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Qigong centers Yumans physically, mentally
Joy Olson, 69, smoked three packs of cigarettes daily for 53 years. She quit smoking but not before suffering the consequences: shortness of breath and stamina.
But she's found something that is helping her regain her lung power. It's called qigong, an activity similar to tai chi.
Qigong is Chinese for “energy work.” It combines gentle movements, breathing, concentration and visualization “to obtain and maintain a healthy body, mind, spirit and emotional energy.”
Olson has been taking a class taught by Juda May at the Schechert Family Aquatics and Fitness Center in the Foothills. Not only has it helped with her breathing, it's helping in other ways, too.
“Seniors lose a lot of balance. Qigong brings that back to us. It keeps us from falling. It's very graceful, slow, smooth. Anyone, regardless of age, can do it,” Olson noted.
Another qigong student, Char Denser, 63, appreciates gaining better balance. “I am challenged in the balance department. I lose my balance easily. Qigong, for me, is strengthening my sense of balance, my legs, and in general, I'm feeling stronger.”
Although the movements are slow, Denser noted that qigong makes her stronger. This slow movement is what caught Pat Burley's attention when she saw a demonstration.
“What impressed me is the strength and gentle flowing movements,” Burley, 64, said.
Qigong has helped her slow down. “For one, it's slowed me down and taught me to move all day more gently and more gracefully. It gets me out of that mode of being in a hurry all the time.”
After undergoing knee surgery, the gentle movements of qigong helped Margarita Flores, 62, keep active without strenuous exercise.
“It's brought me better balance and physical health after my knee surgery. It's also given me a positive outlook,” Flores said.
“It brings focus into my mind and helps my day go a lot better,” Susan Wood, 56, said.
These women along with their instructor will share the healing and health benefits of qigong with a special celebration Saturday for World Tai Chi and Qigong Day. From 10–11:30 a.m. at the Foothills Library, participants will have the opportunity to learn and practice simple qigong movements.
They will also have the opportunity to enjoy a presentation of the “gentle and beautiful” movements of the White Crane Healing Form. The motto of World Tai Chi and Qigong Day is “One World, One Breath.”
“It is a global health and healing wave that happens annually. Tens of thousands in hundreds of cities in over 70 nations will come together and breathe together to provide the world a healing image of our planet and our people,” May said.
The event begins in the earliest time zones of New Zealand at 10 a.m., and then participants across Oceania, Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and South America will take part in 60 nations and several hundred cities, ending in the last time zone of Hawaii almost an entire day later.
World Tai Chi and Qigong Day events have been recognized by the United Nations World Health Organization for participation in the UNWHO's “Move for Health” movement, May said.
May, 68, and her husband Daniel Wallace are full-time RVers with a home base in Yuma. The former nurse and massage therapist has been practicing qigong for 17 years.
“I felt it was a way of focusing on health and bringing health into my body, instead of focusing on illness and aging,” she said, adding that it also helped her reduce stress.
She's had “wonderful” teachers, ranging from young men in their 30s to a woman in her 90s. She also trained with a group of soldiers.
“The beauty of it is, I could practice qigong with these powerful young men. Yet we had different philosophies. They were more into martial arts, I was more into the healing arts.”
May became a certified instructor five years ago. “I wanted something I could take with me my entire life. I realized with qigong I would always have something to share with others.”
She has taught in Texas, Utah, California and Arizona. “Everywhere I go I find people who embrace qigong.”
At the Schechert Family Aquatics and Fitness Center in the Foothills, she is teaching the class every Tuesday and Thursday from 10:30-11:30 a.m. until July 10. The drop-in cost is $5 per class.
Tuesday's class focuses on breathing and building up strength. “The philosophy is that until you can stand for an hour, you don't have the strength to begin to move,” May said.
Thursday's class focuses on the “White Crane” 28 movements.
She thanked Laurie Boone, Foothills librarian, and Stacy Jones, fitness manager, “for taking a chance on me when no one had heard of qigong.”
For more information, email May at email@example.com or call Stacy Jones, fitness center manager, 345-0321.
Mara Knaub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.