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Friday, January 4, 2013

Mentally Fit in the New Year

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People often forget to exercise the most important part of their body, their brain. Valley resident Maria Elena Marcello has been practicing yoga, reiki, tai chi and kung fu for years and also teaches tai chi in the city of Imperial’s recreation department. She said these activities not only provide physical exercise but also mental exercise, helping with one’s cognitive abilities and preventing issues such as Alzheimer’s.
“The No. 1 sicknesses are produced by stress so you have to really try to calm down and calm your mind,” she said.

Marcello enjoys the kung fu for the cardio-aspect but makes sure to balance it out with the more relaxing activities such as yoga.

“It’s gentle movements and believe it or not, it strengthens your body, tones your muscles. You’ll lose weight and you enjoy it because it brings you peace,” she said. “Tai chi is a good beginning for anyone making a resolution to be healthier in the New Year. You have to balance hard exercises with soft exercises.”

She added that activities such as yoga and tai chi can be practiced by people of any age. "If you don’t want to try something like that, just go for a walk," Marcello said. "Just enjoy your surroundings, look at the trees, look at the flowers, just try to relax. You have to be trying to be healthy in all aspects of your life.

"Even if in office all day, one can take five to 10 minute to relax and mediate," she added. "Just close your eyes and relax your body, try not to focus on anything, your mind, and then continue with your work."

Ken Cohen is a worldwide renowned health educator, Qigong Master, practitioner of indigenous medicine, speaker and author. Qigong are ancient Chinese exercises, breathing techniques and meditations “used to create a full supply and smooth flow of Qi which means ‘life force,’” that serve as a complimentary medicine.

“Stagnation equals disease whether physical, mental or spiritual. We’re meant to be in a state of flow and connection,” Cohen said.

"While it’s not meant to cure every disease, it can be a powerful complimentary medicine to mainstream practices. If someone is in distress due to a relationship, life circumstances or more, then they are more likely to become ill," Cohen added.

“There’s no question that the mind communicates with the body,” he said. “If we can exercise more control over the mind, we can lessen the stresses that cause disease.”
It’s important to remember that while focusing on mental health is key, it doesn’t take the place of the physical exercise. “Some people make the mistake of thinking ‘I’m doing tai chi and don’t need to do more,’” he said. “We want both the external strength but we also want internal, or metabolic, strength.”

When taking personal control of one’s responses to outside influences, such as pollution and its corresponding breathing health issues, Qigong can be particularly beneficial.

“To the extent that you can’t control the external environmental, it becomes more important to control the internal environment,” Cohen said.

Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or cadami@ivpressonline.com