Sharon Milford encourages cancer patients to keep moving. It not only relaxes their mind and body, but it also reduces stress and increases their energy.
Sharon hosts Tai Chi and Qi Gong sessions once a week at the UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center. Her class focuses on learning these ancient Chinese art forms, which re-energize the body and mind.
Tai Chi is considered a martial art, however, the Cancer Center sessions focus on the meditative qualities and well-being benefits. The movements are performed in a slow and continuous pace, engaging the mind to lead the body.
In the class, students will learn a shortened, but not simplified, 16-movement version, which provides a beginners’ introduction to the graceful art form.
“It is low impact, easy on the joints, but takes practice to be able to master the movements,” she says. Sharon encourages patients to practice on their own as much as possible with regular daily practice being ideal.
“In China, youngsters start out at the age of five and they practice Tai Chi their whole lives,” Sharon explains. “It is not a cure-all, but it can help those dealing with pain. Practicing movements in a slow relaxed manner gives one the needed time to feel deeply within the body and the mind, and coordinate the awareness of the mind with the body.”
Sharon combines Tai Chi with Qi Gong, which focuses on the integration of mind, body and regulating breathing. The benefits are increased when combined with the physical movement of Tai Chi, she adds.
“Western science is becoming more interested in the benefits of these meditative art forms,” Sharon claims. “The combination of Tai Chi and Qi Gong are helpful in relieving stress, anxiety, depression and even insomnia.”
Sharon began helping with classes at the Cancer Center in 2004, serving as a teaching assistant. A year later she took over the class, which meets Mondays from 10 to 11 o’clock in the morning.
“I have been doing this as a volunteer for more than seven years,” she says enthusiastically. “I enjoy introducing people to the art form and encouraging their involvement.”
While many patients report benefits from Sharon’s classes, she recalls the experience of one senior citizen in particular.
“He was having an issue with balance,” she recounts. “He couldn’t do little things like put on his socks. After a few weeks, he came to class and reported that he was able to put on his socks again.”
Those little victories add up to big improvements in a patient’s outlook and self esteem.
“That’s what makes this worthwhile for me,” she says.
Most teachers will emphasize the healing benefits, and individual outcomes are cumulative. This is not a mysterious process, but a natural one that can be acquired with time and effort.
“More people are open-minded to alternative therapies,” she explains. “They are ready to try something unfamiliar.”
Sharon Milford wants the unfamiliar to become familiar.
“I encourage patients to practice what they learn in class. I know it’s often not easy to find the time, but I encourage patients to make the time.”
If you’d like to join Sharon’s classes, call 450-5574 to sign up.