Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Lynette Takekawa has been participating in Luk Chun Bond's Sunday class for two months to help with shoulder and lower back pain.

Unlocking Chi

The ancient technique
coordinating breath and slow
motions can promote better health

By Nancy Arcayna

If you want to reduce stress, increase energy and relieve some physical pain, take a deep breath and practice a few slow movements.

Luk Chun Bond learned from his father at a very young age that "if you heal one, you heal the world." He is now a third-generation chi kung practitioner, who teaches free classes every Sunday and Monday morning at Kapiolani Park. Fifty to 100 students gather at classes each week to try to find ways to maintain their youthful flexibility, feel better, stronger and possibly ward off disease.

"My father and grandfather (both herbal medicine doctors in China) taught me chi kung when I was only 6. We are messengers and are meant to share the skills and techniques."

Chi kung combines deep-breathing techniques with slow-movement exercises. The word chi (qi) is used to describe breath and the internal energy. Kung (gong) means work, achievement or self-discipline.

Bond, at left, instructs his chi kung class with the help of a megaphone.

Some chi kung exercises are primarily breath-oriented, some are very quiet and meditative, while others are utilized for stretching and limbering. Although the movements seem to require no energy, for serious practitioners, the results are amazing. "It's not just a slow dance, it's good exercise," Bond said, and his students seem to embody chi kung's positive effects:

Joe Kim, 89, has been practicing chi kung for almost two years. At first, unable to stand for long stretches without a cane, he began performing the exercises while sitting down. Today, he is able to toss his cane aside and stand while keeping pace with the rest of the group. "I'm getting more limber," he said, chuckling. "But I'm getting kinda old. I'm the oldest in the group."

"Everyone who comes here has some sort of ailment," said Janet Taniguchi, another student. "And if they don't have ailments, the exercises can prevent them. My blood pressure went from 160 over 80 to 130 over 76 just from doing the exercise and watching what I eat."

Eugene Ching, another student, suffered two strokes and had diabetes and high blood pressure when he started taking Bond's classes. "My doctor gave me pills, but now he told me I don't need to take them anymore. The classes teach us how to do tai chi, which is more than 6,000 years old, and, most important, how to breathe and the proper foods to eat."

Joe Kim, 89, has attended Luk Chun Bond's class for almost two years which improved his mobility to the point where he can stand without the support of a cane.

Before Syndy Soucy started taking classes, she could barely walk up a few steps. She was asthmatic and was experiencing borderline emphysema. The deep breathing practiced in chi kung "really strengthened my lungs," she said. "I would walk up one step at a time and be out of breath. It was difficult to walk a block. Now I walk everywhere and have lost 30 pounds."

The biggest miracle occurred, she said, when the elevator was broken at her workplace and she climbed the stairs to the 21st floor.

Danny Tangalin, a physical therapist, recommends chi kung for clients who have problems with tension and flexibility. "This is a relaxing tpe of exercise that relieves tension," he said, adding the sense of accomplishment and that accompanies the exercise also gives a boost to individuals' morale."

FORTHOSEWHO find it difficult to stick to an exercise regimen or muster the energy for a workout, Bond assures, "The exercises are simple and require little energy."

The proof is in the number of senior citizens who are able to perform the routines. But chi kung is not just for the elderly. The young and active benefit by maintaining muscle flexibility and prevent injury when participating in sports or dance.

Tanya Ingrahm of Yoga Hawaii said, "Chi kung is very similar to yoga. You cleanse your body of toxins while stretching and squeezing muscles. It keeps the body working more efficiently. Even a beginner can feel a difference after only one class.

"It's really different than going to the gym where there are lots of distractions."

Chi kung and yoga calm the mind and help practitioners to focus on their bodies and what they are doing when they breathe and move.

"Self-awareness is being built," Ingrahm said. "It's even more important to maintain flexibility and well-being as you get older."

Try an exercise

The "vertical breathing" used in chi kung is an ancient technique of inhaling and exhaling to expand the diaphragm and increase lung capacity. The chest should remain still while the abdomen inflates and deflates. The exercise brings oxygen into the lungs and may be performed while standing, sitting or lying down. Use this technique with the following:

Rowing the Boat

This exercise may be done standing, or with a chair for support.

1. Face feet forward, shoulder-width apart, and close eyes.

2. Put one hand on your chest. The other hand should be placed over the abdomen, just below the navel.

3. Rest tongue against the roof of mouth. This stimulates the flow of body fluids.

4. Inhale through the nose, taking air all the way down to the abdomen.

5. Exhale through your nose. As you do, envision that your body is a boat being rowed, the oars moving with your breath.

6. Repeat steps one to six at least 11 times.

7. Incorporate step movements by placing one foot forward, bend the back knee allowing the body weight to rest on the back leg, and inhale.

8. Shift weight back and forth between legs.

10. Repeat at least 11 times, rocking forward and backward, breathing throughout the entire exercise. Keep movements slow and controlled.

Chi kung

Led by Luk Chun Bond

When: 9 to 10 a.m. Sundays and Mondays
Where: Kapiolani Park, corner of Paki Street and Kapiolani Boulevard
Admission: Free
Call: 922-2608
Also: Luk Chun Bond will be available to answer questions and sign his new publication, "The First 16 Secrets of Chi: Feng Shui for the Human Body," from noon to 1 p.m. Sunday at Borders Waikele. The introduction to chi kung includes dietary tips and student testimonials.

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