Mobility is a vital movement capacity that directly influences your athletic performance, fitness potential, and quality of living. When you’re able to move freely and fully, you can execute proper technique, produce more power, and avoid pain and injury throughout your entire body. Using mobility techniques such as Qigong between workouts can not only help to support joint and muscle recovery, but also improve the effectiveness of your workout. In this article we’ll break down some of the benefits, as well as suggesting Qigong exercises to fit in between workouts.
The benefits of practicing Qigong between workouts
Strength and conditioning are undeniably important components to uplevel your athletic performance, achieve your fitness goals, and maintain your optimum wellbeing. But just as you need adequate sleep between one day and the next, your body and mind need dedicated time to physiologically and psychologically recover, rest, and reset between your training sessions. Choosing a low-impact activity, such as Qigong, is a great form of active recovery. Incorporating breathing techniques and mindfulness training, Qigong created the opportunity to restore physical and mental balance, and infuse your workouts with a greater calm and focus.
Qigong can also be beneficial in its ability to stimulate the vagus nerve and activate the body’s built-in recovery system: the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Also known as your “rest-and-digest” response, the PNS is your body’s way of regenerating, processing nutrients and experiences, and counterbalancing physical and psychological stress. Consciously cultivating your rest-and-digest response through mindful movements and breathing techniques during your active recovery sessions allows you to deeply and fully replenish your mind and muscles.
5 Qigong Exercises to Improve Mobility Between Workouts
1. Serving Teacups (targets shoulders, neck, thoracic spine, digestion)
By intentionally moving the shoulders through their full range of motion, Serving Teacups Qigong allows you to gently maintain and restore shoulder mobility. Additionally, Serving Teacups combines shoulder mobility work with extension and rotation of two very important shoulder neighbors: the cervical spine (neck) and thoracic spine (mid-upper back). With the greatest range of motion (ROM) of all the joints in your body, the shoulder complex allows you to perform precise and powerful movements in multiple directions (e.g., baseball pitch, butterfly stroke, sprinting, and dumbbell lateral raises).
Who Should Practice: Serving Teacups is especially useful for anyone experiencing poor posture, upper body limitations, or digestive complaints, in addition to athletes who rely on their shoulders, including: weightlifters, calisthenics athletes, baseball players, swimmers, basketball players, tennis players, golfers, and runners.
2. The Crane (targets hips and ankles)
Limited pelvic instability and hip mobility can impede our athletic progress and cause a host of issues up and down the kinetic chain, such as knee, ankle, and lower back injury and pain. The Crane (5 Element Qigong) promotes pelvic stability and hip mobility by dynamically developing pelvic stability and single-leg balance whilst mobilising the hips through flexion, abduction, and extension. In addition to promoting ankle stability and spacial awareness through single-leg balancing, The Crane also brings the ankle into a pointed foot, an essential movement capacity for walking and running.
Who Should Practice: The Crane is especially useful for conditioning athletes (like runners and cyclists) and calisthenics athletes and strength training athletes who want to maintain or improve their hip and ankle mobility for leg-centric exercises, like squats and lunges.
3. The Dragon (targets hips, lumbar, thoracic and cervical spine, and shoulders)
Many of us spend most of our time in the sagittal plane (moving forward and backward, in flexion or extension). While this movement pattern allows us to express many essential capacities (like walking, running, driving, and working at a desk), constantly favoring this planeof movement can eventually trouble our hips, glutes, spine, and shoulders. The Dragon is a revolved lunge that can alleviate many of the woes you may be experiencing by activating the back leg glute, stretching the back leg psoas, promoting good posture, rotating the spine, and stretching the chest and shoulders.
Who Should Practice: The Dragon is a useful practice for anyone who sits for prolonged periods, athletes that move primarily in the sagittal plane (like runners and weightlifters), and athletes that regularly perform rotational movements (like golfers, baseball players, and tennis players).
4. Deer Level I (targets ankles, spine, neck, shoulders, wrists)
With light steps, shoulder and wrist articulation, and a gentle backbend, Deer Level I is the perfect exercise to counterbalance pounding the pavement, upper back and abdominal soreness, stress, and a long day in front of the computer. Combined with intentional diaphragmatic breathing, Deer Level I creates a sense of ease and expansiveness across the front line of the body, shoulders, and neck.
Who Should Practice: In addition to developing the ankle mobility that’s essential for movements like squats and running, Deer Level I can truly benefit any athlete seeking to relieve neck, back, shoulder tension while improving functional balance and grace.
5. Separating Heaven and Earth (targets ankles, hips, spine, shoulders, breathing mechanics)
Built on the foundation of a deep wide-legged squat stance, Separating Heaven and Earth promotes knee stability while mobilising the ankles (dorsiflexion) and hips (flexion, external rotation, and abduction). This exercises also uniquely brings awareness to the relationship between the diaphragm (primary breathing muscle) and psoas (postural muscle and hip flexor), which can help you simultaneously overcome poor postural habits, improper breathing mechanics, and lower back pain.
Who Should Practice: Practicing Separating Heaven and Earth (and any similar Qigong stance) is especially beneficial to athletes who are vulnerable to groin strains, such as those who play competitive sports, move laterally, or frequently change directions. By addressing ankle, hip, and shoulder limitations, Separating Heaven and Earth can also help relieve lower back pain, sharpen your form, and allow you to achieve a fuller range of motion in squats, lunges, and overhead exercises.
Qigong for mobility
Training holistically with mindful mobility exercises, breathing techniques, and active recovery ultimately ensures that your workouts enhance your life and sport in the most positive ways for years to come. To learn more about how you can improve your overall fitness and health through Qigong, connect with our blog and explore our comprehensive library of online courses and e-books.