(September 3, 2016) Hear the audio version

A year ago I had a scary heart incident, called Takotsubo, that landed me in the ICU. Thankfully, I recovered with no long-term damage. Because Takotsubos are thought to be stress-induced, my cardiologist encouraged me to learn to manage stress.

I began by taking the eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course, which got me to start meditating. I discovered I’m not very good at silent meditation. I think too much. Yet I stayed with it, and for the first time in three years, I didn’t get a migraine two days after Christmas. Hmm. So I took another class at the hospital: Mindful Qigong. That practice has changed my life.

I’ve known about tai chi, the martial arts form of qigong, for quite a while. I used to see old people stand in poses in the oak grove outside my office on Friday afternoons. In qigong, we move as we focus on our breathing. I may have failed to finish three yoga classes in the past year, but qigong I can do. The exercises are slow and rhythmic, and have been used for thousands of years in China to preserve and restore health. My mind is quiet when I practice qigong. Nothing matters. It’s awesome.

So now I am one of those silly looking old(er) people. I drive 25 miles to get to class at the rec center by 9:00 Saturday mornings. My fellow students and I follow along as Marcy, or Sadao, leads us in a series of simple movements that both relax and energize. For me it’s like acupuncture without needles. And I can do it myself!

Every evening before bed, I follow a qigong YouTube video or DVD for 15 minutes. That’s all it takes. I’ll also stand up and swing my arms between innings at a Giants game, or in an airport lounge. I’m not shy. My heart is back to normal, I sleep better, and I have migraines under control.

Stress? Thanks to qigong, I’m getting better at it.

With a Perspective, I’m Debbie Duncan.