Discover the benefits of this ancient Chinese healing practice
Story by Becca Edwards
Did you know you can push up the heavens, separate the clouds and move mountains from 11 a.m. to noon every Saturday at Jarvis Creek Park? The Hilton Head Island Qigong Practice Group leads a Qigong session there, as well as at the All Saints Episcopal Church Mondays and Thursdays from 9-10 a.m. (Note: The classes at Jarvis Creek are free, and masks are optional. The classes at All Saints are $2, and masks are required.)
Qigong (pronounced chee gong) is an ancient Chinese health-care system that was developed before the written word in Chinese monasteries, hospitals and imperial courts. “Qigong integrates movements, breathing techniques, focused attention and self-applied massages,” said local Qigong leader Colon Chambers, Jr. “Qigong means cultivating or working with energy and is practiced for good health, increased vitality, relaxation and inner peace.”
Chambers began practicing Qigong in 2010. “A friend told my wife about the classes, and my wife said, ‘He’ll love it,’ and I did. I enjoyed it so much I started teaching it.” Since becoming a student and a teacher of Qigong, Chambers says he has noticed positive changes in his overall physical health. “I was overweight, but Qigong helped.” Plus, Chambers said, “I used to have problems twisting to the side. It was painful but cleared up with Qigong. Since doing Qigong, I have less overall pain and more mobility.”
As for the mental and spiritual aspects of Qigong, Chambers said, “A lot of people do not know how to meditate or relax. My family always talked about praying, and I had a problem with that. But with meditation you are not asking for help or for someone to save you. You’re connecting with your inner self to help you deal with life. Qigong is very powerful and will help you relax your mind.”
Because Qigong activates the acupuncture points and meridians, it is often referred to as “acupuncture without needles.” Qigong is also believed to:
• Reduce stress
• Strengthen the immune system
• Increase energy
• Improve flexibility and balance
• Improve respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular and lymphatic functions.
One misconception about Qigong is that it is too “New Age-y” or is for people “who are out there.” “There’s no voodoo. No rituals,” Chambers said. “It is a 360-degree approach to the space around us, to our body and to mind consciousness.” Qigong is for all ages and stages of fitness. “Qigong’s great appeal is that anyone can benefit from practicing it, from the very young to the very old. The movements are easy to learn. They can be performed standing, sitting or lying down and can be adapted for physical limitations. No special equipment, clothing or practice areas are required,” he said.
“Numerous studies indicate that more than 80 percent of all disease is caused by stress and, therefore, preventable,” Chambers said. Qigong, which can be done anytime, anywhere by anyone is a proven method for reducing stress, strengthening the immune system and activating the “healer within.” Chambers said you can incorporate Qigong into your daily routine; he gives the following tips to making it a way of life:
• Remember to take a deep breath and then a few more. Filling and emptying the lungs has an immediate, positive effect on health.
• Practice mindfulness, experiencing life as it happens, moment by moment and living in the “now.”
• Use self-applied massage to increase blood and lymph flow and to activate acupuncture points in the hands, ears and feet.
• Remember to stretch and relax.
• Practice the inner and outer smile, which produces endorphins.
• Tap the body and bounce or shake to raise energy.
• Practice modified forms of “The Flow” and other movements.
• Align and relax the body, deepening the breath and quieting the mind.
• Use visualization or guided imagery to relax.
• Practice Qigong lying in bed, as you begin and end the day.
• Take responsibility for your well-being.
For additional information or to find an instructor in the area, Chambers recommends contacting The Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi at www.IIQTC.org or emailing Chambers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Our Qigong group is very inclusive and is very close, like a family,” Chambers said. “We invite anyone to join us, and we often go out for coffee afterward to share things and help each other.