An Open Chest in Qigong Practice


Maintaining an open chest brings benefits far beyond just qigong practice

Awhile ago I published a blog post about how we learn to stand up properly in our qigong practice and why we place so much emphasis on that in Shaolin Wahnam. If you’ve ever been in one of my classes, you may have had me give a gentle touch on your shoulder and say, “open your chest”. This is absolutely one of the parts of standing upright and relaxed, but it bears a little extra teasing out in these times of screen staring and desk jobs.


A recent study published by researchers at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, took a group of participants with major depressive disorder and made half of them sit or stand in an upright attitude, with the head reaching up and the shoulders relaxed down. The other group was allowed to maintain or slouch their posture. Both groups were tasked with puzzles, problem solving, and giving a speech. It’s probably not going to surprise you that the group that reported a better mood, more resilience, and more confidence was the upright posture group.


Actually, some of the most effective patterns in Shaolin Wahnam Cosmos Qigong for treating depression are patterns that open up the chest, such as Separating Water and Dancing Butterfly and there’s a reason for this. Many of you have heard me speak of the correlation between grief and the lungs in Chinese medicine. As it happens, these two patterns help strengthen the lungs in addition to combatting depression.


Many people go about their day paying no attention to their posture at all. They slump, or tense, and by the time they get to me in the classroom or the clinic, they’ve developed neck and shoulder pain and/or are feeling pretty stressed out. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Over my years of training I’ve become much more aware of my posture, which has been a complete game-changer for me in terms of my own confidence and ability to interact with the world around me. In crowded spaces, I’ve experimented with walking slumped over and looking down as well as standing upright and walking with bright eyes and forward intention. It’s pretty impressive how people just naturally get out of the way when you walk with confidence. Take that little tidbit to Costco on any given Saturday and see if you don’t just get out of there 30 minutes faster than usual.

When you start your practice by standing upright and relaxed, really take that extra moment to see that you are in fact, upright. Is your intention upright as you stand? Are your shoulders down and relaxed with your hands at your sides? I mean really at your sides, not slightly at your sides. It’s okay if your chest feels like it’s being pulled open a bit, in fact that’s good. This is a great starting point for qigong practice.

While I could talk about how this posture helps bring more Qi flow to the chest (which it does!), I think what’s more important are the subtle changes this posture brings to the psyche. Over time, those subtle changes, coupled with increased mental clarity and a more powerful mind, help us navigate our way out of whatever mental challenge we’re battling-whether it’s anxiety, depression, timidity, lack of self-confidence, or just a generally negative attitude.


So take that time in your practice to see if you’re really upright. When you’re done, take that skill with you out into world: into the workplace, the car, the grocery store, wherever. Then watch the magic happen, bit by bit. Are you reading this and thinking you’re ready to get started? Find out more about our next 12-week session here.

    Affiliated with the Shaolin Wahnam Institute

           molly@shaolinwahnamtc.com