Healing from the inside out

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Arizona State University

ASU investigators are part of a group studying how Tai Chi can help ease post-cancer treatment symptoms

When the students are ready, the teachers will appear.

And they did.

The instructors came in the forms of a gray-haired Baby Boomer from California and a lean, gentle Korean from Down Under. They were standing in Phoenix’s Civic Space Park to teach a group of 15 people the healing properties of Tai Chi and Qigong.

Dr. Roger Jahnke asked the pack of ASU staff members and graduate students to loosen up with a repertoire of breathing techniques and slow, fluid body movements.

“See if you can feel some sort of energy between your hands,” said Jahnke, who is the director of the Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi in Santa Barbara, California. “When you open your hands, see if you can open your body. Open the body and the space around the heart.”

Jahnke and Dr. Byeonsang Oh, each a renowned Tai Chi and Qigong expert, shared their wisdom outside ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus in November as part of a study piloted by Linda Larkey, a professor with ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, testing the efficacy of Qigong/Tai Chi for improving fatigue and other symptoms — sleep quality, anxiety, depression and cognitive function — in women who have been treated for breast cancer. These and other associated symptoms can persist for months, even years, after treatment ends.

The study, which is funded by a National Cancer Institute grant, binds Larkey and a group of other investigators from ASU, the University of Arizona, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center and Maricopa Integrated Health Systems, who believe that meditative movement such as Qigong and Tai Chi can help recovery and rejuvenation in women between the ages of 45 and 75 who are recovering from breast cancer.

Jahnke and Oh share the same belief.

“Chinese medicine believes there are energy channels in our body so when we open those up, we improve our circulation and we become healthy,” said Oh, who is a clinical associate professor at Sydney Medical School in Australia and a Harvard Research Fellow. “Qigong and Tai Chi can improve all of the symptoms from the cancer period and improve their overall quality of life.”

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