"it’s like a weight had been lifted"
Qigong Champion Anna Cunnigham shares her personal thoughts and experience of the Qigong journey and how it changed her relationship towards personal health and happiness.
"I am now convinced of the ability of Qigong"
Anna Cunningham discovered Qigong six years ago. She has successfully combined it with her love of yoga and long distance running to develop a great health system. Along with a renewed love of Qigong she also has a deep love for animals especially Wilf her dog who has no doubt been secretly learning qigong while watching Anna while she trains.
My Qigong journey began 6 years ago. I was being treated by Chris, initially for a marathon training injury & after for other health issues. Chris had mentioned that he had recently started teaching Qigong and suggested I come along to one of his classes and that it could benefit my overall health and wellbeing. I was intrigued and excited to try this practice which I’d not previously heard of. Chris spoke passionately of it and the health benefits it could bring so I went along. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
When I look back to that summer, my health was in a bad way, even though I was physically ‘fit’ and active from all the training I was doing, mainly running. Emotionally, I was trying to deal with some difficult personal circumstances and falling apart on the inside even though I was just holding it together at work, incidentally in a job which I wasn’t enjoying and which was leaving me exhausted. I was unknowingly neglecting my health. I was in ‘survival’ mode, wound up like a spring, not sleeping well & getting through the day on caffeine. I was trying to juggle everything, believing I was looking after my body by all the exercise I was doing. My physical and mental symptoms were saying otherwise. In hindsight, I was in a constant state of stress.
I will never forget walking away from that first Qigong class I attended in Stroud, it’s like a weight had been lifted. I felt a sense of calmness that I hadn’t felt for a long time. I slept like a baby that night. It wasn’t until the next day that I realised how physical the class had been, even though there was no jumping around & getting out of breath. In fact, my muscles felt akin to having been for a long run the day before even though for most of the class, we’d stood and done gentle movements. Any scepticism I had felt about how effective this system could be, disappeared after attending my first few classes with Chris. I wanted to practice more and learn more about this ancient health system which Chris was teaching in a very relaxed and informative way. I must add at this point, that’s not to say you don’t work hard in qigong, as I discovered quickly, standing and leg work can be very challenging and sweaty!
Before I share all the considerable improvements I believe Qigong has made to my health, wellbeing and happiness, I must say that I haven’t always been the ideal student who has practiced consistently. I don’t mind admitting that I have been my own worst enemy in the past when it’s come to acknowledging and doing what I know will make me feel better, something many will be able to relate to, I’m sure. It’s an interesting psychology that we can often neglect the very things that will make us healthier & feel better, under times of stress & pressure. Qigong is one of the things I should have stuck with, even though in 2012 I moved considerably further away from classes and ‘life’ got in the way of practising regularly. A real positive to come out of the periods over the past 6 years when I haven’t trained regularly, is that I am now convinced of the ability of Qigong to maintain good health & prevent illness. I’d like to say it was a deliberate experiment! I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that my health and zest for life have improved dramatically now that qigong is firmly in my life. The penny has finally dropped now and it’s rare that I go a day without training. Even if time is short, 10 minutes is still beneficial.
One of the great things about attending Chris’s Chi-fit classes is that every student is given the knowledge and confidence to go away and practice at home. Everybody’s needs are different and Chris gives individual attention to each student.
For me personally, I now have a daily practice which can take anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour. Over the years of training with Chris, I have learned to listen to my body, be aware of how I’m feeling physically & emotionally, therefore adjusting my practice. Some days it really feels like a challenge & some days I can’t wait to get out of bed & do my morning Qigong routine. Commitment, patience and consistency are required & in return, I can honestly say it is positively life-changing. I’ve experienced and continue to experience this for myself and have seen it with other Chi-fit students.
Where to begin with how my health has improved? My digestion has improved and I find my body craves healthier food. I have become much more aware of nutrition and what I put into my body. I have a lot more energy and my sleep quality has improved. I’m absolutely sure that Qigong has helped to keep injury at bay from the high impact running that I do. Before Qigong, I did suffer several running related injuries in my legs & feet but since practising regularly, I have almost no aches & pains which means all exercise is more enjoyable. It’s difficult to put into words but it feels like everything internally is functioning more efficiently.
Perhaps over & above all the physical improvements, one of the most marked gains for me has been in my mental/emotional health. I’m calmer, less stressed, less reactive and better able to deal with the inevitable challenges that life throws and overall a much happier person. I feel grounded. The more time I spend practising, the more the movements flow and feel in harmony with my body. For me, this brings a sense of rhythm within the body, more relaxed breathing and a calming of the mind & nervous system; meditation and a constant journey of self-discovery.
I’m a healthy lifestyle advocate & continue to enjoy the activities I love; running, cycling, yoga and walking my dog. This won’t change and Qigong compliments all of these. It is so much more than just an exercise, it is a health system for body & mind. Now I’m studying the theory behind Qigong, I’m beginning to understand how it can prevent disease and maintain optimal health as well as balancing emotions for happiness and contentment. There’s no magic involved, it has been scientifically proven over & over. There’s just one catch…you’ve got to do it! There’s no short cut for patience & consistency, I’ve learned that & I’m also learning the value of spending those minutes every day and attending classes which I enjoy enormously. The best part for me is that I still feel right at the beginning of my qigong journey and that there is an infinite amount to learn. The connection between our bodies and our minds is fascinating and I’m beginning to see how Qigong is so effective. I’m so grateful for the introduction to Qigong & it will always feature in my life. I’m thrilled to be deepening my knowledge & understanding, thanks to Chris. I hope to share the joy with others and teach, one day.
My experience of attending Chris’s Chi-fit classes is that this system is all inclusive, anybody can do it, even those with for example, chronic conditions that may prevent that person from doing other forms of exercise. It is not an exclusive club. Students are of all ages, shapes & sizes and there is always such a friendly atmosphere at class. The movements aren't difficult to master or highly technical. In Chi-fit, Chris has made qigong accessible to all & digestible so that more people can benefit from this wonderful system.
I cannot recommend Chi-fit courses highly enough. Classes are fun, un-intimidating, informative and most importantly, teaching a health & exercise system which anybody can incorporate into their lives. It’s an investment in health. Don't take my word for it. Try it for yourself.
Update - 28-9-18
MASSIVE CONGRATULATIONS to long term patient and Qigong student Anna Cunningham on her Snowdonia run. She only managed to complete 40 miles of the 50 due to bad weather conditions running through the night. What an amazing feat!
Anna has been practicing Qigong for many years and always receives her pre-event treatment at the clinic.
"I was straight back to work on Tuesday & didn’t feel too tired or sore, which I’m sure I have Qigong & treatment to thank as well as my training. Bring on the next one!!"