Ancient form of healing combats modern stress

Treats hypertension, boost immune system

Qigong, (pronounced chee-gong), is an ancient Chinese healing exercise that is part meditation, part movement, and part breathing. Embraced by the Chinese for thousands of years, it is now piquing the interest of Westerners interested in complementary therapies who wish to boost their immune system and promote health or treat a serious condition such as hypertension.

"Qigong helps people to relax and overcome serious conditions as well as prevent the risk of illness," says Effie Chow, PhD, RN, Dipl.Ac, founder and president of the East-West Academy of Healing Arts in San Francisco.

The theory behind the practice is that Qi, the vital life force, flows along channels, or meridians, throughout the body. When those meridians become blocked, Qi accumulates creating an imbalance in the body, which can result in illness. "Balance of Qi, vital life force, creates good health," says Chow.

The immune response seems to be enhanced when people practice Qigong, says Francesco Garri Garripoli, president of the Qigong Institute and Wuji Productions in Berkeley, CA. "When Qi, the vital energy in our body, becomes stagnant, organs shut down or don’t work at their optimal level," he explains. Qigong seems to make organs work well and the lymph system, which moves toxins from the body, more efficient.

"We promote Qigong as a self-healing technique that should be done on a daily or regular basis," he says. People can have incredible results by understanding the basic principle that is coordinated slow movement and deep breathing, as well as how energy moves throughout the body. While there are thousands of styles taught by the masters, it is the essential principle that ties them all together.

When practicing Qigong, a person will do conscious stretching exercises complemented by deep breathing and creative, mental visualizations to guide Qi through the meridians in the body. "There is an old saying, Where the mind goes, Qi follows.’ It is a simple idea. If you had a sore shoulder, for instance, you would use these exercises to move the Qi in and around your neck and shoulder area both with physical movements and visualization," explains Garripoli.

Videotapes are a good way to learn Qigong, but find a teacher, if possible, to fine-tune the techniques, advises Garripoli. When selecting a teacher or master, it is best for a person to explain what he or she wants to accomplish through Qigong and then to allow the teacher to offer a strategy on how that might be achieved. "I tell people not to get caught up in which Qigong is better than another but to see if it works for them. If it does it is a good form of Qigong, says Garripoli.

Ask for a teacher’s background including how long he or she has been practicing and where they trained, says Chow. If the teacher is being sought for a particular health problem, such as diabetes, ask what kind of success he or she has had with other clients who have that condition. Currently, there are no requirements for credentialing or licensing of Qigong teachers.

Attending group sessions works well for people seeking good health in general and is much less expensive than individual teaching. However, a teacher will employ all the traditional Chinese medicine techniques during an individual visit, which might include acupuncture, massage techniques, and prescribed herbs, says Garripoli.

While a teacher can enhance the benefits of Qigong many people learn and practice it from a videotape or book. What’s important to remember if a teacher is involved, is that Qigong is done with a client rather than to a client, says Chow. Also, Qigong works best if practiced daily at regular times. (For a list of teaching materials, see resource list, left.)

People at any age experiencing a chronic health problem or stress at emotional and physical levels may benefit from Qigong exercises. Qigong often enhances treatments for these health issues and is best used as a complement for other modalities, says Garripoli.

Sources and resources For more information about Qigong, contact:

Effie Chow, PhD, RN, President, East-West Academy of Healing Arts, 530 Bush St., Suite 202, San Francisco, CA 94108. Telephone: (415) 788-2227. E-mail: eastwestqi@aol.com. Web: www.eastwestqi.com .

Francesco Garri Garripoli, President, Qigong Institute and Wuji Productions, 561 Berkeley Ave., Menlo Park, CA 94025. Telephone: (650) 323-1221. E-mail: Francesco@wellring.com. Web: www.wujiproductions.com .

Resource materials from East-West Academy of Healing Arts:

Books.

Miracle Healing From China-Qigong by Charles McGee MD, Effie Poy Yew Chow, PhD, RN, Dipl.Ac. Overview of Qigong, introduction to the work of several Chinese masters, and step-by-step instruction. $15.95 plus shipping and handling.

Videotapes.

— "Chow Integrated Healing System, Vol. 1 — Qigong Exercises." $39.95 plus shipping and handling.

— "Chow Integrated Healing System Vol. 2 — Qi Pres-sure." $29.95 plus shipping and handling. To order, call (800) 825-2433 or visit www.eastwestqi.com.

Resource materials — Wuji Productions:

Books.

Qigong-Essence of the Healing Dance by Francesco Garri Garripoli. $12.95 plus shipping and handling.

Videotapes.

— "Qigong, Ancient Chinese Healing for the 21st Century." Video provides insight into Qigong through interviews with masters in China and Tibet. $24.95 plus shipping and handling.

— "Qigong, Energy Workouts for Body and Mind." Four Qigong forms designed for short workout sessions and Shaolin self-massage Qigong techniques. $19.95 plus shipping and handling.

— "Qigong — Energy Workouts for the Mind and Body." A comprehensive workout with the benefits
of each exercise clearly explained and Shaolin self-massage Qigong techniques. $19.95 plus shipping and handling. To order, call (800) 723-1927 or order on-line at www.wujiproductions.com.