So you’re (mostly) committed to your workouts, know how to eat clean, and even, occasionally, sit and meditate. What’s your recovery game like? Optimal recovery is absolutely essential to new levels of strength, continuous cycles of improvement, and channeling stress like a champion.But did you know that sleep isn’t the only aspect of optimal recovery? No, I’m not talking about foam rolling the most tender parts of your body while gasping for air and begging for mercy.
Long before Wim Hoff swam along, an entire content was experimenting, discovering, and perfecting ways to master the human body’s autonomic nervous system. With roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)—which is approximately 5,000 years old—qigong [chee-GONG] is a comprehensive, elegant form of energy medicine that’s currently practiced by millions of people across Asia.
So what in the world is qigong anyway and why is it so popular?
Qi is the subtle energy that permeates all things, like an invisible energy field that’s alive. And “gong” means “practice, work, or play”, so qigong is the practice of playing with the universal life force that flows throughout your being and world.
Think of the body as having several power sources that all work together; the landlines are the visible nerves that run through your body and brain, while the energy channels are like your invisible wifi network that allows every little computer cell of the body to communicate with all the others.
This energy network of channels are called meridians, and according to TCM, all disease and pathologies come from these channels being blocked or imbalanced. And while acupuncture, another aspect of TCM, unblocks those channels using needles, qigong harmonizes the body's subtle energy using gentle movements, breath, self-touch, and sound vibration.
So what are some of the benefits of qigong?
First and perhaps foremost, it is deeply relaxing, and when the body relaxes, it naturally and rapidly heals itself. And whether it’s delayed onset muscle soreness or some pesky virus, healing is at the foundation of all recovery and regeneration.
Secondly, Qigong is anti-inflammatory and can help balance your hormonal system. Inflammation is a natural and essential body process, but when it becomes excessive, often from chronic emotional stress, over training, or chemical imbalances -or I don’t know, a pandemic leading to a late night Netflix being the only form of date night for 5 months and counting - it leads to burn out. And burn out invites disease, dysfunction, much slower recovery times, the exact opposite of living your best life in the healthiest, fittest body possible, donned in the sexiest clothes in creation.
Qigong is also a natural, pleasure based practice that can help decrease pain in the body, increase energy levels, and deepen your intuition to previously unimagined levels. I’m speaking from experience here; the first time I ever laid eyes on my future wife, I felt every cell of my body vibrate spontaneously! Like goose bumps everywhere, this is the equivalent of all the meridians opening and lighting up at once.
Lastly, this deepened mastery over your own body leads to a level of confidence that is unparalleled, and thus an ability to compete, perform, and succeed at unprecedented levels. Qigong was a vital aspect of my training for and competing on Season 9 of American Ninja Warrior, where I made it to City Finals and missed National Finals by inches.
So what are some easy qigong exercises you can practice on your own?
I’m so glad you asked. Check out the video below and you’ll get a little taste of how this gentle, pleasure practice can help you feel energized and happy, right here, right now.
Mind you, I’m not exactly someone who has shied away from intensity in life; I competed in the Empire State Building Race Up 6x (and finished 16th one year), fasted alone in the high desert of New Mexico for 5 days, and love sky diving. But what I’ve discovered is that to balance the intensity, and not get injured, you have to pay attention to and train the subtle.
So get out of your “movement box” and enjoy this relaxing, soft, and sensual qigong practice.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
Gathering Posture - for sensing the inner energy body and allowing the qi force to build up.
3 Line Relaxation - tracing the front, side, and back lines of the body to release habitual muscle tension.
Lung Purification - using tapping vibrations to stimulate the lungs
Breath Circulation - wonderful for creating a state of super oxygenation in the body. Oxygen is anti-viral, ant-bacterial, and essential to relaxation and recovery.
I hope you enjoyed learning something new and exploring your body with Qigong. Go ahead and make it your own; practice the move that felt best for your body regularly, whenever you get a chance, or make it a part of your morning ritual, pre-workout routine, or cool down.
Jonathan Angelilli is a native New Yorker, personal wellness expert, pioneer of holistic fitness, proud father, and 2x American Ninja Warrior (NBC). He’s been empowering students through healthy movement for 20 years, has a Bachelor of Science from NYU and a minor in Gender Studies, as well as thirteen fitness certifications. Jonathan completed a 3 year program in Medical Qigong through the Institute of Traditional Medicine (Toronto) in 2016 and has been featured as a fitness and tai chi expert on network television (ABC, FOX). His one-of-a-kind approach unifies western science with eastern wisdom to create a provocative experience that is joyful, sensual, and empowering. He created Energy Medicine for Heroes at the start of the pandemic, offering online qigong classes that anyone can join and are free for health care heroes. The project has raised over $7,000 in 4 months and is proud to donate 25% of all sales to Feed the Frontlines NYC.