I never seem to be in step with the current trends. I was practicing yoga over thirty years ago at a time when no one had even heard the word, and my friends wondered if I had joined some weird cult or religion. Now there are half a dozen places you can find yoga classes on any given day right here on the Boothbay Peninsula. It is exciting and satisfying to me that yoga has gained such popularity, and yet here I am talking about Qigong. I can’t tell you how often I get the question, “Qigong…is that like Tai Chi?”
As much as I still love Yoga, I have a real passion for Qigong and a belief that there will come a time when it is as popular and practiced as yoga is now. I picture hundreds of us on the Maine shoreline building our energy and stamina for the day through our Qigong practice.
Let me tell you a bit about Qigong. It is the oldest of the Chinese healing arts, reaching back over 5,000 years. It is the precursor to all the other Chinese healing and martial arts such as T’ai Chi, Aikido, Kung Fu, Karate and other martial arts that have gained popularity in the United States in the past twenty years. Qigong can be thought of as meditation with movement; an energy workout for the body and mind.
There are thousands of recognized forms of Qigong. Although they each have differences, they all contain the basic elements of posture, breath, and gentle movement. The Chinese have learned that to improve health you must improve the flow of energy/chi or qi in the body. Energy imbalance is believed to be the cause of most major illness. Qi is energy and gong is work, so Qigong is energy work. Qigong teaches us how to harness these energies to bring balance and harmony to our own physical bodies.
Although I have been a student and teacher of mind/body medicine for more than 30 years, my introduction to Qigong has been more recent. A Qigong master traveled to Peru with us and led us in Qigong exercises each morning, resulting in our ability to connect to and harness the extraordinary energies available from the surrounding mountains. When I returned home, I continued the exercises and noticed many changes in my body such as an increase in my metabolism, (enabling me to lose twenty pounds) and a knot in my neck that I thought had become a permanent resident dissolved.
My interest piqued when I watched a documentary showing qigong practitioners gathering and using powerful energy from the universe to chop blocks of wood with their bare hands. It was suggested that this same powerful energy is available to everyone for healing ourselves and others. The film went on to profile some well-known qigong masters such as: Master Lu a ninety-two-year-old female Qigong Master living in Beijing. She still operates and works eight hours a day at a Qigong Healing Clinic that treats over 80 people a day. Hearing her interviewed you think that she is a young sixty-year-old. Master Duan, a ninety-year-old Qigong Master also living in Beijing practices qigong for an hour or more a day and then goes to the park to teach and spar with other masters half his age. Watching this documentary, I become intrigued with the abilities of these elders and their enthusiasm and spirit captured my imagination. This is the way I would prefer to spend my “golden years”; healthy, active, and healing others.
Think about the prevailing mentality about aging in our society. There are always exceptions to the norm, but in general in our culture we assume that by the age of eighty (if we make it to that age) we will be slowing down to a crawl, probably suffering from at least one major ailment, heavily indebted to the drug companies for the myriad of medications that are holding us together and it would be considered quite unusual for us to think about still participating in a full time career.
Today teams of Western trained physicians have found conclusive evidence for the effects of Qigong in treating hypertension and believe it can heal most illnesses including cancer. A study of more than sixty cancer terminal patients that were given anywhere from six months to six years to live have outlived their diagnosis by more than ten years by doing nothing more that practicing qigong for a minimum of one hour a day. There is also much to be said for the healing power of combining Chinese Qigong with western medicine to achieve the best results for patients.
I think we have a choice and an opportunity to change the prevailing statistics. Fortunately for us Qigong is now available, and it is not only healthful it makes you feel great in a very short period. These exercises can be practiced by anyone no matter their physical ability (they can even be practiced sitting in a wheel chair).
I am offering a Qigong Workshop for beginners Saturday February 23rd at St. Columba’s Church, Boothbay Harbor, Maine from 10 -12. Contact Judy Milinowski firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-253-1738 for more information.
There will also be a QiGong / Stretch for Life class at St. Columba’s on Tuesday Mornings for the next 2 weeks from 8:30 – 10 AM.