For many people, stress is our biggest health hazard in life. Very few of us need martial combat techniques to defend our lives. But the qigong and meditative practices of martial arts can help us thrive against this modern enemy we call stress.
How did stress become such a problem?
Life is built to survive and propagate. Our evolutionary experience has given us a mind and body for this. Once upon a time, danger was literally just beyond the horizon. Just beyond your perception, there may have lurked a tiger. In the brushes near you, there may have lurked a venomous snake. It was in this environment that humanity began and we carry the mind and body to survive that.
What that means is that within our brain, we have portions and processes specialized to identify life threatening danger and inform us about them. These are important components of surviving so we dedicate a part of our brain to specifically excelling at that.
But how we lived has changed rapidly in modern history, faster than our body has evolved. No longer do most of us have to worry about tigers and venomous snakes. But these parts of our brain still exist!
So they go on, seeking threats to our existence. Finding no tigers and snakes, they will start to latch on to other things that seem to harm or discomfort us. In some cases, they latch onto stress. The stress of commuting. The stress of meeting job demands. The stress of making your family happy. The stress of being good enough for society.
Tigers are rare, but stress is everywhere
The problem with this is that, while deadly, tigers and snakes are relatively rare. So these parts of their brain do their job when the situation arises.
But with stress, it’s very common. Omnipresent, even. The stress of our job, family, taxes, societal expectations, these kind of things come from within our mind, they can constantly surround us. So the danger response portion of our brain is now working 24/7, instead of just occasionally.
This puts us into a chronically fight or flight mode. Our sympathetic fight or flight nervous system runs on over drive. Our stress hormones get too high. Our adrenal glands get exhausted. The HPA axis, a representation of our stress response, goes haywire.
But I’m not just the bringer of bad news! Let’s learn how to defeat stress.
Strengthening our emotional system with qigong
In Chinese medicine, we have 5 major organs. They each have their own energy level, qi level. Each organ’s energy helps nourish different parts of our body and our senses. Each organ helps us to process a different source of emotional stress.
- Kidneys – Process fear
- Liver – Processes anger
- Spleen – Processes anxiety
- Lungs – Process sorrow
- Heart – Process excitement
If your energy is low in one of these organs, your ability to cope with these emotional stress declines. If you have an “indigestion” of these emotional energies, your emotional health becomes imbalanced, and your physical health of the over-taxed organ can suffer.
You can improve the energetic health of your internal organs through a gentle qigong called the Eight Silk Brocades, baduanjin. It is composed of eight simple sequences of movement, each designed to improve the qi health of a part of your body.
- 1st movement: triple burner energy helps energy flow
- 2nd movement: spleen energy helps with anxiety
- 3rd movement: lung energy helps with sorrow
- 4th movement: kidney energy helps with fear
- 5th movement: heart energy helps with excitement
- 6th movement: kidney energy again
- 7th movement: liver energy helps with anger
- 8th movement: marrow and brain energy helps overall health
Baduanjin Eight Silk Brocades Qigong
It’s easy and safe to practice. Just don’t practice on a full stomach. Don’t force yourself to practice if you’re too tired. Practice on your good days to extend your good days.
Calming your nervous system
I’m regards to HPA axis dysfunction, you want to improve your ability to deal with the stressor, which the qigong helps with. Another big part of improvement comes out of addressing nervous system excitability.
We have a subconscious nervous system called the autonomous nervous system. It’s composed of two parts:
- Sympathetic nervous system – Fight or flight processes
- Parasympathetic nervous system – Rest and digest healing processes
The tricky thing is that as one part gets worked up, the other part gets suppressed. So as we stress and stay in a fight or flight mode, we are unable to activate the parasympathetic nervous system to get proper resting and healing.
So to improve this, we want to calm down the sympathetic nervous system, to not let this engine idle at too high of an RPM. Then we will be able to feel calmer and allow deeper healing to occur.
To do that we practice a guided meditation called the Sun and Moon 61 Point Meditation to relax the energy inside our body and calm the nervous system. The meditation is very easy and is done lying down. You can do it even in the most fatigued of days. You might fall asleep in the middle and that’s okay.
Ancient practices, modern purpose
These were originally ancient practices to help us obtain a healthier and stronger body and mind to help us defeat danger and surpass our limitations. Today the danger may have changed, but the practices, refined over millennia, continue to be beneficial today.
It’s our wish that these ancient treasures continue to be preserved in modern culture. But further more, we wish for them to be useful. Not just museum exhibits, but tools that we carry with us to help us live our best lives.
They’re easy and safe to learn. Give them a try and let me know how you feel after practicing in the comments below.