Free Qigong workshop this weekend designed to help veterans

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 | 11:41 a.m. CST; updated 9:24 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 15, 2013

COLUMBIA —A California-based Qigong master will teach veterans, family, friends and staff at Truman Veterans Hospital about the benefits of  Qigong at a free weekend-long workshop starting Friday.

Effie Chow, who is also an acupuncturist, nurse and the founder of East West Academy Healing Arts in San Francisco, is particularly hoping to help veterans with their physical and emotional pains through Qigong. About 11 to 20 out of 100 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

If you go

What: Chow Medical Qigong for Veterans

When: 7 to 9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Where: Second-floor auditorium at Truman Veterans Hospital, 800 Hospital Drive

Cost: Free, but registration is encouraged at

"Veterans feel very powerless right now," Chow said. "We don't just want to treat their pains. I want to teach them what to do, so that they can turn around and help another person, which gives them power."

Chow has been working to integrate Qigong with Western medicine for more than 40 years. She founded the East West Academy of Healing Arts in 1973, and then-President Bill Clinton appointed her to be on the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy in 2000. She has a doctoral degree in higher education and master's degrees in behavioral sciences and communication.

She gave an introductory workshop in Columbia back in May, which continued as a level one intensive course for four months from July to October at Rock Bridge Christian Church. Chow's students are now organizing this weekend's workshop.

What is Qigong?

"Qi is the life force, and Gong is the cultivation of that life force," Chow said."Qigong is a way of life, so body, mind and earth are integrating with the natural environment through breathing, exercising and having a right mind."

Qigong is often undervalued as "just another nice exercise," Chow said, but its gentle movements and breathing exercises can bring the most significant results.

One of the cosponsors of the workshop Mary Cruise, the founder of Columbia Tai Chi, coordinated the intensive course back in July. She said about 200 people came to the introductory workshop in May, and a group of about 25 people attended the intensive course.

Greg Busacker, 70, a veteran who has Parkinson's disease, attended Chow's Qigong workshops last year. He said his Qigong experience with Chow has been very positive.

"The best thing we've learned is how we can help each other through Qigong exercises," Busacker's wife, Carol Busacker, said. "My husband can now control his tremor, his handwriting is legible, and he doesn't shuffle anymore."

Leslie Barnes, a staff nurse at the Veterans Hospital, is one of Chow's level one graduate students. She took Chow's course because she wanted to bring Qigong classes to veterans as alternative healing arts and integrated health therapies.

"We wanted to reach veterans to help them learn how to dramatically improve their wellness and live life more abundantly," Barnes said.

Chow said stress plays a huge role in a variety of physical symptoms. Through breathing and meditation, she wants to help veterans focus on positive aspects of their lives.

"We deal with death and dying ... which is a big veterans' problem," she said. "Veterans with PTSD think about how people have died, and they hope they have died with them. I tell them the best way you can honor them is to live the best life you can and be happy."

Chow and her students are planning a second round of the intensive course in March. Barnes said she hopes that Qigong will eventually become an ongoing program at the hospital.

"Veterans have died for our country," Chow said. "Helping them through Qigong is the least I can do to honor them."

The workshops are primarily for veterans and their family and friends, but the general public is also welcome to attend. To honor the veterans, attendees are encouraged to wear something blue on Friday. 

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