The Power of “Qi”
By Candice Montalvo
Americans are perpetually bombarded with information about our health and well-being. We know the dangers of obesity and smoking and we are aware of the benefits of a good diet and exercise. But when was the last time you assessed the status of your “qi”?
Qi, or life energy, is not something that will show up on the bathroom scale or on a nutrition label. The classification of qi is hard to pin down, but it is essentially an internal, flowing energy, which can be heightened or hindered by the way we treat our bodies. Traditional Chinese medicinal and martial arts practices believe that qi is the fundamental component to health and longevity. These principles assert that illness is caused by blocked or unbalanced qi and can be alleviated by rebalancing the flow of qi.
The good news is, harnessing the power of your qi is easy! Or at least, it’s a lot easier than training for a marathon or exercising restraint when faced with the plethora of baked goods accompanying the holidays.
Last Sunday, I participated in Donald Wong’s qigong class, held at the Nam Pai Academy in Chinatown. The practice of qigong focuses on slow, controlled breathing combined with various postures and with an emphasis on mindfulness. Mr. Wong is a state representative for the Massachusetts House of Representatives, but to his students, his is known simply as Wong Sifu. Mr. Wong whole-heartedly believes in the power of qi to relieve, and even cure, illnesses.
“We open up blockage. Where qi can go, blood will follow,” said Wong, pointing to the health benefits of improved circulation.
I joined his small but dedicated class of qigong students in an effort to learn how to tap into my inner qi. In practical terms, the class was an hour of standing still, breathing, and occasionally changing postures, which is much more difficult than it sounds! I lost track of the number of times Wong Sifu instructed me to relax. Who knew it was possible to be bad at breathing and standing? It took about twenty minutes of one-on-one attention before I could genuinely relax and just let my qi flow. The result was a relaxing and stress-reducing exercise, which left me feeling refreshed and happy.
Qigong was originally practiced as a complement to other martial arts, such as tai chi or kung fu, but its main attraction to students today is its power to heal. Rather than reaching for the ibuprofen, qigong offers an alternative, natural solution to aches and pains—both physical and mental.
Although scientific studies on the benefits of qigong are inconclusive, the personal testimonials of Wong Sifu’s students make convincing arguments. Each of the students had their own reasons for practicing qigong—from thyroid issues, to leg pain, to general malaise—yet they all found relief through their weekly practice of qigong and, specifically, from the healing power of Wong Sifu. One student remarked, “Qigong helps us with discomfort. [Wong Sifu] helps
us to help ourselves.”
Wong Sifu added, “The main thing is people are getting healthier.”