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Feeling the Healing
Plug into the ancient Chinese technique of chi gong (also known as qi gong)

By Ann Marie McQueen, Ottawa Citizen

After expending energy all week long, Mike Carr figures it's worthwhile doing something on the weekend that helps him build it back up.

The 53-year-old retired Ottawa resident's answer is chi gong, an ancient component of traditional Chinese medicine. Carr explains the combination of movement, breathing and meditation helps "recharge those batteries that get discharged."

After all, those in the east believe it is qi, pronounced and often spelled "chi," that is our life force.

And so it only makes sense, explains Master Philip Lai, who teaches the community centre class that Carr regularly attends, to move and breathe in ways that cultivate it.

Lai, who has a background in kung fu, explains chi gong helps smooth and open the body's energy pathways connecting our internal organs.

"We can manipulate energy for healing purposes," said Lai.

Couple Practicing Qi Gong

Interest in the ancient practice of chi gong—a less intense form of tai chi—is about to explode, now that Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen have listed it as a must-do ingredient for longer life in their brand new book You: Staying Young. Though those in traditional Western medicine might find some of chi gong's more metaphysical claims controversial, Oz and Roizen have seized on it as a way for North Americans to build a valuable, stress-fighting, anti-aging mind-body connection.

As Oz explained on a recent episode of Oprah, meditation is one of the keys to keeping aging stressors at bay. But since it's difficult for a lot of people to sit silently and meditate—Oz himself admitted to having such trouble—the doctors recommend chi gong as a solid alternative.

During his class, Lai actually says "scoop a big handful of energy from the universe," as he instructs the class to move their hands in a way that seems to be doing just that.

"It was really interesting, actually. It's hard to coordinate the breath," said Dianna, a 32-year-old government worker trying chi gong for the first time. "It's kind of like trying to juggle without anything in your hands."

Chi gong has been government-regulated in China for more than a decade and is part of that country's national health plan. It's gentle movements appear suitable for almost everyone, and practitioners claim some elements can even be performed by the bedridden. The practice doesn't take long—as little as 20 minutes per day—nor are classes expensive, compared to other mind-body practices like yoga.

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