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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Qigong in the News

'Yoga standing up' routine provides physical, mental benefits
Excerpts from The Springfield News-Sun (Ohio)
Original Article by Robin McMacken, Staff Writer

May marks Exercise is Medicine Month, an initiative by the American College of Sports Medicine, and Diana Sebaly, 71, can testify regular workouts have not only lowered her blood pressure to the point where she doesn’t need to take medication anymore but also were key to losing weight. The Oakwood resident works out with a personal trainer four times a week, focusing on cardiovascular exercise and strength training, and she also practices Qigong (pronounced chee gung) weekly with Sharon Trekell, director of the Inner Well Institute in Kettering. Sebaly says “qigong is a marvelous way of strengthening and building balance in a calm and controlled way.”

Qigong, which, like Tai Chi, is often referred to as yoga standing up, combines movement, postural alignment, breathing and mental focus to balance and enhance energy, according to Trekell, who is a certified integral Qigong and Tai Chi instructor. Sebaly, who has had both knees replaced, says her doctor is “delighted” with her overall health. “Qigong is so slow, and it’s a wonderful pick-me-up to do in the afternoons. I feel energized,” she said.

Dana Penn, 57, of Washington Twp. turns to Qigong, which she started in January with Trekell, for its calming effects. “I started Qigong to help me with stress, basically,” she said, adding her job as a business analyst for a software company was particularly demanding.  She also does yoga at Inner Dance Yoga Studio in Oakwood twice a week. She practices Qigong daily for 20 to 25 minutes before breakfast and attends Trekell’s class every Tuesday night at the Church of the Cross United Methodist in Kettering. “I think Qigong is so powerful. I am just in love with it,” she added. “I get a lot of peace from it. I miss it when I don’t do it. ... It’s a different type of movement than yoga, and it challenges the body and the mind in different ways.”

According to the National Qigong Association, Qigong is an ancient Chinese health care system that can be classified as martial, medical or spiritual. Some practices increase the qi (energy); others circulate it, use it to cleanse and heal the body, store it, or emit qi to help heal others. Practices vary from the soft styles such as Tai Chi, according to the association, to the external, vigorous styles, such as Kung Fu. However, the gentle movements of most Qigong forms, of which there are 5,000, according to Trekell, can be easily adapted for all age groups and fitness levels.

Trekell began studying Qigong while she was working on her graduate degree in the early 1990s, and she, too, was looking for a way to ease the pressures of daily life. “It’s a wonderful contemplative practice that keeps you in state of equanimity,” she said. “I just don’t get ruffled much. It’s very grounding and centering. ... Qigong is fabulous for increasing vitality and longevity. We have an extraordinary medicine, called qi, in ourselves, and if we can circulate that, we will have optimal health and stress relief.”

Mary McDonald, 70, of Yellow Springs, cites Qigong as instrumental in helping lower her blood pressure, to the point where she doesn’t need to take medications, and lose weight. With regular Qigong and yoga, McDonald said “my energy level is sufficient for my age, and I am a lot more attuned to my body and what it needs and wants.”

“Qigong in the U.S. is parallel to yoga, in the sense that people want something to feel more alive in their bodies and to be able to calm themselves from the overstimulating qualities of our culture,” said  her instructor, Brad Fraley.

Penn encourages people to consider Qigong as one way to get active. “You have to experience it, and you need to go in with an open mind. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like it’s very much physically, but it is very powerful. It’s not easy to do; the more I do it, the more I am able to focus inward and be very mindful of the movements and what their purposes are. “I am just happy I discovered Qigong,” Penn said. “I am glad I was led to where I am. It’s been a wonderful experience, and I can’t imagine not having in my life.”