Depression, anxiety, trauma and Qigong


As this month is officially designated as “Mental Health Month”, it seems appropriate to address the issue of trauma and anxiety and the efficacy of Qigong practices in working with these issues. The obvious question is, “Is Qigong effective in helping people who are suffering like this?” The answer is a definite “yes”!

However, safety is the very first priority with all students. So, as we look at how Yuan Qigong and Ren Xue can be beneficial to people dealing with trauma, post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, etc., we need to understand where the practices are very helpful and supporting and under which conditions they may not be suitable. Under no circumstances does Ren Xue advocate these practices as alternatives to western medicine. We do, however, see Ren Xue as a life development system that utilizes Qigong and other meditative practices to work side by side with western medicine when that is called for. In this way, Yuan Qigong can also be incredibly helpful for people dealing with traumatic life events.

Qigong for cancer patients

The diagnosis of a life-threatening illness like cancer can be a very intense trauma for anyone. Fear, anger, self-doubt, and even self-blame, depression, and isolation are not uncommon and the anxiety produced by visits to doctors for tests, scans, etc., are for many people extremely stressful, even traumatizing in themselves.

However, the quiet, gentle, flowing movements of Tian Yuan, the first method of Yuan Qigong are integrated with the mind as thoughts are directed to drawing calming and healing Qi and “information” back into the body. These consistently positive and relaxing thoughts and experiences work to calm the mind and body, which will, in turn, allow the body’s natural immune system to work more efficiently and to do what it was built to do – heal the body. If chemo, radiation, or surgery are involved, the “information” is aimed at supporting the healing properties of this particular medical intervention. If existential doubt is present, these forms and this philosophy directly address how to change the experience of the practitioner.

Trauma and Qigong

If there is a history of unresolved trauma or serious psychiatric instability, where flashbacks or other forms of destabilization can be easily triggered, a few of the methods of the Ren Xue system need to be approached with great care and very possibly avoided altogether. The movement of Qi and the use of the mind in these forms are very powerful and for safety reasons are not suitable to be practiced under certain conditions.

In cases where there is a history of abuse or life-threatening experiences, the practices can be tailored to the particular needs of the student. Keeping the eyes open during practices, private sessions, taking particular parts of a method, and having a student just do only this are some of the ways that Yuan Qigong can be adjusted to the needs of students. Even taking a break from formal practice altogether must be an option. Flexibility and honesty on the part of the practitioners and teachers are key.

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The REN XUE Mental Health Advisory Team

Ren Xue International has established a professional Mental Health Team to help support both teachers and students around the world. An international group of trained therapists and doctors who were part of the six years Yuan Qigong teachers’ training are available to offer support and guidelines for students as issues arise. In addition, all Yuan Qigong teachers are trained to help spot difficulties as they may arise with students and the Mental Health Team will support every individual situation.

Loneliness, depression and Qigong

For many people, however, where there is no particular catalyzing painful event or history, a sense of isolation, self-doubt, and discomfort with life is not uncommon, especially with current events and Covid. In Ren Xue, the focus of the mind combined with the movements directly support a sense of connection, health, compassion, and purpose in one’s life, helping to alleviate the existential doubt that is so common these days.

We Ren Xue teachers encourage students to be totally honest with themselves about their mental state, to ask for help when they need it, and to directly address their struggles and the emotional and behavioral patterns at the root of these struggles. Ren Xue is a holistic life cultivation system addressing the root causes of problems on all levels of life, including mental health problems. Safety always comes first and is seriously considered in all the practices that are taught. When all is said and done, Ren Xue is really all about Mental Health and the personal development of being capable to live a healthy and balanced life. Enjoy your daily Qigong routine!

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About The Author


Bill McMillan

California, USA
I am a retired Marriage and Family Therapist with over twenty years experience working with adults, adolescents, couples and Veterans, with a general focus on trauma, grief and recovery. I have had a long standing Buddhist practice and bring all of this experience to my teaching of Yuan Gong and Ren Xue.

I have completed Level Six and have been teaching in various settings for many years now. My primary focus has been teaching classes to Cancer survivors and family members, but have also taught in many other settings, including to high school students, veterans, Seniors and the general public. I am currently teaching three classes in Santa Barbara - The Breast Cancer Resource Center, Casa Dorinda Retirement Community, and a class for family members, caregivers and others living with a chronic illness.

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