Qigong aims to help people balance energy

Published March 23, 2007

TOWN 'N COUNTRY - Cher Mercier was feeling out of sorts when menopause kicked in.

Today, she says, "I'm 51 and now I have the energy I had in my 20s."

Mercier's remedy was the ancient art of qigong, which combines exercises, breathing techniques and meditation. "It's a good way to balance your energy," she said.

Qigong pronounced chi-gong, comes from the word qi (or chi), which means life force. Gong means work, self-discipline, achievement or mastery.

Mercier is one of about a dozen students who takes part in a qigong class led by Dr. Yali Fan, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine.

The hourlong class at Fan's office on Webb Road is offered free at 7 p.m. on the first and third Thursday each month.

"We're here to improve our health," said Fan, who has practiced medicine in Town 'N Country for more than 20 years.

Students at a recent class, dressed in loose-fitting clothes and comfortable shoes, assumed a stance with feet slightly apart and knees softly bent.

They relaxed their shoulders, lifted their heads as if pulled upward by a marionette string and awaited instructions.

"Breathe through your nose and into your dantien, or stomach," Fan said as she led the class through the deliberate positions of Qigong, slow-motion movements with fanciful names such as "the crane," "the monkey" and "the tiger."

"Turn your attention inward," she continued as students followed a series of movements, some simple, some arduous.

"That was too much for me," Mercier said as she gave up on a movement that had students on their hands and knees doing a souped-up version of undulating pushups.

Most other movements were far less strenuous and called for the soft bending of the knees, a gentle twisting at the waist and the delicate bowing of the back.

"You're moving the chi around in your body," said Robert Wiseman, a 48-year-old civil engineer who lives in Lakeland and takes Qigong to maintain his health. "It's more of letting the body correct itself."

Jackie Ripley can be reached at ripley@sptimes.com or (813)269-5308.


. if you go

Qigong classes

Where: Dr. Fan's Town 'N Country office, 5905 Webb Road

When: 7 to 8 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of every month

Information: Call (813) 882-8373