Discovering Ancient Chinese Healing, ‘Qigong’ in San Francisco
Hi and welcome to the BAS Weekend Wellness Column! My name is Erynne Elkins and I’m a Well-Being Advocate and Certified Breathwork Facilitator. Every Friday I’ll share a holistic wellness modality available here in the Bay Area. Cheers to good health!
Finally…a wild goose chase that’s worth it
You can’t help but feel, see, and hear the excitement in the air these days as more and more people are out and about. And rightfully so as we all re-emerge from the restrictive clutches of COVID-19 here in the Bay Area. It’s remarkable how a 1700-year old practice continues to be even more relevant during these times of re-opening. Qigong (pronounced chee gung) is one of five arms of Chinese medicine: nutrition, meditation, herbs, acupuncture, and qigong.
“With all our focus on Covid this past year,” says San Francisco’s Qigong Teacher Rebecca Grossbard,”I think we may forget that there are and always will be other bugs that can challenge our health. We haven’t eliminated disease. Fortunately, in addition to modern medicine, our bodies have an amazing capacity for self-healing. Qigong can help strengthen our natural internal healing resources. In Chinese medicine it is thought that there are two sources of illness – energy deficiency or energy stagnation. The practice of Qigong uses movement, breath, meditation, and self-applied massage to help us relax, gather more energy, break up stagnation, and facilitate the movement of energy through the body to optimize health, cultivate vitality and build health resiliency. As we return to our ’normal’ lives, we can’t continue to live in fear. The practice of Qigong can help us become less fearful, more resilient and more empowered to take charge of our own health.”
Rebecca discovered Qigong while dealing with her own health challenges. Still struggling for answers and treatment from doctors along with seeking relief from various, alternative modalities, she discovered Qigong. She loved the movements, but more importantly the immediate benefits she experienced from the practice. Eventually diagnosed with lyme disease and treated with western medicine, she attributes the practice of Qigong to ultimately enabling her to fully heal and return to her active lifestyle. She was inspired to learn more about this powerful practice and studied with a number of Qigong and Tai Chi masters, eventually becoming a certified Qigong instructor. “Learning Qigong was a silver lining to my health challenges. The dramatic improvements in my own health sparked my desire to share Qigong with others,” she remarks.
“Qi means life force energy that exists in all things and Gong means to cultivate. So Qigong is a practice of energy cultivation. When we practice Qigong, we are harmonizing and balancing energy within ourselves and with everyone and everything else around us. When the mind and body are in a state of balance, all the body systems work better. The health benefits from Qigong come about both by supporting the body’s natural tendency to return to a balanced equilibrium and also by gently creating strength, flexibility, and balance in the muscles and joints through flowing movements,” Rebecca points out.
Rebecca incorporates a variety of Qigong styles in her teaching, with an emphasis on ‘Wild Goose’ Qigong. Thousands of years ago, Daoist monks combined what they understood about the movement of energy through pathways in the body with their observation of wild geese. They created this style of Qigong that emlulates the lovely and graceful movements of a wild goose.
Qigong however isn’t solely for those with challenging health conditions. While at work, Berkeley’s Judy Gillespie expressed to a co-worker that she needed some exercise. Her co-worker suggested Qigong. Judy’s class consisted of warmups and 64 Wild Goose movements. After letting go of comparing herself to others in class, she experienced a newfound freedom. “It was a lot of fun. I was slowly able to get into that mindset of exploring my own envelope,” Judy admits.
There’s also great flexibility with this practice. It’s beneficial for people of all ages. It can even be done sitting down. “When you’re practicing qigong, you are encouraging movement of this life force energy along meridians, the pathways that qi is thought to travel along. Qigong does boost the immune system and it’s preventative,” Judy encourages.
This ancient practice consists of a wonderful balance of power and grace. “I remind students that we’re working with the body that we have today. If you can’t quite reach your toes, that’s perfectly fine. You just send your energy that way,” Judy states.
“Qigong can be practiced anywhere at anytime. It requires no equipment. You don’t need to be fit, you don’t need to be flexible, you don’t even need to be able to stand up. The practices can be modified for anyone with patience who wants to learn. It’s wonderful to practice outdoors connecting directly with nature, but can equally be practiced indoors. Whereas it can take a lifetime to explore the full depth of these practices, you can actually start feeling the beneficial results almost immediately. The real magic happens when you start integrating Qigong into your life, throughout your day. By simply opening your arms and taking just one conscious breath at your desk you can reset your nervous system – and that is Qigong. It can become a part of everything you do and that’s the ultimate goal,” Rebecca advocates.
To mask or not to mask? How can one ease back into public, group settings if they want to explore qigong? “There’s no reason not to do it. Better to do it with a mask, than not to do it,” Rebecca adds. And seeing that the effects of Qigong are calming and relaxing, why not? This comprehensive wellness modality also reduces stress and helps one to feel good. What more could you ask?
*For more information about upcoming Qigong classes in the Bay Area, please contact: