What is Qigong and why should we care?
Well in Doctor Oz’s words “If you want to live to 100 and be healthy, you should do Qigong.”
But it wasn’t Dr. Oz that got me so interested in Qigong.
It was Dan Reich’s story about his incredible recovery from a malignant brain tumor that made me want to dive deeper into this ancient Chinese self-healing practice.
To me, Qigong sounded like some very mystical healing practice but I didn’t have to dig too deep to find some very compelling evidence that Qigong is actually a very simple, practical approach that has been used for thousands of years to slow the aging process and heal the body.
I was actually astounded by the amount of scientific research that had been done by very reputable organizations like Harvard University that supported the incredible self-healing benefits of Qigong!
But I wanted to know more and so I reached out to Tom Rogers, the President of The Qigong Institute, to share his vast knowledge of Qigong so we can all learn more about this practice and how we can apply it to our lives to heal ourselves.
In this interview we cover:
1. What Exactly Is QiGong?
2. What Scientific Proof Do We Have That QiGong really works?
3. What are the 3 Critical Components of True Health?
4. What Are the 3 Components of Qigong?
5. How To Do Qigong anywhere and anytime (even while stuck in traffic)
6. How we can save our country a TRILLION dollars in health care expense and much more!
Here’s the interview…..
Tim Murphy: Hello and welcome to Renegade Dad Radio Show. This is your host Tim Murphy and my guest today is Tom Rogers. Tom has an MS in computer science from Stanford University and spent over 20 years working in the Silicon Valley computer industry but the reason I asked Tom to join us today is because Tom is the President and CEO of the Qigong Institute. I asked Tom to come on the show today to tell us a little bit about Qigong, what it is, the benefits and why we should consider including this type of practice into our lives.
So, with that said, Tom, welcome to the show.
Tom Rogers: Thanks
Tim Murphy: So, Tom, for those of us who don’t know much about Qigong, can you give us some overview of what it is exactly?
Tom Rogers: Sure. Qigong is a health practice that dates back more than 5000 years into prehistory. If you think about the way even societal organization happened, there were tribes of people and those tribes of people got to be more and more aggregated and turned into towns and cities but within each of those organizations of people, you would have people who are healers and they were the people who you would go to if you had some sort of a problem and they would be very knowledgeable about herbal medicine, they would be knowledgeable about how to do movement kind of practices in order to help you or let’s say you are bending over all day working in the field, you got to them and say “Oh, my back hurts. What can I do for it?” and they would prescribe some sort of movement. Well, all of that is like the prehistory from where Qigong came from in Chinese society.
So, Qigong, the word itself was coined in the middle of the 20th century but the two words are ‘Chi’ and ‘Gong’ and ‘Chi’ is vital force or life energy and people can understand that from the standpoint of “I am took energetic today” or “wow! I am so psyched up and just ready to go and do all kinds of things”. That’s your vital energy. That’s the energy flowing through you and you don’t seem to have a lot of it when you are sick and you got a whole lot when you are really charged up. So, that’s the ‘chi’ part of it.
The ‘Gong’ is the cultivation of that vital energy or that ‘Chi’ over time. Now, that sort of concept of cultivating our energy is not that understandable to people in our society because we didn’t really grow up with those concepts. So, from our standpoint from western medical standpoint, Qigong is actually a new form of exercise. In fact, it’s a new category of exercise called moving meditation and it consists of four main things – movement, self massage, meditation and breathing. So, it’s really very simple to learn and do and its effects are incredibly profound. People can learn how to do it in minutes and you actually can learn how to do it from watching DVDs or books and you can think of it this way – you do Qigong and you get your MBA which to most people means your Master of Business Administration but in this case it’s movement, breathing and awareness. So, you take the combination of movement, breathing and awareness and that is Qigong practice and then of course the big question is “Why do I do it? I mean, I got all the various things I want to do to keep me healthy.”
Well, let’s just take one data point. The American College of Sports Medicine just recently redid their guidelines for people to stay healthy as they get older and those guidelines say you should exercise, do aerobics type exercise, you should weight lift and you should do something for your neuromotor skills which would help you especially as you get older for fall prevention and keeping your brain active. Well they just redid those recommended standards after 10 years and they added Qigong and Tai-Chi for neuromotor skills and other organizations – we will talk about this later – but Harvard Medical School calls Tai-Chi ‘medication in motion’. Now, Tai-Chi is the most popular and well-known form of Qigong and Kung-Fu which most people heard about is also a form of Qigong. Qigong is the underlying fundamentals in working with your vital energy in order to keep yourself healthy and prevent illness and also dealing with chronic illness.
Tim Murphy: So, let’s back up a little bit, Tom. What led you to practicing Qigong?
Tom Rogers: Well, that’s a good question. I am not really sure. I mean, I could go back to when I was a kid, when I would like being outdoors and just sort of experiencing things. I think that’s probably the big thing, liking to experience things as opposed to “I am going to read about it or I am going to do some ritual” or “I am going to do something that’s not really related to just experiencing the moment.” So, I think there is probably a lot of that, liking to be out in the mountains and just that whole environment and nature and everything but then there comes a point, especially young guys, where it’s like “Ah, well, maybe martial arts is something I want to do.” So, I started with Shotokan Karate for a little while and my body gave me the clear message that that was a bad idea, like the hips said “Ah, ah”. So, I had to stop that. So, I looked around for something I could do that was going to be health oriented and be “martial art oriented” although I wasn’t really sure what it was all about and I looked around and I saw Tai-Chi and I said “Oh, wow! I know people do that in the park all the time, all these old people, it must be good for you. So, I think I will do that”. So, I started doing Tai-Chi and then through that I eventually discovered Qigong.
Tim Murphy: Very, very interesting. Yeah, until very recently I had never heard of Qigong but of course I had heard of Tai-Chi and Kung-Fu and when I came upon your website, the Qigong Institute website, I was really shocked at how much scientific research has been done on Qigong. Obviously there is a lot of research but could you just touch on some of that research to give our audience kind of an idea as to some of the hard data behind doing this practice and the health benefits that can be achieved by practicing Qigong?
Tom Rogers: Sure. Well, the Qigong Institute was started in 1984 by Dr. Ken Sancier who was a material scientist at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park and he is a serious scientist and he was looking around for something to satisfy his intellectual curiosity and he got turned on to Qigong and he got very interested in “Well, what’s the scientific basis of this thing? I mean, this is amazing stuff, it’s got all these amazing claims to it. So, where is the proof?” And he started the Qigong Institute and the Qigong and Energy Medicine Database to keep track of all of the research that was coming out of China and in the ‘80s and up until mid ‘90s it was mainly research in China that was coming out on Qigong although since the mid ‘90s there has been a fair amount of research around the world although I would say probably in the last 4-5 years some outstanding stuff has come out and among the things that have come out is just no. 1 the combination of the meditation and breathing and what you are doing with that at a fundamental level is you are affecting your autonomic nervous system. Your autonomic nervous system is what’s responsible for essentially the automatic operation of being, of your body; everything that happens in your body, mentally you don’t really have any part in that, you don’t tell your stomach how to digest food, you don’t tell your heart when to beat or how your respiration is supposed to work, you don’t tell yourself when to sweat or when not to I mean you can put yourself in a situation where that’s going to occur but it’s the autonomic nervous system which makes all that happen. It turns out you can consciously effect your autonomic nervous system by breathing and breathing is a huge component of Qigong and what that breathing does is it puts your autonomic nervous system into the relaxation-regeneration mode and you can do that even while you are up and about and going through your normal day and it’s called the parasympathetic mode as opposed to the sympathetic mode which is our normal daily activity mode like we are talking on the phone right now, that’s a normal mode, that’s sympathetic mode but when we get stressed out, all of a sudden you are very sympathetic, you got all the different neurotransmitters running around your body and those are not relaxation, they are not regeneration. So, if you want something to deal with that immediately and this problem is called stress, of course… I think everybody has heard of that it causes 75% to 95% of all illness, it exacerbates all illness, and it’s very involved in chronic illness. So, if you can do something about stress, you are doing a lot and very simply just doing your MBA – your movement, your breathing, your awareness – you are getting rid of that stress out of your life and the mechanism for that is through your autonomic nervous system and you are lowering your blood pressure while you are doing this.
Also, Qigong has been called aerobics for your immune system and that’s because there’s been recently – and this is another cool thing that’s happened in the last few years – they tied certain gene transcription to the practice of Qigong and it’s genes transcribed for stress relief, it’s genes transcribed for aiding your immune system. So, this has been proven through genetics research that Qigong is actually helping your immune system and in a main way it’s helping it through anti-aging. You know, we hear about anti-aging and the fountain of youth and all that. Well, doing Qigong actually kind of does that because this relief of stress helps your body in many ways and one way is it helps your immune cells which are key to your health and longevity and no. 2, it helps cells in your body to live longer. There is a mechanism telomeres at the end of chromosomes in your cells and when your cells duplicate the telomeres are shortened slightly every time that happens; well, they shorten a lot due to stress. If you get stress out of your life, they don’t shorten anywhere near as quickly and they are going to last longer and you are going to live longer, you are going to be healthier.
So, that’s gene transcription, there is the autonomic nervous system help. There is a lot of research that’s been done in Tai-Chi which shows that Tai-Chi helps in falls prevention and that is huge because when people get older, an awful lot of the problems that they have in their lives just in terms of the quality of life and then getting around and worrying about “Oh, am I going to fall and hurt myself?” and of course when you are older and you fall and hurt yourself that’s a big deal because it takes you much longer to heal and it can sort of be ultimately a life-ending injury. So, the fact that you can do Tai-Chi to mitigate all that is huge.
In addition to that, the one I like is meditation research has shown that you increase brain plasticity, you actually increase the number of brain cells and the interconnections between them and this is all proven research, it’s not some new age kind of idea. Places like Harvard are right at the forefront of mind-body research and they have done research into things like placebo. A long time ago, when I was growing up, they used to say “Oh, that’s a psychosomatic illness”. Psychosomatic, which means psycho – your brain – is causing somatic – some kind of problem. And people looked down on that – “Oh, it’s psychosomatic.” Well, in about the last 20 years, a whole new field of neuroscience has sprouted up the last 30 years maybe, psychoneuroimmunology – psycho, your thoughts, emotions, and feelings affect your nervous system which in turn affects your immune system. That all is what we call placebo. Many researchers will tell you that over 30% of all healing is through placebo which is merely thought alone and Harvard Medical School, as I mentioned, has been at the forefront of this, they have done a lot of placebo research and they have shown that placebo is huge in terms of your healing. Most people, I think, have heard of placebo.
They have certainly heard of psychosomatic, they have heard of placebo and placebo does a lot of good things for you. Well, there is also an opposite to that called nocebo and you don’t hear about that, you never hear about that but if you buy into and you should the fact that placebo is so good at healing, then you should be a little weary of the fact of what nocebo is going to do because it’s the opposite which means that your thoughts and emotions can affect you negatively and psychoneuroimmunology is a field of neuroscience but there is also a field of cellular biology called epigenetics. Epigenetics is the affect of your thoughts and your emotions and your Qigong practice on your gene transcription and this is all proven stuff. The main research results I have been mentioning are just like in the last 5 years and they are huge. They really show that Qigong and Tai-Chi provide enormous benefits for you.
And also I didn’t mention that there is a lot of research that shows that Qigong in combination with drugs is not only superior to drugs but in many, many cases it allows people to cut back on the amount of drugs that they are taking.
Tim Murphy: That’s incredible. To me it’s a no-brainer to at least look into Qigong if you are looking for a way to improve your health, especially if you are someone that for whatever reason might have difficulty doing other forms of health practices like cardio exercises or lifting weights or something.
Along those lines, if someone is doing cardio exercises or weight lifting or yoga, anything like that, what would Qigong provide in addition to those practices in terms of health benefits?
Tom Rogers: Okay. Well, first of all, I have been doing yoga for 25 years. So, I have been doing yoga for a lot longer than I have been doing Qigong or Tai-Chi and on the Qigong Institute website I have this little diagram which I call the Mind-Body Health Pyramid and there are three points on it and the Mind-Body Health Pyramid is an encapsulation of what people need to do in order to be healthy. There are three main things. There is nutrition and healthy lifestyle, that’s a pretty no-brainer but that is huge; we could go into some of the main researches that came out about that recently. Then there is the exercise, that’s another point; just regular western style exercise. Western style exercise has two components to it. No. 1 is the weight lifting and no. 2 is aerobics. So, the nutrition and the exercise are the two parts but then you need a mind-body practice also, that’s the third part. So, you need all three. Two is necessary but not sufficient. In order to be sufficient, we have to do all three of them.
And what does mind-body bring to the table? People hear mind body and they go “Gosh! I don’t think I really understand what that means” and if you look at it in terms of Qigong practice, mind-body would be Qigong, doing Qigong or doing Qigong is a prime example of it. Yoga can be also but Qigong is a prime example of doing a mind-body practice and that gets back to your MBA. What is a mind-body practice? Well, it’s movement, breathing and awareness; that combination. It’s that simple. You can do it anywhere, anytime, within minutes you can get into a state where you are being relaxed and you are regenerating which is connecting with the healer within you and you have to realize that the most amazing pharmacy ever created to help you get well and be well is within your own body. I mean, it produces all the right internal drugs for you, there is no side effects and all you have to do is do a practice like Qigong to enable your own self-healing capabilities to do their thing.
Now, people could say “Well, what should I do to do that?” I just mentioned that you need to do all three of those things – nutrition, exercise, and the mind-body – but let’s specifically look at “Well, okay, what about yoga?” Okay, well, I do yoga. Actually, I don’t yoga really as a mind-body practice. I do yoga as a western style exercise. I mean, I will be the first to admit that. Although sometimes I will do it as a mind-body practice and as a mind-body practice, the switch between the two is “While I am doing my yoga, am I doing my breathing and my meditation?” Well, I am obviously doing my breathing but I might not be doing the breathing with abdominal breathing which is the way you are really going to get the effect and my mind might be wondering; a lot of times I like to listen to educational material on YouTube while I am doing my Yoga. So, it’s not really mind-body practice that way but it does help my back which is why I started doing it. You can do yoga as a mind-body practice but the problem with yoga is – and I have posted some of these things on the Qigong Institute website – you got to be a little careful about how you practice it because some people have been injured by it, in fact, more than you would care to imagine and also people think that “Ah, well, I gotta go down to the gym to do this practice” and “Oh gosh! I couldn’t do it today because I didn’t have time” or whatever. Well, it’s a little bit more of a problem with yoga because it’s not as easy to do on the fly or for just a minute or two when you are on the go during the day and while you are looking at your computer how can you do a few really nice little exercises to help mitigate carpal tunnel or just relax, get a little bit of stress out of your head. Qigong is very easy that way, yoga is a lot harder to do and in 2004 there was a consensus report from the national expert meeting on Qigong and Tai-Chi that said that the fundamentals of Qigong and Tai-Chi are movement, breathing and awareness and that these were necessary to help people 50 and over although it’s applicable to everybody, to help people 50 and older to live long healthy lives and this organization is part of the BluePrint organization and that includes National Council on Aging, American Council of Sports Medicine, CDC, American Geriatric Society, and another thousand organizations that are concerned about getting health practices out to our society. Now, the reason I am mentioning this more than anything else is the fact that that organization comes out with these consensus reports very infrequently and they try to choose the best practices that they think are best matched to the needs of the population; the needs of the population in this case with people over 50 who just want a little long healthy lives but again, it could be for anybody. But the point is they did not choose Yoga, they didn’t choose low-impact aerobics; they chose Qigong and Tai-Chi and they did it for a reason because it’s easy to do, it’s free, you can do it anywhere and even a few minutes of it helps a huge amount.
So, Qigong has got enormous health benefits to it but it’s got a spiritual aspect to it and I like to explain the spiritual aspect as you bring it into your life 24×7 which means that you know while you are brushing your teeth you can kind of get into this state where you are actually relaxing and regenerating and you can do it when you are doing the dishes or you can do it when you are mowing the lawn and walking down the street; it’s like all this little minutes and seconds and stuff add up. So, if you bring this into your life, you are going to get enormous, enormous benefit out of it.
Tim Murphy: I love that because one of my, I guess, goals or initiatives with the Renegade Dad site is to essentially learn the most effective ways that we can improve our health in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of effort and Qigong to me exemplifies that to a T. I mean, the fact that you could do it while you are standing in line or sitting in a car, for all the people out there that may not be able to find the time to go to the gym or fit in some kind of exercise at home, certainly they could find a few minutes while they are brushing their teeth or sitting in the office or waiting in line at the grocery store to do something like Qigong and achieve at least some health benefits that way.
Tom Rogers: Oh yeah or imagine how long do you stand at traffic lights; do Qigong there. I mean, it’s huge. And starting young would be fabulous. This should be in the schools. It should be taught to every kid. I mean, imagine if your first-grade teachers says “Okay, kids, before you are going to have this test, let’s all just do a little bit of breathing and relax a little bit” and these are like huge, huge life skills and they are so simple to teach and yet they are so profound and you can have enormous benefits for individuals and for a society. They should absolutely be part of what’s happening in schools. I look at my daughter when she was going to school and she was going to PE class and she would come home and tell me about it and those classes were like crowd control. I mean, that’s all they were – “Well, let me see, how can I keep these kids happy for this 30 minutes of 40 minutes.” Imagine if they showed people how to do moving meditation, it would just have a huge impact, so the next time they take a test, they go “Oh, wait a minute. I really need to calm down a little bit”.
I had a tooth pulled and I am going “Okay, I am going to go ahead and try my Qigong for this. I am really going to take… I am not going to get general sedative. I am just going to get a local and then get in and get out.” So, I am in there waiting around and there are a couple of other people there because it’s kind of an assembly line and other people start talking about the people that they are going to have come and pick them up to go out and home because they are going to be so wasted from all this going on and I was getting a little bit nervous about it, I just kept doing my Qigong, doing my Qigong and yanked the thing out and I drove myself home and didn’t have any problem. That’s one example of just being able to use this kind of on the spur of the moment in your life and cut down the amount of tension in your life and stress and cut down the drugs that amount of drugs you expose yourself to, etc.
Tim Murphy: That’s really shocking. So, you got a tooth pulled and you practiced Qigong while you were having that tooth extracted and was the pain just a little bit less than what most people would experience, Tom, or how did you feel? I mean, obviously, you felt well enough to drive home but that’s…
Tom Rogers: Well, I was concerned because some people were getting general sedatives and I was thinking “I might have made a mistake here”, of not getting a general because he starts pulling this thing and it could hurt so much it’s just going to freak me out incredibly and it didn’t and things worked out and I don’t know if it was just that day. I mean, I had other teeth out before and it really hurt. So, it’s not like this was the first time and it seemed to work out okay and I think the main thing though it’s just like taking a taste you know during the test, things worked out fine it was the prep for the test where instead of getting all psyched out and getting my cortisol levels up and totally stressed and everything; I was doing my Qigong to get my autonomic nervous down to the parasympathetic state which is relaxation and regeneration. So, by the time the procedure started, my body was pretty calmed down, it wasn’t really the spike up there because I have been stressing myself out and then the trauma of pulling the tooth just really broke things. So, doing the practice beforehand, I think, had a huge affect.
Tim Murphy: So, Tom, you mentioned that we can practice Qigong pretty much anywhere. Can you tell us how you would do that, what that looks like? I mean, I have seen some videos on it but I am just wondering myself how would you practice Qigong, for example, if you are sitting at a traffic light?
Tom Rogers: Well, what I usually do, I don’t close my eyes because that’s probably a bad idea but I just try to relax, don’t have the radio on and just concentrate on the breathing. Now, there is a Qigong practice that I like to do that’s related to this, so I am going to mention it. It’s not necessary but it’s kind of cool to do. If you are at home or anywhere you can practice this, you just take your arm and put it out at arm’s length and stay right straight in front of you so that you are looking at your fingers. Now, take your arm and you arm is the level of your shoulders and just arc it back, just take it back in an arc to the right 90 degrees so you are looking 90 degrees to the right and then take it back as far as it will go, just keeping it shoulder level and then bring it back to the front and keep watching those fingers, keep watching those fingers, okay? And this time when you take your arm back, do the breathing with it but watch the fingers. So, you breathe in as you go back and breathe out as you come back to the front. Now, this time when you do it, be a little bit aware of what’s going on beyond your finger, okay? What you can see beyond your fingers is that there is a whole world out there but you are focused on what’s between you and your fingertips, right? You are not focused on what’s beyond your fingertips. So, apropos to the car, okay? You got your windows in your car closed. Outside the car is, in terms of what we have just did, whatever is beyond your fingers but you will notice that from your fingers on in there is calm there. So, that’s the calm that you created by your slow deep breathing, your belly breathing, that’s what it’s called, diaphragmatic or belly breathing. So, you do the slow breathing into your belly. The meditation part is simply just focusing on getting your monkey mind quiet so you are not thinking about stuff, you are just looking it like your fingers, okay? So, you got that calm at the center. So, when I do my traffic light thing and I start doing my breathing, I think of this practice, I don’t need to but I do because it’s kind of cool and there is this calm at the center of everything that’s going on and the calm is me and within me whereas the ten thousand things that are going on beyond my finger outside of my car, they can just go on and they are not affecting me until the light changes, of course.
Tim Murphy: Right.
Tom Rogers: So, that’s kind of how it works.
Tim Murphy: So, really, bringing your focus into the present and kind of by doing that you are releasing the stress of all the other things that your mind is thinking about.
Tom Rogers: That’s right. Again, come back to the MBA because that’s really what we are talking about here. Now, the M includes posture too and technically the movement can be internal, it doesn’t actually need to be a physical movement. So, sometimes the movement can be referred to the energy that’s moving within your body but the real fundamental thing is the meditation and the breathing. It’s that combination that you need to do to slow deep abdominal breathing and you need to calm your mind; it’s those two things.
Tim Murphy: So, those are the two most important aspects of Qigong.
Tom Rogers: Right, that’s what does it and in fact from western medical standpoint Herbert Benson is the one who coined the term ‘relaxation response’ in 1975 and again he is Harvard Medical School and he determined that these practices, the meditation and the breathing get you into this relaxation response state which is doing all these great things for your autonomic nervous system and your body in general.
Tim Murphy: So, Tom, why don’t more people know about Qigong?
Tom Rogers: Well, Qigong is where yoga was 20 years ago in terms of people finding out about it and I find it a little bit humorous at times because yoga sometimes is a Qigong wannabe, this is how I see it because I keep seeing things that people are doing in yoga like adding general movements for instance that are part of Qigong. People aren’t turned on with Qigong because people don’t know about it, it was a secret in China up until ‘70s practically and it didn’t really start coming over to the United States until the ‘80s and what most people are familiar with is Tai-Chi and they have no idea that Qigong is the foundation of that. So, a lot of people still have gotten turned on to Tai-Chi but the problem with Tai-Chi is the way it’s taught and what’s taught and I love Tai-Chi and I love lineage form Tai-Chi and I do it every day but from learning standpoint and from a health standpoint it’s not really the right thing to be doing when you are just starting out with these practices because lineage based Tai-Chi is handed down through generations in its specific forms, specific ways to the forms and it takes years to learn how to do it just to be able to do it reasonably okay, just to sort of get through the form itself that you are doing and then another 10 or 20 years to really develop it so that you are internally in sync with it and the energy is all moving correctly. Well, most people that go to a Tai-Chi class where it’s taught that way, they will end up not being there after the third or fourth meeting and I have seen this happen again and again and again and I have seen this happen with the person that I learn one of my Tai-Chi forms and he is an excellent teacher, excellent and yet he still has these problems and even the Chinese in the last, I don’t know, 5 or 10 years, even though lineage teachers in China have come to the realization “You know what, if we want to get this out there for health, we have got to make it simpler.” So, they are starting to make it simple but even so, where are you being exposed to Qigong? About the best exposure I have seen for Qigong was Dr. Oz on Oprah and he said “If you want to live to be 100, do Qigong” and now that’s on Oprah and that got a lot of visibility but that was just sort of like the 15-second fame thing, Qigong got on everybody’s radar and then it sort of went away. You got the whole medical establishment that’s focused on intervention and trying to help people who have problems. We as a society do not have this concept of prevention and our medical establishment isn’t giving that to us. Surprisingly, some of the government does actually understand us but they are not really promoting it either because we are in a pharmacology culture and the pharmacology culture doesn’t really want anything that it’s going to compete with it and imagine where you can keep yourself healthy and for free and you don’t need to buy as many drugs. Well, that’s not going to be well popular with the pharmacology community. So, there is a lot of different reasons. I mean, I don’t want to rag on them too much, it’s not fair but it’s part of the problem and we don’t see it in our schools. What we do see recently, you are probably seeing this – I have seen this in the New York Times, even today there was an article about how people are confused by yoga, they think it’s some sort of religious practice, they are all up in arms about it and they don’t really realize that it really has nothing to do with it at least as you can practice it in the west, it’s your like stretching, it’s like just any other exercise. Qigong doesn’t even have that sort of visibility. So, it’s trying to get the visibility. And getting back to the national expert meeting, that’s what that was all about – trying to get bad information, bad information being movement, massage, meditation and breathing as something that people need to do in order to be healthy and getting back to the mind-body health pyramid, that’s one of the key three things, the mind-body part on the mind-body health pyramid along with nutrition and exercise. You need to do all that but then we don’t have an infrastructure out there that’s promoting this and I think Qigong is starting to catch on because you and I are having this conversation we wouldn’t have it five years ago. So, slowly but sure it’s building up with critical mass and if you have been on PBS, Lee Holden has been on recently and was probably in one or two others but before that 10 years ago Francesco Garripolli had an hour-long documentary that became no. 1 pledged money maker on PBS for a few years, it was on Qigong of all things and I had somebody say “You know, I am living around Detroit and I can’t believe the number of people around Detroit, Michigan of places know about Qigong.” And I said “Well, which PBS station in the United States do you think got the most pledge money from running the PBC documentary on Qigong and it turns out it was Detroit.”
So, our society has been exposed to it but there is certainly no nationwide organization or anything like that which is pushing it, it’s just a lot of individuals, it’s people like you who are publicizing it this way, it’s me with the Qigong Institute, it’s Roger Jahnke with training teachers. So, it’s a lot of individuals who have been working on it for a long time but with the exception of a few things like Dr. Oz we are not getting the visibility yet although it’s slowly but surely building up.
Tim Murphy: Yeah, I think as a society it seems that we are more inclined to focus on activities that require a lot of expenditure of energy to get ourselves in better health. So, jogging or lifting weights or whatever it is, some sort of exercise where you are doing something, I think we are sort of pre-programmed to just do, do, do whereas this is more of a regenerative exercise that allows you to restore your energy like you mentioned and that’s just something that seems to be missing in the health equation.
Tom Rogers: Yeah, absolutely it is. It’s really unfortunate. As we said before, imagine if you could have this in schools and you teach kids about this. Tai-Chi is mildly aerobic, even moderately aerobic and there is a form of Qigong that I do most afternoons that is strength oriented and flexibility oriented. So, you can do a lot of different types of Qigong practice but you are right about our society, we have just grown up a certain way and no. 1, we have no concept of ourselves as energy and no. 2, we don’t think of mind-body practice, we just have no concept of it and we go “What? What do I need that for?” Well, you need it to get rid of stress. If you want to impress anybody about why they would do Qigong or why they would do a mind-body practice, it’s because of stress and just getting rid of that is going to be an enormous things. And Qigong and Tai-Chi, especially Qigong have sort of been papered with this energy, and people don’t understand energy but let me just remind everyone that in 1905, Einstein published his special theory of relativity and everybody is familiar with the equation e = mc2. Well, from a biological standpoint what does that mean? e = mc2 – m is mass. Okay, human beings are 50% biological but according to that equation the other 50% is energy and the mass part is what we are used to and that’s western style exercise. The energy part is the mind-body practice; that’s Qigong, that’s psychoneuroimmunology, that’s epigenetics, that’s being able to change the energy flowing in your body for the good of your health and they explained how that happens. It happens through gene transcription and it happens through your autonomic nervous system.
Tim Murphy: Yeah, I think it’s hard for a lot of people to grasp the idea that… it’s easy to grasp that we have a physical body and if we exercise and move and we lift things, that will improve our bodies but it’s kind of hard to grasp the idea that we are also this sort of nebulous thing called energy, that is part of us and it’s something that we expend and we can also regenerate but unfortunately it seems for most of us in our lives we are constantly expending the energy with very little replenishment aside from the little bit of sleep that most of us get.
Tom Rogers: Yeah, absolutely and it’s unfortunately. I don’t usually, especially with people who are new to this, I don’t talk about the energy that much because you don’t really need to. Again, I sort of lead with stress. I have been emphasizing this a lot. I think it’s so important that so much of health has to do with stress and even the government has said that 70% of illness is preventable. Now, imagine if we prevented 70% of illness or even take it down to 30%, okay, we just saved a trillion dollars right there because we are spending 3 trillion dollars on healthcare this year. So, just by doing these simple practices, our society can save huge amounts of money, to say nothing of all the benefits that are going to be for each and every individual.
Tim Murphy: We don’t do any preventative maintenance on our bodies until it’s almost too late, until we get sick or until something sort of smacks us in the face to take care of ourselves and unfortunately, it’s not real sexy to say you need to practice breathing and meditation to heal your body. What’s sexy in the health world is getting six-pack abs or losing fat, things like that which are all ways to improve your health but I would argue that doing something like Qigong is more important potentially than even improving your nutrition or exercising more.
Tom Rogers: Well, I kind of think they need to go together because you can’t have one without the other. So, I think they are equally important although I tend to agree with you because I really think Qigong is fabulous and it’s so unfortunate, as you mentioned, our society doesn’t really understand preventative medicine because we need that paradigm like at the White House level there has been these amazingly candid get-togethers of people that don’t really have anything to do with politics, surprisingly enough, and they have agreed we need to do this preventative thing and you would have thought or you would have hoped that – and maybe it still happens – with all this healthcare crisis, stuff we have with the budget and everything, you would hope that part of that discourse that somebody would bring up preventative medicine but they are not and that’s just really unfortunate. As you said, it’s not sexy to talk about preventative, there is no money in it or there is not a lot of money in it right now and certainly drug companies are never going to get money out of it. So, they are not going to go and do the research that’s necessary to convince a lot of people that this is something you should do. I have mentioned research that’s been done that pretty much proves that this is such a great thing to do. However, a lot of the medical community operates in terms of randomized controlled trials and the randomized controlled trials that really do the slam dunk for these people haven’t been done. So, that’s held back some of their excitement about signing up for Qigong and Tai-Chi although it’s like in China there has been a lot of times where people would go to seek medical care and they would get a prescription for Qigong and Tai-Chi and they would go through that and they still have the problem after weeks and months, then they will be allowed to go and seek western medical attention. So, it’s a different kind of paradigm but it’s a paradigm that we should really have. We should have Qigong and Tai-Chi reimbursed as forms of exercise and dealing with different types of illness.
It’s interesting that apropos to our previous discussion about how why isn’t this better known and the problems we are having getting it known. Well, even research reports are saying this, that Qigong and Tai-Chi and Yoga are soon becoming the go-to exercises for recovering from cancer and chronic illness that the medical community is realizing that they are very valuable and also in terms of the randomized controlled trials, some of largest number of them have been on cardiovascular issues; it turns out Dr. Oz is a cardiac surgeon. So, people are starting to find out about it that way but it would be wonderful if we could have the whole society and our whole paradigm turned around so that we get into preventative medicine and then all of a sudden we’d start seeing all of these chronic illnesses start going away or they certainly wouldn’t be as prevalent as they are now.
Tim Murphy: I agree. In line with that, Tom, if I wanted to start practicing Qigong today, how would I do that? How much time do I need to spend to achieve health benefits? What’s required in terms of space, time, etc.?
Tom Rogers: Well, I will just say upfront in terms of the research that’s been done, there is no prescription that says “Go and do Qigong for 10 minutes, two times a day for three weeks” or anything like that. It’s nothing like that. It’s just people start doing it and they do it regularly. They might start with 5 minutes or 10 minutes a day and then they might go to two times a day and then they might go to a class which would be 45-50 minutes a day, two times a week or three times a week; there is a lot of different ways to do it or as I like to do, I do my own thing in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon and then all during the day.
So, how do you find out about it? Well, fortunately, you actually can get some really, really good instructions from DVDs and some books and we have a lot listed on the Qigong Institute website that people can go look at. Also then in terms of teachers, it’s great to go to a class and if you resonate with a teacher, that’s super. So, I would recommend going out and Googling around wherever you live and see what teachers are available and then going and checking them out and seeing if you resonate with their teaching style and whether you resonate with the type of Qigong they are doing. When I was starting out I didn’t really know that much about it and I got turned on to it by DVDs, so I started doing it – well, it was actually a video so that tells you it was a while ago, not a DVD. So, I started doing it that but then there were a lot of local teachers and I went to a few of them and I went whoa, I didn’t really see where they were coming from and I didn’t relate to it because the type of Qigong they were doing was not one I could do very well but I found out that I could do very well and this is an example of that whole issue, like I was teaching a class once and somebody in the class said “You know, I really like the type of Qigong we are doing in this class which was moving forms” because he tried meditation and he just couldn’t sit down and do it, just couldn’t do it and he had to be up and moving around. So, that’s why it’s really important to find a teacher that you like and find the type of Qigong that you like and then once you find something, go for it, do it because again, when you learn the MBA – your movement, your breathing and your awareness – once you get that breathing and awareness, within minutes you will get into this healing state and there is research on that. Actually, there was one recently about meditating for 5 minutes and getting into this state and that’s with people who have never done it before. So, when you hear that, it’s not like it’s made-up numbers; there is actual research behind that. So, it’s pretty easy to pick it up and it’s pretty easy to do it.
Now, Tai-Chi on the other hand, I don’t recommend trying Tai-Chi without going to a class and learning how to do it from an instructor because there is just a whole lot more to it. Tai-Chi has got more complexity to it. It’s wonderful and it’s fine but there is more complexity. That being said, there are simplified forms of Tai-Chi that you can find like Tai-Chi Easy for instance that are very easy to pick up and learn; you could learn it in a couple of hours probably or less, like when I teach people how to do Qigong, I usually teach them within 5 minutes and I show them the difference between Qigong and Tai-Chi and they are doing the practice within 5 minutes and they know the difference between the two. So, it’s just that quick.
Tim Murphy: Tom, real quick, I wanted to go back to some of the more kind of practical benefits of Qigong because I think it is so important for people to understand the benefits that can be achieved by doing it. You mentioned that it obviously helps to reduce stress which in turn helps us to slow the aging process which does all kinds of great things for us. What are some more practical benefits? Does it give us more focus? Will I perform better at work? Will I be a happier father and husband? Is there scientific research or evidence that it helps to provide those types of benefits?
Tom Rogers: Well, the issue is really Qigong research per se and so I am not going to make a bunch of claims about Qigong research per se because what you are talking about gets into meditation and psychology really and emotions, thoughts and emotions, what that’s all about. Thoughts and emotions get toned down by Qigong and there is meditation research that shows that and meditation is a big part of Qigong but the meditation research, the particular trials, they weren’t using “Qigong”, they were using some form of meditation but meditation is Qigong. So, it’s really the same thing.
Tim Murphy: Right.
Tom Rogers: So, toning down your thoughts and emotions, I mean, that is huge and you want to be able to do that. I have been hounding on stress the whole time here but where does stress come from? It comes through your thoughts and emotions, doesn’t it? So, if you can tone down your thoughts and emotions and get them under control, then stress gets under control. So, that provides a tremendous amount of benefit all through your life, also parts of your life – interacting with your family and kids and other people, the job, etc. There is all the other benefits – the flexibility benefits, strength benefits, the neuromotor benefits, the cognitive benefits to keep your brain active. Just these movements themselves where you are crossing hands and feet across your body and coordinating all different moves and things, that’s cognitive function; as you get older, that’s a big deal. So, for the younger people under the age 30, probably this is… no, why do I care? Actually, you are going to get old pretty fast, that’s the way things work. So, it would be great to have these types of practices there. And there is a research that’s come out fairly recently that has tied aging to your immune system. So, the health of your immune system is key to aging. How do you help your immune system? Well, Qigong is aerobics for your immune system; that’s a really, really big deal and once people realize that they might grow old – I really should be paying a little more attention to this because I want my lymph to be healthy and I want my immune system to be healthy and it can lower your blood pressure too, on and on, lots of really good benefits from this.
Tim Murphy: This has been great. I want to have you come back again as I am sure the Renegade Dad community is going to have a lot more questions around Qigong but if somebody wants to go and learn more about Qigong and potentially start practicing it, where should they go?
Tom Rogers: Well, the first stop would be the Qigong Institute website because there is just so much information there, there is a whole page on how to get started with it and there is also a way to contact the Qigong Institute where I will actually answer that e-mail. So, if people have questions, I can help them with it and that e-mail address is on the website.
Tim Murphy: That’s fantastic and I will include links to that on the post, the article that I put on the website about this interview.
I just want to finish up, Tom is there anything else you wanted to mention before we go?
Tom Rogers: Well, I just did. I think people should go to website and see what’s there because they will be amazed but check out this practice, check out this thing called Qigong and see what it can do for you. I found it amazing in my own life and I know a whole lot of other people have too and one of the main reasons I am doing it is because as I get older I want to live well up until the end and I think this is the best way to do it.
Tim Murphy: Tom, thanks so much for joining us today. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I really appreciate it and I look forward to speaking with you again soon.
Tom Rogers: Hey that sounds good. Thanks a lot.
Tim Murphy: Thanks, Tom.
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