Chinese technique Qigong may help with health, relaxation

Michelle Ratliff

With the end of the semester on the horizon, students may be feeling stressed with final projects and exam preparations. The ancient Chinese health technique Qigong may be exactly what students need to relax during this stressful time.

Qigong – pronounced chee-gung – is a technique for health and relaxation, which is also purported to help improve the practitioner’s overall outlook on life.

James Vary, professor of physics and astronomy, learned the technique from his wife and has been practicing Qigong for three years. He said the potential benefits are endless.

“It helps increase self confidence and concentration, as well as to decrease anxiety,” Vary said. “Students could really benefit from doing Qigong. It could help increase their ability to concentrate on their studies.”

The technique of Qigong is somewhat similar to yoga or tai chi, Vary said. It is most like yoga in its outward appearance, and the practice of tai chi actually was derived from Qigong.

“Qigong can appear to be similar to yoga, but Qigong does not focus on physical exercise,” Vary said. “It deals with breathing, meditation and relaxation.”

Yuhon Yang, associate professor of statistics, also was introduced to the technique by his wife, who is from China. He has been practicing Qigong for seven years, and said he has benefited greatly from the practice.

“I started as a graduate student at Yale,” he said. “It was a time in my life when I was stressed and anxious and needed something to help me relax and improve my concentration.”

The main idea of Qigong, Yang said, is to train the entire self to work in synchronization.

“The technique teaches your mind and body to move together in the right direction through proper breathing techniques, adjusting your posture and focusing on your mind and body together,” he said.

Vary and Yang both encouraged people to practice the technique as often as possible.

“It can be done individually or in a small or a large group,” Vary said, “but when you work in a group you get a collective effect. You all work together as a whole.”

Yang, adviser for the ISU Yan Xin Qigong club, said the group practices Qigong in the Memorial Union every Monday and Thursday night. Participants include undergraduate students, graduate students and several Ames residents, he said.

The results the group has seen from some of the people in the group are very dramatic, Yang said. “People suffering from years of pain have stopped suffering,” he said. “Others who have had allergies for several years no longer have them.”

One of the benefits Yang has gained through the practice is a reduction in sleeping time.

“I have so much more time to spend researching and teaching and on my personal relationships now,” he said.

Yang and Vary both encourage students to see what benefits they can gain from the practice.

“It can improve a student’s energy level, as well as help them to become more grounded,” Yang said. “Students should definitely learn the Qigong technique – at least give it a try.”

To learn more about the ISU Yan Xin Qigong club, visit