Instructor Mike McElwee doing Tai Chi with students at Lee Newton Park. Tai Chi and Qigong are said to have many health benefits.
Fred Crimi was diagnosed with cancer before he began practicing Tai Chi or Qigong.
Now Crimi, like many students of the ancient Chinese practices, says that without including the eastern modalities into his treatment regimen his healing would not have progressed as satisfactorily.
Crimi had a metastatic tumor on his left frontal lobe, he suffered from aphasia, underwent full brain radiation, and later was diagnosed with lung cancer, but Crimi is now cancer free and feeling positive about his future.
“I’ve used a medical and nutritional program, physical exercise, and a spiritual program, but my discipline with Tai Chi and Qigong have gotten me to the level of healing I don’t think I would have otherwise found.”
Tai Chi and Qigong are mind-body practices that originated in China thousands of years ago and are becoming popular in the West. Many who practice Tai Chi and Qigong say they have heightened feelings of well-being and experience a myriad of other health related benefits.
Crimi, a psychotherapist who lives in Bent Tree with his wife, was directed to a local Tai Chi/Qigong teacher Mike McElwee during his cancer treatment and shouts praises for the positive results.
“From a physical reality, they made me stronger just by the movement,” Crimi said. “It’s given me more strength, more balance, more of a sense of security within myself. Spiritually, if you can do the exercises outside, it fills you up with energy from the earth. As far as healing, it opens up your channels of energy, so your body can heal yourself. It helps unlock the healing power we have in ourselves,” he said.
McElwee, who has been involved in martial arts since the early 70s and who has been teaching since 2005, says that while Tai Chi and Qigong are closely interrelated, there are major differences between the two.
Qigong is the Chinese practice of activating and circulating our bioelectric field, which the Chinese call “chi.” Qigong includes a wide range of practices that help the individual to develop control over their energy. It opens channels for energy flow with deep breathing and visualization techniques. These techniques are said to improve digestion, blood flow, and the efficiency of the organs and immune system.
“If I’m teaching Qigong, I’m teaching students how to become aware of their energy and their chi, so they can enhance it on their own and circulate it by intent,” McElwee said. “The other side is people ask, ‘Can you heal people with your energy?’ Yes, that’s high level, but yes.
“If you have blocked meridians, that is accompanied by disease,” he said. “If you have an injury, you will have blocked meridians. The first precept of Chinese medicine is open the meridians. Once that happens, blood flow can happen, and toxins are removed and true healing can begin.”
Tai Chi, which translates into Grand Ultimate Fist, is more of a martial art than a healing discipline, McElwee said. “It’s just evolved over time and lost its martial application and has become a health pursuit,” he said. “Most people know about the slowness of Tai Chi, and the whole reason for the slowness is that when you do the movements fast, they are flawless and blindingly fast, because you have gone over them so intently.
“But the thing with Tai Chi that sets is apart is that it meets everyone where they are, whereas Chinese Kung Fu doesn’t,” he said. “It has evolved into a practice meant to enhance one’s health. Tai Chi is open ended. You can continue with a Tai Chi form for your entire life,” he said.
McElwee, who first started his practice in Chinese martial arts through the Kung Fu style, says Tai Chi is a deeper element of the more externally physical Kung Fu, and Qigong is a deeper element of Tai Chi.
“As I practiced more, it soon became evident that Tai Chi was occurring inside Kung Fu, and Qigong was occurring inside of Tai Chi,” he said. “Qigong is the specific study and practice of enhancing one’s own chi and one’s own energy and bioelectricity. Kung Fu is very external, punching, kicking and making your body hard. As you continue to grow your skill, your awareness to sensitivity and energy also grow.”
McElwee said, after a period of training, a student will begin to understand Qigong concepts more. You will see that your internal body––your circulatory system, your organs––are to be exercised every bit as much as your external body, he said.
“Sooner or later, if you pursue it, you almost can’t not get to a point where you realize that the internal is as important,” he said. “I try to emphasize that this energy that we are is as important or more important than our humanity, and it certainly precedes this humanness and outlives it after the humanness is over. I try to live and be open, and certainly when I teach Qigong or Tai Chi I try to convey the energetic essence as being the center, even if it’s in a kick, a punch, whatever it is.”
“The energy is always the center, and you want to develop a sensitivity to the source of that energy,” he said. “If you can get accustomed to that idea, you can come from that place in anything, in running or talking. The ultimate goal is that it evolves into the way you operate all the time.”
Mike McElwee will be holding a lecture on Tai Chi and Qigong at the Natural Market Place on Main Street in Jasper this Saturday, June 23, at 11 a.m. You can sign up for the free lecture by calling 706-253-6933.
McElwee will begin a six-week Tai Chi course at the Pickens County Community Center at Roper Park beginning June 27.
For more information visit www.northgeorgiataichi.com.