Yoga is a mind and body practice with origins in ancient Indian philosophy. The various styles of yoga typically combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. There are numerous schools of yoga. Hatha yoga, the most commonly practiced in the United States and Europe, emphasizes postures (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama). Some of the major styles of hatha yoga are Iyengar, Ashtanga, Vini, Kundalini, and Bikram yoga. A more exhaustive overview of the different yoga styles can be found at https://www.jenreviews.com/types-of-yoga/.
The 2007 National Health Interview Survey found that yoga is one of the top 10 complementary health approaches used among U.S. adults. An estimated 6 percent of adults used yoga for health purposes in the previous 12 months.
Qigong has been called "Chinese Yoga", just as Yoga has been referred to as "Indian Qigong". Qigong can be considered as a combination of a number of Yoga (the science of self-realization) and Ayuerveda (the science of self-healing) practices. Both Yoga and Qigong are excellent for focused stretching, strengthening, and health maintenance. Unlike Qigong, Yoga has no direct martial art application and it is not part of a particular healing tradition per se. Qigong is the foundation of both Tai Chi and Kung Fu (now referred to as Wushu) as well as being considered both part of and precursor to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Most Yoga involves very little, if any, movement, and breathing practices are key to Qigong from the beginning. Although the founder of Yoga (Patanjali) describes a progression from asanas to pranayama (breath practice), breathing isn’t built-in to a lot of Yoga classes or instruction, or it isn’t taught until some skill with asanas is achieved. This can take years, depending upon the style of Yoga. Yoga also does not have counterparts to Qigong's medical practices that involve energy transmission or self-massage. Although there are these differences, the practices are ultimately quite similar in their physical, mental, and spiritual effects.
Historically, Yoga and Qigong have had different types of movement and posture. The important "cross over" of practices like Yoga and Qigong, however, where the practices may be considered functionally equivalent, is the meditative state. The important difference, of course, is how you get there. In Yoga, you generally become very still to meditate. The vigorous Yoga vinyasa practice is considered the way you "prepare" to meditate -- the way you prepare your body to be and sit still. In Qigong, the entire movement (which can also be vigorous), is a meditation. You don't prepare to meditate with your movement as much as you are meditating as you move already and meditating throughout. This is the only way Bruce Lee was able to accomplish his feats -- with focus and power throughout. And it is the secret of Qigong that even ordinary movement (like pouring tea) can be imbued with the same conscious principles of movement and stillness. This kind of attentiveness amounts to virtually injury-free practice, and this kind of movement and awareness-imbued qigong practice is already being used to teach people how to rehabilitate from injury or how to prevent falls (and prevent injuries) during movement.
Medical Yoga Therapy. Abstract: Medical Yoga is defined as the use of Yoga practices for the prevention and treatment of medical conditions. Beyond the physical elements of Yoga, which are important and effective for strengthening the body, medical Yoga also incorporates appropriate breathing techniques, mindfulness, and meditation in order to achieve the maximum benefits. Multiple studies have shown that Yoga can positively impact the body in many ways, including helping to regulate blood glucose levels, improve musculoskeletal ailments and keeping the cardiovascular system in tune. It also has been shown to have important psychological benefits, as the practice of Yoga can help to increase mental energy and positive feelings, and decrease negative feelings of aggressiveness, depression and anxiety.
Trends in Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong Use Among US Adults, 2002-2017. Acute and chronic pain, arthritis, and depression were the top three medical conditions for which people used Yoga the most.
How Yoga May Enhance Heart Health. Harvard Medical School.
Current research suggests that a carefully adapted set of yoga poses may reduce low-back pain and improve function. Other studies also suggest that practicing yoga (as well as other forms of regular exercise) might improve quality of life; reduce stress; lower heart rate and blood pressure; help relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia; and improve overall physical fitness, strength, and flexibility. (More)
Clinical Digest - Yoga for Health. OCTOBER 2014. This issue of the NCCAM clinical digest summarizes current scientific evidence about yoga for health conditions, including chronic low-back pain, asthma, and arthritis. The scientific evidence to date suggests that a carefully adapted set of yoga poses may help reduce pain and improve function in people with chronic low-back pain. Studies also suggest that practicing yoga (as well as other forms of regular exercise) might confer other health benefits such as reducing heart rate and blood pressure, and may also help alleviate anxiety and depression. Other research suggests yoga’s deep breathing is not helpful for asthma, and studies looking at yoga and arthritis have had mixed results.
Yoga for Health & Well-Being features the current scientific evidence for yoga as a complementary health practice, particularly for symptoms like chronic low-back pain. Viewers will also learn about research that explores the safety of yoga and how certain yoga poses can specifically affect a person’s body. The video also provides valuable “dos and don'ts” for consumers who are thinking about practicing yoga. Runtime: 16min 37sec. The video from NCCIH includes:
Yoga is a mind and body practice with historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy. Like other meditative movement practices used for health purposes, various styles of yoga typically combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. More...
"I am teaching in the spirit of guiding others to integrate these powerful tools into their lives. Each of us is drawn to Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qigong for different reasons. It may be to alleviate anxiety, to manage stress from living in a city, to build energy in the body, to relieve chronic pain, to build self-confidence, to get stronger, more flexible and balanced and perhaps to increase longevity. I started Yoga and Healing Arts Therapy out of a deep and experienced knowing that these ancient healing practices do and will work in healing the body, mind, and soul. I am now in the process of producing a Qigong Infused YogaTM video which will be available in early 2018 and branching out internationally in the hope of sharing this practice to more people. " More...
While some argue that Yoga's origins can be traced to the Vedas, as evidenced by recent archeological findings that mark yogic history to at least four thousand years ago, still others claim yoga came from stone age Shamanism. It is thought that Qigong originated with ancient Shamanic meditative practices as well.
Both Qigong and Yoga teach with a similar premise, shared with Taoism. The practices focus on improving the health of the body; calming and clarifying the mind; and strengthening the spirit.
There are many reasons to cleanse the internal organs, and both traditions, from India and China respectively, agree that a sluggish immune system, poor digestion caused by overtaxed eliminative organs, and clogged emotions that can reside in the liver, gallbladder, or heart, for example, can impede spiritual progress. There seem to be some subtle differences in the conceptualization of the energy system in both traditions, however, and thereby the means that masters of each path engage in to purify the body, mind and spirit. Both Qigong and Yoga focus on exercising connective tissue and fascia as well as building up and balancing internal energy for health and well-being.
There is an information overload on the internet about everything related to men’s health— diet, exercise, sleep, coffee, sex, medication, etc. Mind-Body modalities are no different. Everybody seems to have an opinion as to what is the “right” thing for you as a male to do with your body. Ultimately, this is a decision you must make. It really depends on the context of your life circumstance and needs. More.
John Schumacher, Founder and Director of Unity Woods Yoga Center in Washington DC, discusses the evolution of yoga in the United State and the practice and benefits of yoga.
Townsend Letter, December 2019.
Jahnke and Faass.
Modern-day science confirms that the practice of yoga has tangible physical health benefits that include improved brain function and denser bones, as well as immune health, improved nervous system functioning and strength. Over 36 million Americans practice yoga and enjoy the benefits of a stronger body, calm mind, increased happiness and reduced stress. More...
Bring More Mindfulness Onto the Mat. Yoga Journal.
Inhaling deeply and bringing the breathing rate right down can bring the sympathetic signal down. This explains why Pranayama breathing techniques can induce a state of relaxation. Slow, deep breathing techniques can reduce the stress signal temporarily and even help dampen an impending stress response. Focusing on breathing during the practice of Yoga can help you achieve focus and calmness in the face of overwhelming autonomic stimulation. Learning to use breathing to help yourself focus and achieve calmness can be taken out of the yoga room and put into practice in the real world. In the yoga room, you will remember the feeling of your mind reaching peak concentration in the face of stress and with repeated practice, you will be able to repeat that feat anywhere, anytime. More...
Impact of a Yogic Breathing Technique on the Well-Being of Healthcare Professionals During the COVID-19 Pandemic. The results indicate that breathing technique had a positive impact on the well-being of healthcare professionals (HCP) during the pandemic. Participants experienced improved quality of sleep, enhanced satisfaction with life, and increased resilience. This pilot study was also a multi-site randomized controlled trial [PMCID: PMC7876755].
East Meets West in Therapeutic Approaches to the Management of Chronic Pain. Yoga as a holistic principle, not only practice of asanas or poses, integrates all aspects of the self, with biological, mental, intellectual, and spiritual elements. Yoga encompasses the biopsychosocial medical perspective, which regards pain as a dynamic interaction between physiological, psychological, and social factors. The purpose of this perspective article is to compare and contrast psychological practices such as mindfulness meditation, relaxation response (RR), and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with Yoga in their management of chronic pain. The use of these practices is explored through history, literature, and research studies. Results from scientific studies on Yoga show changes in health-related pain outcomes for patients with chronic pain. The key aspects of Yoga, notably relaxation, positive thinking, and mindfulness, are discussed in relation to mindfulness meditation, RR, and CBT. PMCID: PMC9015085.
Therapeutic Efficacy of Yoga for Common Primary Care Conditions. Yoga is a relatively safe and effective option for patients interested in therapeutic lifestyle change to promote well-being and to help manage hypertension, back pain, and overall mental health. PMID: 35025177.
Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Yoga Practice on Physical Fitness in the Elderly. Yoga is a multimodal activity that improves muscle strength, balance, and flexibility in the elderly, and physical activity policies should continue to promote yoga as an activity that enhances physical and mental wellbeing in this population PMID: 34770176.
Is Weekly Frequency of Yoga Practice Sufficient? Physiological Effects of Hatha Yoga Among Healthy Novice Women. The present findings suggest that weekly setting of a 10-session long hatha yoga training leads to improvements in balance, flexibility and core muscle strength among healthy young women. However, for changes in BMI, body fat percentage, resting HR and HRV longer, and/or more intense interventions are needed.
The immediate and durable effects of yoga and physical fitness exercises on stress. Yoga intervention is better than fitness exercises in helping undergraduates cultivate mindfulness and reduce stress.
The effects of yoga compared to active and inactive controls on physical function and health related quality of life in older adults- systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. This review is the first to compare the effects of yoga with active and inactive controls in older adults not characterised by a specific clinical condition. Results indicate that yoga interventions improve multiple physical function and HRQoL outcomes in this population compared to both control conditions. This study provides robust evidence for promoting yoga in physical activity guidelines for older adults as a multimodal activity that improves aspects of fitness like strength, balance and flexibility, as well as mental wellbeing.
Energy Expenditure in Vinyasa Yoga versus Walking. YOGA meets the criteria for moderate-intensity physical activity.
Yoga for Youth Program launched at UCLA School of Medicine. The Pediatric Pain Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, is a multidisciplinary treatment program designed for young people with chronic pain and their families.
Comparison of higher order spectra in heart rate signals during two techniques of meditation: Qigong and Kundalini meditation. Heart rate signals increased during Kundalini Yoga meditation, but it decreased significantly during Chi meditation. There are significant differences between rest and meditation states, but also heart rate patterns appear to be influenced by different types of meditation.
Core muscle function during specific yoga poses. This research assesses eleven yoga poses in specific training and rehabilitation programs via examination of the muscle activation patterns in selected trunk and hip muscles. Variations in core muscle firing patterns depend on the trunk and pelvic positions during these poses. Training programs can be developed by choosing particular poses to target specific core muscles for addressing low back pain and declines in performance. The High plank, Low plank and Downward facing dog poses are effective for strengthening external oblique abdominis, Chair and Warrior 1 poses for targeting gluteus maximum, and Chair and Halfway lift poses for strengthening longissimus thoracis. And these three muscles could be strengthened by the Upward facing dog pose.
Yoga and Healthcare in the United Kingdom. The emergence of yoga therapy in the United Kingdom began about 45 years ago with the emergence of yoga therapy organizations that offered both treatment and training. The integration of yoga into the National Health Service (NHS) is gradually happening Because: (a) yoga research supports its efficacy as a cost-effective, preventive and complementary treatment for a host of non-communicable diseases; and (b) the escalating economic burden of long-term conditions is overwhelming the NHS. The NHS is actively developing 'sustainability and transformation plans' that include yoga.
Yoga and Chronic Pain Have Opposite Effects on Brain Gray Matter. Studies Show Link Between Yoga Practice and Gray Matter Increases.
Yoga can help improve employee wellbeing. This is a very good introduction to the benefits of yoga.
The yoga boom has made mind-body exercise more run of the mill. “Yoga has now become acceptable,” said Judith Hanson Lasater, a yoga teacher since 1971 who now teaches restorative yoga, a form that encourages relaxation. “Qigong is a little further away, but yoga has opened the door.” Because some forms of yoga are downright strenuous, qigong appeals to yogis tired of the mat race. “I went to power-yoga studios and practiced in heated rooms crammed with people’s mats, shoved over each other,” said Kyle Burton, 27, from Los Angeles . “But once I was introduced to qigong and learned the difference between a muscle-based workout versus an energetic-based practice, I switched.”- NY Times, April 5, 2007. Read the entire article.
Yoga can also be too hard for some people, especially seniors, and done wrong, can be harmful. "Often people get hurt because they begin yoga without realizing that their bodies are no longer what they used to be," says Time Magazine. Time, October 4, 2007. Read the entire article.
Also see: Yoga bad for your knees, Indian doctor warns. Qigong does not share these drawbacks of yoga, although cautions similar to those with yoga should be observed, especially with Tai Chi. The older you get, the more appropriate Tai Chi and Qigong practice become to staying healthy.
Also see Energy Cross-Training Part 1/3: The Real Purpose of Yoga by Taoist lineage holder Bruce Frantzis.
Yoga has mind/body benefits for teens. Mood problems, anxiety and negative emotions stayed the same or improved among yoga students, but grew worse among those taking regular PE. And nearly three out of four said they’d like to keep on doing yoga.
Harvard Yoga Scientists Find Proof of Meditation Benefit. Unlike earlier studies, this one is the first to focus on participants with high levels of stress. The study published in May in the medical journal PloS One showed that one session of relaxation-response practice (i.e. the meditation component of qigong or yoga) was enough to enhance the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism and insulin secretion and reduce expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress. There was an effect even among novices who had never practiced before.
Can Hot Yoga Hurt You? Hot yoga—also known as Bikram yoga—involves a series of 26 postures, or asanas, performed in a studio heated between 90 and 105 degrees at 40 percent humidity. If getting bendy in a steamy room sounds super challenging, that's because it is: A new Duke University review of 76 yoga-related injuries found that Bikram was commonly linked to injuries, along with Pranayama (a style focused on breathing control) and Hatha (an umbrella term for physical yoga practices).
It's interesting that the authors of this paper associate yoga with eudaimonic well-being. Yoga thereby gains approval as a mind-body therapy that can be studied and utilized in western medical research and clinical contexts because it can be treated as a practice distinct from its historical origin and framework.
After stealing the spotlight for thousands of years, yoga finally has some competition. Read article.
This ancient Chinese practice combines flowing movements, breathing techniques and mindfulness meditation. More.
"Taoist Yoga" is a term applied to several different types of Qigong: Yoga done as Qigong and a form of Qigong known as Dao Yin.
Yoga done as Qigong is practiced in two main ways. One is to gently hold yoga poses for a period of time, and another is to add movement to connect a series of asanas (yoga poses). The former is commonly called "Yin Yoga". There are also forms of Yin Yoga that involve movement between asanas. However, there are many more forms of yoga besides Yin Yoga that add movement from asana to asana. The most popular forms of movement yoga are Vinyasa Yoga, Vinyasa Flow Yoga, or just "flow" yoga.
Yin Yoga done as Qigong is a new concept dating to the end of the 20th Century. Yoga with movement has an ancient history as does Chinese Dao Yin which dates to Chinese pre-history with an historical record beginning during the Han dynasty (168 BCE).
There are many forms of Taoist Yoga practiced in China. It's principles are beginning to make their way into mainstream yoga practice. Here is an observation from Ellen Pucciarelli from the Energy Arts newsletter:
"One Taoist Yoga concept that I see yogis/yoginis struggle with is the 70% rule. A Taoist Water Tradition guideline that states you should only do a Taoist Yoga movement, or any chi technique, to approximately 70% of your capacity. Basically that striving for 100% produces tension and stress in your practice, and therefore should be avoided. As yoga students, we sometimes become so preoccupied with the end result of a posture that we completely tune out what's happening inside ourselves, including our effort levels. Struggling in a posture past 70% may bring more stress and tension into our lives and we definitely don't need more of that. When we overly exert ourselves to get "somewhere" in a posture, where does that really take us? Rarely are we taught to stop and check in with what's occurring on the inside (actually we have been taught, but usually only after something occurs, like pain or worse, an injury). And even more rare is receiving permission to back off from the 100% effort level, but if we are able to incorporate the 70% rule when practicing Taoist Yoga (especially when we're new), we can begin to fully realize the potential of the practice. We can begin to cultivate an internal awareness, and just as importantly, we can bring this awareness into other activities and aspects of our lives."
Yin Yoga - Principles and Practice. One of the best examples of integrating the fundamentals of Qigong into Yoga can be found in Yin Yoga. Yin Yoga can be considered one form or type of Qigong most closely related to Taoist Yoga. The breathing and meditative aspects are the same, but the musculskeletal and cardiovascular demands may be different. Both Yin Yoga and Qigong target connective tissue and fascia. Muscle and tissue flexibility and associated joint health, and not strength per se, are key to health and longevity. Yin Yoga highlights flexibility and meditative aspects of the practice instead of muscle strength.
Yin Yoga 101: What You Need to Know. Yin Yoga, a less popular style of Yoga in the west is an approach that some may have never even heard of. Initially called “Taoist” Yoga this style of Yoga targets the deep connective tissues of the body (vs. the superficial tissues) and the fascia that covers the body; this Taoist Yoga helps to regulate the flow of energy in the body, just like Qigong.
Qigong has started to be incorporated into an increasing number of Yoga practices and teachings such as "Yin Yoga". Yin Yoga is based upon Taoist Yoga as practiced in China. It involves the exercising and stretching of connective tissues (such as ligaments) bones, and joints, as opposed to exercising muscles through the application of tension, lengthening, or contraction. People who discover Yin Yoga realize that there is more to Yoga than their familiar active style of asana practice. More: https://somuchyoga.com/yin-yoga/
Adding the qi flow of Qigong to Yoga.
Yin Yoga with minimal movement is practiced with muscles relaxed and held for a long time. Taoist yin and yang concepts are used to describe and internalize the practice of Yoga done with certain constraints. Yin Yoga exercises the connective tissue in your joints using traction. Gentle tension for a long period of time is different than rhythm and repetition where rhythm. Yang yoga is harder, faster, and repetitive. Yin Yoga s modest stress, held for a long time. If you are too aggressive in your exercise (yin or yang) you injure your joints. Yin exercise purposely applies minimal stress to the joints to exercise them without injury. This is as opposed to Yang Yoga or regular exercise which will strongly stress the joints and muscles.
Living tissues adapt to stress. This is why we go to the gym with the expectation of working out and eventually getting bigger, stronger muscles. We cannot adapt to stress without movement. Modestly stressing tissue is required for tissue health. If you stress too little or too much the tissue will degenerate.
Ligament surrounds the joint between bones. Sinovial fluid is in each joint. Tendon is above the joint. If muscles or tendons are tight they pull the bones of the joint together. If the muscle is tight, the joint capsule is a little bit loose. To stress the joint the muscle/tendon must be relaxed.
Deep fiber tissue does not respond to brief yang stresses applying great weight. If you want to stress ligaments, you must apply modest stress over time (like braces on teeth). Let the joints take the stress in a calm, constant, low-stress manner. All joint capsules need to be stressed regularly to keep them healthy. In order to do this, the muscles must be relaxed so the joints take the stress. More: Yin Yoga: The Foundations of a Quiet Practice.
Dao Yin, also referred to as "Taoist Yoga" is an ancient form of Qigong especially focused on exercising connective tissues, joints, and the spine for optimal health and healing.
Mawangdui Daoyin Shu: Qigong from the Mawangdui Silk Paintings (Chinese Health Qigong). Some of the earliest known images of Qigong exercises were found on a colored silk painting unearthed at MawangduiTomb in the early 1970's that date to the Han Dynasty (168 BCE). The 44 people are shown doing Dao Yin, postures and movements combined with breathing and physical exercise for health maintainance and treating illness. The forms can be done by themselves or in a particular sequence, as shown in the following videos. To get the most out of the practice, learn it from a teacher. Since one probably won't be available where you live, buy the book because it has some important details that are not obvious from watching and studying the videos. And as with all Qigong, practice the Three Intentful Corrections.
This Yoga Journal article says that the guiding principle of Qi Gong is the coordination of the eyes with the body movements. Actually, the guiding principle is deep breathing combined with meditation and possibly physical movement. But it's still a good intro article for the yoga community to understand more about Qigong. Read article.