SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - While dribbling basketballs, Eden Roy paid no attention to squeaking sneakers and the shouts of Soldiers' voices that dominated the sounds coming from within the Martinez Physical Fitness Center (MPFC) gymnasium, here.

"Those kind of things don't really bother me," she said of the noisy pick-up game taking place on an adjacent court.

Instead, the wife of deployed Soldier, Spc. Neil Roy, kept her eyes on her Chi Gong instructor and her ears on her breathing, which had gotten progressively deeper and slower. The circulation of her qi, or "life force," may have still been in its nascent stages, but already it was lending calmness to her mind and fluidity to her body movements.

"I always feel way more at peace when I'm doing this," explained Roy of the Chinese meditative practice, following a series of stretching exercises. "It's great at centering me."

Fellow student Bonita Bazo agreed, but added that Chi Gong has even more benefits for those coping with the pressures associated with military life.

"It helps to relieve stress," said Bazo, the wife of retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Stephen Bazo. "You feel calm, and you learn to push your worries away.

"And if you have breathing problems, this will improve it," she added.

Both Roy and Bazo are recent converts to the art of Chi Gong, which is among the newest set of free, stress-relief classes offered to active duty Soldiers and their family members.

Currently, 10,000 different forms of the ancient Chinese art of Chi Gong and an estimated 200 million people around the world are practicing it. Some forms require deliberate, graceful movements, coupled with controlled breathing techniques. Other forms require little or no movement at all, nor do they call for deep breathing.

Regardless, most practitioners agree that Chi Gong (also referred to as Qigong or Chi Kung) enhances their overall health.

"People take it for a variety of reasons," explained Marie Burghardt, an instructor of both Chi Gong and Tai Chi at MPFC. "For example, it's not a martial art, but some people use it as a warm-up for tai chi or another martial art.

"But for the most part, people take it to help them with healing, with strength-building and with balance," she added.

To demonstrate the calming influence of Chi Gong, Burghardt had her students place their hands, with palms upward, near their stomachs in one particular exercise. She referred to that region of the body as "water," and referred to their chests as an area where their "fire" resides.

"This is where we often feel stress or anger," explained Burghardt, tapping on her chest.

She then encouraged her students to breathe slowly and, using their hands, bring water from their stomach region to the area where fires often rage.

Once the students' hands were up at their chests, the fire was to then be pushed down, toward the water. Finally, she said, the process was to be repeated as many times as necessary until a feeling of tranquility prevailed.

"And we don't have to worry about putting the fire out completely," Burghardt told the students. "All we're doing is bringing it down a little."

Thus far, participation in the Chi Gong classes has varied between a low of four students to a high of 17.

"Lately, we've had a lot of Soldiers returning from the Middle East," Burghardt explained, "so there's a lot of adjustment and reconnecting going on between Soldiers and their spouses, and that changes people's schedules a lot."

Still, she's hopeful that more people will enroll in the Thursday evening class, held from 6-7 p.m., in the near future.

"I'd encourage our Soldiers and their families to come out and try it," she said. "They're definitely going to work up a big sweat, but they'll also feel like they've been rejuvenated. Best of all, it will help them to build strength - and not just strength of the body, but of the mind and spirit as well."

For more information on the Chi Gong class, call 808-655-4804.

<b>Class Details</b>

<i>Tai Chi Classes</i> - Find your center with the ancient and revered art of Tai Chi, Thursdays, 7-8 p.m., at the Martinez Physical Fitness Center (MPFC), Schofield Barracks. The art of Tai Chi uses gentle flowing movements to reduce the stress of today's busy lifestyles and improve general wellbeing. This class explores the art of Tai Chi and incorporates psychology and philosophy through psychical movement. Learn and benefit from the influence of this ancient practice on physical health, mental well being, consciousness, and martial arts.

<i>Chi Gong Classes </i>- Learn how to relieve stress on all levels with new Chi Gong classes, Thursdays, 6-7 p.m., at MPFC, Schofield Barracks. Chi Gong is a unique collection of exercise from China designed to help relieve stress on mental, emotional and physical levels. Even though we may not feel stressed, our bodies - even on an unconscious level - can be under tremendous stress. Learn techniques to relieve stress in your life and improve your health and add quality years to your life.

<i>Mindfulness Classes</i> - Need to clear your head' Try Mindfulness classes every Monday and Wednesday, 6-7 p.m., at Sgt. Yano Library, Schofield Barracks. Learn disciplined meditation techniques, develop tools for deep relaxation tools and learn how to apply these in daily situations to find balance and peace of mind. In developing mindfulness, participants connect to the fullness of life and their own deep inner resources for healing, coping, growing, and taking charge in their lives in new ways.

All classes are free for active duty Soldiers and family members. Call 808-655-4804.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16