December 2012

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live on the move Qi Gong Puts Meditation Into Motion By Ann Imig Years ago I read that humming to yourself can reduce stress. Much to the dismay of my children, I often utilize this self-sooth- ing technique by humming in the grocery store line or singing in the car. So it didn't surprise me to find myself blissfully relaxed after my first experience with "Qi Gong" [pronounced CHEE-GONG] the ancient art of meditation, movement and sound. Qi Gong combines visualization and slow, simple movements, coordinated with breathing and vocal resonance. The medical (as opposed to the martial or spiritual forms) Qi Gong that Colleen Lewis teaches at UW Sports Medicine fo- cuses on meridian flows, or the pathways that "Qi"—meaning life force—travels throughout the body. Upon entering the sunny conference room for Lewis' class, I felt welcomed by a calm, convivial atmosphere. After inviting students to "check-in" and inform her of any areas holding tension, Lewis led us through a body-inventory guided medi- tation. We then used our hands for a self- massage warm up, and began movement sequences incorporating visualization with breathing and resonant sound-making. As we got going, our movements were brought to life by ancient stories con- nected with our actions—like the hungry elder searching for food (a "swish" forag- ing movement with arms, accompanied by a shhhh sound), who then sees the a full moon and—mistaking it for a bowl of rice—tries to retrieve it (reaching up on an ohhh sound). When I asked Lewis how she found Qi Gong, she responded, "I failed sitting The Dish on Qi Gong The workout: Qi Gong involves easy, gentle movements (whether standing, sitting or reclining) and can be adjusted for varying abilities. It's great for improving balance, range- of-motion, endurance, lymphatic flow and overall fitness. 16 As a therapy: Not only a stress relieving, low-impact way to stay active, Qi Gong provides compli- mentary therapy for many ailments, including hypertension, stress, arthri- tis, pain management, depression and fatigue. Who will love it: Those who want to meditate but struggle with sitting still, or anyone looking for a gentle way to get their bodies moving will love the ease of Qi Gong. What to wear: Comfortable street clothes—footwear optional. Dress- ing in layers allows you to control your temperature as the practice progresses and warms the body. meditation," because she couldn't make herself sit still and relax at the same time. I, too, found that connecting imagery, sound, and breath helped me focus my infamous monkey mind, fond of yelling: "BENEIGTS! HOLLY HOBBY! CHECK YOUR MOLES!" when I sit in meditation. If you're too shy to hum to your Wood- man's cart, try this take-away from Lewis instead: Place the tip of your tongue behind your front teeth, inhale and imagine your breath and Qi coming up your backside from the center of the earth. As you exhale imagine Qi infusing you with energy from the heavens. Lewis describes it as "closing a switch for the orbits." I describe Qi Gong as a delightful way to dislodge my shoulders from my eardrums. BRAVA Magazine December 2012 Photo by Sarah Maughan

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