. You can learn the 5-Phase Routine from my book and the bonuses, or from my Qigong 101 program.
Question 6: Menopause and Reflux
I have been struggling with menopausal symptoms for over 5 years. Lots has healed, but right now I have really bad “silent reflux” (LPR) and chronic pain flare ups that leave me feeling very discouraged. I make progress, but then it will all flare up and it’s hard to keep practicing. When that happens, I doubt that energy is real and feel like nothing works. I have also, lately, been struggling to find the balance in my faith that energy medicine works and healing is real because that point of view has become associated with covid denial and all kind of disturbing ideas. Also, I’ve been practicing diligently for years and I’m not healed! I am doing everything I can think of; trauma work, emotional release, acupuncture, rest, time in nature, fascia release, osteopathy, herbs, diet, massage, and it feels like it’s barely keeping me afloat. It works, but it’s also not working. Can you talk about the connection between belief and healing? How do we keep practicing when it’s most difficult? How do we use these methods without magical thinking or spiritual bypass? How do we evaluate if it’s not working; am I practicing wrong? or it the method not working and I need to take medication? -Naomi
There’s a strong connection between belief and healing. Even on a mundane level, when we believe that we can heal, we are more likely to take the steps necessary to facilitate healing. For example, you pursued energy medicine, trauma work, and acupuncture because you believe you can heal. You also adopted healthier behaviors and worked on your lifestyle.
But the crazy thing is that belief can also affect our physiology. When we believe that we can heal, our body responds in ways that support healing. This can include the release of hormones and other chemicals that promote healing, as well as changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and other physiological processes.
Belief can also have a powerful psychological effect on our ability to heal. When we believe that we can heal, we are more likely to have a positive outlook and to feel hopeful and optimistic. This can help to reduce stress and anxiety, and can also help to improve our overall mood and well-being.
Overall, belief plays a crucial role in the healing process. When we believe that we can heal, we are more likely to take the necessary steps to facilitate healing, and our body and mind are more likely to respond in ways that support healing.
This isn’t magical thinking. Everything I’ve said above is in line with modern, scientific research.
What you said is nothing to be ashamed of. What you’re doing isn’t working. That kind of honesty is important. The question is, what now?
I think that if you’ve sincerely tried a method for 6-12 months and not seen clear benefits, then you can confidently move on and try something else. That doesn’t mean that the thing you tried is fake. For example, maybe the acupuncturist you were seeing wasn’t skillful, or maybe they didn’t have experience with your issues.
In my experience, the vast majority of people who find true healing do it after having “tried everything”. I saw this time and again in my clinic, and I still see it today with my online students. For most of these people, the 5-Phase Routine was the turning point. But for some people, they needed something else as well.
In your case, it’s possible that you’re trying too hard, which is a paradox. I mean, it’s admirable that you’re trying too hard to heal. On the other hand, when we try too hard sometimes, it creates tension in the nervous system, which in turn blocks the flow of qi.
I have digestion issue, I get a headache in afternoon, my night sleep is disturbed, I have back pain, my prostate is enlarged, I don’t have energy, I get irritated and angry, I sweat a lot and there is foul smell from the sweat – Laxman
It’s hard for me to give you recommendations without knowing more about your individual situation. From your online submission, I know that you haven’t yet learned Flowing Zen Qigong and that you’re in your 50s. I’m going to assume that you’ve consulted with a healthcare provider already. If you’re asking whether or not qigong can complement the care you’re already receiving, the answer is yes.
Here are some of the potential benefits of qigong that have been supported by scientific research:
- Reduced stress and improved overall health: Several studies have found that qigong can help to reduce stress and improve overall health. For example, one study found that qigong was effective at reducing stress and improving the quality of life in people with chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
- Improved sleep: Some research has shown that qigong may be effective at improving sleep quality, particularly in people with insomnia.
- Pain management: Qigong has been shown to be effective at managing chronic pain, such as back pain and fibromyalgia.
- Boosted immune system: Some studies have found that qigong may help to boost the immune system, potentially helping the body fight off illness and infection.
- Improved mental clarity and focus: Some people may find that practicing qigong helps them to feel more calm and centered, and can even improve their mental clarity and focus.
- Increased self-awareness: Meditation can help to improve self-awareness by bringing attention to the present moment and increasing mindfulness. This can help to improve decision-making and self-regulation.
- Improved cardiovascular health: Studies have shown that qigong meditation can help to lower blood pressure and improve heart rate, which can promote overall cardiovascular health.
- Promotes emotional well-being: Regular qigong practice can help to promote emotional well-being by increasing feelings of happiness and contentment.
- Reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety: Qigong has been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder.
What is the best qigong exercise for severe anxiety – Maria
It is difficult to say which qigong exercise is the best for severe anxiety, as different exercises may have different effects on different individuals. However, the free video below will give you 2 techniques that may be helpful:
Or you can click here to watch it on Facebook.
Remember: what works for one person may not work for another. You may need to experiment to find the right qigong routine for your specific needs. It’s also important to get quality training in qigong.
My book is a great place to learn more about qigong. It also comes with a free online course, so you can put the techniques into practice immediately.