A new study has highlighted the benefits of Falun Gong meditation exercises. The study shows that practising Falun Gong meditation (Falun Dafa) improves cognitive abilities and emotional processing.
It is well established that there are many benefits of meditation.
Today, meditation and yoga are the two fasting rising alternative health practices in the world. People are seeking solutions to the too-busy lifestyle of the 21st Century.
Only a few decades ago people considered meditation a cult. But thanks to scientific research, we now know how beneficial it is. And because of this, people are constantly seeking new meditation techniques to practice.
One form of meditation many people have never experienced is Falun Gong meditation.
Traditionally, Falun Gong exercises were devised as a way of spiritual ascendance through a combination of exercises and meditation. Falun Gong encompasses a moral rectitude that is centred on Truthfulness (Zhen), Compassion (Shan) and Forbearance (Ren). Developing these mental traits is a key part of Falun Gong.
There are two main pieces of training in Falun Gong.
Firstly, the refinement of character through the development of virtues, including giving up desires and attachments, similar to in Buddhism. Practitioners develop compassion, truth and tolerance and remove negative thoughts and behaviours, like fighting, greed, and ideas of personal profit.
The second part is through physical exercise.
The 5 Falun Gong Meditations And Exercises
As well as the moral development that we looked at above, Falun Gong includes four exercises that are done standing and one seated meditation.
Exercise 1: Buddha Stretching a Thousand Arms: This series of exercises is used to open the meridians and to let energy flow freely.
Exercise 2: Falun Standing Stance: This involves four static poses that resemble holding a wheel for an extended time. This is like the Taoist meditation Zhan Zhuang. We use this to enhance wisdom and increase strength.
Exercise 3: Penetrating the Cosmic Extremes: A series of three exercises. We use these to release negative energy and absorb positive energy.
Exercise 4: Falun Cosmic Orbit: This is done to circulate energy through the body.
Exercise 5: Falun Gong Meditation (“Reinforcing Supernatural Powers”): This is a meditation that is held for as long as possible.
Traditional Benefits of Falun Gong Meditation Exercise [and Those Proven by New Research]
Traditionally, experts said that Falun Gong will develop moral character and create a number of “shentong”. These are supernatural abilities such as telepathy and divine insight. We develop these through the trinity of moral development, exercise and meditation. Many of these “supernatural abilities” are psychic [READ: Meditation for Psychic Powers].
Until recently, there had been very little scientific research into the benefits of Falun Gong and its meditation practices.
Today, however, new research was published from the journal Brain and Cognition. Researchers have provided strong evidence that there are indeed many benefits of Falun Gong and its meditation exercises.
Ben Bendig, Ph.D., and a team of researchers were fascinated in the effects of Falun Gong meditation for several reasons. First, Falun Gong became extremely popular very quickly when it was first released to the public in China in 1992. By 1999, there were an estimated 70 million to 100 million practitioners across China.
Bendig was also interested in the supposed benefits of Falun Gong exercises. Reported benefits included clarity of thought and improved health.
In 1998, the Chinese government surveyed Falun Gong practitioners and found that 98% of the 31,000 people surveyed experienced significant health improvements quickly after practice. 90% of the people who were surveyed had an illness prior to beginning Falun Gong, and 70% claimed that the practice had cured their illness.
Many people believe, understandably so, that these claimed benefits were exaggerated. But there was no scientific research to prove it either way. Bendig wanted to change that.
Bendig had successfully used Falun Gong exercises to cure depression and chronic pain. But other than his own personal experience he couldn’t scientifically validate these benefits.
“Obviously there was a personal interest,” he said, “but primarily it was because it’s such a popular qigong practice, and very little research has been done on it.”
Mental Health Benefits
It would be impossible to research all the claimed benefits of Falun Gong. So Bendig decided to focus on the mental health aspects. In particular, he was interested in studying the long-term psychological effects of the practice.
Researchers took two groups, one group had at least two years experience with Falun Gong exercises, The other group had no experience and so were taught the exercises. Both groups were given cognitive tests before the study. The groups were tested again, later, after a 90-minute Falun Gong session.
Bendig states, “Practitioners showed improved cognition, particularly for conditions that required coordination of both hemispheres of the brain. They had a huge improvement after meditating for dealing with this inter-hemispheric character that the novices did not improve.”
One of the most observable benefits of Falun Gong meditation, the researchers said, was a boost in emotional processing. Unlike most other forms of exercise, Falun Gong is gentle and slow. Some of the specific postures and held for long periods of time. And the eyes remain closed while Chinese meditation music is played in the background. It is a very relaxing experience.
Falun Gong meditation itself is about focusing on being clear-minded, as opposed to focusing on a meditation object or on the breath (the more common form of meditation). This trains the mind to be able to enter a “quiet spot” to connect with inner peace.
Bendig’s study adds to the growing amount of evidence that shows that meditation improves emotional control.
If you have been struggling to get into meditation, or you’re looking for a new way to meditate, Falun Gong seems to be a great option. Why not try this method in your next meditation session, and see what benefits you experience from it?