the laughing cloud

Depression, SAD, and Zhineng Qigong

I had SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and brutal Montreal winters guaranteed that by February, I’d be in a black pit.  I really really didn’t want to take anti-depressants, and looked for another solution.

I learned that the Inuit got SAD when they changed from their traditional diet high in fish oil to a Western diet, which was the first explanation that made sense.  So I added Omega-3 to my diet.  I helped.  Also added a whack of Vitamin D, because it made sense too – we get that from exposure to the sun – that would be about 3 months a year in Montreal.

More here for those who are interested…

6 years ago I was in Las Vegas with my wife and her mother, Betty.   Staying at the Wynn, which was packed and desperate for another room, which they couldn’t help with that night.  So at about 3 am that night I found myself looking for a room elsewhere, feeling like crap and really mad because I’d lost money.  Got a comped room at Harrah’s, and upset I turned on the TV… landed on PBS… and saw this:


I was sufficiently upset and miserable that I was willing to try anything.  I spent the next 90 minutes following along.   After that, I felt good.  I noted that – this stuff works, then promptly forgot about it.

5 years ago, in the winter, the black depression, on schedule, returned.  In a desperate state, I looked up Qigong in Montreal and had the incredible good fortune to meet Master Yang.   Master Yang came from China where he had studied TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Accupuncture, and a variety of Martial Arts.

I began to learn about Qigong at his studio in Montreal:

Qigong (pronounced Che Gung) is an internal martial art as opposed to something like Kung Fu, which is an external martial art.  Qi (sometimes written chi) means Energy.  Gung (sometimes written Kung), means Work.  So Qigong literally means “Energy Work”.  It’s a form of moving meditation, very slow motion, slower than Tai Chi. 

There are hundreds of kinds of Qigong, if not thousands.  This style is Zhineng Qigong, created by Grandmaster Dr Pang Ming in China in 1979.  However, finding a good teacher is hard.  All I can suggest there is that a good teacher will not just be teaching Qigong, but is likely to be schooled in TCM, accupuncture, and martial arts like Ba Gua.

I’d tried meditation in the past but having ADD and having spent a lifetime fidgeting made sitting still for any length of time virtually impossible.

The Chinese system is different than the American system for teaching.  It’s almost like in the Chinese system you’re told to do stuff and when the teacher thinks you’re ready, you’re told why you’ve been doing this stuff.  So initially I took a lot on faith; that they’d been doing this stuff for a long time – since maybe 200 BC, and millions of Chinese do this daily, so there must be something to it.  Besides I was suffering and willing to learn.

It was strange, right away.  After a short warm up and doing some very slow motions, we sat down cross-legged and I began to sweat profusely – not from exertion, which is why it was so confusing.  Evidently, stuff was getting ‘unblocked’.  You’ll hear a lot about things being ‘blocked’ in the Chinese system.  Get rid of the blocks, restore balance, everything is OK.

I soon began to be able to feel ‘chi’ – energy.  It’s strange, sort of like the feeling when you hold two magnets together – the attraction or repulsion… sort of like that.    The depression lifted and hasn’t returned.  And my health improved.   The year I began I was constantly sick; my wife was worried about my health.  Since practising I’ve been sick for about 8 hours in the last 5 years, and not at all in about the last 3 1/2 years.  It’s not that I don’t get sick, it’s almost like I get sick, get a super-mild version of whatever it is, and it exits.  Very very strange.

And there are huge and well-documented benefits to meditation; given that I think for a living, this exercise at the end of the day gives me 30 minutes to myself, to quiet down, and empty my mind for a while.  I don’t understand how it works, all I know is that I keep doing it because of the benefits.  And I haven’t missed a day in over 5 1/2 years.

Here is rare footage of Master Yang, showing the warmup and the first routine.

[wpvideo IQixeeln]

This is the perfect exercise and discipline for sedentary geeks like myself.  I continue to be grateful to Master Yang for showing me.

And the SAD?  Gone.  Moving to Key West cured it for good – now if we could only get Master Yang down here to teach!

In the meantime, an excellent book:,_Books_%26_Links.html


1 comment for “Depression, SAD, and Zhineng Qigong

  1. Amir
    March 25, 2014 at 3:18 am

    While googling Zhineng, I found your blog, really good to see someone effectively using Zhineng. Just curious other than health benefits if you have felt Zhineng effects in your work like, I mean more creativity, better problem solving skills.

    I am a long time meditator, 20+ years, mostly zen and indian forms, but new to Qigong, practicing various qigong forms on and off for about two years. Zhineng, I find it hard to get started without a teacher that I can meet in person and learn from.

    However I have purchased about half a dozen books on Zhineng and a few consultations with Ooi Kean Hin. He is doing amazing research work with Zhineng in Malaysia. He is a Pharmacist who took up Zhineng some fifteen(15) years ago.

    If you get a chance please send me an email so we may discuss this further. Thanks again. All the best

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