Personally, I love exercise! And when I discovered the subtle energetic aspects revealed during training, I not only found this healing, but also enlightening. Other key benefits are that exercise increases metabolic rate for many hours after the training session, leading to enhanced energy and vitality as well as enhanced burning of fat. However it is the underlying mystery of body energy that I personally find fascinating. Below I delve into an explanation of what that body energy may actually be and how exercise can help us come into contact with it.
Body energy – a discovery process
A Shaolin Monk who personally assisted me with understanding this energy is Shifu Yan Lei, and I will be forever grateful to him. Shifu teaches using traditional methods, which include 30 minutes or more of cardio-vascular training to warm the body before doing energy training with Qi. Qi itself is body energy that can be felt.
Qi may actually be hormones and other messenger molecules. During exercise, opiates such as beta-endorphin and enkephalins act to shut off X neurons in the spinal cord and thus inhibit pain perception. The result is the famed runner’s high that takes 30 minutes of exercise before hormones and opiates reach sufficient levels to dull pain and stimulate sensation such as euphoria. Overall this may allow for a heightened awareness of Qi and explain the 30 minute warm-up used in traditional Shaolin Qi training.
These opiates released during exercise form part of the body mind link that scientists use to explain psycho-somatic immune mediation or PsychoNeuroImmunology (PNI). Essentially opiates and other peptide molecules such as hormones are the mediators in emotional states. They also mediate in the conversation going between brain and the body as well as between the body and the brain. And PNI is the study of how our thoughts and emotional states can enhance our immune system via these messenger molecules. In other words, how we direct our thoughts and emotions can have a direct impact on our health.
Similarly, Qi may be directed by the mind. I’ll be forever grateful to Dr Yang Jwing Ming for the training he gave me and all the work he is doing to link understanding of Qi with Western Science. Dr Yang likens Qi to soldiers and the mind to the general. Qi is thus led by the mind with the aid of breathing and visualization techniques. The results and experiences are profound: healing, transformative and enhancing vitality. Other scientifically measured benefits of exercise are detailed below
- Hormone management – makes cells more sensitive to insulin, uses and reduces stress hormones
- Musculoskeletal system – Increases muscle strength, muscle mass, muscle flexibility, bone strength and lessens the chance of injury and osteoporosis
- Heart and blood vessels – Strengthens heart, lowers risk of heart disease, lowers blood pressure and lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Body processes – Improves immune function, aids digestion and elimination, increases endurance and energy levels, promotes lean body mass and fat metabolism, improves sexual function
- Mental Processes – provides release to pent-up / negative feelings, reduces tension and anxiety, improves mental outlook and esteem, improves stress management, induces relaxation and improves sleep
Beside the key health benefits listed above, discovering and playing with Qi is another reason I love exercise. It gives me an opportunity to come into contact with Qi and the hormones and electro chemical messengers between the body and mind. In other words exercise provides me a chance to play an active role using my mind to promote health. So I invite you to do the same – and have fun playing with Qi!
Shifu Yan Lei’s blog: http://shifuyanlei.blogspot.com/
Dr Yang Jwing Ming’s website: http://ymaa-retreatcenter.org/about/dr_yang
Murray, M. (2003). How to Prevent and Treat Diabetes. New York, Riverhead Books
Pert, C. (1997). Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine. New York: Scribner
Sapolsky, R. (2004). Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. New York: Times Books