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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Schaper

GUEST POST: Steven Washington on Qigong & Mental Health Issues

Every so often, I will feature someone special with a guest post. Here is the first one, with Steven Washington, whose work is especially relevant on this last day of Mental Health Awareness Month. I want to share my incredible Qigong sessions with Steven. I have learned breathing techniques, gentle movements, focus and a meditation to cleanse, strengthen, and circulate life energy. Steven is compassionate, kind, and has a loving approach to help you achieve optimal health.


by Steven Washington, CMT and Certified Qigong & Pilates Trainer

Do you suffer from anxiety, mild depression, or mental confusion? If so, you’re not alone. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults who are 18 years of age and older. That number makes up 18.1% of the population every year. It is estimated that 16.2 million adults in the United States, or 6.7% of American adults, have at least one major depressive episode in a given year. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and it is very important for everyone to be conscious of these very serious conditions and the solutions available.

What causes these disorders? There is no simple answer to that question. Depression and anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including brain chemistry, genetics, personality and life events. Alcohol, illicit and prescription drug use can also play a role in the development and perpetuation of these disorders.

Both of these disorders are treatable. However, less than 50% of those affected by them receive treatment. There are many types of treatments available and they include antidepressant medications, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), and psychological counseling. Making alterations to your diet, incorporating daily exercise to your routine, and utilizing relaxation techniques will help as well. The Eastern practices of Yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong are effective in the treatment of depression, anxiety and other chronic illnesses. Studies have shown their effectiveness in conjunction with Western medicine. Yoga is a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. Tai Chi is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. Qigong is a Chinese holistic system of coordinated body posture and movement, breathing and meditation used for the purposes of health, spirituality and martial arts training. All three of these practices have several things in common. They all incorporate, movement, breath, and focused intention to move physical and emotional energy within the body. Let's look at these three common features more closely.

First, movement is what the human body was designed to do. When we are depressed we tend to become inert. Environmental and social stresses overwhelm us, we experience lack of purpose and poor or inadequate levels of exercise. Lack of movement can manifest tension, tightness and pain within the body. Gentle movements and stretches can ease tension and alleviate pain. Movement of the body increases blood flow which delivers nutrients to every cell. Movement moves energy throughout the body. Also, it is well documented that practices like Qigong, Yoga, and Tai Chi affect biomarkers related to stress response. Biomarkers such as norepinephrine, epinephrine and blood cortisol levels significantly decrease in response to these gentle movement practices.

Second, paying attention to the breath can calm the mind and relax the body. The way you breathe directly influences the quality of your life. Your breath is a reflection of your emotional state. When we are stressed, the breath becomes short and shallow. When we are relaxed, the breath becomes long and deep. The benefits of deep breathing are profound. Here are just a few:

  • Energizes every system within the body

  • Provides cells with sufficient oxygen for optimal functioning

  • Clears stress and tension from muscles

  • Supports the lymphatic system for cleansing the blood

  • Massages your internal organs

  • Promotes health and healing

Take a moment now to check in with your breath. I invite you to take five deep belly breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Afterwards, notice how you feel.

Thirdly, focused intention directs and guides the energy within the body. The mind and body are connected and form a seamless and inseparable whole. Within the body we hold emotions and thoughts. Emotions have sensations which cause feelings in the body. Thoughts are just cerebral occurrences that do not necessarily lead to sensations. Practices like Qigong can help heal and balance emotions by being mindful of the physical manifestations of emotional distress -- frustrated tightness in shoulders, anxious digestion, and depressed breathing. We have the power to change things within us that we are fully aware of.

The simple Qigong exercise called Pulling Down the Sky is effective in creating calm in the mind and relaxation in the body.

As a reminder, many of us are challenged by mental health issues. Having these challenges is nothing to be ashamed of. There is help available to those who need it. By incorporating the best medicines and treatments of the East and the West, we can successfully manage our mental health issues and lead happier, healthier and productive lives.

About the Author

Steven Washington is a Corporate Wellness Consultant who specializes in stress management through mindfulness and movement. He is also a certified Lee Holden Qigong & Power Pilates Instructor as well as a Certified Massage Therapist. Steven has taught Qigong and Pilates alongside famed intuitive Lee Harris at 45 workshops and retreats in 8 countries. Steven has created two online Qigong courses, multiple meditation Mp3s and offers private, custom-tailored Zoom Qigong sessions. Also, Steven produces free, short Qigong videos weekly on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Search for Steven Washington Experience.

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