Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies, Qigong Instructor
What got you interested in mind-body exercises like Qigong and Tai Chi?
Growing up in Israel, I had several major medical issues — neck and back spasms, migraine headaches, sinus infections, and digestive problems. My parents were willing to try anything to help me. When I was 16 they sent me to an acupuncturist, and within 10 days he had increased my body flexibility tremendously. That got my attention, and when he suggested I go visit an Asian master and try Tai Chi, I said OK. Soon I was training three times a week in the Jerusalem Forest, and my health problems all improved.
What brought you to Boston?
I continued practicing Tai Chi during my time in the Israeli Army, and right after getting out I moved to Boston to train full-time with a famous Asian master named Dr. Yang Jwing Ming. I didn't know anybody here; all I had was a suitcase and $1,200. But I trained with him for 25 years and became a world champion in martial arts.
How can mind-body exercises help someone with cancer?
The role of all integrative therapies is to complement western medicine as part of an individual's cancer treatment. They can help with emotional symptoms such as depression and anxiety, and physical ones like back or neck problems. Mind-body exercises like Qigong and Tai Chi are a balancing act — a harmony — of the five building blocks of our being: our body, breath, mind, energy, and spirit. They connect meditation with movement and can help you gain muscle mass and increase bone density, both of which are affected during cancer treatment.
What's your proudest achievement at Dana-Farber?
I enjoy witnessing the benefits of the knowledge I teach, and watching students progress or move from just having good health to pursing prevention and reaching a higher quality of life. It boosts my mind and spirit.