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Health Benefits of Yoga vs. Qigong

by
author image Henry Halse
Henry Halse is a Philadelphia-based personal trainer, speaker, and writer. He's trained a wide variety of people, from couch potatoes to professional athletes, and helped them realize their own strength, determination and self-confidence. Henry has also written for various fitness and lifestyle publications, including Women’s Health, AskMen and Prevention.
Health Benefits of Yoga vs. Qigong
Yoga and Qigong and both very fluid forms of exercise. Photo Credit bbtomas/iStock/Getty Images

Relaxing and flowing forms of exercise benefit not only the health of your body but the health of your mind. Yoga and Qigong are both ancient forms of exercise that strive to train the body and mind with disciplined, yet fluid practice. There is a zen-like quality to both forms of movement practice and each has proven health benefits.

What is Qigong?

Qigong (pronounced "chee gong") is a holistic movement practice that incorporates physical movements, breathing exercises and meditation. It looks very similar to tai chi because the movements are very slow, fluid and exaggerated. Most of the exercises are performed standing and there is a consistent emphasis on breathing technique.

Read More: Qi Gong Vs. Tai Chi

What is Yoga?

Yoga is also an ancient practice, but unlike Qigong, it has many different disciplines. Hatha yoga is what most of the Western world is familiar with, but there are other new and old forms such as Kundalini yoga, Iyengar yoga, and Bikram yoga. Most forms of yoga have similar exercises and postures that they use. There is a mix of standing, sitting, and lying down postures in yoga. In that way, it is much more varied than Qigong.

The other components of yoga are very similar to Qigong. Yoga also has a strong emphasis on proper breathing and, in some yoga classes, meditation. Because of their similarities, both yoga and Qigong have similar health benefits, although yoga's benefits are much more dependent on the type of yoga being practiced.

Physical Health Benefits

While all forms of exercise have some health benefit, yoga and Qigong are unique because they aren't as intense as other forms of exercise like running or lifting weights.

Blood Pressure

Both practices promote slow and controlled movement, mixed with some form of controlled breathing. This combination has a calming effect on most people during the class and afterwards. This relaxation promotes health benefits like lower blood pressure, which is a major risk factor in heart disease.

Blood Lipids

Yoga was also found to decrease lipid profiles, according to an article from Harvard Health Publications, which is a good sign for heart health. While this hasn't been studied in Qigong practitioners, the similarities between yoga and Qigong mean that it also likely reduces lipid profiles.

Motor Control

Balance, coordination, and flexibility are extremely important aspects of physical health because they allow you to navigate your daily life, especially as you age. Practicing both yoga and Qigong helps you maintain your balance when you get older, reducing your risk of falling, according to a 2011 study in Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise.

Strengthening

Strengthening muscles, tendons, and bones helps ward off injuries and keeps your body healthy. While Qigong is very similar in health benefits to yoga, the one are where it doesn't match up is in strengthening.

Read More: Yoga Benefits for Men

Yoga poses tend to be much more muscularly challenging, especially for the upper body. Yoga includes poses like the plank where you have to hold a significant amount of your weight with your upper body. Strengthening your muscles makes you less vulnerable to injuries at your joints, including lower back injuries.

Combined, Qigong and yoga have powerful mental health benefits.
Combined, Qigong and yoga have powerful mental health benefits. Photo Credit humonia/iStock/Getty Images

Mental Health Benefits

As physical as yoga and Qigong are, they have a myriad of mental health benefits as well.

Depression

A 2015 study in Complementary Therapies in Medicine reveals that Qigong was effective in reducing the severity of depression in test subjects. Likewise, a 2013 study from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that yoga helped curb symptoms of depression.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Qigong has even been shown to help people with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MBTI), which is caused by a sharp blow to the head. In 2013, a study published in Explore showed that practicing Qigong helped patients recovering from MBTI and even allowed them to decrease their dependence on medication.

Combined Mental Health Benefits

A 2010 study in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine attempted to fuse yoga and Qigong into one treatment plan for people with anxiety and depression. They were particularly interested in the fusion between the more physical practice of yoga and more mental practice of Qigong.

The test subjects had less depression and anxiety after treatment, which shows that mixing both practices only enhances their health benefits. The researchers also add that the increase sense of control over your body and mind might explain why both practices make you feel happier and healthier.

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