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Finding mindfulness: how qigong trains focus and memory

Whether you’re aiming to leverage your career, acquire new skills, or support memory recall as you age, honing your mental faculties through mindfulness practices can help you fulfil your unique aspirations for intellectual development, personal growth, professional achievement, and healthy ageing.

Through holistic mindfulness techniques, qigong can help you train and maintain two key components of mental acuity: focus and memory. Here’s how qigong can help unlock your intellectual potential and support your mental agility throughout your lifetime.

Deliberate Physical Movement
As the body and brain are inextricably connected, one could easily argue that what is good for the body is good for the brain. A lifestyle of physical activity is linked with a decreased risk for Alzheimer’s Disease, and an increased capacity for mental tasks that involve executive control, such as memory, monitoring, planning, and scheduling.

While general physical activity is considered beneficial for brain health, qigong offers an additional layer of benefit to its deliberate physical movements: mindfulness. As a form of Meditative Movement (MM), the physical practice of qigong aims to cultivate an intentional, focused state of mind and has been found to create a comparable effect on brain activity as Qigong meditation. For example, a recent clinical study of Wu Qin Xi (5 Animal Qigong) used electroencephalogram (EEG) to track and record electrical changes in brain activity in both the physical and mental practices of qigong. The study found that, like mental qigong, the dynamic meditative movement of 5 Animal Qigong training induced a present, relaxed, attentive, and focused state of mind through shifts in brain activity.

Focused Body Scanning
Shown to have numerous potential health benefits, body awareness can be defined as “attentional focus and awareness of internal body sensations.” In addition potentially supporting the management of some chronic health issues and pain, body awareness techniques can generally enhance proprioception (spatial awareness) and interoception (inner bodily awareness).

With an emphasis on internal focus, qigong can help to strengthen proprioception, interoception, internalized attentional processing, and focus. External focus during physical movements activates reflexive and automatic processes and therefore requires less attentional effort. On the other hand, the internal focus of qigong can effectively interrupt automatic processing, facilitating a mentally demanding type of movement and motor control that requires greater focus and attention.

Standing Medical Qigong, known as Zhan Zhuang, specifically develops internal focus through body scanning techniques, which can be practised on their own or integrated into other qigong practices.

Conscious Breathing Techniques
As global stress levels continue to rise, clinical studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of diaphragmatic breathing techniques on inducing relaxation and reducing stress. Chronic stress can adversely affect the hippocampus, the part of the brain that governs memory and learning, which can negatively affect memory processing and overall brain health. Additionally, chronic stress elevates the stress hormone cortisol and can contribute to anxiety and depression, which can negatively impact one’s attentional capacity and normal the normal processing of memories, especially as people age.

Inducing the body’s innate relaxation response (the parasympathetic nervous system, or PNS) decreases the physiological and cognitive symptoms of stress. With its ability to enhance parasympathetic activity, qigong can effectively help reduce chronic stress and its negative effect on brain health, attention, and memory.

Qigong offers numerous diaphragmatic unique breathing techniques that can help you alleviate stress, improve your attentional capacity, and support your memory.

Mindfulness Meditation
Mental activity and intellectual stimulation have been shown to improve memory performance and prevent age-related cognitive decline. For instance, lifelong intellectual activity has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, while mindfulness practices have been shown to help you positively change the structure of your brain (called neuroplasticity). Mindfulness meditation effectively teaches you how to consciously and repeatedly focus your attention, interrupting your reflexive thought and emotional patterns while developing and strengthening new neural pathways. It’s like going to the gym for your brain!

By working with the brain itself, Qigong meditation can improve concentration, support short- and long-term memory, and even prevent cognitive decline and mental health conditions.

Your Best Brain
In the short-term and long-term, brain health positively influences every aspect of your life. No matter what you do on any given day or what you hope to one day accomplish, a healthy brain helps you get there.
White Tiger Qigong is dedicated to helping you acquire tools and techniques that, once learned, you can practice throughout your lifetime. To support your best brain and mindfulness journey, follow our blog and elevate your qigong practice through our transformational online courses and in-person events.

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