When I was released from the hospital in 1996, it was after three months, and with a diagnosis of LAM (Lymphangioleiomyomatosis), a rare, progressive, untreatable and often fatal lung disease. I asked a friend who was well versed in alternative treatments what I should do for my health, and his response, immediate and emphatic, was â€œYou need to do qigong!â€
So I did. What started as an effort to do something proactive for my health turned into a life long passion and became an irreplaceable part of my life. I think one of the smartest things I ever did was to take an entire week course of breathing with Bruce Frantzis. One thing that is very clear when one really starts to lose their ability to breathe is how much we take breathing for granted. It may even seem like a silly thing to spend money on â€" an entire week learning how to breathe! But it is a subject that has a surprising amount of depth, and you learn quickly that many people have very poor breathing habits. To learn to breathe with the entirety of your lungs, not just the lower half of the lung as opposed to the chest, but with the sides and back of the lung as well, is something that can increase overall efficiency, something that is a must for people with progressive lung disease who want to maintain the best quality of life that they can. Not only will proper technique and practice affect your breathing, but it will spill over into areas such as stress reduction, pain reduction, and overall well being.
For me, a balance of breathing, meditation, and qigong has been the key to maximizing my quality of life with a lung disease. The slow, gentle movements of qigong give me a way to exercise when my body is unable to do any type of western exercise, for example when faced with chronic lung collapses or after a surgery. To progress in qigong means to go deeper into layers of your body, learning to become sensitive to and to manipulate soft tissue, fluids, joints and energy. To progress in certain other forms of exercise often means doing more physically demanding, more aerobic, bigger, faster movements â€" all aspects that can be impossible goals for someone who is sick or disabled.
So I applaud anyone who takes the first steps toward taking charge of their health. In an increasingly busy and distracted society, it can seem like the last thing on anyone's list is to be healthy and take care of their bodies. Whether you have an illness, disease, or injury, or whether you are healthy and wish to maintain your health into old age, find some time in your life to learn some of these ancient practices, and find some time in your day to practice them. A simple breathing or qigong practice will allow you to connect with your body again, and the rewards are well worth the effort. Being through what I have been through has given me a unique perspective and a deep appreciation of the limits and possibilities of the human body. It's the only vessel you have to get you through this life. Care for it!