HOLISTIC HEALTH Chinese practice has backers

The oriental discipline requires considerable time to perfect.
If you say energy healing to anyone familiar with the term, Reiki will probably pop into their mind. It is widely practiced throughout the world and is thousands of years old. However, Qigong, though lesser known, is another form of energy healing, and like Reiki, is practiced throughout the world and has a recorded history of 5,000 years. But that is where the similarities end.
Qi is the Chinese word for vital energy, life force, while gong means the practice or skill of working with self-discipline or achievement. While Reiki is basically practiced the same with everyone, there are hundreds of types of Qigong.
Reiki practitioners believe they are simply a channel for life energy to flow through them and into another, but Qigong practitioners gather energy from the earth and sky and draw it into their bodies, and believe they can then transfer it to another person. Reiki is a simple laying on of hands without much physical movement, but Qigong is a series of movements or gestures similar to tai chi.
Years of study
Qigong requires a sense of focus and intentional breathing, and unlike Reiki, which can be learned in a very short time, most types of Qigong require years of studying with a master to reach the highest levels of achievement. Qigong is also an important aspect of traditional Chinese medicine.
Xiao Bo Huang La Presta of Canfield is a trained practitioner of several types of Qigong, including tai chi Qigong. She was born in Shanghai, China, and is certified through the Chinese Traditional Medical Research Institute and has a bachelor's degree from the East China Normal University.
She has taught tai chi and Qigong at the Ursuline Center in Canfield, the Jewish Community Center in Liberty and in San Francisco and Denver. She also tutors Chinese language for the adult education program at YSU and is working with international business.
"When we have strong Qi flowing in the body, we have vitality," La Presta said. "If Qi is blocked, we get pain and disease. Circulating Qi keeps you in good health, and body functions are balanced. Practicing Qigong is good for chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and arthritis."
"In Qigong, breathing is purposeful and intentional, gentle and slow," La Presta explained. "Inhale through the nose, and exhale through the mouth."
Gestures used
Tai chi Qigong uses 18 steps or gestures. Some of the movements include making a rainbow, clearing the clouds, soaring like an eagle, and bouncing the ball. There is also a tai chi therapeutic Qigong, which consists of seven steps, such as "massaging the inner organs with Qi."
Another type of Qigong that La Presta practices is called Xiang, or scented Qigong.
"This one uses 17 gestures," La Presta said. "It is called scented because everybody sends out healthy energy, and it smells like flowers."
The movements are more energetic and repeated; gestures one through five, 16 times, and the rest, 36 times. For instance, in the "Golden Fish Tail," hands are in prayer position, but facing forward, then move to the right, then left, as a fish swimming.
As part of her Qigong practice, La Presta also recommends other important tips to maintaining health and vigor.
"Practice positive thinking, and be generous in mind," she said. "Or else you will block the flow of energy in and out. Try to get at least 30 minutes of natural sun each day, and facing the morning sun is especially important. Practice Qigong in the sunshine. Eat a balanced diet, and practice deep breathing, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Pay attention to your body and your posture. Sit up straight."
La Presta teaches another simple technique to keep healthy Qi flowing through the body, called inner smile.
By relaxing the eyes with an inner smile, imagine directing that smiling, positive energy down through three lines of your body. The first line is the face, heart, lungs and other outer organs. The middle line is the stomach, intestines and other inner organs. The back line is the vertebrae of the spine.
"If you have a pain or disease and keep thinking about the pain, it will only get worse," she said. "But if you smile to your organs, you send them positive energy. You should do this when you wake up in the morning and before you go to bed."
While videos and books are available to learn the Qigong movements, La Presta recommended studying with a master, to make certain you learn correctly.
XLaughing Crow is a practitioner of holistic healing. She may be reached at laughingcrow@neo.rr.com.

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