From Dr. Yang Jwing Ming, Arthritis: The Chinese Way of Healing and Prevention
Chinese Medicine’s View of Arthritis
Chinese physicians believe arthritis has a number of different causes: joint injuries, aging, weakness in the internal organs, heredity, and joint weakness from lack of exercise. They also believe that deficiencies of internal energy (qi, or bioelectricity, in scientific terms) can cause arthritis. Depression, for example, can lead to qi deficiency and arthritis.
According to the Chinese view of illness, qi imbalance is the precursor of many diseases. Qi imbalance occurs well before the physical of disease manifest themselves. Accordingly, to cure a disease, one must address the root cause of the disease and rebalance the body’s qi.
Again according to the Chinese view, restoring a proper supply of qi and blood to the body cells affected by physical damage can repair the damaged cells. Thus, the first stage in qigong treatment for arthritis is to relax the area of the affected joints and promote qi and blood circulation in the area. Only after the practitioner has rebuilt the integrity of the joint will he or she begin the second stage of treatment, which is to exercise the muscles and tendons and strengthen them to prevent future damage to the joint.
The Qigong Approach to the Relief of Arthritis and Other Diseases
Qigong emphasizes not just working on the areas directly affected by disease, but also on rebuilding overall health and strengthening the spirit of the practitioner. Qigong has the following benefits for healing arthritis and other diseases:
Qigong maintains and increases smooth Qi circulation. The goal of Qigong healing is to reestablish a strong, smooth flow of qi through the affected areas.
Qigong strengthens the organs. Since the internal organs manage the various functions of your body, you have to take care of them first if you want to slow the aging process avoid disease.
Qigong strengthens the immune and hormone systems.
Qigong raises the spirit of vitality.
Work on strengthening the spirit is a particularly important part of the qigong approach to treating diseases. The Qigong approach encourages the practitioner to change the way he or she looks at life in general and at the illness affecting them. It encourages them to stop passively accepting the negative things that have happened, to become more active and take charge of their lives. Practicing Qigong helps rebuild one’s your confidence in their ability to treat the disease and in their ability to improve their lives. They may even begin to realize that the pain of disease is not necessarily all negative if it helps them develop the will power and perseverance to practice the Qigong exercises and make them a permanent part of their lives.
Basic Principles of Qigong Training for Relief of Arthritis
Training Theory: Understanding the principles behind Qigong training is important establishing and maintaining the practitioner’s confidence in what he or she is practicing. The principle is the root of your practice. Every Qigong form or practice has its special purpose and theory. If you do not know the purpose and theory, your practice will be hollow and shallow. The following are several key fundamental principles of Qigong training.
Relaxing the Body There are three successive levels of relaxation, which is one foundation of regulating the body. The first level is postural relaxation where you are able to stand comfortably and look relaxed. The second level is relaxation of the muscles and tendons. Your mind must be directed deeply into the muscles and tendons. The third level is deep relaxation which reaches into the internal organs and allows you to sense their state. Learn to relax deeply into the internal organs and to relax the muscles that enclose the organs.
In the case of Qigong treatment for arthritis, only when you have reached the third level of relaxation can you lead the qi deeply into the joint where it can repair the damage. Therefore the Qigong treatment must begin with relaxed and gentle movements to smoothly increase Qi circulation. The first stage of treatment is to learn how to relax and avoid muscle/tendon tension and stress, which can increase pressure on the joint and continue to damage it. You must also place your mind on the arthritic joints. The more you bring your mind deeply into the joint and relax it, the more Qi will circulate smoothly and freely to repair the damage. Deep, Relaxed Breathing
In addition to the body being relaxed, the breathing must be long, deep, and calm. When you exhale, you instinctively lead Qi to the skin surface and when you inhale you lead it inward to the bone marrow and the internal organs. Using Qigong to cure arthritis, you must inhale and exhale deeply and calmly so that you can lead the Qi deeply into the joint and on exhalation lead it outward to dissipate the excess or stagnant Qi which has accumulated in the joints. Visualize that you are breathing in and out of the damaged area.
Emotions affect breathing. Your emotions must be calm in order for your breathing to be calm. The mind and breathing are also interdependent. Deep and calm breathing relaxes the body and mind. Deep breathing does not mean filling the lungs to full capacity because that would tense the muscles and interfere with the absorption of oxygen. Use only 70 to 80 per cent of the lungs capacity. When you regulate your breathing, the first priority is to keep the lungs calm and relaxed. Calm and Focused Mind
The mind plays a very important role in Qigong. When the mind is strong the qi is strong. The mind must be led away from outside distractions and turned inward to feel what is going on inside your body. Your mind must be calm, relaxed and concentrated so that you can feel or sense the Qi.
Therefore the first step of Qigong training is to develop your mind. The first secret of a strong mind is calmness. When your mind is calm, then it can be steady. Once steady, then you are at peace. The final goal of regulating the mind is the “thought of no thought” where your mind is free from the influences of the present such as worry, happiness, and sadness. When you reach this state, you will be able to relax deeply into your bone marrow and internal organs.
Raising the Spirit Fighting spirit is more important than anything else in a battle. Spirit is the center and root of a fight. In a battle, for a soldier to have high morale, he must know why he is fighting and how to fight. This in turn will raise his spirit, strengthen his will, and increase his patience and endurance. In order to reach the final goal of Qigong you must have three fundamental spiritual roots: will, patience, and endurance.
General Principles of Qigong Exercises for Arthritis
The best time to practice is early morning, even though the pain and stiffness of arthritis are usually most severe at this time. In early morning, the Qi is most stagnant. If you can to some massage and Qigong exercises then, you should be able to relieve the stagnation and lessen the discomfort for the rest of the day. Gently and lightly massage the joints until they are warm and the Qi circulation has increased, then gradually and gently start the Qigong exercises. You should also do the exercises right before going to bed to smooth out any Qi stagnation. This will speed the repair and healing of the joints as your sleep and lessen the pain and stiffness the next morning. If you are able, add another practice session in the afternoon. Normally your Qi is the strongest in the afternoon. You may take advantage of this to do Qigong exercises and lead Qi to the joints. If you have the time, you can do the exercises at other times as well.
1. Do not engage in heavy Qigong exercises when your joints are inflamed. Gently massage the joint and do light Qigong.
2. When you have less pain and stiffness, take advantage and practice a little more than usual.
3. Don’t overdo it. If you still have significant pain two hours after exercising, then you probably overdid it.
4. Practice a comfortable length of time and gradually increase the repetitions.
5. Focus your mind on the area you are exercising. Imagine breathing in and out of the joint.
6. Dress warm and comfortably. Avoid exposing your joints to cold or wind. After exercise, cover your joints and keep them warm.
You should start to see improvement after three months of consistent practice.