Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder isn’t just for combat veterans; it can come from variety of sources, such as abuse, assault, surgical trauma, natural disasters, and major emotional loss. According to some estimates, at any one time, over 24 million Americans have PTSD — more than the population of Florida.
A two-part article series in the blog for Psychology Today (September 8 and 12, 2013) discusses a program for combat veterans in Texas that focuses on Chi Gong (or Qigong) as a recovery tool for PTSD. The program, which is sponsored by the Veterans Administration, involves 24 classes over 12 weeks, and introduces veterans to breathing techniques, exercises, principles of Qigong, and Qigong movements in a group therapy setting.
PTSD, which is rampant among combat veterans, is notoriously resistant to talk therapy or medication. “Training Mindfully with Qigong Principles,” founded by Chris Bouguyon (co-owner of SimplyAware), relies instead on the principles of Qigong, which the article’s author, Eric Newhouse, aptly describes as “the deepest root of traditional Chinese medicine and Chinese martial arts.”
In another initiative, Dr. Effie Chow of the East West Academy of Healing Arts launched the Chow Qigong for Veterans project in 2014 in Columbia, MO to address PTSD in veterans. Chow Qigong is described as “a system that creates and sustains a positive mental attitude and a more grounded sense of well-being.” The goal of the program, which is sponsored by the VA and the Missouri University Veterans Center, is “to provide free support to veterans through our Chow Qigong programs, while putting them on a journey to better themselves and the world around them.” Traumatized combat veterans appear to benefit from both the Texas and Missouri systems, as well as other programs that offer Qigong.
How does it work?
Qigong, or Chi Gong (sometimes called the mother of Tai Chi), is a form of moving meditation invented in China thousands of years ago. “Chi” is the life force; “gong” means “to cultivate.” The purpose of cultivating our chi is to calm the mind, balance the energies of the body, and encourage the free flow of the life force. According to my martial arts teacher, Grandmaster Hongchao Zhang of Chicago, Chi Gong works on three levels: body, breath, and mind. That’s why the gentle, simple movements of Chi Gong strengthen the body, encourage relaxation and deep breathing, and help the practitioner to achieve a sense of calm. It’s easy to see why it would be helpful to combat veterans, who so often suffer from charged-up nervous systems and frequently live in a constant state of fight-or-flight.
A growing body of evidence suggests that Chi Gong may help with:
- High blood pressure
- Sense of balance
- Mental focus
- Stress management
- Sleep disorders
- Lack of energy
- Circulatory problems
- General debilitation
I offer both group and individual instruction in Chi Gong at reSource Wellness. Although I have not had the privilege of teaching combat veterans, my students often report intense relaxation and an enhanced sense of well-being as a result of practicing Chi Gong. My own experience as a former PTSD sufferer (https://resourcewellnessllc.com/craniosacral-lightning-and-ptsd/) echoes the experience of my students; I find Chi Gong to be profoundly calming to my nervous system.
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