"What arthritis sufferers tend to do is get on their pain medication and sit still" observed Senior Circle Advisor Cory Houghton. "You have to move, you have to keep your blood circulating, because the more red blood cells you build up in your muscle tissue, the less pain you have. So we really want people to know that we have this program for arthritis sufferers."
The program to which Houghton refers is one that offers health and fitness benefits to virtually everyone including those who can't even begin to pronounce its name.
Literally translated, Qigong which sounds something like "Jee Gong" means "energy exercise." While it is one of the most powerful and demanding forms of exercise ever developed, it is also so simple and gentle anyone of any age and fitness can practice it.
Based on ancient studies of human energy, the Chinese developed Qigong as a way of stimulating and harmonizing the body's internal flow of "chi," or energy, according to the program's instructor, Penny Navis-Schmidt.
"Qigong is a moving meditation," explained Navis-Schmidt, who has been certified to teach the exercise since 1995. "The primary benefits it provides are increased flexibility, blood flow, circulation, balance and focus, and overall health maintenance."
Where most other forms of exercise concentrate on developing key muscle groups and strengthening the heart, lungs and cardiovascular system, Qigong can cleanse and strengthen all of the body's internal systems, including the immune system, Navis-Schmidt said.
"I may sound like a fish-oil salesman," Navis-Schmidt said, " but it really is that awesome. "
To the Chinese, chi is the fundamental force that sustains life. As the years pass, blockages in the flow of chi can result in our energy levels becoming depleted, leading to the development of a variety of mental and physical disorders.
Through the actions of chi flow, Qigong is used not only as a system for the maintenance and development of health, but also as a curative. It is for its healing abilities that Qigong is now drawing so much global attention.
Not only has it proven to be effective against a variety of common illnesses, Navis-Schmidt said, but it has also shown remarkable results in the treatment of a number of problems that have so far mystified both Western and traditional Chinese medicine, such as hypertension, some tumors and chronic disorders.
But the benefits are especially impressive in arthritis patients, Navis-Schmidt said, "in that you increase your movement and flexibility with no injury or pain to joints or muscles."
Although there are hundreds of forms, or "sets," of Qigong, including certain martial arts, the type Navis-Schmidt's students are learning is the same method employed in the pain-management classes of Kaiser Permanente in Colorado and California.
"It's also being recognized by many insurance companies as a viable method of pain management in the recovery of bone joint disease and illness," she said. "In my last Senior Circle class, several of the students talked about how they had seen a significant decrease of pain, an increase in flexibility, and how they did not have to rely so heavily on walking adjuncts."
"But the trick is practice. These aren't folks who just come to a class; they are people who really practice. That makes all the difference in the world."
The Senior Circle's Qigong classes are free to Senior Circle members, and are held Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 to 9:30 a.m at 215 N. Beeline Highway.
For more information, call 468-1012 or 474-8628.