By Alyssa McFarland
I’ve struggled with back pain since my early twenties. It has shifted from place to place since then, most recently taking up residence between my left shoulder-blade and spine, like a little ball of “something stuck.” I have been to three different chiropractors, four different physical therapists, two different acupuncturists and countless massage therapists. I’ve been given painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs that didn’t help. I’ve even been cupped (an old-time remedy still used by practitioners of Chinese medicine). All of these treatments helped in some way, but I grew tired of seeing my calendar fill up with appointments to various healthcare professionals.
I knew I needed to exercise and get stronger, especially to stave off osteoporosis, but every time I’d try to seriously exercise, I’d end up hurting myself at some point. Injuries led to more appointments! I knew I’d hit a wall when I asked my doctor if there was some way to simply “fix” me he said, basically, “No. All you can do is manage the pain.”
That’s when I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I’m not sure what drew me to qigong originally but about twenty minutes into the DVD, Qigong Beginning Practice, I found myself reaching for the sky during one of the moves, and tears of joy fell. I just knew this was it. This was the thing that would pull me out of my morass and help me help myself.
“I found myself reaching for the sky during one of the moves…I just knew this was it.”
Qigong (pronounced “chee-gung”) is a Chinese word meaning “life energy cultivation.” It is a vital force or energy that flows through our bodies and through the world around us. With various qigong exercises, you align breath with movement and mental focus to gather, focus, and channel that energy. In my case, the various shoulder exercises of Wuji Qigong (one of the many styles) helped loosen that ball of stuck energy that had settled next to my left shoulder-blade. At last I was free of it!
Currently I’m taking Karin Collins’ class “Essential Tai Chi & Qigong” at the Greenwood Senior Center on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. It’s been great to continue and to evolve my practice with a teacher’s help, while enjoying the camaraderie of my fellow classmates.