“During my time at the temple, I witnessed amazing feats of Qigong. Seemingly impossible things that you only read about in books.”
Charley McBride is a Qigong instructor and iractitioner. She discovered a true connection with the practice in 2005 and experimented with different forms and teachers before going on to spend seven years in study with a 31st generation Shaolin monk, at a Temple in Houston, Texas.
Through her study at the temple, working with DaSifu Shi de Shan, McBride observed profoundly powerful evidence of our body’s energetic and bioelectric capabilities.
“Dasifu specialized in Iron Shirt Qigong. I’ve seen him move a minivan by placing the arrow tip of a spear in the base of his throat and the other end of the spear on the bumper of the van. (I’ve seen) he was also able to use his Qi to physically move people, without touching them.”
There are many forms of Qigong exercise. ‘Iron Shirt’ is a martial arts practice which uses posturing and mental focus to harness and direct our natural energy. This heightened physical endurance protects localized areas of the body from impact, during a fight.
But one needn’t spend years in study, or extreme conditions, to benefit from its therapeutic aspects.
Qigong is also a very gentle form of physical movement and breath control, with a relationship to Tai Chi. It is comprised of repeated gestures and stretches which increase the circulation of blood, synovial and lymph fluid in the body. ‘Qigong’ is composed of the words ‘Life Force’ and ‘Work’; it builds an awareness of our physicality and the energy behind our movement through space. It is a system of self-care concerned with body system synchronization and regulation of our Qi.
Moving us away from dis-ease, Qigong brings the mind and body into balance and releases trapped emotions – harmonizing us physically, energetically, and spiritually.
McBride, says the discipline can be broken down into three categories of practice: Medical, Martial and Spiritual. The practice involves clearing out old, stagnant energy while building and storing healthy energy. Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) prescribe certain exercises for various health conditions and Western Medicine has found Qigong especially beneficial to those with fibromyalgia and Parkinson ’s disease.
In addition to being highly therapeutic as a calming and energizing tool, McBride has found it dramatically effective in reducing her own flare-ups from arthritis. She also uses it before doing physical work outdoors, to reduce risk of strain.
After her term of study at the Shaolin Temple, McBride became a facilitator in the Integrative Medicine Department at a Houston-area hospital. She worked alongside the physicians taking part in weekly rounds and leading Qigong classes for both patients and their caregivers.
“Many people comment that they always sleep well after practice. Generally, they seem calmer and lighter after a class. I have seen people become stronger and balance improves. Stress reduction is a major benefit. I know it to be a gentle and accessible mind/body practice for people who have physical limitations, an aversion to exercise, or just want to try something different. I have also taught in nursing homes.”
While Qigong can be a journey of self-discovery it has far wider reaching concepts in its philosophy.
“It’s not all about the individual. Qigong is concerned with you being in balance within your environment. Much of qigong is based on studying nature, so, I have a better understanding of how seasons, places, people, food, etc. affect me. I also enjoy discovering what I can learn from watching a bird fly, or fight, or watching the endless cycle of a wave.”