Qigong for fertility – a specialist’s Q&A

Emma Harpham and Sarah Manning  |   26 Nov 2023

You might not have heard of qigong before, unless perhaps you’ve been to see a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner. Breathwork and the Wim Hof Breathing Method are both pretty popular right now, and whilst they incorporate conscious breath in similar ways, their intentions are very different to that of qigong.

If you’re looking to incorporate holistic fertility support that also boosts whole-body health, it turns out that qigong (pronounced “chee-gong”) is one of the most powerful practices out there – here’s why.

Spotlighting qigong for fertility

We’re back partnering with Sarah Manning, certified yoga instructor with Thrive, an online Fertility Wellness program that seamlessly brings yoga, Ayurvedic nutrition, and relaxation techniques together with a clinically tested approach to preconception planning.

Sarah is an expert in supporting female health through her nurturing fertility qigong yoga practice. If you’re a complete beginner, start by reading her 101 piece on yoga for fertility here

In this piece, Sarah will answer all of the key questions around qigong for fertility, including;

  • What qi and qigong actually are
  • How qigong for fertility works
  • How it can improve your chances of conceiving
  • Ways to holistically support qigong fertility practice

Over to Sarah.

qigong practice

What is qigong, really? 

First things first – qigong is a traditional Chinese practice of martial arts and self-healing, with the intention to generate, move and store qi by breathing, movement and mindful practices. 

Qi is our vital energy, and it takes many forms in our bodies. We can measure it as ‘potential difference’ which makes things happen, and governs all of our internal processes – from a cellular level to whole body.

What do we mean by qi?

There are two kinds of qi;

  • Jing – you inherit this at conception
  • Qi – you constantly draw this in from your environment 

You can think of qi being stored in your body like a bank account. You spend qi to repair and rebuild the body and carry out important processes (think digesting food, menstruating, respiration, blood circulation, hormones and brain, reproduction, protection, and movement), as well as during interactions outside the body.

When your bank of qi gets depleted, this impacts all your internal processes. An example of this is if you’re regularly heavily exercising, or fasting and dieting a lot, your periods might stop.

Our job in qigong practice is to keep that bank account as positive as we possibly can!

Qigong practice has three key pillars

This looks like a combination of conscious breath, physical movements, and mental concentration.

  1. The key pillar is conscious breath, the driver to create qi. By changing the way we breathe (focusing on the inbreath, pause, exhalation and pause) we can increase the generation of qi.
  2. Movement supports the generation of qi. In qigong practice, this can look like slow movement of limbs, or focusing on specific stances and muscular locks in the body.
  3. We can move and store qi using our concentration. This concentration is known as yi. The Chinese saying “Yi tao, qi tao” roughly translates to where the concentration goes – energy follows!

Want to learn more about how qigong works? Watch this next: Qigong for women – 3 things to know, before getting started

What about qigong for fertility? How does it work?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, illnesses can occur when your free flow of qi is in excess, or depleted. And this goes for fertility problems, too.

Imagine that qi is rain falling on a mountain. There are areas where the water collects and becomes streams, and then rivers. According to qigong practice, the connective tissue that is everywhere in your body (you’ve even got connective tissue in your cells!) is what constitutes the ‘meridians’ that carry the flow of qi.

collagen spiral qi

Zooming in – your connective tissue is made up of collagen strands in a triple helix formation. When three triple helixes combine, microfibrils are created, which are laid down in the direction of stress. The way these fibres are arranged creates a semi-crystalline structure – one where energy can travel more easily in one direction than the other. Think of these like the streams and rivers on your mountain!

Qigong for fertility is an effective tool for ensuring that there is no stagnation or depletion, and that qi is flowing freely – without adequate qi the body cannot function, cannot heal and will resist fertility. Qigong positively impacts the body’s key control systems that impact fertility the most. These are the HPO (hypothalamic-pituitary- ovarian) Axis, the HPT (hypothalamic- pituitary thyroid) Axis and the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary- Adrenal) Axis.

Can fertility qigong improve my chances of conceiving?

Qigong for fertility helps to support conception through;

  • Diaphragmatic breathing – this stimulates your vagus nerve for a switch to the parasympathetic system – letting the body to come to rest and restore.
  • Generation of qi – which promotes whole-body vitality and health. This is vital as large amounts of ATP (energy within the cell) are needed for our immature eggs to mature, for a fertilised egg to grow, and for the fertilised egg to successfully implant.
  • Complete relaxation of the body – this is what’s needed for qigong to work effectively, plus what aids in releasing tension and stress when you’re on a fertility journey, helping you feel grounded and centred and more able to ride the waves of emotional hope and grief.
qigong for fertility

Can qigong for fertility help address specific reproductive health conditions?

Reproductive health conditions can occur as a result of blockage or stagnation of qi.

Normally, our bodies should be in a constant, balanced state of replacing old cells with new ones. Removing blockages lets the qi flow, and the body heal and repair appropriately in this way – which can help support fertility-impacting conditions like PCOS, fibroids and endometriosis.

Qigong also helps with pain management and resetting any hyper-sensitised pain response – which is a really great tool for supporting endometriosis in particular.

Are there any dietary or lifestyle recommendations that complement fertility qigong practice?

Integrating supportive lifestyle elements can significantly contribute to your journey with fertility qigong – as you’ll probably already know. Prioritizing healthy sleep habits, staying well-hydrated and eating a balanced diet, keeping an eye on your toxic load, minimizing exposure to harmful substances in your environment.

Further, tapping into your intuition, accessing your inner wisdom and aligning with what holds true for you can go hand in hand with qigong practice. Granting yourself the permission to pause in this way is so crucial for navigating a fertility journey.

Try qigong for fertility as part of your holistic support toolbox. Hop over to Thrive to book a fertility qigong yoga class with Sarah, and sign up to their virtual health hub, here to help you thrive physically, emotionally and mentally through your journey to conception.

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