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  • Writer's picturePatrick Foley

Yoga and Qigong for Health: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

MDPI - Paula Boaventura et al. - July 3 2022
 


Abstract

Yoga and qigong are ancient mind–body practices used in the East for thousands of years to promote inner peace and mental clarity. Both share breathing techniques and slow movements and are being used as alternative/complementary approaches to the management of disease, especially chronic problems with no effective conventional treatments. However, information comparing the health benefits of both approaches is scarce, and the choice between yoga or qigong practice may only depend on patients’ preferences or practice availability. The aim of the present paper was to overview yoga and qigong use for health benefits under different pathological conditions. Yoga and qigong seem to have similar effects, which might be expected, since both are similar mind–body approaches with the same concept of vital life-force energy and the practice of meditative movements. Problematic research issues within the literature on yoga and qigong are the small sample sizes, use of different styles, significant variance in practice duration and frequency, short duration of intervention effects, and the usage of a non-active control group, thus emphasizing the need for further high-quality randomized trials. Studies comparing yoga and qigong are warranted in order to assess differences/similarities between the two approaches for health benefits.


Methods

We performed a literature search in PubMed using the words “yoga”, “qigong”, or “yoga and qigong” and included studies published before May 2021. We focused our analysis on the “yoga and qigong” search, which retrieved 145 studies, since this was the focus of our paper. We excluded all case reports and mainly included systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses of randomized control trials (RCTs). Since it was not possible to approach all of the pathologies studied, we decided to include the ones that were more commonly considered in the literature reviewed. We also used articles addressing the characteristics of yoga and qigong users.


Relevant websites, including those of specialists in yoga and qigong, were also included in the search to obtain general information on yoga and qigong practices and for comparisons between the two techniques—information that could not be obtained from the papers retrieved from PubMed.


Conclusions

Summing up, yoga and qigong have resulted from thousands of years of experience in using mind–body practices to treat diseases, promote health and longevity, improve fighting skills, and achieve different levels of development of awareness and spirituality.


Yoga and qigong seem to have similar effects; this may be expected, since both are comparable mind–body approaches. There are many similarities between them, and their overall purpose is the same, even though the way in which they achieve it may be slightly different. In general, they have been used for similar health conditions, even though more research has been conducted on yoga in comparison with qigong. Moreover, for yoga, most trials have been conducted on relatively younger healthy participants across India and the United States, while for qigong, most trials have been conducted with relatively older ill people in China and the United States.


Participants’ preferences between yoga and qigong apparently differ, but this is probably due to the lower availability of qigong classes and the comparative lack of knowledge about qigong.


Studies comparing yoga and qigong (such as those proposed in the previous section) are warranted in order to assess differences/similarities between the two approaches in the health context. As far as we know, such studies have not been published to date, but are certainly needed.

 
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