Qigong: The ancient way | January 9, 2009 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Living - January 9, 2009

Qigong: The ancient way

Learn to de-stress, mentally and physically, at one-day workshop

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Breathing. Walking. They seem so basic but most of us don't do them properly, and our lives will be greatly improved if we learn the right way. So says Emilio Gonzalez, who will be teaching a Qigong for Health Workshop for the Town of Danville next month. Qigong is pronounced chee-gong.

"Most people breathe shallow, in the chest. I show abdominal breathing," Gonzalez explained. "For many people it is difficult the first time around. If they catch on, they will be supplying their body with three times as much oxygen."

"Those trained, like singers and swimmers and athletes, breathe correctly," he added. "An infant in a crib breathes correctly."

The workshop also will teach the correct way to walk. Older women, especially, have walked too many years in high heels and tend to walk on the balls of their feet, he said.

"Feet are our connection to the earth," Gonzalez noted. "We actually walk in a circle in class, to show how to place the foot. I've seen a dramatic difference."

He will be leading the workshop with Alamo resident Bob Kipper, who has built up a following for his T'ai Chi Ch'uan classes at the Danville Community Center. Gonzalez and Kipper are both senior students under Grand Master Tung Kai Ying, and have taught this workshop in Danville before.

In Kipper's T'ai Chi class, the students goes through an entire slow sequence of movements together, which uses every muscle group in the body. It is rooted in traditional Chinese medicine and improves circulation and balance, plus helps relax and strengthen the nervous system.

"T'ai Chi is the martial arts part of Qigong," explained Gonzalez. "'Qi' is energy; 'gong' is work or effort."

"What I like about Qigong as opposed to T'ai Chi is that it is accessible on the very first class," he continued. "You don't have to come to class for six to eight months to learn the sequence. From the first class, you learn the benefits of Qigong."

The Qigong for Health Workshop is being held Feb. 7, and it will teach the nine postures of Tiger Mountain Tai Chi/Qigong. It also will feature the Six Healing Sounds, which Gonzalez said are probably the oldest form of Qigong known; descriptions of them were found on scrolls that were 5,000 years old.

"Somehow the Chinese discovered that by making certain sounds that resonate with your internal organs, each one targets a different organ," he said. "Chinese medicine is all centered around the internal organs, working with where the basic stuff is stored." Chinese traditional medicine includes Qigong, acupuncture, herbs and massage, he explained.

He enthusiastically remembered the harmony of 20-30 people making the Six Healing Sounds in the last workshop in the Danville Community Center. "It harmonizes the room," he said. "I encourage all students to try it alone at home. Some get really hooked on it."

"The Six Healing Sounds give you a lot of energy," he added. "Don't do it late at night because it would be hard to sleep. It's great to do in the afternoon."

Gonzalez discovered Qigong by accident. He lived down the street from a T'ai Chi/Qigong studio in Southern California when he attended UCLA in the early '70s. He embraced the practice although, knowing he had to earn a living, he also continued on to USC for an MBA.

He credits Qigong with keeping him healthy after being diagnosed HIV-positive in 1985. At that time he was living in San Francisco and began teaching Qigong at the International Center.

"It was before there was hope for HIV," he recalled. "We had very large classes, men and women with HIV." He credits his longevity to Qigong, T'ai Chi, traditional Chinese medicine as well as getting plenty of rest and eating good food.

He now teaches one or two classes per week in Occidental, where he lives, and many of his students are recovering from or coping with illnesses.

"I have a lot of cancer survivors," he said. "They network with each other, go hiking or go for coffee. My personal opinion is that this is almost as important as the exercise - making a connection with other people with similar problems."

"Qigong is designed to done sitting down for people in wheelchairs, even lying done," he said. He charges $5 per class, or $1 for people with a chronic illness.

"I started doing this to give back to the community," he said.

He said most people benefit from Qigong because it helps with stress.

"We live pretty highly stressed lives," he said. "Come to class for one hour and we're pretty quiet, we concentrate on breathing, we do simple movements."

Next month's workshop will be from 10:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a break for lunch. The instructors will give handouts to help students practice what they have learned - fuller breathing, more grounded walking and so much more.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

What: Qigong for Health Workshop

Who: Emilio Gonzales and Bob Kipper

When: 10:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m., 2-4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 7

Cost: $50 for Danville residents; $60 for non-residents

To sign up: Call 314-3400 or visit www.ci.danville.ca.us

Other: Bob Kipper's T'ai Chi Ch'uan class begins a new session Jan. 13. For details, see the town's Winter 2009 Activity Guide.