Monday Medical: Ancient healing art reduces stress

Christine McKelvie/For the Steamboat Today
Sarah Braat, second from right, practices a Qigong movement on Wu Dang Mountain in China.
Courtesy Photo

— Finding balance in our busy lives often seems like an impossible dream as we dash out the door to work, answer the 65th email of the day, rush the ailing pet to the vet or turn down lunch with a friend because there just isn’t time.

Sarah Braat, of Steamboat Springs, is well aware of how challenging it can be to balance family life with several jobs and still make time for the wonderful things the Yampa Valley has to offer.

Yet Braat has found the key to creating positive energy through a Chinese practice known as Qigong. And she is eager to share her knowledge with anyone willing to learn.

Braat, a massage therapist and nationally certified Qigong teacher, describes Qigong (pronounced chee-kung) as ancient Chinese health maintenance exercises.

“The exercises cultivate energy, drawing it in from nature and circulating it through the body’s energy pathways known as meridians,” Braat explained. “The basics involve gentle movement, the mind’s intention and attention to breath.

“It is good for everybody and can be adapted to different levels of mobility and ability,” she said. “Qigong can be done standing, sitting or lying down.”

If this sounds familiar to anyone who practices Tai Chi, it is no accident. Braat said Qigong is a practice of Taoism and is one of the foundations of the better-known Tai Chi and Kung Fu. Qigong also shares some elements with yoga.

There are two types of Qigong: exercise practice and healing treatments. Braat has been practicing Qigong and providing healing sessions for clients for the past decade.

Braat teaches classes at Yampa Valley Medical Center’s Integrated Health program and the Yoga Center of Steamboat. She also provides Qigong healing treatments.

“I teach basic practices that are easy to learn because then people may stick with it,” Braat said. “Qigong helps people feel grounded, relaxed and clear in their minds.”

Braat will introduce Qigong, explain how it can be the foundation for a healthy life and teach some simple practices at YVMC’s Taking Care of Me program at 6 p.m. Thursday. She also will show some photos of a profoundly spiritual trip she took in May.

Braat achieved one of her life’s goals when she traveled to China and spent a week on Wu Dang Mountain. In this sacred Taoist center, she studied with Chinese teachers and a teacher from the United States.

“It’s hard to put into words what this experience meant to me,” Braat said. “We got up at 5 a.m. and practiced for an hour, had breakfast, then hiked up many steps to check out the different temples. We ate incredible Chinese food and did more practice, attended lectures and took cultural tours.”

Braat felt very connected to nature and the universe while meditating beneath centuries-old trees and taking classes on terraces overlooking breathtaking, mystic mountain scenery.

“Qigong helps us honor the interconnections of life. It has physical, emotional, mental and spiritual components,” Braat explained. “It allows me to do what I want to do in my day and my life and let go of things that are not positive.

“With a mere 20 minutes of practice, it is possible to go from feeling overwhelmed, stressed out and fatigued to feeling level headed, focused, energized and awake,” she said.

“Qigong has opened me up and shown me what is in my best interest. It has balanced my emotions and helps me to recognize and stay on my path.”

Christine McKelvie is the public relations director of Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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