The language of the soul: Qi Gong Yoga helps people with aphasia

Interview with Margit Hieronymi, physical therapist and yoga instructor


Gaining relaxation, vitality, and serenity from the flow of Qi energy – Qi Gong Yoga can teach you how. A joint Qi Gong Yoga experience helps people with aphasia and their family members to increase their joy, contentment, and self-confidence. Interested trade fair visitors were able to find out how this works at the REHACARE Forum.


Image: Margit Hieronymi; Copyright: beta-web/Höpfner

Margit Hieronymi at the Market place brain at REHACARE; © beta-web/Höpfner

Margit Hieronymi is a physical therapist and yoga instructor from Cologne, Germany. spoke with her about Qi Gong Yoga and its positive effects on aphasia patients.

Hieronymi, why are Qi Gong and Yoga so well suited for people with aphasia?

Margit Hieronymi: Since Qi Gong and Yoga consist of many exercises that can be performed while lying down, sitting, standing or walking, it is recommended for everyone, regardless of whether you are healthy, sick or disabled.

Based on my years of experience with Chinese and Indian medicine, the combination of Qi Gong and Yoga I apply unites the mutual directions of the different exercises into a suitable method of support for people with aphasia and their family members.

Qi Gong Yoga is easy to learn and practice but very effective. Qi Gong Yoga activates the latent powers of your body and strengthens the body, mind, and soul. My years of experience have shown me that Qi Gong Yoga restores the dynamic balance between the Ying and Yang; not only does this mean a balance between physical and neural functions that are affected in people with aphasia but the breathing and movement exercises also have an effect on inner well-being. This is an important aspect for patients with aphasia, as the different exercises cause them to be more relaxed while they improve concentration.

What exactly is the effect of the specific body positions and breathing exercises?

Hieronymi: Qi Gong Yoga stimulates the flow of life energy through the twelve meridians or seven chakras. Since both the body and the language of people with aphasia are impaired, it is essential to promote new possibilities of self-expressions with Qi Gong Yoga for example. The partially graceful yet also powerful movements can build a new sense of self-confidence.

Oftentimes, aphasia is accompanied by hemiparesis. That means, these patients are only able to move one leg and one arm for instance. Thanks to Qi Gong Yoga, the energy gates of the immobile side are also activated, even if you can only exercise one side of the body. The positive effect is in supplying the diseased part of the body with new energy. Apart from the conception and governing vessels in the middle of the body, all meridians come in pairs and work together. This also applies to the energy chakras in yoga teachings since they are located along the body’s longitudinal (vertical) axis and energy flow can also be stimulated with movement on one side only.

It’s always important that we learn together to take the respective limitations in stride, to offer help without being patronizing and to have a sense of humor.

Image: ; Copyright: beta-web/Höpfner

Patients and family members learn the exercises together; © beta-web/Höpfner

Patients and family members perform the exercises together. Why is this so important?

Hieronymi: For people with aphasia and their family members, one objective of Qi Gong Yoga is for all to benefit from a joint experience of internal contentment, joy, and solidarity. Qi Gong Yoga teaches participants to feel comfortable and at home as well as strong and alive in their bodies. Since people with aphasia have more or less lost the ability to express themselves using language, the joint expression with Qi Gong Yoga can create an additional means to communicate. In doing so, something that was lost due to illness can be revived and strengthened in another way.

Another aspect of practicing together is for family members to be able to motivate patients with aphasia at home and repeat forgotten exercises. This has a lot to do with appreciation and empathy, provides a feeling of safety and builds a trusting environment. I always notice how both sides benefit from this. The exercises are motivating and are not only stimulating people with aphasia but also their companions. They too take a step back from their caretaking responsibilities and everyday stress and do something good for themselves at the same time. They also learn that it’s not important to do the exercises perfectly. The main idea is to have fun and get up the nerve to participate in the experience.

How widespread is the knowledge of the benefits of Qi Gong and Yoga among the affected persons?

Hieronymi: Sadly, Qi Gong and Yoga, as well as the combination of both, are currently only represented in a few self-help groups in Bonn and Speyer for instance. Last year was the first time I conducted seminars on Qi Gong Yoga during the Würzburger Aphasie-Tage (Aphasia Convention). I conduct respective seminars in my office in the south part of Cologne.

Why should this particular subject be a part of REHACARE?

Hieronymi: Like many of my colleagues, I also take a holistic approach in my work with people with disabilities. Based on my experience, more and more people want to perceive and experience their bodies as a whole in terms of body, soul, and spirit. Qi Gong Yoga is one option and also a chance for people with disabilities and their family members to improve their participation in their own life and in a group. I also believe that a holistic view of human beings will play an increasing role at the REHACARE trade fair and in health care in general.

Leonie Höpfner