Ancient healing art of Qigong takes root in the Caribbean
In early March, award-winning author Gleaner contributor and wellness therapist Glenville Ashby conducted a two-day qigong workshop in Valsayn, Trinidad, his second in as many months. Qigong, which means 'life energy cultivation' is one of the pillars of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and dates back to approximately 5,000 BC. Based on the premise that blocked energy in the body causes physiological, physical, and psychological discomfort and diseases Qigong, through its gentle, fluid movements, controlled breathing, visualisation, and postures aims to unblock this stagnation and restore health.
In some quarters, this art form is known as moving meditation and is sometimes mistaken for tai chi.
At the opening of his presentation, Dr Ashby explained the difference between the two systems, stressing that while tai chi is fundamentally a form of martial arts, qigong was originally created as a medical practice, not unlike acupuncture, Tui Na, and Chinese herbalism.
He referred to qigong as the grandmother of Traditional Chinese Medicine because of its detailed study of the body's meridians, circulation, organs, and energy centres in maintaining good health and longevity.
On the first day of the workshop, participants learnt about the body's natural curative prowess and practised Taoist healing sounds that strengthen the organs.
They performed standing meditation to relieve stress and fortify the muscles, joints, and bones. Participants were also introduced to the Eight Brocades of Silk, one of the oldest qigong exercises (comprising of eight movements) that was created by Chinese folk hero General Yue Fei, and a Taoist priest, to combat the prevalence of physical illness among soldiers during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
These gentle exercises, known for fortifying the immune system, can be performed in a standing or seated position.
The first day of the workshop ended with a 'fire intensity qigong' routine to strengthen the heart muscle, and an overview of Pangu Shengong, an exercise created by Master Oui Wen Wei. Pangu Shengong is characterised by swirling hand movements and the opening mantra: 'Take Kindness and benevolence as basis; take frankness and friendliness to heart' and is renowned for successfully combating a host of chronic illnesses.
Today, there are thousands of practitioners of Pangu Shengong in Asia. One attractive aspect of this form is its convenience. It can be performed in standing, seated, or prone positions (if the practitioner's mobility is severely compromised).
Ashby then led a segment of cosmic dancing, as he emphasised the importance of fluidity and rhythm in performing some aspects of qigong. Well-tailored movement, he said, promotes spatial awareness, creativity and intuition.
The final day featured the microcosmic Qi meditation, and the introduction to Guo Lin Qigong, a qigong that is specifically tailored to addressing cancer. This qigong is currently used in university hospitals in China and is rapidly being adopted in the West as a complimentary modality in the treatment of cancer. Its success is well documented.
Many cancer survivors joined this last phase of the workshop and performed the unique 'fixed foot' walk, accompanied by specific breathing patterns and hand movements.
Ashby chronicled the life of Guo Lin, a qigong master who was born in 1909. In 1949, she underwent a hysterectomy for uterine cancer. By 1965, she had undergone six surgeries.
Unable to fully eradicate the disease, medical practitioners capitulated, signalling her death knell. Given a few months to live, she approached her grandfather, a Taoist priest and qigong practitioner. It was a fortuitous move that resulted in the creation of the Guo Lin Anti-Cancer Walk, a body of work that demands at least 40 minutes of daily practice.
Guo Lin, cancer free, went on to live another two decades.
Ashby stated that while this particular qigong is suited for cancer patients, it is used to combat other diseases and should be ideally performed outdoors, near water and trees.
He also advised that it should be performed several times a day, depending on the severity of the illness. He stressed the importance of confidence, determination, and a spirit of joyful expectation when performing this exercise.
With its double inhalation and single exhalation, practitioners are fully oxygenising the body. Arguably, Guo Lin Qigong with its unique breathing technique, is medically supported.
Dr Keith Scott-Mumby's article, The Cancer Oxygen Connection: Oxygen to Kill Cancer , was cited at the workshop. Regarding cancer cells, Dr Scott-Mumby stated: "[They] are not like any other cells in the human body. The way they metabolise and create energy for living and multiplication is unique and dangerous. Normal cells love oxygen, but cancer cells do not they prefer glucose (sugar)."
Ashby also discussed nutrition and cancer, including the Budwig Protocol, obesity, the ketogenic diet, and vegetarianism. He later fielded questions from the group. In this lively interactive segment, participants openly shared their experiences.
Handouts and complimentary books on qigong written by Ashby were later distributed.
Of her two-day workshop experience, Primawattee Ramsubick said "The knowledge shared was amazing and should be shared with everyone. It is positive and healthy."
Patricia Tikasingh, president of SMARA Cancer Support Group, also commented on the workshop's wealth of information.
"It was so much more than a learning exercise," she noted. "It improved my balance, decreased my stress level, and boosted my energy. Moreover, it opened a pathway to spirituality I never knew existed."
Echoing the sentiments of every participant, Dr Robin Rajcoomar said that the workshop "exceeded our expectations and more".
Ashby has expressed his intentions of establishing a Caribbean Qigong Association and has since created a distance learning programme for participants to further their understanding and practise of this ancient healing art.
- Glenville Ashby can be reached at email@example.com