Qigong for Post Traumatic Stress

by Burke Miller, MA, LMHC

Over my years as a therapist, I have witnessed and assisted people in traversing the complex terrain of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Underlying this label are often layers of depression and anxiety. When people come to see me with traumatic stress, I explain that in addition to our steady focus on their emotional recovery, we will work on adopting tools that incorporate both mind and body principles of healing.

Those who have suffered from PTSD know that life is anything but normal. Multiple accidents, traumas, and losses, as well as exposure to war and repeated violence, affect one’s ability to cope. It’s akin to the nervous system idling too high as if on a stimulant. Thus the mind and body are unable to ground and settle. When the body’s system is in a state of shock, the adrenals are constantly responding as if in stress mode, releasing more cortisol and adrenaline.

I believe that Qigong can be a beneficial practice for healing the multi-faceted issues of PTSD. “Qi” is defined as the body’s natural energy or “life force/vital essence.” It is the fundamental energy in every biological cell. “Gong” refers to working with this energy through a series of simple movements that help regulate and balance the body’s energy systems.

Many of my clients come to me with no healing practice at all. It is my hope to encourage anyone suffering with PTSD symptoms to ground him/herself in a practice that includes the wisdom of the body and its healing capacities. Qigong combines both stillness and movement; it cultivates a soft focus on what is happening both internally and externally. Qigong has been referred to as moving meditation. Whatever the chosen form, be it qigong or a stand-alone meditation practice, it’s essential to train regularly and faithfully to maximize its potency.

Qigong can provide a beautiful foundation to restore a natural equilibrium, specifically for the nervous system. We humans seem to be at our best when we are able to cope and react to life circumstances from a safe and centered place. When a person doesn’t have this foundation, it has to be rebuilt with patience and deep compassion. As a therapist and teacher, I offer tools that build on each other, layer by layer, enabling a person to gain a sense of resiliency and capacity in coping with internal reactions as well as external stressors.

Qigong can provide fertile ground for someone to experience what it feels like to be relaxed in the body and mind. This in turn fosters a sense of being more deeply connected to oneself, to others and to one’s environment. I’ve been privileged to witness my clients gain a sense of peace and calm from practicing these simple and profound tools.

The above article expresses the opinions of the author and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of other members of the Women’s Therapy Referral Service.